When it comes to the world of vintage divers, Seiko sits at the top with some of the very best. That’s no exaggeration. Few brands can boast a history as storied as Seiko’s when it comes to divers, a history that began in earnest in 1965 when the brand released their first dive watch, the 6217 (62MAS). In the decades that followed, Seiko would build upon this legacy with the 6215 (and subsequently, the hi-beat 6159)–Seiko’s first divers rated to 300m–to be followed by the 6105 (made iconic on Martin Sheen’s wrist in Apocalypse Now), the 6309/6306, and the 007–the current benchmark of affordable divers everywhere. And the above list simply scratches at the surface; Seiko’s historical catalogue of divers goes deep. Update: The new Seiko Turtle is out! Check out our review here.
In recent years, Seiko’s vintage divers have gained a relatively robust following. Or rather, that following has become more mainstream, since it would be unfair to discount all the Seiko diehards who have loved the brand and its watches long before today’s vintage boom. As a result, the interest in rare references like the 6217, the 6215, and the 6159 means that they can fetch several thousand dollars depending on their condition. Even the 6105, which was produced for 9 years and arguably more common, can easily command a grand if well preserved (a feat since a good number were worn by US soldiers in Vietnam).
As far as Seiko’s collectible divers are concerned, the 6309 has remained accessible for those of us without deep pockets. That said, the 6309 is no consolation prize, but rather a great watch in its own right. Nicknamed the “Turtle” by some collectors (it’s divisive, but c’mon, just look at that case), the 6309 is a 150m cushion-cased diver first released in 1976. Designed to be a recreational dive watch, the 6309 saw continued production for 12 years, and for that reason alone they’re more plentiful on the vintage market. In recent years, however, it’s gotten harder to find them in unmolested condition, with numerous examples popping up containing aftermarket parts. But if you’re willing to commit the time and effort to finding one in OG condition, the 6309 remains a great entry point to the world of Seiko’s vintage divers.
For those of us who find it too daunting (or expensive) to wade through the vintage muck, homage watches have provided an adequate–and often reasonably priced–solution. Companies like Helson, Dagaz, Athaya, and Smiths have all produced watches nearly identical to or inspired by some vintage Seiko models. Better yet, however, is when a brand reissues a watch from their archives. Sure, it’s an homage too, but when the original maker does it just feels a touch more authentic. For 2016, Seiko has done just that; they’re bringing back the legendary 6309 and planting it firmly in the brand’s Prospex line. And from what we’ve seen thus far, it does justice–and then some–to the original.