Recently, when I opened up a box from Seiko and pulled the brand’s new SPB313 out of the bubble wrap I was overwhelmed with déjà vu. I could swear I had seen this watch before, that I had been here before. But not “here” here. Somewhere like this, with a watch kind of like this. What was it about this watch’s familiarity that felt so much like something I knew?
When James wrote about Seiko’s introduction of the SPB313, 315, and 317 as a part of its ongoing “Diver’s Watch Re-Interpretation” series earlier this year, it caught my eye the way a lot of Seiko releases do. That ineffable familiarity of classic, quintessential Seiko designs – the case shape, the bezel, the dial indices – feels like home to me, and I assume a lot of other enthusiasts. After all, Seiko is where I started my collection and I’ve had model after model pass through my hands over the last few years. The new trio looked like great Seiko divers, just like the ice divers, or the turtle-themed “turtles,” or the “don’t call it a Willard” before them. But in each instance, I came within a few clicks of buying any of the above, demurred, and went on with life.
Between Seiko’s announcement in June and the arrival of the SPB313 at my door a few weeks ago, I managed to forget everything I had learned from James’ Introduction post. The changes that make this SPB313 more than a strict reissue of Seiko’s classic 6105-8000 weren’t immediately apparent to me, something I’m taking a risk by admitting to Seiko fans who make up one of the most detail-oriented groups I know. But somewhere deep in my brain, I knew something wasn’t quite “right.”
Let’s get back to the details. Seiko announced the SPB313, alongside the SPB315 with a black/gilt dial, and the SPB317 with a classic black dial, reimagining a modern take on Seiko’s vintage reference 6105-8000.
The original 6105-8000 has suffered a bit from middle-child syndrome. While its predecessor, the 62MAS, has become a collectible classic as Seiko’s first diver’s watch, introduced back in 1965 (and James has written about its reinterpretation at length and even more length) and the 6105-8000‘s successor the 6105-8110, with its odd and iconic case shape, rose to fame in Apocalypse Now and made the “Willard” the one must-have vintage 6105 for any Seiko collector, the 6105-8000 has always just quietly existed. In fact, the original 6105-8000 was so overshadowed by the “Willard” that my dream state reaction to the new SPB313 was in some way my brain expecting a “Willard” and getting something else. And while prices have slowly risen for the original 6105-8000‘s, it doesn’t surprise me that it was the last of the trio to be reinterpreted.
Regardless of the color, the new trio features the same 41mm wide, 12.3mm thick steel cushion case with Seiko’s Super-Hard coating and 46.9mm lug to lug. That makes these watches nearly a millimeter thinner than the SPB151 and 153 and 1.4mm thinner than the SPB143 – the thinnest Prospex re-interpretation to date – while still maintaining 200m of water resistance.
Inside you have Seiko’s 6R35 movement, running at 21,600 vph with a 70-hour power reserve. But because of the movement, here’s where the interpretation will probably meet its make-or-break moment for a lot of buyers – a date display through a small circular aperture at 4:30. It’s also one of the things throwing me off from that first moment.
I don’t want to belabor the great date-window debate that stretches back to what feels like the building of Stonehenge (I mean, what are all those rocks but big date windows, anyway). I will say that Seiko’s color-matching of the date windows on each of the re-interpretations makes it about as unobtrusive as a date window can be. After years of wearing mostly no-date watches, I mostly forgot the date was there.
On the wrist, the SPB313 shines. The curvature of the cushion case hugs the wrist phenomenally and I can’t help but think that the extra thinness makes a non-negligible difference here. There’s a ton of depth under the curved sapphire crystal, accentuated by the white dial that stands out, not only contrasted against the black bezel but in a world of black-dialed divers.
The raised luminous markers have a slightly blue hue and silver surrounds that tend to look black in most environments. I think the fact that the color isn’t perfectly matched is a benefit, not a detriment, keeping your eyes moving around the dial. The black hands, especially the second hand with the red and white tip, seem to float high off the dial. Frankly, it’s just fun to look at, and isn’t that at least a good portion of what you want in a watch?
I do have some criticisms. At $1,100, the SPB313 (as well as the SPB315) comes on a stainless steel bracelet while the black-dialed SPB317 comes on a rubber strap for $200 less. While I’m mostly a tried-and-true bracelet guy, I have to agree with James who said in his original post that he’d rather save $200 and take the white dial on rubber. The bracelet, while robust and practical with its dive extension, has a kind of odd curvature that never sat right. Throw it on a rubber bracelet or NATO strap and all those criticisms fade away.
Also, while the uni-directional bezel is appropriately classic in aesthetics, it’s a bit spongy in its clickiness, and in classic Seiko-style, I can’t quite tell if the bezel is slightly out of alignment or if the curved sapphire crystal was playing tricks on me. In all fairness, it’s likely the latter and all of the above are worth overlooking for all the positives of the watch.
Herein lies the question with the new Seiko Prospex SPB313: Is it captivating enough to maintain my attention until I’m ready for yet another dive watch? Only time will tell. My natural inclination this week was to reconsider buying the green SPB153, a thought that speaks more to the strength and depth of the Seiko Prospex bench than an indictment of the SPB313 that hits the perfect balance between classic design and a fresh look.
As for my initial confusion? Turns out I had seen this watch before, or a little of it, in each of the watches that came before it. In the end, that’s just quintessential Seiko.
The Seiko Prospex SPB313. 41mm in diameter x 12.3mm in thickness x 46.9mm lug to lug. Steel cushion case with Seiko’s Super-Hard coating and steel flat 5-link bracelet with divers clasp. 200m water resistance. Automatic 6R35 movement, running at 21,600 vph with a 70-hour power reserve. White dial with raised, curved sapphire crystal. Price is $1,100.
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