August 16, 2008
by Ariel Adams
This watch is not to be confused with the other Seiko Prospex Marinemaster watches that I have been talking about. Those don’t have automatic movements, but rather Kinetic Direct Drive or Spring Drive movements. For example, I spoke of the similarly named Seiko SBDD001, which has a similar name, but different look and movement. The Seiko SBDX001 is an amazing offering by Seiko for a number of reasons.
Japan has always toiled with the dive watch. They certainly release a number of them, and models range from Swiss watch homages, to avant garde designs with limited appeal. The Citizen Aqualand series has always been highly functional, but I am sorry to say a bit ugly in my opinion. On the other hand Seiko has released a number of diving watches, some with names like Samurai and Monster. Again, some good, some bad style wise, but I am sure each of them are dependable. The Japanese have always played around with various movements in diving watches (all of their watches for that matter). I can think of at least 6 different types of movements I’ve seen in Japanese diving watches (quartz, Eco-Drive, Kinetic, Kinetic Direct Drive, Spring Drive, and Automatic). The last four of these movements is at least somewhat mechanical. However, Japan is the only other country next to Germany and Switzerland that can design and produce reliable quality mechanical movements on any mass scale.
So inside the Seiko Marinemaster pictured is one of Seiko’s best automatic movements. The 8L35 automatic with 26 Jewels and a 50 hour power reserve. Accuracy easily matches certified chronometer levels, and often exceeds them. For example an average chronometer is accurate to within 6 seconds a day, while the Seiko 8L35 is accurate to within 10-15 seconds a month. Pretty nice for quartz crazy Japan.
The Seiko SBDX001 is the only Marinemaster watch that actually says “Marinemaster” on the watch. Seiko has never been known as one who artfully names their watches, so just know that this watch is a Seiko, in the Prospex line, which is a Marinemaster, and is the model number SBDX001. Know that and you can find one in a store, I hope. Actually, you’d have to travel to Japan to get one in a store, but they are available online.
What I really like about this watch is the cohesiveness of the design and the nice features. To me, this is what the quintessential Japanese mechanical diving watch should be. Seiko was finally able to take everything people loved about Japanese styled diving watches and combine them together into one watch that absolutely typifies the theme. You aren’t buying a Japanese copy of a Swiss watch, you are getting something that is pure Japanese refinement from the look of the dial and hands to the philosophy in the movement (which has a wonderfully smooth seconds hand unlike cheaper automatic movements). Seiko watches have always preferred functionality over form, but a style has developed overtime. One of these elements is the 4 o’clock position of the crown, as well as the large number indexes and no nonsense bezel. Inside the face you’ll notice a sloped chapter ring with minute increment marks that make the watch easy to read, and happens to add a nice 3-D look to the watch. Further, the rich luminant on the face and hands are a bright plus as seen in the video above.
The price of this watch is about $2,000 retail and is a good value considering all the high points. The watch is not perfect, as few watches are. Though allow me to clear a few things up. The watch is rated for 300m water resistance. Some might wonder why not deeper for the money. Well, unless you like seeing large number written on a watch, consider how often if ever your body is not only going to be diving that deep, and surviving. So 300m will satisfy just about anything you’ll ever need. The watch is also heavy. To be rugged and reliable the Marinemaster is essentially a hunk of solid steel. It is over 200 grams and about 44mm in size. If you want to reduce the weight you can put on the included rubber strap that comes along with the metal bracelet. Further still, you can simply wear the watch for a few days until your weak wrist adapts. Seriously, that is all it takes to acclimate to a heavier watch.
Lastly, the only real complaint which may be justified is to the bracelet. Let me start off with saying that this Seiko Marinemaster bracelet is really cool. It features a ratcheting system for easy fitting and adjusting, which I just love. The thing is, Japanese watch bracelets have just never equaled the refinement and quality of their European competitors. They just aren’t as fluid or feel as solid. It is not about comfort necessarily, but expect a Swiss watch that is upwards of $5,000 to typically have a pretty darn impressive bracelet. Someday soon, Japanese will figure out how to match Swiss and German bracelets, and for less cost. But until then, you should know that the Europeans have the Japanese beat on that end.
The Seiko Prospex Marinemaster is a handsome addition to any collection, especially those that love Japanese or dive watches. It is another of those perfect everyday watches that will dutifully see its owner through any occasion. One thing this watch does communicate to me over its European cousins is “rough me up.” In a good way that is. Swiss watches make me want to shield them from the elements and danger to maintain their appearance, while a good Japanese watch always appears ready for duty and willing to take whatever you can throw at it. This is one of the reasons a high-end Japanese watch such as this calls to me, and why it ought to call to you too.
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