Gone are the days when Seiko dive watches were largely low-end sports watches meant for the mainstream and budget-minded timepiece enthusiasts. Indeed, Seiko will always play an extremely important role in the entry-level mechanical and sport watch market, but the Japanese brand of today’s era is much broader in its scope with a lot of emphasis on higher-end products. Blink and you might not realize that Seiko has markedly upgraded its products because, in large part, the watches of today are inspired by the watches of yesterday. Most enthusiasts will have to handle some of Seiko’s newer Prospex and LX pieces to see and feel the impressive nature of these products. Today, I review not Seiko’s most expensive diver’s watches but rather a mid-range Prospex diver’s watch that offers a lot of value for the just over $1,000 price point.
This watch is the Seiko Prospex reference SPB008. Offered in a few color variations, this collection is inspired by an original automatic mechanical diver’s watch produced by Seiko in 1968. This is where much of the style ranging from the dial to the case design come in. Far from retro in aesthetics, such straight-forward tool watches from that era often appear timeless today, if not classic and conservative. We see a blend of elements, such as Seiko’s own take on shape-based hour markers inspired from the Rolex Submariner (such a design allows for large amounts of luminant paint to be applied on each marker), as well as fun-looking arrow-style hour hands that make up a key component of the SPB083’s visual personality. Seiko now has a number of dive watch case styles to choose from that blend both its heritage and modern history. The SPB083 is certainly more in the heritage camp and is a strong contender for those who like a more classic look in their daily-wear sports watches.
The SPB083 Prospex case is one of my favorite parts of this watch. The finishing on the steel case is a marked improvement over most of the $500 and under Seiko dive watches that many enthusiasts are familiar with, and I like the mixture of round dial with tonneau-style case shape. The case also blends a hefty size with wearability. If anything, the SPB083 wears a bit smaller than its 44mm-wide, 13.1mm-thick dimensions might suggest. Lug-to-lug distance is 51mm, and the case is water resistant to 200 meters. Over the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal. Generally speaking Seiko Prospex LX watches have water resistance ratings in the 200 – 1000m range. Practically speaking, I’d say that the durability of any of these high-end Seiko dive watches is about the same for 99% of practical applications. Finally, and this is very important, Seiko claims that the steel cases are fortified with its “hard coating.” That’s a transparent coating that increases the scratch resistance of the cases and something that will prove very valuable over time as the watches will wear much more gracefully than uncoated steel watch cases.
Around the dial is a uni-directional rotating bezel with a black and silver insert. It looks a bit like ceramic, but Seiko doesn’t mention it as such, which is the case for its other diver’s watches that do have ceramic bezels. Bezel action is nice, and there is a prominent lume-painted pip at the 60-hour mark. In general, the LumiBrite luminant application on the dial is excellent, offering very bright visibility after being charged in the light. I really like the dial design of this particular Seiko Prospex series based on their 1968 watch a lot. It’s not only clean and functional, but has a handsome Seiko brand DNA to it that I enjoy. This particular version has an attractive gradient blue dial which goes from black on the periphery of the dial to a metallic blue in the middle. It looks different depending on how you play with the light. Ironically, a model like the Seiko SPB079 (a sister model) has nearly opposite colors with a matte-black dial and a gradient blue bezel. I would also compare the SPB083 with other Seiko models such as the very similar SPB187, a slightly newer-generation product that has different hands (a matter of taste) and a slightly upgraded newer-generation movement. In all, the Seiko Prospex SPBXXX collection of watches has no dearth of options to choose from. Just make sure to compare the tech specs of each as they have minor (really minor) differences, ranging from slightly different cases sizes to different hands, dial colors, movements, and strap options.
Inside the Seiko Prospex SPB083 is the in-house Seiko automatic caliber 6R15 movement. This upper-range entry-level mechanical movement actually has a near-relative cousin version known as the 6R35. The principle difference between the two is the larger mainspring barrel in the 6R35, which offers 70 hours of power reserve versus the 50 hours in this 6R15. The movement is a very good performer, actually, even though it does operate at 3Hz, versus the faster frequency movements that Seiko also offers. Not including traditional quartz and Seiko Spring Drive movements, the Seiko Prospex collection has a variety of movements operating at 3Hz, 4Hz, and even 5Hz. In all, there is something like nine or 10 movement options across these various Prospex sport and dive watches. The 6R15 is Seiko’s high-end 3Hz movement, compared to the more basic 4R15 series. Seiko seems to reserve its 4Hz movements for watches around the $3,000 price point these days. That makes sense since there are so many Seiko Prospex models at this point, the brand needs reasons to help differentiate them from one another in terms of style, price, and positioning.
What is nice about the Prospex SPB083 is that Seiko includes both a matching steel metal bracelet and a blue silicone diver’s-style strap. The bracelet is basic but nicely finished with a three-link design and a locking fold-over deployant with a diver’s extension. The bracelet is certainly the dressier of the two wearing options. For sports and actual time in the water, the silicone strap is the way to go. With the spring-style ends and wide size, the strap is visually beefy but about as supple as can be had with a silicone strap. I’m much more a fan of rubber straps, overall, but I could easily live with a silicone strap like this.
The hard thing for me when it comes to Seiko Prospex watches, especially the LX collection, is to help identify which model is right for who. At this time, there are currently 99 different versions on the Seiko website, and that doesn’t even include all the international models that are currently produced. Prices also go from about $500 to about $6,000 and, as I said, there are around 10 different movement options. Seiko also likes to pay attention to a variety of its historic and modern designs – mixing colors, materials, and movement options. What’s a watch lover to do? Sample, sample, sample. What I’ve found is that once you wear enough of these Seiko dive watches, you’ll identify which “speak to you.” For example, I didn’t know I was a “Tuna man” until I tried the Seiko Tuna on. Likewise, with models like the SPB083, which is inspired by the brand’s 1968 diver’s watch, I didn’t know I was into it until I got to spend significant time with it.
Priced at just over $1,000, the Seiko Prospex SPB083 and its kin represent what you are looking at once you step away from Seiko’s slightly more affordable entry-level divers, which are a volume leader for the company. What you get is more impressive finishing, detailing, and specs. Seiko still offers a lot in the higher-end segment when it comes to materials, movements, and other features, but a large percentage of Seiko fans will not need to spend too much more than one of these Prospex SPB083 watches to get a large part of today’s impressive experience when it comes to Seiko’s sport watches. Retail price for the Seiko Prospex SPB083 watch is $1,150 USD. Learn more at the Seiko Luxe watches website here.