The Seiko Alpinist series has some of the deepest history of any Seiko models, holding the distinction of being the very first Seiko sports watch when it debuted in 1959. The line has become a favorite among collectors of the brand over the years, gaining a cult following thanks to its rugged durability, affordable price and uniquely antique, mountaineering inspired take on the theme of the classic field watch. Another major factor in its collectability in recent years has been its rarity. While the past two years have seen a number of specialized limited-edition versions of the Alpinist, the style hasn’t been a steady part of Seiko’s core global collection. The marque is aiming to change this in 2020 with a quartet of new watches in the Prospex line, the SPB117, SPB119, SPB121, and SPB123, which each interpret the Alpinist design in unique ways.
Interestingly, Seiko refers to the new models as “Alpinist inspired,” rather than true Alpinists, perhaps as a way to maintain the exclusive desirability of Alpinist pieces. In addition, the decision to brand the new pieces as Prospex models is an additional step in Seiko’s ongoing effort to create a clearly organized product tier system with all premium sports watches bearing the Prospex name.
Out of the four new offerings the SPB121 is the most instantly recognizable as an Alpinist, featuring the iconic green sunburst dial, mix of applied gold numerals and indices, and gold cathedral hands. Other than the bold Prospex emblem above 6 o’clock, the dial is pure classic Alpinist style. The three other new additions, however, inject a few new ideas into the dial designs.
The most daring of these, the SPB117, takes away some of the distinctive hallmarks of the Alpinist design and opts for a blend of more conventional field watch cues and styling elements from other Seiko stablemates. The gloss black finish, rather than the more traditional Alpinist sunburst, gives the watch a more sporty and purposeful feel while the new white triangular hour indices offer a taste of the love-it-or-hate-it Monster diver.
At a glance, the dials of the SPB119 and SPB123 are a bit more similar. The SPB119 offers a cool palette, with applied silver indices and hands above a silver sunburst dial, while the warmer SPB123 takes the Alpinist theme in a more luxe direction with a gold on champagne pairing.
Each of the new Alpinist inspired models shares the same compact, sporty 39.5 millimeter stainless steel case featuring 200 meters of water resistance and the Alpinist’s signature second crown at 4 o’clock for adjusting the internal compass bezel. As Seiko has begun to move the Prospex line upmarket, these cases include some impressive new features including a display caseback and a sapphire crystal with a cyclops date magnifier.
At the heart of these four new models is Seiko’s 6R35 automatic movement, the latest update to the 6R series. This new powerplant adds a 70 hour power reserve alongside hacking, hand winding, and a 28,800 bph beat rate.
Seiko has paired each of these four new models with a unique strap choice. The black dial SPB117 doubles down on its sportier design with an oyster style bracelet, while the silver dial SPB119 receives a fittingly reserved black leather strap with white contrast stitching. The classic Alpinist look of the SPB121 is coupled to tobacco brown alligator pattern leather that sets off the rich sunburst green of the dial, and the champagne gold dial of the SPB123 is contrasted by olive green leather. All three straps are offered with a signed butterfly deployant clasp.
These new Alpinist inspired Prospex models will be available at Seiko authorized dealers starting in January 2020, except for the SPB123 which will debut at the same time as a Seiko website exclusive. The SPB117 will retail for $750, while the SPB119, SPB121, and SPB123 will be priced at $725. For more information, please visit Seiko’s website.