December 8, 2021
Although its legacy may not be as well-known as some of its Swiss counterparts, Japanese giant Seiko has a long and detailed history in space exploration. Beginning with Skylab 4 in 1973 and stretching through to today with the brand’s proprietary Spring Drive technology on the International Space Station, Seiko has had an outsize role in pushing back the final frontier. For its latest release, the brand celebrates this spacefaring legacy, combining its Spring Drive GMT movement with exquisite Zaratsu polishing and a unique dial finish inspired by the silvery light of the moon. The new Seiko Prospex LX U.S. Special Edition SNR051 is one of the handsomest Prospex LX iterations to date, with finishing and capability at the pinnacle of the mainline Seiko sports watch lineup.
Although imposingly sized on paper at 44.8mm-wide and 14.7mm-thick, the Seiko Prospex LX U.S. Special Edition SNR051’s titanium case should wear smaller than the numbers suggest thanks to Seiko’s inventive case geometry. The basic overall profile is shared with the classic Seiko Professional Diver from 1968, with broadly chamfered angular lugs and a prominent recessed crown at 4 o’clock, but it’s how the brand interprets these elements that should change the wearing experience. Chief among these is the double-chamfered case side design. The majority of the main case body’s height is taken up by the broad sloping top chamfer and a severe undercut chamfer below the visual beltline. This breaks up the profile of the case in images, while both reducing the watch’s actual contact patch on the wrist and leaving only a narrow horizontal brushed strip to form the widest point. Outside of this thoughtful design work, the SNR051’s case stands out for its level of finishing and sense of material quality. The case chamfers feature Seiko’s storied Zaratsu polishing, which gives the case a mirror-like distortion-free shine in initial images. Likewise, the insert atop the tall gear-toothed GMT bezel is rendered in two-tone black and gray sapphire for a glossy and scratch-resistant monochrome look. The full case also receives the brand’s proprietary super-hard clear coating, affording it greater scratch resistance than normal titanium. With this sense of visual refinement, however, the simple design of the solid caseback comes as a surprise. This basic caseback performs respectably, however, helping the SNR051 reach a decent 100 meters of water resistance.
Seiko has firmly established itself as one of the one of the best brands in the industry for dial finishing, and the Prospex LX U.S. Special Edition SNR051 appears poised to continue this reputation. Although the moon-inspired silver dial may not be a literal translation of textures in the same vein as some of the brand’s nature-inspired releases, the complex and chaotic crosshatch texture instead captures a piece of the ephemeral, gossamer quality of moonlight itself in images. Seiko’s attention to finishing is evident beyond the main dial surface as well, with complex grooved applied indices, deeply brushed pointed paddle hands, and a mirror-polished stick seconds hand, as well as razor-sharp dial printing. Seiko’s decision to render the arrow-tipped GMT hand and 8 o’clock power reserve hand in deep royal blue gives the overall design a much-needed pop of color in images, adding character while remaining tastefully restrained.
Seiko powers the Prospex LX U.S. Special Edition SNR051 with its in-house 5R66 Spring Drive GMT movement. Combining the best aspects of a mechanical movement with an extremely accurate quartz oscillator, the 5R66 abandons a traditional balance wheel escapement in favor of the Spring Drive series’ signature glide wheel system, which uses torque from the mainspring and automatic winding rotor to generate a miniscule electrical charge. This in turn powers the quartz crystal oscillator, which regulates a high-precision braking system designed to stabilize the rotation rate of the glide wheel itself. The upshot of this complex proprietary system, besides the 5R66’s hypnotic smoothly sweeping seconds hand, is an accuracy rating of +15/-15 seconds per month. This is far beyond the traditional accuracy of a mechanical movement. While perhaps not as overwhelming as its accuracy, the 5R66’s power reserve is excellent as well, providing a full 72 hours of reserve energy. Seiko pairs the SNR051 with its three-link oyster style bracelet in brushed titanium. Although solidly executed and versatile, this watch might showcase more personality in images if paired with a rugged textile strap.
With a handsomely restrained and expertly finished colorway paired to one of the brand’s most innovative movements, the Seiko Prospex LX U.S. Special Edition SNR051 offers a balanced and capable tribute to the brand’s proud legacy of space exploration. As the name suggests, the Seiko Prospex LX U.S. Special Edition SNR051 will be available exclusively through select Seiko Luxe retailers in the United States beginning in January 2022, with an MSRP of $5,500. For more details, please visit seikoluxe.com.