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Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 ‘Spring Drive Tuna’ Watch Review

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews The following watch review was produced for aBlogtoWatch by contributor Zach Pina who you can check out on Instagram here.

Seiko dive watches are known as being some of the best, most reliable divers out there, and it is for due cause. The SKX line (commonly known as the “monster”) and the watch I’m reviewing today – the Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 “Spring Drive Tuna” are a couple of the most well-known dive watches out there, period.

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

To put 600 meters into perspective, consider the recreational limit for scuba diving — a veritable “kiddie pool” at a paltry 30 meters. Then consider Ahmed Gabr’s world record scuba dive to 332 meters in 2014, marking the deepest a man has ever been with tanks strapped to his back. All depths considered, the 600 meter water resistance of the 6159-7010 (better known as Seiko’s “godfather” Tuna) is pretty damned deep, far beyond the depths where humans were ever intended to go without the assistance of submersibles. Nowadays, we have “deep diver” watches that go a whole hell of a lot deeper, but building a professional-grade dive watch that could survive that kind of pressure in 1975 was a pretty incredible feat of engineering. (That’s probably why it took Seiko a full decade to introduce the Tuna, after breaking into the dive watch market in 1965 with the legendary 6217 150m diver.)

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Based on direct feedback from professional divers, it’s the uniqueness of that engineering which drives the quirky design language of the Tuna; namely its distinctive, can-shaped shroud, designed to repel side impacts and protect the watch’s case, crown, and bezel at crushing depths, and inherently lending the watch its nickname.

So, in keeping with the traditions of the godfather, we have the fully realized Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 (aka: the “Spring Drive Tuna”); a 600m titanium dive watch at the apex of four decades of dive watch tradition. Granted, it shares the same depth maximum as other “mainstream” luxury divers like the Planet Ocean from Omega. However, what sets the Tuna apart is a healthy dose of classic Japanese tinkering and innovation, and a ballsy experiment conducted earlier this year when Seiko strapped two of its Tuna models (the automatic SBDX011 and the quartz-powered SBBN013, respectively) to the exterior of a special submersible for a joyride off the Asian continental shelf (see above video).

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The purpose? Dive until they stopped working. And “stop working” they both did — the quartz at 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) and the automatic at a staggering 4299 meters — four times beyond the watch’s claimed depth rating. The aim was not to measure failure, but to inspire confidence that the engineering in Seiko’s Prospex series is capable of feats well beyond what’s advertised on the dial.

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Largely unchanged in spirit from its grandfather 6159, the ultra-modern Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 Spring Drive Tuna rules the roost across some 40 years of Seiko’s shrouded Tuna editions. [For those wondering, the recently released SBDB013 North America edition is identical to the 009 being reviewed, save for the model number and the "X” etched in the crown, delineating its entry to the Prospex collection.]

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

And while this Tuna doesn’t carry the deepest depth rating — that honor belongs to the 1000 meter options like the quartz-powered SBBN013 – rest assured it’s still the cream of the crop, featuring a “high intensity” titanium inner and outer case, anti-glare treated sapphire glass, Seiko’s spellbindingly smooth 5R65 Spring Drive movement, and a few other modern embellishments we’ll visit in a moment.

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

To fully appreciate the Tuna, one must look past its well-fed exterior and embrace it for adhering to the traditions of purpose-built utility. Yes, it’s ugly. But no detail here is superfluous, including the polarizing case shroud — a distinct engineering solution demanded by commercial divers in the late sixties. And when you examine the Tuna as the sum of its cleverly engineered parts, you’ll discover what makes the watch so damned endearing: its character.

But arguably, the best part of this particular Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 Spring Drive Tuna comes from within — the 5R65 is mechanically identical to the 9R65, though it’s fitted to this watch without much of the ultra high-end hand finishing signature to everything that comes out of Grand Seiko’s Morioka studio (which is where this watch is built), and is accurate to within 15 seconds per month.

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

How? Well, think of Spring Drive as sort of a hybrid automatic movement, which takes the best of both quartz and mechanical movement worlds to achieve its insane accuracy, lengthy 72-hour power reserve, and that signature stutter-free sweeping seconds hand. Now, movement purists or retro grouches might want to tune out here, but Seiko accomplishes this by removing all the regulating elements from what would otherwise be in an automatic movement and replaces them with a single regulator, which takes kinetic energy drawn from the mainspring and turns it into electrical energy, which in turn keeps the quartz crystal continually charged. Think of it almost like a pedal-assist bicycle, jumping to life at the slightest movement and running smoothly for great lengths on end, though virtually indistinguishable from the outside.

Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 'Spring Drive Tuna' Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

At first glance, everything about the Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 Spring Drive Tuna appears pretty standard in the realm of dive watches. Matte-black dial, high-contrast circular luminous indices, broad arrow/sword handset, and a traditional 120-click diver’s bezel. But like any great Seiko, the sum of its parts is most often appreciated with a second (or third) glance, or under the scrutiny of a loupe.

Perhaps the three most impressive elements in the watch’s execution are all part of its finishing, starting with that inky, “Black Ion” DLC coating. Vertically brushed on the outer walls of the shroud, and polished to a mirror along the cutouts and topmost ridge, it’s astonishing to find this much contrast and texture in what is basically an entirely black watch. The bezel insert is also polished to a mirrored sheen, providing an additional layer of texture and contrast to top it all off. The Seiko Marinemaster SBDB009 Spring Drive Tuna is visually stunning — an exercise in very sharp, measured contrasts, which many will appreciate. Granted, it’s hardly menacing, but it’s a layer of finishing complexity that’s rarely seen in just the color black.

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  • radikaz

    Excellent review, I won’t consider myself a great fan of Tuna due to the bulky shroud. But your language has turned it’s into a feature against knocks. Thanks and Merry X’s Mas 🙂

  • Thanks for the review Zach. Despite its impressive size, it was good to hear a logical explanation of why it wears a lot smaller (lug to lug size, etc.). And while you obviously like the Tuna a lot, you were good to note its few shortcomings.

  • Mark Baran

    Nice review Zach. Love the SD movement version. Ditto on the spring bars.

  • DanW94

    Great review, thorough and well written. You’re enthusiasm for the watch leaps off the page! It’s well designed for it’s intended purpose, but I agree with you that’s it’s an ugly watch, no two ways around it….lol
    A safe and enjoyable Christmas to everyone….

  • Larry Holmack

    Very well written article and review!!! Always liked and appreciated the “Tuna”….it’s a watch that is intended to be used as a dive watch…not just wrist candy!!

  • Shinytoys

    Great watch ! Merry Christmas to all my fellow bloggers.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      ?ittoes on the Merry Christmas and the watch.

  • Berndt Norten

    Thanks for a great review of a great watch. The $3600 price seems like a bargain. Let’s raise a glass–of Remy or Henny–and toast the benefits of economies of scale. Sure we could have some Audry or Ferrand but the big boyz of Cognac are the more a propos.

    • spiceballs

      or maybe Mandalay Rum (having recently returned from there) not so bad!

  • Boogur T. Wang

    One of the “original” tool watches. Purpose designed and built
    Like the proverbial tank.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I can see why a large majority of folks buy this type of watch, I really do. It’s BIG and manly and stuff, ” Hey look, am an outdoors sort of guy ” ( who hasn’t been in anything deeper than the deep end of a swimming pool ).I love the simplicity of this piece and its build quality is not an issue. 600m is good I suppose, but I wont see it as my face would have imploded 100m above. Two little deal breakers, strap is just awful and I need a date. Calling a dive watch Tuna ?…………someone’s having a laugh..

    • Ulysses31

      I believe the “Tuna” name was given by the watch community due to the resemblance of the watch to a tuna can. It’s dumb, but concise and easy to remember.

      • spiceballs

        Yes, my thoughts also.

    • Krystoph Roric

      You see more than a few of these on deployed operators. They are a far step up from the Maratac and other “tactical” watches.

      • ConElPueblo

        You see a hell of a lot more Suuntos and the like. I have never seen a mechanical/quasi-mechanical watch on the wrist of a deployed SO soldier.

        • Krystoph Roric

          Agreed. Casio and Suunto dominate that market for sure. Amongst the few who happen to also have a passion for horology, you see a few though. Also seen Tutima, Sinn, and Bell & Ross.

  • Richard Baptist

    Love this watch, I tried it on and fell in love. I just have to save up for it. It’s distinctive and different from anything else out there. Of course the spring drive is top of the list. Great watch for a great price.

  • GogogoStopSTOP

    I think I love this watch, but can’t tell because of the terrible photography. It’s ok to have an artistic shot or two, but you have to have some demonstration of what the actual construction and topography of the watch really looks like.

  • Mariusz Majchrowicz

    Zegarki Seiko
    Nice article. Seiko Prospex watches are the best, Marinemaster is awesome

  • ConElPueblo

    Eh, not all SKXes are called “Monsters”…

  • TrevorXM

    The very definition of overkill in a watch for those people who are actually going to buy and wear it in 99% plus of cases. 600m? Hahahaha! If it goes in the water at all, it might see 30 metres at most. It’s a 51 mm watch! Look how stupid-thick it is. It’s a $3600 Seiko. All pretty silly. But there is something likeable about it. I think the recommendation for Mercedes G-Wagon owners is close, but they tend to wear Royal Oak Offshore or Rolex Sea Dwellers. I’d say this more a Hummer driver watch — if they still made those.

  • spiceballs

    Love my “New Monster”, a close relative.

  • David

    Today, I ate the most expensive Chick FIl A sandwich I ever purchased. While out of town on business, I stopped for lunch and before I made it to the restaurant, I chanced upon a jewelry shop that carried about 20 brands of watches that I have been educated about thanks to A Blog to Watch. not only did they carry some of the harder to find Grand Seiko spring drive watches, they also had the Japanese SDBDoo9. I must agree that the photos in this article don’t do the “Tuna” justice. With that said, I agree with almost every word in this article. The watch is stunning in person, and I thought I would have a problem with the band, but as soon as I placed it on my wrist, it felt as if I had been wearing the watch for a month already, and I have thin wrists for a 51mm watch. I such a fair price on the watch, I felt obliged to purchase it and look forward to putting it into the rotation. If you ever find yourself between Baltimore and Annapolis, visit Ethan at little treasury jewelers. He is well versed in the products he carries and prepare yourself because you may go home with a watch. I almost bought two.

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