Over the past several months, Seiko has hit the ground running with its 2020 novelties, heavily revamping its Prospex sports line with a wide variety of new models and iterations on existing lines. While much of the initial fanfare has been directed at the new retro-influenced diver lines, some of the most exciting and playful new offerings in the lineup were added to the more lifestyle-oriented Prospex Street Series. The recently revitalized “Arnie” ana-digi diver line, nicknamed for the original’s famed association with Arnold Schwarzenegger, receives some of the best updates of the bunch, with two new models modernizing the original ‘80s classic design and adding safari-inspired new colorways. The resulting Seiko Prospex SNJ029 and Seiko Prospex SNJ031 have already been christened “Safarnie” by the Seiko faithful, channeling the best of the original Seiko H558’s jungle-fighting associations while adding a colorful new punch.
The 47.8mm black-coated stainless steel cases of the Seiko Prospex SNJ029 and SNJ031 are more than a little misleading. Like the Tuna series, these feature a large metal shroud surrounding the case and bezel and, also like the Tuna, these wear more compact than the dimensions would suggest. That’s not to say these are small watches on the wrist, but the wearing experience allows for a variety of wearers to reasonably handle the Schwarzenegger-sized wrist presence. This is helped along by the thin, extremely short lugs, leading to an overall lug to lug of 50.5mm. That said, at 14.5mm-thick with slab sides, this still is better suited to tracking a killer alien through the Central American jungle than it is for sliding under dress cuffs. The overall shape is reasonably faithful to the original ‘80s H558, with the largest changes coming in the form of much larger, coin-edged pushers at 8 and 10 o’clock. The other major alteration to the case comes from these new models’ use of color. Starting with a flash of vibrant orange or red around the pushers, both the SNJ029 and the SNJ031 stray away from the monochrome original in a variety of ways. Both versions completely black out the case and bezel, as opposed to the stainless finish of the H558, for a cleaner and more aggressive look before visually diverging. The more desert-influenced SNJ029 uses a black coating on the case shroud, opting to add color subtly through tan markings atop the rotating bezel, while the SNJ031 takes the opposite approach, using an olive drab shroud surrounding clean white bezel indices. Combined with the red on the crowns, this jungle-green version takes on some serious commando vibes — if “Predator” were remade today, it would be easy to imagine this particular model strapped to the main character’s wrist. With the tough steel shroud and 200 meters of water resistance, these new models feel like they would be able to take on some military-grade abuse as well.
The dials of the Seiko Prospex SNJ029 and SNJ031 are where these models diverge most heavily from the original “Arnie” formula. While they retain the classic digital dial at 12 o’clock layout, the analog portion has been extensively reworked. Gone are the trademark Seiko diver arrow hands in favor of a set of squat brushed batons accented with an additional punch of color on the stick seconds hand. Likewise, the mix of diver-style circular and rectangular indices has been replaced with an all-rectangular set, finished with the truncated 12 o’clock triangle. The lume for both models is a light khaki fauxtina fill, just enough to add some warmth to the proceedings without feeling overtly artificial, but purists may complain here as well. In an interesting touch, the SNJ029 opts for a tan chapter ring, breaking up the continuity between the dial and the outer bezel to create a visual highlight and help the dial to feel wider overall. On the whole, though, both of these models are a significant departure from the classic “Arnie” formula that combines elements from earlier Seiko dive models with current design trends into a package that may or may not work for everybody.
Seiko powers the Prospex SNJ029 and SNJ031 with its in house H851 solar quartz ana-digi movement. In addition to the convenience of solar-powered battery charging, the use of a combination analog and digital movement allows for a wide array of complications without visually overwhelming the dial readout. In this case, the H851 offers regular timekeeping, a full calendar, a power-reserve indicator, an alarm function, and a chronograph complication.
Seiko pairs the Prospex SNJ029 and SNJ031 with modern silicone interpretations of the classic flat-vented Seiko accordion dive strap. In addition to offering a great combination of durability and comfort, these straps add a larger dose of color to the mix. For the SNJ029, the desert safari theme is brought full circle with khaki tan silicone, while the jungle-inspired SNJ031 cuts a slightly less conspicuous figure on an olive drab strap that still sets itself apart from basic black.
With the Prospex SNJ029 and SNJ031, Seiko has taken a novel approach to an ‘80s classic, creating something that feels much more like a modern Seiko product in the process. Finishing for the price bracket is excellent, and as for the somewhat dramatic changes to the “Arnie” design, purists still have the option of much more faithful reinterpretations in the current Prospex lineup. The Seiko Prospex SNJ029 and Seiko Prospex SNJ031 are expected to be available from authorized dealers in Fall 2020, at an MSRP of $550. For more information, visit Seiko’s website.