March 21, 2020
by Ariel Adams
Now available from Japan’s Seiko watches is a newly upgraded version of the Prospex “Turtle,” which now includes some even harder-to-resist features and which some people refer to as the “King Turtle.” The right blend for this generation of Prospex Turtle watches is both an attractive, textured dial (in a few forms) as well as being paired with a ceramic bezel — the first for this collection, I believe. Today, I look at two versions: the Seiko Prospex reference SRPE05 with the green dial (SRPE05K1 as the Japanese reference) and the SRPE07 with the blue dial (SRPE07K1 as the Japanese reference).
To see how Seiko has made modest but compelling changes to the Prospex Turtle watch collection over the recent years, you can view the aBlogtoWatch review of the Prospex SRP watch collection here, and more recently the Prospex SRPC watch collection here. Both generations of Prospex Turtle watches were priced under $500 USD, and the newest generation SRPE models exceed the $500 USD price barrier. A question I attempt to answer in this review is whether the price increase is worth it.
Seiko watch fans like to nickname each of the brand’s watches, as they typically only have alpha-numeric titles. This started with the company’s sports watches but now extends to most models. The Turtle is named as such due to the particular shape of the tonneau-style case. To be fair, Seiko makes a number of diver’s watches with tonneau-style cases, but the Turtle has it own charming and attractive look.
The Prospex King Turtle is priced on the higher-end of the brand’s more entry-level automatic sport watches. You can spend thousands more on fancier Prospex models, but the Turtle remains an excellent and accessible value for many buyers. What I like most about the SRPE generation models is that they finally look more high-end than they actually are. The watches don’t functionally perform better than previous generation Turtle models, but now they look better, which, in my opinion really raises the desirability factory and joy of wearing them.
Enhanced visual appeal comes from the now ceramic (replacing aluminum) rotating bezel inserts, as well as the continued focus on “more than basic” dials. Previous generation Prospex Turtle watches with plain black dials are very utilitarian but look far less sexy than a watch with a blue wave pattern dial or olive green with a raised repeating square pattern. These elements, combined with the best-in-class-for-the-money polished steel case, make for a great beater watch that now has some added fashion appeal. Good job, Seiko.
Another new feature of the Prospex SRPE03/SRPE05/SRPE07 is a magnifier on the sapphire crystal that allows for both the day and date to be magnified. The Prospex Turtle has always been known as one of Seiko’s “day/date” divers, as the in-house-made 4R36 automatic movement has the day of the week indicator in addition to the date. What Seiko did — which is sort of cute, depending on your tastes — is elongate the magnifier to cover the rectangular calendar window. Previous Turtle watches did not have a magnifier over it. Some watch-lovers have an aesthetic issue with the magnifier, but these features have never bothered me before and, of course, have been made common by Rolex.
It is challenging to describe in words how Seiko’s quality adds up until you wear the watch on your wrist and experience both the build quality and dial legibility. The polished and brushed steel case is water resistant to 200 meters and is 45mm-wide by 13.2mm-thick and 47.7mm from lug to lug. It wears small for a 45mm-wide case, given the not overly wide lugs. The bezel is a pleasure to rotate and grip. I still don’t know why Seiko leaves the crown (located at 4 o’clock so that it doesn’t jab into your hand) unadorned without a Seiko logo. Then again, it is a important that it leave particular features for more high-end Prospex models, else there would be hardly reason to choose these over excellent models like the Prospex King Turtle.
Dial legibility is very good, and I happen to really like this current dial style, which evokes historic Seiko dive watches in terms of the design of the hands and the hour markers. Seiko makes very liberal use out of their in-house LumiBrite luminant — and I found that the dial on the SRPE charged very quickly – probably due to the thick application of luminant material. The different dial colors and styles will each have their own personality, but Seiko does a great job of making them feel both like tools and also art objects, given the more spirited use of colors and texture that the brand is getting even more proficient at.
Inside the watch, the mechanical automatic 4R36 movement offers about 41 hours of power reserve and operates at 3Hz. It features the time and day/date calendar. This is a decently sturdy movement that suits a tool watch quite well. Seiko makes better movements with higher specs and performance, but those movements are reserved for more expensive watches. I’d say this price is about the top for the 4R36 movement, and from there I’d start to look at Seiko’s 4Hz movements all the way up their incredible Spring Drive movements (which are increasingly available in Prospex diver’s watches).
Attached to the case is a silicone strap, even though some Prospex models (like the SRPE05) are paired with a matching steel bracelet; the strap is very comfortable but also quite long. The buckle and strap holder are also in metal and look excellent. I would have preferred a rubber strap over all, but this one is quite decent for the price. If you are like me and find the strap too long, then consider an aftermarket strap for the Prospex SRPE, as they can even further upgrade the look of this very versatile tool watch.
Seiko’s larger strategy across the globe is to do gradually up the prices of many of its core models but it doesn’t expect consumers to bite without a concurrent increase in watch quality and style. Seiko has learned the important lesson that many watch enthusiasts have a soft spot for decorative tool watches. By that I mean otherwise straightforward and solid utilitarian watches that are imbued with fashionable colors, textures, or materials. In a lot of ways, that is exactly what the Prospex Turtle SRPE05 and SPRE07 timepieces are all about. They are meant for daily wear, diving, or just plain getting into trouble. That said, the attractive green or blue dial options help these divers better compete with more expensive European fashion divers that typically come with much higher prices and often not as much dial and case quality.
Finally, the addition of the scratch-resistant ceramic bezel not only helps the Turtle collection be more competitive but is also the icing on the cake of allowing the Prospex Turtle to compete in a new class of products. I’m certainly a fan and know that Seiko will, once again, please a lot of watch enthusiasts with this collection. If you have a recent Turtle, then I’m not sure you need to jump to upgrade, but if it has been a while since you’ve had one of if you’ve never tried this particular Seiko dive watch style on your wrist, then you really can’t go too wrong with the Seiko Prospex King Turtle SRPE05 or SRPE07. Retail price is $595 USD. Learn more at the Seiko Prospex website here.
>Model: Prospex ” King Turtle” SPRE05 and SPRE07 as tested
>Price: $595 USD
>Size: 45mm-wide, 47.7mm lug-to-lug distance, and 13.2mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Easy to enjoy daily tool watch with the solid reputation of a Seiko. Makes sense everywhere you don’t need to impress luxury gawkers.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Versatile appeal makes the Prospex Turtle a good choice as someone’s only watch or for seasoned collectors seeking a weekend “beater watch.”
>Best characteristic of watch: New materials and textures help upgrade the look of an otherwise straight-forward diver’s style watch that now has a fashionable dimension to it. Excellent build quality and performance for cost making it a fair-priced and democratic enthusiast-grade mechanical timepiece. Great lume.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Not everyone will love the magnifier lens on the sapphire crystal. Strap is quite long and not enough options to put it on a bracelet. Enthusiasts will yearn for Seiko’s higher-end movements with good looks like these.