This particular reference SNE435 Solar Diver is among those produced by Seiko in partnership with the international diving organization, PADI. Since the beginning of the relationship a few years ago, Seiko has consistently offered a handful of affordable dive watches with the PADI blue and red colors as well as the organization’s logo on the dial. This Seiko solar watch is available both in the “PADI” iteration as well as in other colors. I chose to review the PADI model given the attractive colors as well as the fact that the PADI models will be of interest to those who are currently training for or have recently received their diving certification from the organization.
Seiko produces the majority of its PADI models as “special editions.” This implies that they are strictly limited, but produced in (likely) lower quantities and production could stop at any time. I wouldn’t necessarily consider Seiko’s PADI dive watches “collector’s items,” but they certainly do have a bit more emotional appeal than your standard, unaffiliated dive watch. Given that I have a diving certification presented by PADI, this Seiko Prospex “PADI Diver” is interesting to me. You might also like it if you are just into blue and red “Pepsi” watches.
At under $400 this is among the less expensive “serious” dive watches out there. Seiko produces a large assortment of diving watches at a host of different prices. It can be incredibly challenging to understand what separates a $400 watch from one that retails for $800 – or for that matter $4,000. Seiko produces some Grand Seiko dive watches that fetch north of $10,000 at retail. The key element in the Solar Diver is the light-powered quartz movement. This is a budget movement by Seiko, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t perform well. Inside the Prospex Solar Diver is the Seiko V157 movement, which competes with Citizen’s popular Eco-Drive movement family.
The movement has a photovoltaic cell under the dial which receives light and turns it into electricity that is used to recharge the battery in the movement. A prism-like system in the dial moves light in a way that the eye can’t see. The movement offers the time with date, and when fully charged it has 10 months of power. In this particular light-powered watch there isn’t a power reserve, but some other fancier models with similar movements do have this feature.
Why is a light-powered movement good for a dive watch? Assuming you don’t wear this timepiece all the time, if you pick it up and it is not working, then you don’t need to hit yourself on the head for not getting a battery change. An hour in direct sunlight will likely be more than enough to charge the watch for plenty of use. Yes, mechanical watches can also simply be wound to work, but quartz watches are more accurate. Thus, unless you are seeking a high-end watch, a solar quartz movement is extremely practical – especially for utilitarian use.
For the money the SNE435 is a lot of timepiece. The stainless steel case and bracelet are durable and comfortable, even if they don’t have the same level of very precise machining and polishing that more high-end Seiko sport watches often receive. The case is 43.5mm wide and appreciatively thick without going overboard. The case is water-resistant to 200m and over the dial is a Seiko Hardlex mineral crystal with a small magnifier (à la Rolex) to help read the date. While a lot of other dive watches (including those produced by Seiko) are water-resistant to 300m or more, 200m is more than resistant for the majority of SCUBA diving activities. Both the caseback and crown do screw-down for added durability.
The unidirectional rotating diver’s bezel allows you to easily track 60-minute time increments and at 12 o’clock on the bezel there is a lume pip on the blue-colored aluminum bezel insert. The deep and easy to read dial design is among the highlights of the SNE435 Prospex Solar Diver. Aesthetically this is exactly what people think of when they imagine a Seiko dive watch. Seiko got a lot of the details right, such as the black-colored date disc and the overall dial proportions. Seiko uses large amounts of its LumiBrite luminous material on the hands and hour markers, which offers very good visibility in the dark assuming the lume is properly charged with light. Dial quality is about as nice as one might expect for a watch at this price range. The same thing goes for the finishing on the case. Though, if you are accustomed to more expensive sport watches, you’ll notice some missing features in the more efficient fit and finish of the overall timepiece.
Seiko pairs this beefy dive watch with a matching steel metal bracelet that has a secure (although basic) triple-locking deployant clasp. Seiko includes a diver’s extension in the bracelet, which makes it possible to wear the watch over a wetsuit without having to resize the bracelet. Fancier Seiko dive watches have a more sophisticated micro-adjustment system for the bracelet that allows more precise refitting on the fly.
Without overshadowing its more high-end sport watches Seiko nevertheless offers solid value and style in the Prospex Solar Diver timepiece collection. Those seeking a larger sport watch and a practical light-powered quartz movement do have some choices out there, but should strongly consider the Prospex Solar Diver. Competition from Citizen would be the direct alternative. The Seiko Prospex Solar Diver SNE453 has a retail price of $395 USD. seikousa.com
>Model: Prospex Solar Diver SNE435
>Price: $395 USD
>Size: 43.5mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, when wanting a no-nonsense accurate and durable dive watch that isn’t more than you need.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: A recently certified diver who wants a high quality, affordable diving watch for their first wave of underwater adventures.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good looking watch with attractive dial and a lot of utility. Solar movement offers a lot of practicality, and Seiko DNA means that you don’t need to wear it exclusively with diving gear. This makes a good “desk diver” as well.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Those familiar with higher-end diving or sport watches will miss luxury touches such as finer finishing and a more sophisticated movement. Overall size of watch seems as though it could be decreased a bit, namely in thickness. Bracelet style and construction is feeling its age.