September 5, 2016
by James Stacey
Every now and then a new watch manages to vibrate at just the right frequency to perk the ears of the general watch enthusiast base. Rustling the fault line of watch enthusiasm takes a special watch, one that offers a hard-to-quantify mix of design, function, price, history, and the secret-sauce of enthusiast appeal. With an accessible price point, proven design, strong functionality and a dollop of that undeniable Seiko diver charm, the new Seiko Prospex SRP777 has quickly become the darling of Instagrammers, desk-divers, and general sport watch enthusiasts since its release late last year. No other brand manages to offer a better sport watch for less of your hard-earned money, and Seiko wisely builds upon the success of each model generation, evolving their product to reflect their ability, history, technology, and core strengths. Inspired by a Seiko diver from the mid-Seventies, the Seiko Prospex SRP777 and its siblings are a direct nod to Seiko’s past and a successful and unironic play in the ongoing trend of “new vintage” watches.
Based directly upon Seiko’s cushion-cased reference 6309, the new Seiko Prospex SRPs come in several variations. Depending on your local market, you can choose between the black-dialed SRP777, the black and gold SRP775, the blue dial/bezel SRP773, the black and red SRP779, PADI Edition SRPA21, or the Thailand LE Zimbe SRPA19K. This review will focus on the SRP777 and its included black silicone strap. The original 6309 was produced from 1976 to 1988 and the new Seiko Prospex SRP777 is a faithful recreation, save for just a few small tweaks. The wide 44mm steel cushion case remains from the original (technically 44.3mm on the SRP) as does the main dial design, day-date feature, unidirectional dive bezel, crown at four, and generous lume application. The SRP777 adds Seiko’s Prospex “X” a new seconds hand design, drilled lugs, 200m water resistance, and an upgraded movement. Most importantly, Seiko has not diminished the charm of the reference model, offering only slight updates that result in a more accessible and practical design which manages to tread the line between subtle evolution and outright copy.
With a flat Hardlex crystal and a solid steel Tsunami case back, the Seiko Prospex SRP777 could easily be viewed as an update to other massively-popular Seiko divers like the SKX007. In fact, when you factor for the addition of drilled lugs (often considered an old-school feature) and the inclusion of Seiko’s more capable 4R36 automatic movement, I think that despite its new vintage design, the Seiko Prospex SRP777 is arguably an update for the SKX007 audience. Unlike the 7S26 powering the SKX, the 4R36 offers hacking and hand-winding, along with 41 hours power reserve and a 3Hz rate. The 4R36 is a simple yet robust movement that was designed to be fuss-free for as long as possible; a tool movement for a tool watch. If you want better, Seiko does that too (see: Grand Seiko).
The dial is a finely textured matte black that almost looks like teflon in some light. The markers are large and nicely matched by the handset, the result of a combination that Seiko has been refining for more than 30 years. The lume will make you hunt for dark places, offering an astoundingly bright initial expression that fades evenly and offers ample glow to eyes that have adjusted to dark environments. The Seiko Prospex SRP777’s lume is classic Seiko and excellent by any measure.
With 22mm lugs and a case shape that is pushing towards a full-on square, the Seiko Prospex SRP777 wears smaller than you would expect. The shape and ergonomics are excellent, especially for a watch of this size. With a short lug-to-lug, the case sits securely and evenly, even on a boney wrist like mine. The bezel is afforded enough height to offer an excellent grip, and the action is both smoother and more precise than that of my SKX007 (which has seen its fair share of abuse). Given my penchant for frequent strap changes, the drilled lugs are a welcome addition and really make the process about as fast and simple as it can be.
Being a dive watch, and moreover a dive watch with some legacy, I felt required to take the SRP777 underwater. Unsurprisingly, the Seiko Prospex SRP777 feels right at home underwater, with the included vented silicone strap being long enough to wrap around the wrist segment of a thick wet suit glove (though not long enough to span the forearm of my dry suit). The bezel is excellent and is easily gripped with a wet glove, providing enough feedback for predictable use above or below the surface. Likewise, legibility is perfect, with a clear view of elapsed time and the running seconds hand. To keep this explanation no longer than it needs to be, the Seiko Prospex SRP777 offers everything required by a true dive watch and performs its duties without issue.