Seiko has, in recent years, followed an industry-wide trend and dived into the “heritage reissue” scene, most prominently with its cushion-cased SRP series, a watch affectionately known to nickname-happy Seiko fans as the Turtle. This year, Seiko released the SRPC91K1 Save the Ocean Turtle, a portion of whose proceeds will go to Fabien Cousteau’s Ocean Learning Center, a non-profit dedicated to marine conservation and education. Seiko’s Save the Ocean Turtle is also one of the most recognizable of the SRP series, with a bright-to-dark-blue color-fade dial, as well as a PVD-coated bezel and crown — all new elements on a well-loved automatic 44.3mm diver platform. Here, in a wrist time review, I’ll go deep with Seiko’s newest and most charitable Turtle to see how it stacks up in the crowded diver’s watch landscape and price-point.
SEIKO SRP TURTLE SERIES: 2016 TO NOW
For background, Seiko’s SRP collection is, essentially, a modernized update of the classic 6309 design of the 70s and 80s and was initially released in 2016 with four different colored references. Since then, Seiko has expanded the Turtle series with a variety of variants to include the Blue Lagoon SPRB11, PADI SRPA21, the Thailand-only Zimbe SRPA19, and others, each with ties to various organizations, charities, or localities. The SRPC91 appears to be a special rather than a limited edition, meaning the watch does not seem to be available in especially limited quantities, a good thing for Fabien Cousteau’s Ocean Learning Center and collectors, alike.
While a new watch in spirit, the Save the Ocean is still an SRP, featuring the 44.3mm cushion-shaped case, 22mm lug-width, 200-meter water resistance, and the hacking, hand-winding 4R36 caliber all common to the SRP collection. Where the Save the Ocean Turtle shines is in the smaller details that separate it from its “regular” siblings, most noticeably the striking blue-gradient dial.
SEIKO SRPC91K1 SAVE THE OCEAN DIAL
There have been a few dials featuring the dark-to-light fade in the last few years, a trend likely set by Rolex’s Deepsea D-Blue, a watch built to commemorate James Cameron’s historic dive to Challenger Deep. However, at $12,550, the Deepsea requires pockets of depth, not unlike the Marianas Trench, and not all of us can afford to get in on the admittedly fun concept. Seiko’s much more affordable take on the dial is not only a light-to-dark-blue (almost black) color fade but is also graduated with horizontal lines that are, interestingly, not perfectly parallel. Though I’m confident this one is a bit polarizing, I like it, and the dial really does evoke the diving spirit of the watch. The dial gets darker from top to bottom, just as the diver (or submersible) loses light as they descend. It really looks like it was designed with the sea in mind.
In practice, the Save the Ocean dial catches the light in interesting and different ways depending on conditions, giving the wearer a lot to look at and making the watch eye-catching and interesting. It’s bright and in no way subtle, not a bad thing considering the charitable mission behind the watch. People will ask you about the watch, and you get to decide how nerdy or detailed an explanation to provide, perhaps even climbing onto your maritime soapbox and plugging the ocean-going charitable mission behind the model (I hope you do). The rest of the dial layout is classic Turtle with large, applied hour markers and trademark Seiko hands, all rimmed in steel and inlaid with Seiko’s powerful Lumibrite luminescent material. A Seiko standard white on black day/date indicator sits at the expected 3 o’clock spot.
Unfortunately, on my SRPC91, the alignment in the day/date wheel is imperfect — nothing crazy, but something to note. Seiko fans everywhere know the scourge of dial/chapter/bezel/day/date misalignment common to Seiko’s less expensive diver models, but I’m still a little bit let down, given the obviously extremely detail-oriented, primarily watch-nerd audience of this particular reference. Of course, if it really mattered to me, I could likely have it corrected by a watchmaker, but who has time or money for that?
While I had some initial concerns about overall legibility, given the action-packed and colorful dial, the watch remains very functional as a time-teller and is, as you’d expect from Seiko, a monster of lume when the lights are off, easily lasting all night long. Seiko’s own Hardlex, a mineral material, provides crystal duty as it always does on Seikos at this price-point, and can be easily replaced with after-market sapphire in the event of damage. Seiko fans love a mod, and I imagine the SRPC91 would be even more eye-catching with a domed sapphire crystal.
Complementing the dial is a special bezel insert, with a lighter shade of blue for the first 20 minutes and a darker shade for the rest. In terms of color, the SRPC91 is well executed. Many shades of blue are used (there’s an ocean parallel here), and they all work well together.
SEIKO SRPC91K1 SAVE THE OCEAN “SHELL”
Where previous special Seiko Turtles typically only have a different dial and insert, the Save the Ocean also has some different case elements. Starting with the bezel, Seiko has elected to employ a polished PVD coating, making the blues in the bezel insert visually pop more than they otherwise might. The coating should also, theoretically, add some durability to the bezel, should Fabien Cousteau accidentally knock it on anything while backrolling off the dive boat in Belize, or wherever. Hey, it happens.
Turtles and Seiko divers, in general, have excellent bezel action, with 120 crisp clicks with just enough resistance and no play. They’re also pretty easy to align at 12 o’clock, a finicky watch enthusiast (nerd) necessity. The Save the Ocean edition is no different. The bezel action is even a bit better to me than the more pedestrian SKX series, which I also love oh so dearly. Though few will, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the SRPC91 and its timing bezel for diving in any condition. For what it’s worth, I’m a commercial diver, and I would use any Seiko diver at any price-point for any kind of non-saturation diving (and they make divers for sat-diving as well).
While we’ve covered the SRP777 in some detail before, which of course has the same case as the Save the Ocean, I’ll share my personal impressions. For starters, like a lot of Seiko people, I’m a big fan of the 6309. I have an original 6309-7040 from August of 1980 that I wear all the time. The newer Turtles are visually similar to the original reference design but they are somewhat larger and longer. While it’s not a huge issue, some smaller-wristed individuals, myself included, may find the Turtle just a bit long on the wrist, despite the reasonable-sounding 48mm lug-to-lug.