Although Seiko is a massive and influential part of the modern dive watch market, the Japanese giant’s offerings have often marched to a markedly different tune to the Swiss competition. Even in the more tightly focused realm of vintage diver reissues, Seiko’s methods for achieving an aged look from the factory have often differed from the rest of the industry, relying less on fauxtina lume or grainy textured dials than it does on clever usage of color and dynamic sunburst finishing. For its latest pair of retro-inflected diver releases, however, the brand takes a more European approach to aging without sacrificing its own unique Japanese flavor. With these models, Seiko adds its own spins on dial finishing and the brand’s first-ever NATO straps designed for dive watches with a centuries-old traditional weave. The new Seiko Prospex SPB237 and Seiko Prospex SPB239 offer what may be some of the marque’s most crowd-pleasing diver experiences in recent memory, delivered right in time for a likely booming summer travel season.
First of the pair is the Seiko Prospex SPB237, a continuation of the 1970 Seiko 6105 “Captain Willard”-inspired series that began with 2020’s SPB151 and SPB153. Like those two models, the stainless steel case of the SPB237 measures in at 42.7mm, significantly smaller than the ‘70s original, and carries a relatively compact lug-to-lug measurement of 46mm. The rounded, pebble-like cushion case form remains a distinctive visual hallmark for the line, and a smooth canvas for Seiko’s mix of radial brushing and curving, polished case sides. As with most of the brand’s higher-echelon Prospex offerings, the SPB237 sports a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and offers a robust 200 meters of water resistance. Where the SPB237 diverges from previous iterations, however, is the bezel insert. This grainy, textured charcoal gray insert smoothly introduces the design’s patinated theme, and the muted gray of the diving scale keeps the overall contrast low for an unorthodox take on a faded bezel effect.
The dial of the Seiko Prospex SPB237 is where this new iteration truly sets itself apart. Those familiar with prior “Captain Willard” reissues will recognize Seiko’s modern reinterpretation of the original 6105’s squared-off diver indices, distinctive stoplight seconds hand, and faceted baton handset, but the brand recontextualizes these familiar elements with dramatic use of color and texture. Rather than the deep brown hues often used for fauxtina divers, Seiko opts for a medium gray tone for the dial of the SPB237. Interestingly, this color seems to vacillate between dusty brown and mossy green undertones in initial images, straddling the line between a warm and cool neutral feel. Seiko also adds a textured dial to the SPB237 like many other contemporary vintage reissues, but rather than the grainy matte finish of many Swiss offerings this watch provides a nuanced, deeply gouged vertical texture that calls to mind both stones and tree bark. Seiko has traditionally punched well above its weight in dial finishing, and the complex surface here will likely continue the trend. Seiko accents this surface with a light khaki application of its in-house Lumibrite lume that aims to complement the earth tones of the design. Taken as a whole, the textures and colors at play here do nicely emulate the feel of a tropical dial, but the road the SPB237 takes to get to that look are still distinctly Seiko in initial images.
Inspired by Seiko’s first-ever diver, the seminal 1965 62MAS, the Seiko Prospex SPB239 offers a simpler, more classical look than its stablemate. Sharing the same basic platform with 2020’s SPB147, the Prospex SPB239’s stainless steel case sits at 40.5mm in diameter. The skin diver-style design is a cornerstone of the brand’s vintage-styled diver offerings, with squared-off lugs, an unguarded screw-down pillbox crown, and a wide polished chamfer that runs the length of the case from lug tip to lug tip. The SPB239’s radially brushed black bezel insert is a hallmark of the current generation of 62MAS reissues, adding a wealth of visual texture and a more premium feel when compared with lower-priced Prospex offerings. The SPB239 takes this element a step further with the inclusion of an engraved dive scale, giving this piece more depth and a warm vintage look thanks to its khaki paint fill.
Like the SPB237, the Seiko Prospex SPB239 aims to capture the feel of an aging tropical dial, but the brand takes this inspiration in a remarkably different direction. As with the other model, the SPB239 fills its 62MAS-style rectangular applied indices and faceted baton hands with khaki Lumibrite, but here this sandy vintage tone is reinforced with dial text and an outer minutes track in a more robust pale yellow tone. The main dial surface itself takes on a sunburst finish, but one that appears far less dynamic in photos than the sunburst dials in the rest of the current 62MAS-inspired line. This surface also aims to capture the feel of a fading tropical dial, and Seiko looks to achieve the effect subtly without resorting to the mahogany brown tones often used to achieve the look. In images, the SPB239 looks to emulate the look of a dial just beginning to show signs of tropical fading rather than the deep chocolate colors of late-stage tropical patina. To portray this, Seiko gives the dial of the SPB239 a very slight teak brown hue, which only seems to reveal itself through the sunburst effect in images. Subtle enough to fly under the radar and patinated without becoming garish, the dial of the Seiko Prospex SPB239 takes its own unique road to one of the most popular looks in modern watchmaking.
Inside both the Seiko Prospex SPB237 and Seiko Prospex SPB239 beats the in-house 6R35 automatic movement. The 6R35 is Seiko’s modern midrange automatic, with a robust 70-hour power reserve and a slightly slow 21,600 bph beat rate. One of the major draws for the Seiko Prospex SPB237 and the Prospex SPB239 is the inclusion of Seiko’s first-ever fabric straps designed for diving. The brand claims these new NATO-style polyester strap pairings are more than up to the task of underwater use, with tensile strength approaching four times that of the brand’s standard NATO straps, along with superior sun fade resistance, flexibility, and breathability. Many of these traits come courtesy of the traditional Japanese Seichu braiding pattern used to create these straps, which has been used for centuries to create the traditional obijime cord used to secure a kimono sash. This gives the overall look a touch of classically Japanese texture, reinforcing the brand’s own legacy apart from its European competitors. Each model is shipped with two of these straps, with the SPB237 receiving straps in olive green and granite gray, while the SPB239 uses straps in dark chocolate brown and desert tan.
With a richly textured tropical look and a distinctly Japanese visual feel, the Seiko Prospex SPB237 and Seiko Prospex SPB239 are stylish and detailed contenders in the white-hot vintage-inspired diver sector with enough personality to stand out from the crowd. The Seiko Prospex SPB239 will be available through Seiko boutiques and select authorized dealers in June 2021 at an MSRP of €1,250, and the Seiko Prospex SPB237 will debut at Seiko boutiques and select authorized dealers in July 2021 with a price of €1,350. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.