March 9, 2023
While there are a number of famous and instantly recognizable Seiko dive watches, arguably one of the most distinct and important designs from the brand’s rich history is the asymmetric cushion-shaped case that first appeared in 1970. While this model is typically best known by its “Captain Willard” nickname due to its appearance in the film Apocalypse Now, Seiko actually associates this iconic 1970 diver’s watch with Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura, who wore this model while exploring the Arctic region between 1974 and 1976. Born in 1941, Naomi Uemura was the first Japanese mountaineer to summit Mt. Everest, and he also holds the title of being the first person in the world to reach all five of the summits of Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Everest, and Denali. To commemorate his accomplishments and connection to this model’s rich history, Seiko has released a new Arctic-themed premium version of its famous cushion case diver’s watch, and the new Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation Naomi Uemura Limited-Edition SLA069 features a crisp blue and white color profile, along with a dial that pays tribute to the first of the five peaks that Uemura successfully summited: Mont Blanc.
The overall shape and profile of the new Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation Naomi Uemura Limited-Edition SLA069 will be instantly familiar to those who are familiar with the vintage model. Crafted from stainless steel with Seiko’s “super-hard” coating, the case measures 44mm in diameter by 13mm-thick, with its asymmetric cushion shape flaring out to create guards for the screw-down crown at the 4 o’clock location. Like other modern re-interpretation models of this original 1970s design, a curved sapphire crystal protects the dial, while a solid screw-down caseback sits on the reverse side and helps create an ISO-certified 200 meters of water resistance. Additionally, while the bezel insert itself is black, the coin-edge bezel ring surrounding it and the winding crown have been given a metallic blue finish that is intended to be reminiscent of the blue shadows that surround Mont Blanc. Similar to previous re-editions of this classic case profile, the new Seiko Prospex SLA069 Naomi Uemura Limited Edition is completed by a five-link stainless steel bracelet that has a locking folding clasp with a wetsuit extension.
Aside from its Arctic-inspired colorway and metallic blue accents, the real focus of the new Seiko Prospex SLA069 is its white textured dial that prominently depicts Mont Blanc from the same exact angle that Uemura originally began his ascent. The overall layout of the dial and the shape of the hands is virtually identical to what can be found on other modern re-interpretation models of this 1970 case design, with its rectangular hour markers, stoplight style seconds hand, and date window at the 4:30 location. However, the three-dimensional white surface features several different types of etching and finishing techniques that are used to create the silhouette and contours of Mont Blanc. Seiko experimented with multiple different positions for the mountain, along with various types of finishing methods, ultimately deciding upon a large, centrally-oriented location for the mountain peak, along with a specific mix of etching and additive surface finishing to ensure that the depiction of Mont Blanc remains clear and vivid from all angles of view.
Similar to other ultra-premium Seiko dive watches that have been released in recent years, the new Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation Naomi Uemura Limited-Edition SLA069 is powered by the brand’s Caliber 8L35 automatic movement, which represents a solid step up from the 6R family of calibers that can be found inside most of the modern Seiko Prospex lineup. In many ways, the Seiko 8L35 can be thought of as a less refined version of the Grand Seiko 9S55 movement, and it, therefore, runs at a higher frequency of 28,800vph (4Hz), while offering users a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. Seiko specifically developed the Cal. 8L35 for use inside its premium dive watches, and since it is one of the brand’s top-of-the-line movements (before you start to get into true Grand Seiko territory), it is assembled by hand to ensure a higher level of quality and attention to detail.
Seiko watches occupy an incredibly wide range of prices, although any time that you see the Caliber 8L35 inside a Seiko diver, you can almost guarantee that it will cost about twice the price of a similar model that is powered by a movement from the 6R family. Consequently, the new Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation Naomi Uemura Limited-Edition SLA069 is accompanied by an official retail price of $2,900 USD, which makes it quite a bit more expensive than the various SPBxxx models that also feature this 1970 diver’s case design, but have their date windows at the 3 o’clock location. With that in mind, this is also right in line with what Seiko has charged for similar SLAxxx dive watches that have been powered by the Cal. 8L35 movement and most of them arguably offered far less intricate dials. While all of these historic Seiko divers were originally designed specifically for scuba diving, they ultimately found use among a much larger audience, and it’s interesting to see Seiko celebrate some of the less obvious connections that its models have to the greater world of exploration. For more information on the Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation Naomi Uemura Limited-Edition SLA069, please visit the brand’s website.