November 8, 2022
Across the spectrum of pop culture and fashion, the vibrant and psychedelic feel of the ‘60s and ‘70s are gradually returning to the world stage. Period-inspired pieces have sprouted up in multiple Hollywood studio release schedules, flare-leg pants and warm earthy color palettes are returning to designer collections, and entire musical subcultures have grown up around modern revivals of disco. Of course, the watch industry has been living through its own ‘60s and ‘70s revival for several years, but Seiko’s latest series of releases brings the feel of this era into its 5 Sports line in unexpected ways. Fashion brand Rowing Blazers has made a serious splash in menswear over the past few years, turning the traditional codes of Ivy League prep style up to 11 with psychedelic colors and wild patterns. Its first collaboration with Seiko in 2021 became one of the Japanese giant’s hottest-selling releases of the year, with limited edition variants selling out almost immediately after introduction. For its second collaboration, Seiko and Rowing Blazers partner with esteemed vintage watch expert Eric Wind to reinterpret Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson’s personal 1970 Seiko 6106-7107 Sport Diver through the lens of the modern Seiko 5 Sports collection. The new limited-edition Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series blends together an eclectic mix of vintage Seiko cues, preppy East Coast visual touches, and left-field ‘70s touches to create one of Seiko’s most dynamic collections of the year.
The slim, smooth bezel stainless steel case design used by the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series is markedly smaller than the more familiar “SKX” diver-style case used by most 5 Sports models, measuring in at a modest 40mm-wide and 12mm-thick. Like so many Seiko designs, the numbers here can be misleading, thanks in large part to inwardly sloping polished case sides and short curving lugs. In practice, the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports line feels old-school compact on the wrist, with a simple and lightweight feel that make them an appealing option for daily wear. Unlike the larger iterations of the Seiko 5 Sports family, these models use a chamfered polished bezel design for a more refined, less purpose-built look than their diver-inspired stablemates. Rowing Blazers adds its own unique touch to the familiar Seiko design with an engraved crown featuring the brand’s “R.B.” initials in ornate Gothic script. Around back, Seiko tops the familiar Hardlex mineral glass display caseback with a printed rendition of the playful Rowing Blazers skeleton emblem, complete with printed “Tempus Fugit” text. It’s a classic memento mori and a reflection of Rowing Blazers’ ethos of not taking itself too seriously. Like the rest of the Seiko 5 Sports line, each model in the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series offers a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
Each model in the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series sets itself apart with its dial colorway. All four models blend the design of the modern Seiko 5 Sports with the punchy ‘70s look of the 6106-7107 Sport Diver. Elements like the black and gray minutes scale on the rehaut, the partially polished wedge-shaped applied indices, and the exaggerated polished frame around the 3 o’clock day/date display are all taken directly from the ‘70s original, but Seiko blends these vintage elements handsomely with the slimmed-down, modern sword and arrow handset (accented here with black central stripes) and Rowing Blazers’ bold, funky “candy cane” seconds hand in alternating red and silver stripes. Seiko purists will also appreciate the use of an English/kanji day wheel as opposed to the more common English/Spanish display. However, the oversized, ornate Rowing Blazers script at 6 o’clock is likely to be an aesthetic hurdle for some buyers.
Although the dials of the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series continue the bold, funky ethos of the Rowing Blazers fashion line, their interpretation of ‘70s style potentially runs through a surprising stylistic filter. The SRPJ63 offers the most classic Rowing Blazers look of the bunch, with a simple matte black dial surface flanked by painted indices in bright, eye-catching shades of red, green, pink, blue, yellow, and brown. This gives the SRPJ63 a distinctly nautical feel at first glance, calling to mind various maritime signal flags. For those looking for a more authentic ‘70s revival, the SRPJ57 delivers a blazing matte orange dial hue similar to the color of the original 6106-7107, but significantly more vibrant on the wrist. While following up on a sense that I’d seen this bright, sporty orange before, I stumbled upon a surprising coincidence – the SRPJ57’s dial hue is more or less identical to the classic “Hemi Orange” used by Dodge in the ‘60s and ‘70s on such iconic muscle cars as the Challenger, Charger, and Dart. From there, however, the similarities continue. The SRPJ59 offers a wild, Mod-style matte lime green dial hue that immediately stands out on the wrist. It’s also a near-exact match for Plymouth’s famous “Limelight Green” paint option from the same era, offered on sought-after models like the ‘Cuda, Road Runner, GTX, Superbird, and Duster. The real standout of the quartet, however, is the SRPJ61. This heroic, brightly saturated light blue dial is flat-out fun on the wrist, but it’s also a dead ringer for another famous Plymouth paint color from the ‘60s and ‘70s — “Petty Blue,” made famous by racing driver Richard Petty across decades of NASCAR competition. All these colorway similarities could be a complete coincidence, but if not, it’s a charismatic, unexpected source of wild ‘70s cool.
Seiko powers the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports line with its tried and true in-house 4R36 automatic movement. The 4R36 is the backbone of many of Seiko’s affordable mechanical offerings, and while it may not be spectacular, it provides reliable performance at a democratic price point. The 4R36 offers a decent 41-hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate and averaged a solid +7 seconds per day in accuracy across our testing period. In terms of finishing, the 4R36 is clean and straightforward, with strong directional brushing across the plates, bridges, and signed rotor. With that said, the inclusion of a display caseback at this price point is rare in itself, which makes the 4R36 an engaging sight regardless of finishing.
In keeping with Rowing Blazers’ emphasis on vibrant colors and wild patterns, the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series offers a set of truly distinctive NATO strap options. The SRPJ63 matches the rainbow of colors on its indices with a matching “croquet stripe” strap, integrating a pinstripe of each color against a clean black backdrop. For the orange dial SRPJ57, the brand instead turns to a NATO strap in deep forest green, finished with twin accent stripes in bright optic white. This offers a sporty, vintage feel overall, with a handsomely autumnal undertone. The green dial SRPJ59 offers a fully psychedelic look with its NATO strap option, pairing its wild lime dial hue with a striped strap in black and bright violet. This green and purple color combination is certainly not for the faint of heart but becomes a show-stopper on the wrist when paired with the right outfit. Lastly, the SRPJ61 complements its bold blue dial with a NATO strap in crimson, with a slim golden-yellow center stripe. It’s not the most obvious color pairing, but it does work to reinforce Rowing Blazers’ collegiate roots on the wrist. For less adventurous looks, each of the four models also comes paired with Seiko’s three-link oyster-style bracelet in stainless steel. This bracelet offers a charmingly light and old-school feel on the wrist, but enthusiasts may be split by some of its more vintage-style aspects, including hollow end links, split pin link connections, and a thin stamped two-button folding clasp.
With wild colors, clean vintage looks, and surprising stylistic influences, the limited edition Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports line undeniably puts the fun back into affordable watchmaking while further iterating on the current trend towards ‘60s and ‘70s-influenced design. Only 888 examples of each model in the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports series will be made, and while the SRPJ63 is sold out as of press time, the other models in the collection are available through select authorized dealers and Seiko’s e-commerce platform. MSRP for each model in the Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports line stands at $495 USD. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Rowing Blazers x Seiko 5 Sports
>Price: $495 USD
>Size: 40mm-wide, 12mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a weekend wear, or paired with a ‘70s-inspired outfit.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Collectors searching for a “hype watch” that lives up to the buzz, Seiko 5 fans looking for a brighter look.
>Best characteristic of watch: Eye-popping color palettes, comfortable compact cases, reliable Seiko performance.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Oversized Rowing Blazers branding will be a turn-off for some, stamped bracelet components.