If there’s one thing Seiko doesn’t shy away from, it’s anniversaries and limited editions. With 2023 being the 110th anniversary of the brand’s first wristwatch, there was no question that Seiko would be releasing a bevy of limited editions to commemorate the milestone. Given the massive popularity of Seiko’s recent re-interpretations of divers from the 1960s and ’70s, it only makes sense that it would use the platform to bring out some true stunners. With the Seiko Prospex Seiko Watchmaking 110th Anniversary Save the Ocean Limited Edition SPB333J1, Seiko gives us a new anniversary diver inspired by the Arctic with a dazzling dial and a few extras that make this version truly stand out in a sea of limited editions. Thanks to our friends at Russell Jewellers, we were able to bring one in for review to see how it stacks up.
Typically, if you’re looking for interesting and creative dials with mesmerizing textures, you need to turn to Seiko’s upmarket sibling, Grand Seiko. Recently, however, Seiko’s been giving the people what they want and releasing gorgeous, textured dials within the much more accessible Prospex line. First introduced with last year’s trio of Save the Ocean Special Editions, the SPB333J1 receives the same glacier-inspired dial in a silver colorway, now housed in a 41mm case based on the classic Seiko 6105-8000.
Like Grand Seiko, Seiko looked to nature for design inspiration for the dial — in this case, the glaciers traversed by early explorers to the Arctic and Antarctic. The link to Arctic exploration makes perfect sense, as Seiko’s early dive watches were worn by members of the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in the late 1960s. Regardless of whether this chilly link to the past resonates with you or, you see the same glacial contours as Seiko’s designers (to be fair, the dial does look a bit like the Grand Seiko “Silver Birch”), it’s attractive, visually interesting, and absolutely fitting for this Prospex diver.
As with most silver-dialed watches, what you gain in visual appeal, you lose in legibility. That’s not to say that the SPB333J1 is illegible — it isn’t — but when combined with the silver hands and indices, it suffers compared to darker-dialed versions. Personally, I love the silver dial and find it an excellent match for the texture and the dash of blue on the seconds hand completes the Arctic vibe. One spot where the dial falls short is the small, circular date window at 4:30. The date window doesn’t line up with the crown and is quite small, making it difficult to read the date. Seiko loves its date windows, though, so it is unlikely we are going to see a no-date version here.
Though daytime visibility may not be the SPB333J1’s strong suit, nighttime visibility isn’t a problem with ample application of Seiko’s Lumibrite on the hands and indices. One thing I never loved with the SPB143 was the daytime contrast between the Lumibrite and the dark gray dial, but against the silver, the slightly off-white hue works much better.
If you’re familiar with Seiko divers, the action on the 120-click SPB333J1 bezel will feel exactly like you expect — springy, secure, with no play to be found (plus the alignment was spot-on with this piece). In this model, Seiko uses a grey bezel insert, textured with concentric rings, providing something of a ghost bezel effect. Visually, the bezel is a nice complement to both the case and dial and the choice of gray over blue (like on the SPB301) makes the SPB331J1 more versatile than last year’s releases.
The Seiko 6105-8000 is a classic for good reason. The 41mm-wide, 46.9mm lug-to-lug cushion case is only 12.3mm-thick and is instantly comfortable on the wrist. Plus, you get Seiko’s Super-Hard coating on the steel case, which works quite well at keeping the case looking new. In other nods to practicality, you get a sapphire crystal, solid caseback, and 200m of water resistance.
Like other watches in the SPB line, the Seiko SPB333J1 runs on the 6R35 movement. This movement sports an improved, 70-hour power reserve, but does so at the expense of a slightly slower rate of 21,600 bph. Stated accuracy is +25 to -15 seconds/day.
The SPB333J1 comes with both a five-link bracelet and a super comfortable Seichu textile strap. The five-link bracelet is, in my opinion, a step up from the three-link bracelets you’ll find on other Seiko diver re-interpretations like the SPB14X series. It’s comfortable, has plenty of articulation, and is a visual match to the watch. That said, it still suffers from a simple and unrefined stamped clasp. Functionally, it’s fine, but given that we see plenty of machined claps with on-the-fly micro-adjust at the sub-$1,000 mark, it would be nice to see Seiko step up its clasp game. That said, this is a watch that looks just as, if not more, at home on a strap.
The Seichu strap included with the SPB333J1 is similar to a NATO-style strap but with a much thicker, softer weave. In keeping with the Save the Ocean ethos, the strap is made entirely of recycled plastic bottles. The polyester fibers are then woven together using a traditional Japanese braiding technique. The strap is thick, soft, and feels almost like cotton or flannel on the wrist. The downside, of course, is the thickness, especially with the additional keeper. If this were my personal watch, I’d cut off the extra keeper to reduce the bulk. Seiko says the pattern on the strap is reminiscent of the ice of a glacier, but I see an attractive, super comfortable strap that’s a great match to the dynamic dial.
The SPB333J1 is priced at $1,300 USD and is limited to 5,000 pieces. The pricing is consistent with other Prospex divers, but the textured dial and Seichu strap make this re-interpretation of the 6105-8000 particularly interesting. Here’s to hoping that these recent arctic-inspired divers are just the tip of the iceberg (sorry) when it comes to Seiko offering Grand Seiko-esque textured dials within the Prospex line. For more information on the Seiko Prospex Seiko Watchmaking 110th Anniversary Save the Ocean Limited Edition SPB333J1, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Prospex Seiko Watchmaking Save the Ocean Limited Edition SPB333J1
>Price: $1,300 USD
>Size: 41mm diameter, 46.9mm lug-to-lug, 12.3mm width, 20mm strap width
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Skiing or during any other winter adventures. Would also make a great everyday watch that will dress up better than many divers.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Friend with a limited budget who loves Grand Seiko’s textured dials and is in the market for a vintage-style diver.
>Best characteristic of watch: Lovely textured dial offset by the blue seconds hand. Seichu strap is also excellent.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Legibility and bracelet clasp.