The Seiko Prospex SLA017 was one of the most popular vintage re-issue watches launched at Baselworld this year. That sounds strange I know, when you think vintage watches, Seiko generally isn’t the first name to come to mind. The Japanese brand has been full of surprises this year however and continues to endear itself to collectors and enthusiasts alike.
The Seiko Prospex SLA017
Seiko debuted its (and Japan’s) first dive watch – the ref. 6217 or ‘62Mas’ as you may know it – back in 1965, some ten years after most of the major Swiss players had introduced their dive watches. Designed for maximum reliability and legibility in the harshest conditions, it was first used on polar expeditions by the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition from 1966 to 1969 before finding commercial success as a recreational dive watch.
Powered by an automatic mechanical movement, it boasted a relatively high water resistance rating of 150m, something of a rarity at the time and would go on to set the standard for all Seiko dive watches.
Given the success of the design from 1965 not much has been changed in the new Seiko Prospex SLA017, aesthetically speaking at least. The overall re-design was entrusted to Nobuhiro Kosugi, a recipient of the prestigious Medal with Yellow Ribbon and Contemporary Master Craftsman awards, who has remained true to the original. Even the font is the same.
A true diver’s watch, the dial layout is simple yet effective. Hours, minutes and small seconds are all displayed centrally, with the luminous, 3D embossed hour markers standing out in sharp relief against the sun-ray brushed grey/black dial to ensure maximum legibility. The date is shown through an aperture at three o’clock. As with the original, the rotating bezel is narrow and features a 60-minute insert with a luminous dot at twelve o’clock, although now it only moves uni-directionally as opposed to bi-directionally like the 62Mas.
The case, made from stainless steel and finished with a super-hard coating, is virtually identical to the original, but its diameter has been increased by 1.9mm to 39.9mm. Still small by modern dive watch standards but very wearable nevertheless. The Seiko Prospex SLA017 also now features a box-shaped sapphire crystal and a slightly beefed up water resistance of 200m.
Inside is the automatic caliber 8L35, a movement that has been specially designed for diver’s use. More than your standard three-hand automatic, the movement has been assembled and adjusted by hand in Seiko’s Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio in Morioka in the north of Japan. It beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour and offers a max power reserve of 50 hours. Unfortunately though its hidden away behind a solid caseback bearing a similar dolphin emblem to the original 62Mas.
Available in a limited edition of 2,000 pieces from July 2017, the Seiko Prospex SLA017 comes fitted on a silicone strap complete with a diamond pattern (just like on the 62Mas) for enhanced wearability both outside a wetsuit and on the wrist. Recommend retail is EUR3,800, although given the red-hot demand for these watches at Baselworld, chances are if you haven’t secured yours already you’re not getting one.