At a press conference at Baselworld this morning, Seiko unveiled the latest from the Japanese brand. The big highlight from the Presage collection is the introduction of a new automatic caliber that had been rumored about for some time. For fans of vintage Seiko divers, the brand has come out with six new Prospex watches that honor two landmarks in the brand’s history: the first Japanese Hi-Beat Diver in 1968 and the first quartz saturation diver in 1978.
The new 6L35 caliber in the Presage collection is a thinner and more accurate update to the brand’s previous 6R15 that had previously equipped various Prospex models and, the recently discontinued SARB017, also known as the Alpinist. The new movement is 1.3 mm slimmer than the 6R15 at 3.7 mm. This caliber can be found in three new watches this year and will surely be followed by even more soon enough. Not only is the movement slimmer, but a new case construction involving the movements insertion from the front of the case allows for the thinness to be accentuated. The movement is inserted from the front of the case which allows the sides to be angled inwards.
This new caliber is inside the Shippo Enamel Limited Edition. Shippo is a type of enamel that was developed in Japan during the 17th century. Its main difference from porcelain enamel is the way it is polished after firing, a process made more difficult by thinner watches. The dial is made by Ando Cloisonne, a specialist manufacturing center in the Aichi Prefecture with over a century of experience. The lead-free glaze, developed specifically for Seiko, is painted by hand onto the surface of the dial by a craftsman. The dial is then fired at 800 degrees Celsius. The painting and firing processes are repeated several times to ensure the evenness of the enamel. The case is polished using Seiko’s famous Zaratsu technique and is protected by a super-hard coating. The sapphire crystal has a clear coating to ensure high legibility in all conditions. The second hand is in blue tempered steel and the dial has a textured pattern.
The Shippo Enamel LE is limited to 1,881 total pieces and is priced at $2,200.
On the sportier side, the new Prospex additions offer an expansive look at Seiko’s long and innovative history. The highlight here, and a watch that is already a highlight of the show for many that I’ve talked to, is a recreation of the first Japanese Hi-Beat Diver from 1968. Seiko introduced its first dive watch in 1965 and three years later upped the ante with this model which had a 10- beat high precision automatic caliber, a one-piece structure, screw-down protection crown, and a unidirectional rotating bezel. The 1968 original was for air diving while this new timepiece is specified for saturation diving and can reach a depth of 300 m. Like the original, it features a one-piece case construction and a flat case back. Inside is the Caliber 8L55, which was specially designed for diver’s use when first released. This watch features Zaratsu polishing, which gives the lugs a noticeable sharpness. It is limited to 1,500 total pieces and priced at $5,400.
Two other new Prospex timepieces also commemorate the 1968 progenitor. They echo its design but are executed in a modern style, with a thinner bezel and more contemporary hands. One is all stainless steel, including the bracelet, while the other features a silicone strap. Both are 44 m, water resistant to 200 m, and use the 6R15 caliber which gives the case a slim profile. These are both unlimited production models and priced at $1,050, for the all-stainless steel model, and $850, respectively.
The model remembering the 1978 wristwatch that served as Japan’s first quartz saturation diver features the same case construction, dial layout, hour markers, and crown as the original from 40 years ago. The big difference? An increased water resistance to 1,000 m. The outer case material is zirconia ceramic which is seven times harder than steel and protects the case from shock. It features all the innovations from the 1970’s, such as the double layer construction with one piece inner case, the L- shaped gasket for helium resistance, and the accordion-style strap. This model features a high-strength silicone strap for enhanced wearability both outside a wetsuit and directly on the wrist. It is limited to 1,978 total pieces and is priced at $2,300.
Additionally, there is a special edition that is identical in all the same ways other than the outer case material. Limited to 800 total pieces, it uses a composite material composed of ceramic and metal materials called Cermet. This material is eight times harder than steel and offers an even higher level of shock protection. It is priced at $2,900.
Finally, one of my personal favorites of the new Prospex models again references the 1968 model but this time features a deep green dial. Meant to recall the Yakushima forest at the southern end of Japan, it is one of the country’s most prized diving spots. The zirconia ceramic bezel of the new watch is highly resistant to scratches and shocks, while the stainless steel case has a super-hard coating and the sapphire crystal has an anti-reflective coating both inside and out. The 5, 10, 15 and 20-minute markers on the bezel are painted with a specially powerful LumiBrite to increase the legibility of the rotating bezel and, thereby, the diver’s safety. It comes with a steel bracelet and a high strength silicone strap. It is limited to 1,968 total pieces and priced at $3,250.