A few months ago, we covered a modern descendent of the original Seiko “Tuna” divers’ watch. At Baselworld this year, Seiko decided to go back even further into its timepiece archives by reissuing the grandfather of all the brand’s divers: the famed Seiko Ref. 6217, also known as the 62MAS (below).
This new modern watch, the Seiko Prospex SLA017, is the brand’s latest vintage re-creation, and works to channel many of the original features that made the 62MAS so iconic. The historic piece was released in 1965, and since that point it has sparked a long tradition in Seiko dive watches, importantly laying the groundwork for future releases like the first Professional Diver “Tuna” in 1975. In the modern era, Seiko has a good habit of remaining faithful to its important designs of the past— likely a primary reason behind why the Japanese brand’s vintage-inspired watches receive so much positive press— with the SLA017 being no exception.
The watch has a thick, 39.9-mm steel case with short, boxy lugs, an oversized crown, and a solid caseback with a vintage dolphin emblem; the entire case has also been specially treated for scratch resistance, using what Seiko has only described as “super-hard coating.” Within the outer black rotating bezel is the heavily vintage-inspired, almost sunburst, black dial. With large, luminous rectangular hour markers, simple baton hands with a rectangular-lollipop seconds hand, and a date window at the 3 o’clock position, this watch obviously channels its predecessor in design. The dial overall has a somewhat curved appearance, partly due to the shine emanating from the color, along with the curved sapphire crystal protecting the dial. The watch will be available on either a silicone waffle strap (not unlike the 1965 version), or a steel bracelet yet to be officially revealed by the brand. However, I imagine it will likely mirror the bracelet seen on the 62MAS re-interpretation piece also released this year, the ref. SPB051 (pictured below).
Powering the watch is Seiko’s Caliber 8L35, a solid base movement often adjusted and used in other watches by the brand, including some of its Grand Seiko models along with a few other divers. Notably, this automatic movement has a 50-hour power reserve, which is a good amount of time to take the watch off for the weekend without having to worry about fiddling with the date too much on a Monday. In total, only 2,000 of these watches are slotted for production, at a price point of $3,400—a price and limited quantity that has become somewhat a point of contention for many die-hard Seiko fans, but one the brand likely justifies by the relative significance of the release.
In comparison to the original 62MAS, the SLA017 stacks up pretty well. Most of the major features seen in the original piece have been given a showcase, and it seems apparent the new watch’s designers worked to stay as truthful to the historic lineage of the watch as they reasonably could. With wide luminous hour markers; the boxy, short-lugged case; an oversized crown; and even the dolphin emblem on the caseback, the watch channels 1965 in nearly all of its aesthetic elements.
The few changes — or, more accurately, the few adjustments — are seen in the slight increase of the case size, from 38 mm to 39.9-mm; the modern 8L35 movement replacing the historical Caliber 6127; an increase in the depth rating from 150 meters to 200 meters; and the application of the mysterious “super-hard coating” on the more refined case. However, none of these changes have significantly altered the aesthetic of the watch, and most are for the modern betterment of the piece rather than anything close to constituting a dramatic design shift. The larger case helps better accommodate the movement, the modern caliber makes the watch more reliable, and the increased water resistance and overall more refined finishing practices help to further validate the price.
As a whole, this Seiko 62MAS re-edition has done well in paying homage to its history. It hits many of the right aesthetic notes, and is another great example of Seiko looking back to its past to inform its future. Not all brands have such strong traditions in watchmaking, and of the handful that do, not all acknowledge the importance of their pasts to their futures. Seiko, luckily, does have a long history — along with a large fan base for its vintage pieces — and this year the brand has proven once again that it has earned both.
For our most recent article, in which I look at the historical lineage behind the modern Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.