With WatchTime New York 2019 at the end of last month, the “Vintage Eye” series had to take a small hiatus, but this week we are back and better than ever — and for this week’s edition we’re looking at the new Seiko Prospex SRQ029 Limited Edition.
As some of you will remember, this new Seiko watch caused quite a stir at the start of last October. It was revealed alongside another vintage-inspired chronograph, the SRQ031, to celebrate the momentous 50th anniversary of the brand’s first automatic chronograph movement (and one of the first to hit the mass market): the 1969-released Caliber 6139.
Funnily enough, the new SRQ029, while commemorating this momentous movement, is aesthetically inspired by a watch that was actually released a year later, the 6138-8020 “Panda” chronograph brought to market in 1970. This particular watch used the related 6138 movement, and is known for its distinctive black-and-white dial and vertical chronograph. Vintage editions of the watch are highly cherished among Seiko collectors, and I remember during my time at Theo & Harris that it was one of a handful of watches that would almost literally fly off the shelves as soon as we listed it.
As for specifics, the SRQ029 uses a steel 41-mm case complete with the Seiko’s famous zaratsu polishing technique to give its edges their super-sharp look. The case features a modern two-pusher chronograph style on its side, and is strapped with a refined steel bracelet alternating between brushed and polished finishes. Beneath the domed sapphire crystal is the true star of the model, with its uncommon black-and-white aesthetic quickly catching the eye. The “white” areas are actually a brushed silver tone, though depending on the play of the light can dynamically shift in colors (as in this very silvery picture below, credited to Monochrome). This dial uses an outer black tachymetric scale, with a racing minute ring just inside it, and applied tick markers delineating each passing hour.
The subdials of the watch are asymmetrical, with larger black registers for the 30/60-minute and 12-hour counter at the 9 and 6 o’clock positions, and a smaller, lighter register for the running seconds at the 3 o’clock mark. Passing over the dial, including the almost hidden 4:30 date indicator, are two syringe-style hands for the hour and minute, and an orange-tipped counter for the chronograph seconds.
Inside this special edition model is the automatic Seiko Caliber 8R48, which is capable of a 45-hour power reserve, and is visible via a screw-down exhibition case back (picture below courtesy of FratelloMagazine).
Unlike other Seiko commemorative editions, the new SRQ029 is clearly inspired by the vintage 6138-8020 “Panda” (pictured below), rather than a direct reissue. We see the vintage traits directly in the black and white color scheme, the tachymetric scale, the hour markers, and the orange-tipped chronograph seconds counter. We can also see traces of this DNA in the style of the subdials, most noticeably in the “30/60 stacked” style for the 9 o’clock chronograph minute counter.
The historical chronograph was known during its time as a forward-looking watch. Using a new movement equipped with an automatic chronograph — and doing so within what was then regarded as an uncommonly streamlined case— the piece represented, to some, the future of watchmaking. Overall, the new SRQ029 watch seems to channel the same forward-looking ethos as the original, rather than work to directly replicate its aesthetic. We can see this foremost in the modern-style chronograph pushers, the asymmetric style of the dial, the subtle, circular date window, and in the contemporary syringe hands. The effort made for modern elegance is also clearly seen in the refined finishing of the case, bracelet, and dial. Together with its vintage attributes, the model ultimately projects an aesthetic of something both classic-looking and futuristic, being altogether unique.
Seiko has been a major player in the neo-vintage trend, notably releasing the updated Seiko 5 Sports models earlier this fall, among a host of other divers and Grand Seikos. Alongside the SRQ031 (above), this retro-inspired chronograph comes as the newest addition to this series, albeit one limited to 1,000 pieces and priced at €3,700 ($4,080), with only a select few reserved for the U.S. market— all of which have reportedly been spoken for. At WatchTime New York, the brand gave an indication the model could go into regular production much like many other of their vintage-inspired models, though this likely wouldn’t begin until next year, if at all.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we discuss the Longines Heritage Classic “Sector Dial,” click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering 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.