Posted on September 03 2020
Fine Japanese tool watches
Seiko Prospex watches are without a doubt, some of the best tool watches that money can buy, full stop. Even if you’re not looking to actually use them to the extent that they were made for, they’re still fantastic timepieces for the price you’re paying. And that’s what we’re here for today, the price. Whether you’re looking to spend $500 or $5,000 there’s certainly something in the Prospex catalogue for you. And for some of you who might be less educated on Seiko’s watches and think that $5,000 for a Seiko sounds absurd, then you might want to sit down and take a closer look at what this brilliant watchmaker has to offer. Do that after reading this blog post of course, because today, we’ll be taking a look at the best Seiko Prospex watches that you can get for under $5,000.
SEIKO PROSPEX SRPD27K1 MEN'S WATCH
Kicking off our list, we’re taking a look at one of my favourite Prospex models. In fact, it’s probably my favourite budget-friendly diver. I liked this watch so much I finally got one for myself a couple of months back, and it’s a brilliant piece for everyday wear.
Now before this gets too much into me blabbering about my personal collection, let’s take a closer look at what we have here--the 4th Generation Seiko Prospex Monster. For those of you unfamiliar with Seiko’s rather interesting nicknames for their watches (and yes there are plenty of them like Tuna, Turtle, Samurai etc.) the ‘Monster’ was aptly named due to, well, its monstrous-looking visage.
With this 4th Generation iteration it’s even more handsome than ever. Many of the funky, albeit polarizing design elements such as the shark-tooth like indices and jagged bezel have been simplified and have resulted in a more refined and approachable design. The dial is straightforward, with blocky indices, a short arrow-like hour hand and sharp sword-shaped minute hand that cuts very cleanly across the dial, it’s a very functional and handsome brute. The unconventional outer case-shroud still remains along with the circa 4-O’clock crown placement.
The Monster is rated to a water resistance of 200M no less and is powered by Seiko’s in-house caliber 4R36 with 41 hours of power reserve and a modest beat rate of 21,600VPH (3Hz). The watch also features a day-date function, magnified by a ‘cyclops’ lens attached to the hardlex crystal. If you’re looking for a dive watch but want something a bit more unconventional, then the SRPD27K1 is certainly for you.
SEIKO PROSPEX AUTOMATIC SRPA73K1 STAINLESS STEEL MEN'S BLACK WATCH
The terms “dive watch” and “sports watch” have become practically synonymous with each other in this day and age, but there’s more to sports watches than just a sea of divers, and this Seiko Prospex SRPA37K1 is a fine example of that. First thing’s first, this is a field compass watch, and given that a vast majority of us spend more time on land than on the water, it’s kind of weird that watches with abyssal water-resistance are far more common than compass watches.
The SRPA37K1 is, visually and functionally, a tool watch, with a 42mm stainless steel case, a 4 O’clock crown for operating the internal rotating compass, and a 3 O’clock crown for winding and time setting duties protected by a pair of large bold crown guards as well.
The dial of the watch follows the same idea. Simple and straight to the point, featuring large luminous (Lumibrite) raised plots and Arabic numerals as well as oversized hour and minute hands. Powering the watch is an in-house 4R36a caliber with 41 hours of power reserve, a 21,600VPH (3Hz) frequency and a day-date complication just for good measure. It’s more likely that this will become a daily beater for its owner than to ever be used as actual equipment and to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In the same sense of wearing a watch that can easily survive the crushing depths of the ocean, 300m below the surface but only ever bringing it as deep as the filing cabinet in your desk goes, it’s pretty safe to say that the same will certainly apply with this SRPA37K1.
SEIKO PROSPEX SPB083J1 MEN'S WATCH
Following the successful release of the SPB077J1 and SPB079J1, Seiko’s next step to release another variant of the successful modern diver was a predictable one. This special edition release (albeit not limited or numbered) comes in the form of the Seiko Prospex SPB083J1 or what some may call, the Great Blue Hole-MM200 (Seiko Marinemaster 200m).
Is this new addition to Seiko’s expansive family of divers worth owning? Let’s find out. First impressions of this watch, as with most of Seiko’s offerings these days are great. Right off the bat after strapping this watch on, the first thing you’ll notice is the unique dial. The stunning sunburst blue has a multi-directional gradient to it, catching and reflecting the light at different angles.
Speaking of the dial, it is certainly inspired by the Seiko 6159-7001 and the Seiko Marinemaster MM300 SBDX017. The round markers and the distinctive indices at 12-O’ clock are evidently lifted from its predecessors. The case and lugs design are close to its predecessors and would have easily sealed the deal on why it would be called the MM200 in reference to the MM300 of its ancestors.
The overall case diameter of the SPB083J1 sits at a relatively large 44mm with a 20mm lug width. It is protected by an anti-reflective sapphire crystal and its case is treated with Seiko’s Diashield coating, ensuring improved scratch and corrosion resistance. Right out the box, the SPB083J1 comes with 2 straps, a stainless-steel bracelet and a silicone dive strap. The stainless-steel strap comes with a dive extension for easier fitting over a wetsuit as well as a very secure fold-over safety clasp. Power comes from Seiko’s trusty Caliber 6R15 automatic, a step up from the 4R Caliber. And as expected, the movement comes with hacking, hand winding and a modestly beefy 50 hours of power reserve and a respectable 21,600 VPH (3HZ) frequency. The Seiko Prospex SPB083J1 is a real eye-catcher compared to its siblings, the SPB077 and SPB079, thanks mainly to its unique sunburst blue dial.
SEIKO PROSPEX SPB121J1 MEN'S WATCH
The original Seiko Alpinist is a watch that ticks a lot of boxes for a vast majority of the watch-wearing public. It’s readily available, reliable, robust, attractive and affordable. It’s the perfect fit and one could call it the Goldilocks of watches.
This, of course, has made it hugely popular in its hay day. With 3 models having been released at the time, but one stood out in particular--the SARB017 with a sunburst green dial and gold markers. But since all models have gone out of production, resale prices have been driven sky high, and once the stocks on the second-hand market dry out, they’llre be gone forever.
When Seiko announced a reissue of the Alpinist with 3 new models that sit nicely in the Seiko Prospex line, what Seiko has done essentially, is taken everything that made the Alpinist great and made them better. The old Alpinist was powered by the Caliber 6R15, the new one is powered by the 6R35, giving it a whopping 70 hours of power reserve.
The sapphire crystal has been given a cyclops lens (controversial to some, I know) and an anti-reflective coating on the inner surface. On top of that, there is an exhibition case-back for you to enjoy the 6R35 caliber in greater detail. However, not much has changed visually on the new Alpinist SPB121J1, aside from the Seiko Prospex “X” branding on the dial. It’s a small touch that shows everyone that this watch is more than just a pretty face, it means serious business.
The watch hailed from a line originally intended for Japanese mountaineers back in 1961-1964, called the Laurel Alpinist. It wasn’t until 2006 did Seiko unveil the horological phenomenon which is the Alpinist we all know and love today. And now they’re back once again, and the wait was certainly worth it. The Alpinist was a watch that struck a chord with the watch community, even under the shadow of the divers like the Sumo, Turtle, Monster and Tuna. And for good reason, the watch is a serious tool watch, with 200m of water resistance, bright luminescent on the hands and 12 markers, as well as an internal rotating bezel which functions as a compass. Yet with all of this, the watch, thanks to its 39mm diameter and proportions, was incredibly versatile. It could be worn hiking, or to a gala dinner with a suit, or even just as an everyday beater and it would still sit comfortably at home on your wrist.
SEIKO PROSPEX SLA021J1 MEN'S WATCH
If the watch to have is a dive watch, then the dive watch to have would be a Rolex Submariner, but at about $14,000 that watch wouldn’t just break our $5,000 budget, so much as nuke it from orbit and that is if you can even get one of course. A surge in demand over the years, resulting in massive price jumps, and ever-growing waiting lists have relegated this incredible timepiece to be nothing more than just a passing fancy across the jeweller’s window.
But just because you can’t get the default doesn’t mean you can’t get something else that is as interesting, and maybe, just maybe a little more special. Introducing the Seiko Marinemaster SLA021J1, a commemorative limited edition to the first model from 1968, Seiko’s reference 6159. Powered by Seiko’s Caliber 8L35 and beating at 28,800VPH (4Hz), the Marinemaster pays proper tribute to the original 1968 hi-beat drive Ref. 6159-7001 and then some. Though not equipped with the high-beat 36,000VPH (5Hz) 8L55 caliber, the 8L35 is still a force to be reckoned with, with a respectably high frequency of 28,800VPH (4Hz).
The 8L35 is an undecorated version of the Grand Seiko's 9S55 caliber, with 26 jewels, 50 hours of power reserve and an accuracy of -10 to +15 seconds per day is a proper demonstration of Japanese watchmaking prowess. Coming with a 44.3mm mono-bloc case (missing the traditional case-back where the movement is installed from the front), it ensures rugged durability and water resistance of up to 300m. The case has also been hardened with a super-hard (DLC) coating making it more scratch-resistant and wear-resistant. It is certainly tougher than your run-off-the-mill diver. A sapphire crystal with a dual-sided anti-reflective protects the proud blue dial and it features a knurled crown at 4 O'clock (a common and recognizable staple in Seiko's divers). Granted at over $4,000 this is the most expensive watch on our list, but then again, it offers fantastic history and craftsmanship from a brand renowned for making watches for over a century and is still properly brilliant at it today.
SEIKO PROSPEX GREEN SUMO SPB103J1 MEN'S WATCH
Whether you’re a sailor, Naval staff, fisherman, swimmer, SCUBA diver or just a fan of dive watches, you’ve certainly heard of the Seiko Green Sumo, which is undoubtedly one of Seiko’s most acclaimed dive watches. Seiko’s reputation for dive watches is indisputable, with one of the largest collections of diving watches, with prices ranging from a few hundred to several thousand.
The Sumo is one of the many much-loved and respected dive watches produced by Seiko. Simple, reliable and not exactly elegant but still a rather handsome brute as is often the case with Seiko’s divers and it punches well above its weight for its price point.
Sporting an exceptionally finished case that is polished to a mirror finish on the sides and brushed neatly on the surface as well as a dial that is finished in a beautiful eye-catching shade of sun-burst green, the Sumo is an excellent mid-range diver and a properly good looking one at this price point. It also features a robust and reliable 6R35 automatic caliber providing a whopping 70 hours of power reserve (that is beaten only by Tissot’s Powermatic 80 at this price point).Thanks to its striking green dial and bezel, highly recognizable design and properly reliable performance, the Green Sumo is a proper timepiece for both the enthusiast and the professional.
SEIKO PROSPEX AUTOMATIC SPB071J1 MEN'S BLUE RUBBER STRAP WATCH
The Seiko SPB071J1 is, in my opinion, one of the nicest looking divers you can buy today for a thousand dollars. The watch is inspired by Seiko’s recent ‘re-interpretation’ of the classic 62-MAS, their original dive watch that made its debut in 1965. Right off the bat, the most stand-out and eye-catching feature of this watch is, unquestionably, the dial.
Decorated with a fine gradient wave pattern that fades from blue to an inky black, much like the ocean that starts off blue on the surface but turns into a deep black closer to the abyss. Matching the blue dial is a blue-rimmed serrated bezel which I must say, really gives you a lot more to look at on this already handsome watch.
Powering the SPB071J1 is Seiko’s proprietary in-house 6R15 automatic caliber. It operates at 3Hz (21,600 VPH) offers a respectable 50 hours of power reserve and can be hand-wound with hacking seconds as well. The watch comes at a very comfortable 42.6mm in diameter which should fit nicely on most wrists. It also has a water resistance of 200m and protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as well for added sweetness.
Of course, no Seiko diver is complete without a generous application of lume and in this case, unlike most of Seiko’s models, the watch features 2 shades of the brand’s proprietary Lumibrite material. And this results in an incredibly legible and visually enjoyable time-telling experience when the lights go out. Of course, unless you’ve been reading this article with your eyes closed, you’d know that the watch is also a special edition, made in collaboration with Seiko’s long-time partner and diving association PADI.
The SPB071J1 exemplifies everything there is to love about Japanese watchmaking, which is often stereotyped as a very spartan and utilitarian no thrills and frills affair. With a beautifully patterned dial and multi-coloured lume pips, paired with a proper performance diver that is built and finished with uncompromising quality and control, the SPB071J1 is a truly excellent timepiece for any enthusiast.
SEIKO PROSPEX LIMITED EDITION SSC761J1 MEN'S WATCH
So far, we’ve been looking at traditional mechanical pieces that, granted, are lovely, but what if you want something a little more modern, and with a little more to show for? Well, enter the Seiko Prospex limited edition SSC761J1 Diver’s chronograph. The watch is part of Seiko’s limited-edition line-up of ‘black’ watches and is a proper ISO rated diver with a water resistance of 200m with a unidirectional rotating bezel and threaded crown and pushers as well.
The SSC761J1 is a solar-powered watch, which is a great feature as you get the reliability and accuracy of quartz, without the pitfall of having to change the watch’s battery every 2 or so years. But it’s the look of this piece that is bound to draw you in at the end of the day.
Coming in a stealthy black IP coated brushed stainless-steel case, with faux aged patina on the hands and indexes, the watch pulls no punches when it comes to its design. The overall construction of the watch is fantastic, as you would expect from a Seiko and as is with their other sporty offerings, the dial is generously decorated with their Lumibrite luminescence.
The watch also features a 24-hour indicator that functions as a day/night display as well adding a tasteful touch of practicality to this already functional timepiece. If you’re looking to get a proper professional diver with a touch of flair in both form and function, then the SSC761J1 is certainly the watch for you.
SEIKO PROSPEX DIVER'S SNJ029P1 MEN'S WATCH
Next up on our list is a rather unconventional looking diver, but it is an undeniably cool watch to have too. It is the Seiko Prospex SNJ029P1 Tuna, and it’s a watch that blends past and future technologies perfectly in a package that carries an air of retro-futuristic in a neat little modern package.
Some of you might already be familiar with the original Ana-Digi Tuna, or for its other better-known nickname, the Arnie (for the famed association with Arnold Schwarzenegger). Though this one has been christened the ‘Safarnie’ by the Seiko faithful, harking back to the original Seiko H558’s jungle fighting association but with a more modern and colourful punch. The SNJ029P1 is a modern update of those watches with elements that stay true to the original’s design but with more contemporary finishes and trims. The result? It’s a stout, handsome watch, and despite its size, thanks to a shorter lug-to-lug, sits smaller than the dimensions would suggest.
Being an analogue/digital hybrid, the watch is more than a chronograph with its additional power-reserve, full calendar and alarm function as well. The watch measures in at a stout 47.8mm in diameter and in this particular colour and design certainly looks more suited to be worn while tracking or evading a killer alien in the American jungle than to be worn under a cuff. If you’re looking for a diver that has plenty of history in pop-culture, with an iconic and a less conventional, borderline left-field design, then the Seiko Prospex SNJ029P1 is certainly the watch for you.
SEIKO PROSPEX SOLAR CHRONOGRAPH SSC618P1 MEN'S BLACK RUBBER STRAP WATCH
This is probably my favourite looking watch on the list since I’m a huge fan of rose gold on dive watches--I loved them from the first time I saw the Rolex Yachtmaster 40 years back, and I still love it to this day. In fact, I’m writing this as my rose-gold Seiko 5 SRPD76K1 is sitting happily on my wrist, a design that I’m such a fan of that it was love at first sight (and also because I don’t have 30 grand to spend on a luxury watch too but I digress).
There’s just something about a rose-gold diver that really appeals to me. It’s just the perfect blend of dressy sophistication meeting casual sportiness. It shouldn’t work, yet it does so immensely and that brings us back to the SSC618P1 dive watch, which is as you would expect from any of Seiko’s Prospex divers, a proper ISO rated diver, though I’d say this watch would sit more comfortably under a cuff in a boardroom than being strapped against a diving suit 600 feet below the waves, though it can easily survive both.
The rose-gold colourway gives the watch a much softer tone, almost dressy I would say, it still has all the design elements and boldness of a true tool watch but is toned down for a more different appeal. If you, like me, are a fan of divers and are looking for something that you can wear easily every day whether you’re in a sports jacket or an evening suit, then the SSC618P1 is certainly the watch for you.
SEIKO PROSPEX SRPD21K1 MEN'S WATCH
The last watch in our entry, is certainly not the least, and coming in at 45mm in diameter, it is certainly not the smallest watch here (that honor goes to the SPB121J1) though thanks to its proportions and case design, it’s a very wearable piece.
With a 200m water resistance, striking blue dial and highly legible hands, indices and bezel, the Seiko Prospex Turtle SRPD21K1 is no slouch as a diver’s watch. Though being a part of the Prospex line pretty much guarantees the watch’s pedigree and performance as a proper professional tool watch. But it’s really the look of this watch that truly sells it with the ever recognizable Turtle case, making it that much more wearable despite its relatively large 45mm diameter thanks to a shorter lug-to-lug length.
The SRPD21K1 also adds a gorgeous wave-patterned sunburst blue dial where if you look closely there is, of course, the dorsal fin of a great white shark along with the 7 to 8 O’clock markers, and the caudal fin of the predator on the counterweight of the second’s hand too. On paper, it does sound like there’s quite a lot going on with this watch, but in person, it’s a different story.
The laser-etched wave patterning on the sunburst blue dial is certainly the star of the show and the little Easter eggs such as the sharks’ fins blend nicely with the dial and are almost unnoticeable at a glance. It’s the little details like this that really completes the overall look and make it such a handsome stand-out piece.
Tool watches for everybody
And so here they are, our top 10 Seiko watches that you can buy for under $5,000, whether you’re starting to get into the world of mechanical watches and are looking to get your first tool watch or a seasoned collector looking for something special, that’s more luxurious and robust to add into your collection, there’s something for everybody in the Prospex line, you just need to know what you're looking for.