Neo-vintage? Vintage-inspired?  Take your pick with these new interpretations of the Alpinist. Rather dressy, aren’t they? I’m still riding the vintage wave — more like a tsunami at times — and I haven’t had my fill of nostalgia just yet. Seiko has already given us a plethora of new references this year, and there seems to be no stopping the brand. We had a smaller take on the Alpinist last autumn, and the Seiko Prospex 1959 Modern Re-Interpretation this spring. Did we need more? Well, we got them. Here, Seiko dresses up the Alpinist range with the SPB249J1 and SPB251J1, in what could be someone’s elegant two-Alpinist collection. 

Let’s address the virtual elephant in the room. Some of you might feel that Seiko is over-stretching the Alpinist legend. The Alpinist is Seiko’s Explorer, and from a niche forum favorite, it has grown to a substantial range. Some might argue it’s gone a step too far, but for the fans, these references reimagine what many cite as Seiko’s first sports watch. And though these two might look fit for the boardroom, the original was built to meet the robust demands of mountain climbers. 

Seiko dresses up the Alpinist range

Seiko Prospex SPB249J1

My personal challenge this year has been keeping up with the releases, as the production might of Seiko is apparently impervious to mere pandemics. These two have modern touches but share a clear lineage back to the original, perhaps even conceived as Baby Grand Seikos. Without losing the retro panache, the blue dial of the SPB249J1 has nothing but superb detailing for its budget pricing of €750.

Seiko dresses up the Alpinist range

The size is a vintage-perfect 38mm, and I do prefer this blue version on its chunky three-link bracelet. Seiko has come a long way in the execution of its sub-€1000 range bracelets, and this is charmingly schizophrenic. It’s “tough and sporty” meets “small-cased and dressy.” The dial is dressed up in a vertically striped tailored look that almost resembles a rich suit fabric, accented by an exquisite gold seconds hand. Is this the watch to go with my Armani jacket? For less than €800, this beats most Swiss at their game. But is it a true Alpinist?

Seiko dresses up the Alpinist range

Seiko Prospex SPB251J1

Do a quick take on the images and you’ll spot the vintage cues, albeit in a clean-cut case that’s more pronounced in its circular shape than the main Alpinist range thanks to the slim sweep of the lugs. With its chocolate brown dial and two-stitch strap, the SPB251J1 has the same vertically patterned dial and gold touch. And do you know what? I might prefer the cool blue on the steel bracelet, but this chocolate combo sure is tasty. 

Seiko has upped its game in more ways than one with the Prospex range this year. The leather strap is less shiny and stiff this time, and these two would actually make a rather good starter kit for a mechanical watch noob. At €730, this is also strong value. Though for bulletproof cool fit for a party, the blue SPB249J1 would still be my pick.

Dressy but unexpectedly tough

With the Alpinist range now consisting of more than ten references, they all have their own distinct charm and constitute a proper sub-range. These two do have a dressier appeal than the exploration focus of the mainstay Alpinist, but that’s just cool. You might not be a mountaineer like an owner of the original Seiko Laurel Alpinist, but the detailed, applied indices at six, nine, and twelve will still resemble mountain peaks. It’s all about the vibe.

Seiko clearly realizes that the shrinking trend is here to stay. It puts these new Alpinists smack in the goldilocks zone at 38mm. But that doesn’t make them less tough, as both have a 200m depth rating. Looks can be deceiving, and that’s even the case with its 6R35 caliber visible through a sapphire case back. The solid credentials are all here, with a proven movement and 70 hours of exploratory power reserve. And no dress watch indices this side of a landing strip light up like these with Seiko’s LumiBrite. Wait, did I just call it a dress watch?

For more details, visit Seiko right here, and let us know in the comments what you think about the expansion of the venerable Alpinist range.

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