Seiko is a paradox. On the one hand, they’re on the leading edge of innovation with models such as their Astron, but they’re also well aware of their history and frequently bring back reissue models such as the Grand Seiko SBGW047 we reviewed and, more recently, the 7A28 “Ripley” seen in the movie Aliens. They’re also a company that behaves a bit unconventionally on the global stage. If you walk into any of the recently opened boutiques outside of Japan, you’ll see that some carry more “JDM” models than others while some struggle to obtain them all. Honestly, it confuses me slightly as to what exactly is available in which market. So, it’s with great surprise, but not really, that we stumbled upon official images of models on Seiko Austria’s site that have been bubbling up on forums for several weeks now.
This is big news…so big that we’re breaking our unwritten rule of publishing stock photos instead of waiting to get our grubby mitts on these beauties. Seiko, despite playing it cool and seemingly turning a deaf ear to its MASSIVE fan base of vintage collectors, has checked in with BIG news. Yes, they’ve decided to reissue an updated version of their legendary 6306/6309 Diver as Seiko Prospex model. Wanna know something else? It won’t be limited and the company is going to spread the love outside of Japan. Deep breath…now, let’s take a look, but I’ll warn you that my info is only as good as what’s posted today on Seiko’s Austrian site.
First things first, I mentioned that some fairly grainy images of these pieces popped up several weeks ago on the forums. Interestingly, I’ll show pictures of the 4 Seiko Prospex pieces on the Austrian site, but it appears that there are additional models. I don’t know which markets will receive them or if they’ll be JDM-only. What I do know is that in addition to the 4 pieces here, I’ve seen 2 more and one has a red/black “coke” bezel with one hand outlined in red and the other has a blue/black bezel with its hand outlined in blue. So, yes, much like many other Seiko models including the Monster and so many other releases, Seiko is going wild on the variants.
The other interesting thing I noticed on the Seiko Austria site is that they’re calling this Seiko Prospex model the “Turtle”. I refrained from using this term in my 6309 #TBT article because it’s a very polarizing descriptor. Seiko collectors love nicknames, but for some reason, there’s an ardent camp out there who hate this one! On the flip-side, it’s interesting to see an official Seiko site use this fan-related name. I should mention, though, that Seiko Austria uses “Monster” in its title for those unofficially nicknamed models, so it seems that the mother ship allows its country affiliates some discretion; I like that by the way!
So what do we have here? Well, we have a stainless steel diver’s watch with the automatic, manually “windable”, 25-jewel, and hacking 4R36 movement. It features the day and date. In fact, this movement was installed in the current 2nd generation Monster and replaced the non-hand winding 7S26. It’s a great movement with nice features and is seriously robust. Some of the other details are the inclusion of a Hardlex crystal, a uni-directional bezel, a signed screw-down crown likely with the Seiko Prospex “X” and LumiBrite details on the dial. The watch is water resistant to 200M. We don’t know about the case back but my money is on a solid piece with the familiar tsunami motif. Let’s hope that’s the case.
The four Seiko Prospex variants are interesting and 2 feature a stainless bracelet while the other 2 come on a familiar rubber accordion strap. My belief in reading the Austrian text is that the straps will be the new, softer rubber that Seiko is now using. Regarding pricing, the site shows the bracelet models at 459 Euros and the strap versions at 419 Euros. So, all told, we’re getting pieces that many have pined for, for under $500. This, by the way, is roughly the price of a very nice vintage 6309, so that’s a bit interesting.
So what do I think? Well, I think this Seiko Prospex is a knockout idea and an absolute no-brainer. I’ve always felt that Seiko could have kept making the 6309 with little change and it would have kept on selling. This, by the way, is what Seiko has essentially been doing with their SKX007/009 for over 10 years and the formula seems to work (note: we’re interested to see if these models remain) masterfully.
The updates to the original 6309 apart from the movement and things like a signed crown are relatively tame. In fact, the case size is just barely larger than the original (by about 0.5mm), so this was a great move and a nice upsize versus the current SKX007. The Seiko Prospex “X” has found its way to the dial and while I don’t love it, it’s fairly harmless in this application and I don’t think it will truly bother most of the hardcore set. Some other font has shifted such as “Automatic” from under the Seiko font to just above 6:00. Also, the yellow/red “water resistant” font on the old 6309 has sadly been replaced with the modern “Diver’s”, but it’s all still really, really good stuff. The bezel looks relatively familiar aside from a smaller lume dot at 12:00. The hands are also quite familiar, but the sweep seconds hand adopts the current Seiko trend of putting a “lollipop” on the back end versus the front. The dial itself is a near-copy of the original with its “hilted sword” at 12:00.
Regarding the variants, I’m pretty traditional and will likely find myself with the Seiko Prospex “777”, but I do like the coke-bezel “779”. I’m intrigued to find out if the “773” is black or a very dark blue on the bezel. Finally, I can appreciate Seiko referring to its historic diver tradition (all the way back to the 6215) with the gold-detailed “775”. So, yes, these watches are all highly compelling and a huge “well-done” to the brand from Japan!
Finally, because I’m such a big vintage Seiko collector, I’ll give my thoughts on the vintage 6306 and 6309. First, I think the introduction of these new Seiko Prospex models is highly supportive to greater interest, and likely value, in the older models. I can’t wait to do a side-by-side test of new vs old and I’m sure that others will want to do the same within their collections. Second, for those of you who think the prices of the new models are high and it further justifies the buying a 6309, I’d say “perhaps.” Look, you don’t need to come up with a reason for buying a 6309: they’re legendary. But, realize that there’s something nice about having a new watch that can be worn anywhere without worrying about damage, etc. Plus, my 6309 has been a bit of a troublemaker since owning it and original parts are getting much harder to source; these babies have been worn! Robert-Jan can echo this as his 6309 is a questionable timekeeper at best…and that’s post-service. Don’t forget that there are also loads of franken 6309’s on the market as well. So, yes, I think the new pieces are competitive and compelling.
As I mentioned, we’ll get our hands on some of these new Seiko Prospex “Turtles” and will also do some comparison testing between new and old. The watches are shown with availability starting in January 2016! Until then, Seiko fanboys, you can rest peacefully knowing that the stoic crew in Japan is listening to you loud and clear. Can a new 6105 be far away? After today, you never know…