Seiko is confusing us a lot with their sub brands, reference numbers and model names, but this can also be the result of the lack of availability of them here in Europe. Especially watches from the Grand Seiko range or the Prospex (Marinemaster) collection we are discussing today, are very hard to get in Europe. Authorized dealers of brands like – let’s say – Breitling, Omega, Rolex, IWC etc. do not carry them at all. We don’t know whether this is Seiko to blame or the jeweler’s businesses, but it seems that they are just not on the haute horology map (yet).

Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000M

Undeserved, as you will see after reading this review on their SBDX011 Marinemaster 1000M. Also undeserved as there seems to be quite some demand for Seiko watches in here Europe. Based on statistics of Chronolytics, we read that Seiko takes a 26th position in the Top 50 most popular watch brands in Europe of Q3 2012. If we compare that to the previous quarters (rank 27 in Q2 2012, rank 29 in Q1 2012, rank 35 in Q4 2011), we could say that Seiko gains popularity among European watch consumers.

Digging a little deeper, Chronolytics shows us that the Prospex range of watches was even more popular among European watch consumers in Q3 2012 than the cheaper Seiko 5 models or even – with a slight advantage – than the Grand Seiko range.

Seiko Prospex SBDX011

We managed to handle a Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000M (or ref. SBDX011) watch – as you probably need to buy them over the internet as they are officially only available in Japan – and were absolutely impressed with it. This approx. 3150 USD / 2500 Euro mechanical diving watch wipes the floor with a lot of Swiss made watches in that very same price category in terms of finish, quality and specifications.

The Marinemaster 1000M has a 50mm diameter titanium case with special coating (hence the dark color) and a height of 17.4mm, we immediately understood its nick name. When looking at the watch from the side, it looked like it had to be very uncomfortable.

Seiko Marinemaster 1000M Prospex

After giving it a try, we had to admit that it was actually quite comfortable. Mainly due to the strap and the fact that there isn’t a 50mm gap between both strap ends (as you can see above, the space between these ends is much smaller). The only down side – especially for normal wear or non-professional use – is that the watch is very thick. It makes it a fun watch to wear, but would you wear this to your office doing desk work all day or having meetings where you have to (or want to) wear a suit? On the other hand, watches like this are meant for professional use.

Looking at the dial, it is very legible and perfectly finished for professional use. Big luminous hour markers – Seiko uses their own Lumi Brite product for that – and large hands that will tell time (and remaining oxygen time) under almost all circumstances. Although the case has some sort of metal outer case, the bezel is still very easy to operate due to the opening in this outer case and the bezel slightly sticking out of it.

Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000M

Although we wouldn’t mind a no-date watch, Seiko chose to have a date aperture on this Prospex SBDX011. Just like we are used from its Swiss counter parties, there is a lot of writing on the dial. It tells us the model name, water resistance level (1000 meters) and the fact that it has an automatic movement. It also tells us proudly that it has been made in Japan.

The automatic winding movement inside is a Seiko caliber 8L35. From various other sources on the internet, we read that this movement is an undecorated version of a movement (caliber 9S55) that is also being used in the Grand Seiko range. We think very highly of the Grand Seiko collection and their movements and are happy to read that this 3150 USD / 2500 Euro watch has a decent movement inside, based on the more expensive Grand Seiko collection. Should it be nicely decorated? Is a Rolex movement nicely decorated? No, these are work horses and should function accordingly. Only the necessary level of finish should be taken care of by Seiko in order to keep it running error-free for years to come.

Seiko Marinemaster 1000M

Safely tucked away under its titanium case back, this movement – if as reliable as other Seiko calibers – should perform perfectly. A transparent case back doesn’t make sense on a diving watch, especially not with a depth rate of 1000 meters and with this level of finish of the movement. So instead, Seiko added a nice engraved wave to the case back surrounded with the necessary information for the owner of the watch.

Seiko MasterMarine 1000M Prospex

As with a number of other Seiko diving watches, the screw-down winding crown of this Prospex MM1000 is located between 4 and 5 o’clock. It is actually a nice location for the large crown, as it won’t stick into the top of your hand when wearing it.

Seiko Marinemaster 1000 Meters

In short, the Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000M (or SBDX011) is an awesome timepiece for diving professionals or just watch enthusiasts who are willing to spend this money on a Seiko tool watch. It is definitely worth its money, by far even, but our concern would be the wearability for such a large watch. For divers, professional or amateur, this Seiko makes a great companion and will do the job just as fine as its Swiss competition that has a doubled price tag.

Besides that, it is a fun watch to wear and definitely a conversation maker among watch and / or diving enthusiasts. More information can be found here on the official Seiko Japan website or at Seiya Japan (seller of Seiko watches and also ships internationally).

  • Pascal

    Hi Robert-Jan,
    great article (again) and although Seiko is gaining in importance for the European customers, as you brilliantly demonstrated through the very interesting numbers of Choronytics, I think they are just not “into it” yet.
    I have met them in Tokyo in June and we discussed their presence (or absence) and i think they are so Japan-centric that since they don’t know what is outside, they do it in an incremental way.
    Knowing that the Japanese step is a small one, it might take quite a bit of time before we see Grand Seiko carried by our usual authorized dealers. Unfortunately.

    • Hi Pascal,

      I think you might be right about Seiko and taking it slowly. However, the demand is certainly there (or here actually) and I actually just found two official sales points in Germany for Grand Seiko watches:

      Let’s wait and see what happens in the next two years or so and whether they will increase their presence here in Europe.

      Thanks for your comment, much appreciated – as always.


  • spenny_b

    Hi Robert-Jan, another great article, thanks!

    Appreciate that you wrote this 3yrs ago, but having just bought (what I understand to be) one of the last remaining examples of the SBDX011 / MM1000 in all-black, I thought I’d throw-in some additional bits of info. I actually drove across to collect the smaller “Darth Tuna” (SBBD013) piece that I’d bought from the vendor the previous day, however, he also had a SBDX011 for sale, also brand new with tags, imported a few weeks previously to the UK.

    After perhaps ten or eleven wrist-swaps between the Darth and what has become to be known as the “Emperor Tuna” (in true Star Wars hierarchy), I really couldn’t decide which I wanted to bring home. I’ve never been so torn; one has the renowned 7c46 no-expense-spared movement and is in a more usable case, being a few mm smaller in diameter and significantly lower in height….whilst the Emperor has more presence, a simpler face without the Day window (which I prefer) and an automatic movement derived from the GS range….I’m a sucker for an auto movement and hand sweep.

    Knowing that both were now discontinued in their all black guise and employing the classic hands as used since the beginning of the Tuna range, man-maths got the better of me and I came home with both. They were both such lovely pieces of engineering to hold, far better in the flesh than any photograph can convey and a design all of it’s own, unlike many other divers that have been cloned dozens of times. Usually when doing something wreckless like this, I have buyers remorse the next day – but not this time.

    To add to your review, both watches share a titanium unibody construction; casebacks per-se aren’t used and so any maintenance work requires the watch to be dismantled from the front. Also, the “tuna” shrouds on both are of a ceramic construction rather than metal. The Darth Tuna has a smooth almost anodised finish, the Emperor a more “tactical” slightly rougher surface finish, giving it that more professional tool-like feel.

    Testament to Seikos build quality, there’s a YouTube video (search for “Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000m Depth testing”)
    showing a deep-dive test for both watches strapped to a submersible craft. Despite being 1000m rated, the Darth Tuna went to >3,200m before the water pressure pushed the crystal inwards to the point of stopping the hands. The Emperor went to 4,300m before temporarily stopping. Neither watch imploded.

    Anyway hope that’s interesting to any prospective owners out there (although nothing that hasn’t already been said by the Seiko experts out there on the forums; I claim nothing in originality!)