Seiko SLA037J1 55th Anniversary Diver’s Watch
Back in the first week of March, Seiko introduced three new limited edition divers to celebrate 55 years of Seiko divers. The moment they were released, people had a lot to say as is usual with the release of Seiko divers that commemorate some of the most iconic of divers out there. Seiko decided to release three different re-creations of legendary Seiko divers’ watches from the first decade of Seiko divers. The first out of the three is the Seiko SLA037J1 55th Anniversary and sees an official release this month. It’s the modern re-creation of the iconic 1965 diver. Let’s find out how it compares to the original and the previous re-editions.
I love the discussions that new Seiko re-editions evoke. It not only because there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the watches. The passionate reactions also show that people care a great deal about the brand. And there aren’t that many brands that people are so passionate about no matter what the price point of their Seiko is.
Recurring topics with the re-editions like the SLA037J1 seem to be comparing vintage vs. modern and whether the price of the modern re-edition is justified. Seiko gives us plenty to talk about on those talking points with the release of the Seiko SLA037J1.
The first thing that stood out for me with the 55th Anniversary models was the blue color. Especially the shade of blue that Seiko chose to use for the dial and the strap. In the promotional pictures where you could see all three models together, the color was a dark and chic shade of blue. But the individual images of the watches showed a lighter shade of greyish blue.
Kudos to Seiko for choosing a great color for the 55th Anniversary collection
In reality, the color is a touch lighter than in the promo pictures. It’s not a standard blue color we see often used for watches, and I have to say I like it a lot. It suits the style of the watch very well. So kudos to Seiko for choosing an excellent color for the 55th Anniversary collection that makes the watches look classy. After taking in the color, the more significant questions I mentioned earlier that many Seiko enthusiasts have also popped up in my head.
Modern vs. Vintage
The first question of vintage vs. modern is a very personal one, as Robert-Jan stated in his comparison of the vintage Seiko 62MAS — as we have come to know the 1965 Diver — and the previous modern re-interpretation from 2017, the SLA017. It’s a matter of which story you feel more connected to.
Are you someone who wants to own a defining piece of watchmaking history?
Are you someone who wants to own a defining piece of watchmaking history, or do you prefer that same iconic story recreated with modern standards in mind? I prefer the whole story, so I would prefer to own both eventually. But recent evidence shows that could be a pretty costly expedition.
Today the prices for a vintage 62MAS are significantly higher compared to three years ago. It has made the purchase of a vintage version a lot more expensive, next to already being difficult as there aren’t that many available.
Being part of Camp Vintage means having to spend a lot more money on the iconic pieces from the 1960s.
If you can find a vintage 62MAS, you currently will have to bring at least €4-5k to be able to buy one — regardless of what condition the watch is in. Back in 2017, it used to be anywhere between €2k-€4k, as Robert-Jan mentioned. As a result, being part of Camp Vintage means having to spend a lot more money on the iconic pieces from the 1960s.
Pricing of the SLA037J1
The prices of the recent modern re-creations have also been a topic for substantial discussion. As you can read in Robert-Jan’s review of the SLA017, it had a retail price of €3,800 when it was first introduced back in 2017. For a Seiko watch, it’s a lot of money. And many Seiko fans were very vocal about the price. Nevertheless, all 2000 available pieces sold like hotcakes. And if you would like to buy one now, expect to pay at least 1000 Euros more.
The overall increased prices of both vintage and modern recreations show the appreciation many people have for the story of the 1965 Diver. But these prices are not representative of the sentiment a lot of Seiko fans grew up with being the affordable watch brand, which brings us to the SLA037J1 because Seiko decided to surprise us with the new modern re-creation of the 62MAS.
Has Seiko gone overboard with that price?
The retail price of the SLA037J1 is €6,500. So it’s a good 300 Euros short of being 3000 Euros more expensive than the SLA017 from three years ago. Naturally, this was fuel to the fire for many. Has Seiko gone overboard with that price? They would if the SLA037J1 would have been the same watch as the SLA017. But it is not. Seiko decided to up their game for the SLA037J1 significantly.
The iconic Seiko 62MAS
The SLA037J1 gets its looks from the legendary 1965 original, but as we have seen with the SLA017, Seiko did change some details to make it the modern re-creation of the original. Just a short reminder of what the original was — if you want to read more in detail about the original, you can read Michael’s in-depth article on his 62MAS here.
Seiko introduced the reference 6217-8000/1, which is better known as the Seiko 62MAS (autoMAtic Selfdater) as their first divers’ watch in 1965 aimed at the professional market. The 37mm sized watch was characterized by its grey sunburst dial and sharp case with impressive lugs. The 62MAS featured a date function, a bi-directional bezel, lume filled hands and applied markers, and a large crown at 3 o’clock.
It’s the only Seiko professional diver that has it as the crown moved to the 4 o’clock position on all the later models. The watch was water-resistant up to 150m and was powered by the Seiko Caliber 6217. It’s a non-hacking movement that ticks at 18,000vph with a quick set date.
And 55 years after introduction the looks are still crisp.
The 62MAS sports typical 1960s looks that inspired all the Seiko divers that came after. And 55 years after introduction, the looks are still crisp and what we have come to know as the archetypical divers watch aesthetic. If you put a vintage 62MAS on your wrist, you’ll quickly notice that its looks are incredibly iconic. On top of that, it wears very comfortably. Both in diameter and height, the watch still is a perfect fit for many.
Details of the SLA037J1
As a modern re-creation of the 62MAS, the design of the new SLA037J1 is in line with the original. All the iconic elements that make up the 62MAS, can be found on the SLA037J1. Seiko used great accuracy to make the design look very close to the original. But as we have seen with the SLA017, Seiko chose to increase the case size slightly to 39.9mm, with a lug-to-lug size of 48mm. The thickness is a significant 14.7mm, but that is caused mainly by the domed sapphire. And the watch is water-resistant to 200m, increasing it by 50m compared to the 1965 original.
Despite a different dial color and different strap, the SLA037J1 looks very much like the SLA017. But don’t let the similar looks fool you. Seiko used different materials and a different movement for the SLA037J1. For the case of the new re-creation, Seiko used their Ever-Brilliant Steel. This alloy is more corrosion-resistant than regular 316L stainless steel and gives off a more whitish sheen. The use of the material is an industry’s first, and due to its corrosion-resistant properties, it is perfect for a modern-day divers’ watch.
The 8L55 movement
Looking at the blue dial, you will quickly see the other big difference compared to the SLA017. The word “HI-BEAT” indicates that the movement used for the SLA037J1 is different from that in the SLA017. Back in 2017, Seiko chose to use the Seiko Calibre 8L35 for the previous re-creation. This time around, the brand decided to use the Hi-Beat Calibre 8L55 for the newest re-creation of the 62MAS.
But knowing Seiko, the stated accuracy is on the safer side of things.
The Seiko Caliber 8L55 is a self-winding Hi-Beat movement that is similar to the Grand Seiko Caliber 9S85 but with lesser finishing and adjusted to a lower standard of accuracy. For the SLA037J1, Seiko states a +15/-10 seconds/day accuracy, whereas the Grand Seiko has an accuracy of +5/-3 seconds/day. But knowing Seiko, the reported accuracy is on the safer side of things.
The Caliber 8L55 was developed for Seiko’s top line of divers’ watches. It ticks at a speed of 36,000vph, has 37 jewels, and has a 55-hour power reserve. We have seen the same movement used for the much-praised re-creation of the 1968 Diver (SLA025) that was released in 2018. The new re-creation of the 1968 Diver (SLA039J1) that is also part of this 55th Anniversary trilogy also uses the same movement.
Wearing the SLA037J1
With all the specs out of the way, it’s time to discuss the emotional power of the SLA037J1. The first thing that stands out is how comfortable the watch sits on the wrist. It’s a combination of the perfect case size and the incredible blue silicone strap. This modern silicone reproduction of what would have been a Tropic strap 55 years ago doesn’t need any break-in time and is comfortable from the get-go.
Once on the wrist, another thing that stands out is the finishing of the watch.
Once on the wrist, another thing that stands out is the finishing of the watch. Seiko used a combination of circular-brushed finishing for the top surface of the case and Zaratsu polished finishing for the sides. The combination of both makes the case a joy to look at.
The same exquisite finishing can also be found on the polished hour markers and handset — both filled with Seiko’s Lumibrite — and the polished metal frame around the date. It’s these details that reveal that this is not just another Seiko diver but a special release created for the true Seiko collector.
I quickly found myself having a hard time taking the watch off my wrist.
As I wore the SLA037J1, I quickly found out that the true beauty of the watch reveals itself best in the sunlight. The combination of the colors, the dial design, and the finishing looked stunning outside on a beautiful sunny day. It’s also when you experience best that this is not just another Seiko diver’s watch. Seiko has put a lot of thought and detail into the execution of the SLA037J1, and I quickly found myself having a hard time taking the watch off my wrist.
Putting it in perspective
Which brings us back to the opening of this article. Can this new Seiko SLA037J1 compete with the emotion of a vintage Seiko 62MAS? Having worn both, I can honestly say that the feeling is entirely different. When you put a vintage 62MAS on your wrist, you are immediately reminded of the incredible history of that watch. It feels like decades of watch history start speaking to you directly. Nothing can replace that feeling.
Having said that, the SLA037J1 is not just another great re-creation of the original 1965 Diver. As an homage to the original from 1965, this will be hard to top. The SLA037J1 impressed me more than the SLA017 from 2017 — which was already an impressive release. Does it justify the steep €6,500 price tag? Looking at the movement and the level of detail and execution, I would say, “yes!”. It’s more the perception of spending that kind of money on a Seiko. But I have zero doubts that Seiko will sell all 1,100 available pieces before we can type in all the reasons why you shouldn’t buy one.
Visit the official Seiko website for more info here.