Earlier today, I covered the release of the SPB185. And already we have another fetching model to share with you. The Seiko SPB189 dive watch is just about as clean and functional an adventure tool as the modern frogman could ask for. With its sharp, highly-legible hands, and warm, contrasting bezel insert, this one has the potential to be a subtly satisfying daily wear that keeps on giving long after it leaves the box in favor of your wrist. Take a look at the images we’ve put together to show this thing from all angles. It is a testament to the Seiko brand. Better still, it is a fine ambassador of how Seiko continues to make the commonplace exceptional…

UPDATE: Following further communication with Seiko, it has emerged that the bezel insert, previously said to be ceramic, is actually made of titanium. We apologize for the confusion and hope you enjoy the following article.

I know it seems like I get excited about the slightest thing, but I swear to goodness I am really quite a dull person in real life. These extravagant celebrations over bezel color, hand shape, case thickness, and other, equally esoteric elements of watch design, tend to play out in my mind, with nary a flicker shown to the outside world. But here, via my words on Fratello, I’m able to express how these seemingly slight differences between the endless swarm of timepieces descending upon us in The Hague make all difference to the product and its subsequent reception.

Seiko Prospex SPB189J1.006

But please don’t assume that my enthusiasm for a design means I am claiming I will buy it nor that you simply must do so yourself. There are hundreds of great dive watches to choose from (a large percentage of which hail from this brand in particular). You can’t possibly have them all, but if you’re interested in this one, I think you might have made a good choice. And here’s why…

Seiko Prospex SPB189J1.002

A one-stop watch

This year, I bought the Seiko SRPE33. I’m actually wearing it while I type this article. Does that mean I won’t be buying the SPB189? Yes. Yes, it does. I had to choose between the SRPE33, the SRPE39, the SPB185, and this, the SPB189. I made my choice and I’m happy with it. Ecstatic, even. But I made my choice based on my collection and what the SRPE33 added to it. If I already had a blue-dialed watch with Manta Rays swimming across the dial, I might not have rushed to buy it (although I am genuinely considering adding the SRPE39 to my collection also because I simply love Manta Rays). I didn’t have such a watch and, therefore, I felt like adding one. The SPB189 ran into several pieces in my collection that, while not identical, met the same functional and emotional need.

Seiko Prospex SPB189J1.005

However, this model is really quite something. The colorway is an unusual one. While I found myself enamored of the red dot decorating the SPB185’s shovel-style seconds hand, here I find myself marveling at the simple contrast created by the titanium case, and the “bronze” titanium bezel insert and seconds hand. It is weird but entirely welcome. The “bronze” color is, for want of a better term, effectively metallic brown. Brown itself is a great color for watches but less often seen in the sports watch arena.

Pairing a metallic brown shade with a titanium case and otherwise black elements gives this piece a real industrial feel. It is just about as “steampunk” as a watch can be without having rusted. And, I have to say, it really works.

A whole lotta bite

The indices on this dial are far sharper than we saw on the SPB185. The SPB189 dial, when fused with the “industrial” housing, gives the appearance of heavy machinery at work. I am reminded by wheels, gears, and pinions when I see that dial. Even the five-minute indices on the bezel are “sharp”. And don’t sleep on the bezel knurling itself. Sharp, angled cuts provide a supreme grip when operating with gloves, and a potential trip to the emergency room when operating without (I jest…).

The lugs are precisely machined and very nicely brushed.

This design comes off as well-balanced thanks to the muted colorway and case that is undoubtedly less striking than that of the SPB185. It is excellently finished and is far from dull (notice the flattened edges protruding from beneath the bezel). The “Shogun” as this style is affectionately known, is effectively a more elegant “Samurai”. The lugs (pleasingly drilled) are precisely machined and very nicely brushed. Just look at the crisp contour of the lug as it bends away from view. In cheaper watches, this is where one sees “buttery” machining. Everything about this watch is crisp and clinical. As such, it is very much fit for purpose.

Seiko Prospex SPB189J1.007

In comparison to the SPB185, the SPB189 case is far more reserved. The heavily chamfered lugs of the SPB185 would have pushed this one over the edge. It would have been too much. It would have distracted too greatly from the more ambitious dial and hand design. I’m glad Seiko exercised restraint in this regard.

The usual ups and downs

For me, the lume is another slam dunk from Seiko. And, as usual, I find myself a bit underwhelmed by the bracelet design. As with the SPB185, the SPB189 is probably a watch that really needs to be worn on a bracelet, but less so than the 185. I could see this one looking quite at home on a distressed leather band. Perhaps even canvas or sailcloth (in a complementary color) would work here, given the gritty colorway of the watch head.

However, the size of this piece (43.5mm wide by 13.3mm thick) really benefits from the lightness of the materials used. This watch in stainless steel would surely be a heavy beast, and it was a sympathetic move on Seiko’s part to use titanium instead.

Seiko Prospex SPB189J1.014

Final thoughts

The 6R35 powers proceedings. It is a strong caliber, frequently relied upon by Seiko. It is a simple, no-nonsense, time and date engine with a hefty 70-hour power reserve and sufficient accuracy (+25/-15 per day when static). Perhaps one of the nicest (and easily overlooked) elements of this design, is the white-on-black date wheel, replacing the ubiquitous black-on-white disc. It’s a really smart choice that adds a bit more seriousness to the dial. It also gives this watch an air of value that can easily be disrupted by a “bog-standard” black-on-white date wheel (that, while often a fine choice, can sometimes look like the brand has either forgotten or does not care about it).

And that’s a welcome upgrade, in my opinion. Especially as the SPB189 comes in at a slightly bloated €1,550. Considering the design and the materials used, that’s not bad at all. For me, however, the vote goes in the direction of the smaller, stainless steel SPB185. Learn more about Seiko here.

Watch specifications

Prospex SPB189
Case Material
Case Dimensions
43.5mm wide, 13.3mm thick
Case Back
Water Resistance
Titanium bracelet
Time and date