Is The Underrated SRPC35K1 Mini Turtle The Best Seiko Dive Watch Out There?
Lately, I’ve found myself slowly getting into the Halloween mood. And though I don’t own a single pumpkin-orange-dialed or all-black cased watch that would be sufficiently spooky, my Seiko SRPC35K1 Mini Turtle came to mind as a seasonally appropriate choice. In having gone back to this watch after several months of neglect, I must admit that I was positively impressed. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It happens every single time I strap this one onto my wrist. In my opinion, it’s a near-perfect Seiko dive watch, and certainly better than the humble SKX. Yet for some reason, it flies well under the radar when compared to more popular Seiko divers.
First of all, allow me to explain the seasonal appropriateness of the Seiko SRPC35K1 — if you haven’t noticed it already, that is. I’m referring to the tombstone-shaped lume markers on the deep black dial. Their eerie green glow will haunt your wrist any time you head indoors from a sunny day. Perhaps my Seiko 7002 in his zombie costume would be a more suitable Halloween companion, but there’s something about the feature-packed SRPC35K1 “Mini Turtle” that just keeps me coming back. Nicknamed in reference to its more moderate size in relation to the big brother SRP777 “Turtle”, this is a watch that offers a lot for a modest price, and which in my opinion comes with a lot of advantages in relation to some of the more popular entry-level Seiko divers.
Good things come in small packages
If you were in the market for something a bit higher quality than the SKX, the obvious go-to was the SRP777. The only issue is that the Turtle came in a rather hefty 44mm case. There was a gap to be filled between those two classic Seiko divers. With the release of the Mini Turtle in 2017, that gap was filled. The Seiko SRPC35K1 features a cushion case reminiscent of the Turtle, but slightly more refined. The lugs are not quite twisted but do have an internal polished facet which adds a lot of depth to the overall look. The bezel’s outer edge and the cases’ sides match this finishing, bringing brushed and polished finishes together in perfect harmony.
The crown is not at the 4 o’clock position, instead, it makes its way up to the more standard 3 o’clock position, dropping the crown guards along the way. You might say that this is a downgrade instead of an upgrade. There are certainly advantages to the crown positioning on both the SKX and the Turtle. It digs into the wrist less and is better protected. But in the slimmer case of the SRPC35K1, I feel that the 3 o’clock position works best, maintaining case symmetry. This detail gives the watch some of the vintage appeal associated with crown-less Seiko divers of yore, something which the ubiquitous SPB143 also does rather well.
A future cult classic?
What makes this watch so appealing and charismatic to me is some of its unique quirks. The tombstone lume plots lining the dial have already received an honorable mention. A round domed cyclops that sits on the Hardlex crystal over the date window is somewhat of an acquired taste. Some have opted to remove it using a lighter. Personally, I’ve kept mine intact. I honestly don’t mind it, and would hate having to go through the hassle of gluing it back on should I ever decide to sell it. Not only that, but the size of the date window is rather small, so the larger size apparent through the magnifier better balances with the lume plot opposite.
Speaking of the date window, I am also glad that Seiko opted for a simple date instead of the day/date found on the 777. Another small detail that I absolutely love is the scalloped edge of the bezel. The blend of brushed and polished finishing gives it an extremely qualitative feel. As with most Seiko divers, the bezel action is great. The slanted edges of the case allow easy access and perfect grip. In fact, due to how short the lugs are on this watch (43mm), it means that it’s almost all bezel and dial. In part, this is why it works so well on the bracelet. Overall, it’s these small details that make me think that this is a strong contender for becoming a future cult classic.
The Seiko SRPC35K1 Mini Turtle packs a punch
The solid end links fit well, you get a folded clasp and a dive extension. Not bad for a dive watch in its price range! I haven’t tried it on the classic Seiko vented rubber strap. To me, this watch is somewhat too refined and almost elegant for it. But it does look the part on a nato, or a fitted Crafter Blue rubber strap. This is probably my favorite combination for summer. It’s a 200m water-resistant watch, so it will fare just as well in the pool, on your wrist 30 meters underwater, or in your sparkling beverage of choice.
Speaking of features, where this watch punches well above its weight is in the movement department. Compared to the caliber 7s26 found inside the far more popular SKX watches, the 4R35 in the Mini turtle is a direct upgrade, featuring hacking and hand winding. At the time when I bought my Mini Turtle, I paid €200 for a full-set in like-new condition. At the same time, the SKX007 was selling for around €350. Sure, the SKX is an icon of the brand and the first step into the world of watches of many, but if we compare price and features, the Mini Turtle wins every time. With the added charm of its looks and size, you really can’t go wrong. The only issue is, that the SRPC35K1 has now been discontinued.
I realize that making my case for this now discontinued mid-level Seiko dive watch might seem somewhat pointless. But as there are plenty of these to be had out there (including in the form of limited editions), I still feel it’s worth it. Even if it just motivates some of you that already own the watch to give it more wrist time, then my mission will be complete. At the end of the day, this is a proper Seiko diver. An oddball? Maybe. But undoubtedly a watch that did not get the credit it deserved.
Should you be in the market for a first proper dive watch for your budding collection, or simply want to add an oddball Seiko to your dive watch collection, turn your eyes the way of the Seiko SRPC35K1 Mini Turtle. If you’re really lucky, you might even find one of the “made in Japan” Mini Turtles (SRPC35J1), the JDM 2nd Gen with a red and black seconds hand (SBDY085), or the JDM black PVD limited edition (SBDY087). Either way, you really can’t go wrong.
Follow me on Instagram @ncgwatches