Hands-On: Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver
At Baselworld 2019, the new Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver debuted: a modern, yet faithful reinterpretation of the collectible 6105-8110/9.
We live in decent times where Seiko brings us a wide range of new models each and every year at Baselworld. They’ve also now set a trend of reissuing modernized, but true re-editions of divers from their back catalog. Two years ago, it was the SLA017 in celebration of the legendary “62MAS” and last year we saw the SLA025 in the form of the hi-beat 6159-7000. This year, we’re fortunate to see a watch in the mold of the 6105-8110/9 (otherwise known as the “Captain Willard” from its place on the arm of actor Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now) called the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver.
Inspired by the 1970 6105-8110 Diver
Now, the 6105-8110 (a “9” at the end simply designates that the watch was sold in other regions of the world) was my entry into vintage Seiko (seen above) and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Mine came from the Philippines and I still recall the nearly two month wait until German customs informed me that it had arrived. I was antsy, but the watch was the worth the wait with its uniquely shaped bulge at 4:00 that paved the way for later divers such 6306/9 “Turtle” divers and their current reincarnations. The 6105-8110 was introduced in 1970 and was made until roughly 1977. At 44mm, it’s not a small watch, but with a lug to lug of 47mm, it’s a surprisingly easy watch to wear. Combined with a straightforward dial and bezel design and just a touch of pop with its “traffic light” sweep seconds hand, it’s a lovely diver that truly differed from the plethora of watches that looked like Subs or skin divers at the time. Adding a vintage 19mm black no-nonsense “waffle strap” to the watch completes the look. And so, yes, I was excited to hear about the new Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver.
Upgraded Features on the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver
With the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver, the brand provides a modern, and more upscale reinterpretation of the 6105. The brand has done its best to keep things dimensionally consistent with only a small diametric upsizing of 1mm to 45mm. I’d assume that the length also grows to 48mm, so it’s still quite reasonable. What I really like is that the thickness remains highly sane at 13mm. As the watch is built in the same workshops of Grand Seiko’s (the Shizukuishi Watch Studio) added its lauded Zaratsu polishing to the top side of the case. Curiously, the brand has added drilled through lug holes – the 6105 didn’t have them – to facilitate changes in lieu of using the supplied waffle silicone strap (that enjoys collecting dust unfortunately). Then again, the newest Turtles also contain this helpful feature.
Bezel-wise, the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver upgrades to uni-directional and adds a hard-wearing painted glossy bezel insert (Seiko never truly tells us what this is, but I’ve asked at the boutiques). Of real note, and thankfully, the screw-down crown shows us that it must be turned clockwise for locking. It’s the same inscription as on the original 6105, but that model featured a troublesome push-in and twist crown that wasn’t exactly known for its long-term water resistance.
With the traditional screw-down crown, a sapphire crystal, and screw-down case back (with “horseshoe” engraving correct for the earlier models), water resistance is 200M compared to the original’s 150M. Inside the watch, we have the 8L35 that also found its way into the SLA017 “62MAS” re-edition. It’s essentially a less decorated Grand Seiko movement that hacks, beats at 28,800 bph, and can be hand wound (unlike the original 6105 caliber). The date, of course, is quickset, and the movement hacks.
Pricing and Thoughts
The Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver will be made in a limited edition of 2,500 pieces. Figure on a July arrival date in boutiques. Pricing, in Europe, will be 4,350 Euros.
Seeing the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver in person, it’s hard not to like what feels like an old friend. The whole feel is familiar, but you can also instantly tell that various characteristics have been upgraded and made more solid. While finishing was always fantastic in my book on vintage Seiko’s, this new piece is clearly on another level. And frankly, at 4,350 Euros, ti had better be. I can understand that with the specifications Seiko has added (and including where it will be built), they’re marketing this as a premium watch. On the other hand, when a gem mint – some might say the dreaded “NOS” word – 6105-8110/9 can be sourced for roughly $3,000, this presents some competition at least in my vintage mind. And, as a nitpicker, I desperately miss the longer “Water 150M Resist” with the iconic “Suwa” symbol below it on the dial. This new model simply states “Diver’s 200m” and I think things look a tad empty. Honestly, I understand why Seiko may not wish to use the Suwa symbol because it signified the production location, but I think keeping the same text as the original and switching 150 to 200 would have look just a tad better. Plus, an applied logo on the dial in keeping with the original would have been nice. As I said, I’m picky, but if you’re going to go to all the trouble of recreating a watch, why not take that extra little step?
When Seiko its annual tradition of reissuing a vintage diver, I was hoping that the 6105-8110 would make it at some point. With the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver, my wishes have been answered. Yes, it’s expensive, but at the end of the day, you’re still getting one of the most distinctive diver’s case shapes with a ridiculously high quality in-house movement along with finishing and technology that easily rivals whatever the Swiss are bringing at or perhaps double the price. I think that some forget that despite a very retro case shape and aesthetic, this watch can easily compete with watch from Tudor, Omega, and more. Needless to say, we’re happy that Seiko made the effort to bring back such a legendary design.
For more information on the Seiko SLA033 1970 Diver, visit Seiko’s official site.