The Seiko Prospex collection is most often associated with its diver’s watches, but there’s more to be found if you scrape beneath the surface. Hiding in plain sight is the oft-lauded successor to the Seiko Alpinist models of old. They may be masquerading under a different name but the new Seiko Prospex SPB155J1, SPB157J1, and SPB159J1 references display a lot of the old Alpinist DNA. And you know what? They do their ancestors proud…

Blue. Green. Gray. Take your pick. You can’t really go wrong. All three novelties feature the Alpinist cathedral hands and a dial decorated with Arabic numerals. Although Seiko doesn’t openly communicate these models under the “Alpinist” moniker, they are clearly a modern, slightly pared-back version of the style we’ve come to associate with the Alpinist line (especially since ’95).

Seiko Prospex SPB157J1.001

The marmite cathedral hands weren’t always a calling card of the Alpinist series, but they have, especially in recent times, become more and more integral to the family’s ID. And it must be said that setting them against a sand-textured degradé dial is a bold look. The clean and straightforward case and bracelet do, however, afford the brand a bit of freedom to get creative with the display.

Seiko Prospex SPB155J1.006

A see-saw success

I described these models as “pared-back”, but really that’s only partly true. The internal compass ring is gone. So too, of course, is the four o’clock crown used to adjust it. The date window’s prominence recedes because there is no magnifier on the glass. A white-on-black date wheel also keeps things subtle in that regard. But beyond that, these new models are perhaps a bit more experimental in terms of dial decoration than we might have expected.

Seiko Prospex SPB159J1.001

The black to green/blue/gray fade is an ambitiously artistic choice. It hints at things to come from this family. If Seiko is open to experimenting with this kind of color-play on the dial, what might we see next? It adds an interesting dimension to the collection, which I’m all for.

Basically, this new trio of releases is simultaneously safe and adventurous. That’s pretty much exactly the kind of tone I expect all brands in 2020 to be trying to set. Give the fans of the brand something old and something new at the same time. Here, with a simple time-and-date display, Seiko succeeds to that end rather well.

Seiko Prospex SPB157J1.005

Humble and ready for anything

These new Alpinist references fit into the Seiko Prospex “Land” sub-collection. They slot in nicely as slightly more affordable alternatives to references SPB121J1 and SPB119J1 (the green and white compass-toting Alpinists with Arabic numerals. The black-dialed reference SPB117J1 (with compass scale) remains a bit of an anomaly with its blockish hour markers, but it offers something a little different. It’s nice to see the scope of this sub-series expanding with this wave.

…the dial doesn’t lose too much in the way of balance despite the fact the 3 o’clock marker has made way for the date function.

References SPB121J1 and SPB119J1 (and SPB117J1) feature applied hour markers. With references SPB155J1, SPB157J1, and SPB159J1 we have printed numerals in a yellowy/vintage white. This color is also used to frame the 3 o’clock date window, which is a nice touch. Resultingly, the dial doesn’t lose too much in the way of balance despite the fact the 3 o’clock marker has made way for the date function.

How they compare to previous Alpinists

What I like most about this current release is how slim and sleek the case looks in comparison to the other modern Alpinists. Dropping the 4 o’clock crown and the flared 3 o’clock crown guards really cleans up the silhouette and, to my mind, makes this a far more versatile watch. The relatively diminutive 38mm diameter, 12.9mm thickness, and 46mm lug-to-lug promise comfort on the wrist.

Seiko Prospex SPB159J1.007

I’d personally take the gray dial on the leather strap, as it strikes me as more “mountain-ready”. I rarely choose the weight of a bracelet unless I am actually planning on being underwater. The ruggedness of a nicely worn-in leather strap on these airy watch-heads seems like a perfect match.

…powered by the self-winding caliber 6R35…

The exterior is more than capable of withstanding anything you throw at it, and the movement is no different. These three Seiko Alpinist references are powered by the self-winding caliber 6R35, which has an expected accuracy rating of +25 to -15 seconds per day. The green model on the bracelet retails for €710. Meanwhile, the blue and the gray on leather straps come in at €690. Learn more about Seiko and the Alpinist model here.