Summer Coolness For Under 500 Euro – Seiko Prospex Samurai SRPB53K1 and SRPB49K1
Nothing beats a great summer watch! A watch that is affordable, cool looking and water resistant. Seiko is the go-to brand when you are in the need of such a watch. Today I take a look at the Seiko Prospex Samurai references SRPB53K1 (silicon strap) and SRPB49K1 (stainless steel bracelet) that definitely fall into the summer watch category.
Seiko Prospex Samurai
In case you don’t know, the nickname Samurai originates from the minute hand of the watch. When the first Seiko ‘Samurai’ (2004) was introduced, it quickly received this nickname because the minute hand shows ressemblance with the swords used by these famous Japanese warriors. The use of Seiko references is quite a challenge some times, so nicknames really help to identify certain models. Besides Samurai, think Sumo, Tuna, Baby Tuna, Snowflake, Monster, Turtle, 62MAS, Arnold, Puck etc. Some are quite common, others might be less known. In any case, I am talking about the Samurai today.
This year, a number of new Seiko Prospex Samurai references have been introduced, with interesting (affordable) price tags. The SRPB49K1 is the model with the blue dial and bezel, the SRPB53K1 is the one with the blue dial and red and blue (“Pepsi”) bezel. Besides the color schemes, the easiest way to spot the difference is that the Seiko Prospex Samurai SRPB49K1 comes on a stainless steel bracelet and the SRPB53K1 comes on a comfortable black silicon strap.
In March, Mike Stockton already gave you an overview of some Seiko novelties of this year’s BaselWorld, including the Seiko Prospex Samurai. He showed a black version with yellow gold accents on the bezel and dial.
Under 500 Euro
Let’s face it. Most mechanical watches have become crazily expensive in the last 10-15 years. They were never cheap to start with, and surely something can be said for the innovations and progress some brands made which justifies some of the price increases, but I see a lot of people around me who gave up on them in the last few years. Luckily, there are always some brands that are loyal to their customers and want to keep serving a certain price range. You will surely find some interesting watches under 1000 Euro, but half of that price will make the search more difficult. Under 500 Euro, you will find some microbrand watches that could be of interest, but often you have to deal with quartz movements and the mechanical watches offered are most of the time ‘backer’ prices on KickStarter. After the Kickstarter funding process ended, the price will often increase drastically. So what is there? A couple of Swatch Group brands have offers, like Tissot, Hamilton and Certain, but you will find that brands like Casio, Seiko and Citizen rule this price range. The latter two being able to produce mechanical watches under 500 Euro. The Seiko SKX007 is probably the best known example of a sub 500 Euro watch (299 Euro actually) mechanical watch. Some Seiko S5 models can be had for less even, but they often lack the properties that make a watch suitable for the perfect summer watch. The Seiko Prospex Samurai SRPB49K1 and SRPB53K1 I have here are suitable for diving (200M WR), have a solid mechanical self-winding movement and come either on a silicon strap or stainless steel bracelet.
These watches also belong to the Prospex (‘Professional Specifications’) collection, ensuring that the watch is up to some severe abuse during its lifetime.
While I am at it, let’s have a look at some of the specifications you will get for respectively 460 Euro (SRPB49K1) and 420 Euro (SRPB53K1).
The stainless steel case measures 43.8mm, which is quite substantial, even for today’s standards. The bezel is easy to use and has this ‘clous de Paris’ like pattern that will make it easier to grasp. The crown also has this nice looking pattern, which makes it easy to get a grip on it. The case has a nice brushed finish, to give it that tool watch look.
As written above, the watch is water resistant up to 200 meters (~ 20 BAR). The screw-down caseback and crown ensure that no water will enter the watch. As with most Seiko diving watches, the crystal on the Seiko Prospex Samurai is made of Hardlex (glass which raised mechanical intensity by special chemical strengthening processing). Some might complain that Seiko is not using sapphire for their Prospex watches (even the Marinemaster SBDX001 and current SBDX017 use Hardlex while these have > 2000 Euro price tags). However, according to Seiko, Hardlex gives an excellent cost performance. Sapphire is superior to Hardlex, but would be more expensive to use while the gain is not worth it. The watches would become much more expensive, only for the relatively small benefit of sapphire’s characteristics compared to Hardlex.
It has to be said, I wear my own Seiko watches (Marinemaster mostly) a lot during holidays for a couple of years now and yet I have to see the first scratch to appear on it.
Whether you want the watch on a stainless steel bracelet or on the silicon strap is up to you. My personal preference would be the silicon strap to be honest. It is a comfortable strap that I also use on some of my Seikos while my experience with Seiko’s bracelets isn’t the best. That said, for a 460 Euro watch it is an acceptable bracelet. Just a matter of preference.
The dials of these watches have the same ‘Clous de Paris’ I mentioned for the crown. It is a very nice stylish pattern that immediately reminds me of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Combined with the large luminous markers and hands, it gives the watch this chic appearance. The red tip of the second hand on the Seiko Prospex Samurai SRPB53K1 matches with the red ’15 minutes’ on the diving bezel.
The SRPB49K1 has a white tipped second hand. The bezel of that reference isn’t entirely blue, but has this anthracite tone for the ’15 minutes’ on the diving scale bezel.
As for the 23-jeweled movement, Seiko’s 4R35, it is a self-winding caliber with a power reserve of 41 hours. It ticks at 21600vph. A work-horse movement that is hidden behind the stainless steel caseback with Prospex logo engraving. I am pretty sure it is a pretty straight-forward movement when it comes to optical finishing, so I prefer the Seiko Tsunami logo. A logo that has been used by Seiko since the 1960’s, on their Silverwave models.
The Seiko Prospex Samurai comes in a few flavors (overview can be found on the official Prospex website) but all around the same price. The black SRPB55K1 is most expensive, but only by a few Euros. If a black watch is your thing, the SRPB55K1 might be worth it.
Seiko has more propositions under 500 Euro, like the already mentioned SKX007 for example or the SRP777 model(s). However, the Seiko Prospex Samurai has a totally different case style. Perhaps the most modern looking one compared to the other one’s mentioned.
The Seiko Prospex Samurai could become your favorite summer watch, if you are willing to spend close to 500 Euro on one. Of course, this watch is cool through-out the rest of the year as well. It is a nice everyday piece, if you can deal with the 43.8mm diameter of the watch.
Although I noticed that Seiko did come up with some more costly watches this year (the 62MAS retro reference SLA017 for example, and the ‘cheaper’ variant of that watch (SPB051J)), and increased prices on their Grand Seiko collection, the fact that they still keep affordable watches in their collection makes me happy. There is little you can criticize about the watch at this price point, including the fact that they use Hardlex crystal instead of sapphire. Also be aware of the fact that the ‘cost of ownership’ of these type of watches (with 4R35 movement) are also very acceptable. A service doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, like it does with so many other brands that easily charge you over 300 Euro for a three-hands watch.
So, looking for a nice watch to spend your summer with? This is almost a no-brainer.