Seiko World Cup: Final Round — Daan’s SPB317 “Turtle Origin” Vs. RJ’s Marinemaster 300 SBDX001
The time has come, everyone! We’ve reached the final round of Fratello’s Seiko World Cup. It was a lot of fun because we all got to pick our absolute favorite Seiko dive watches of all time. Interestingly enough, we are ending up with a modern Seiko SPB317 “Turtle Origin” and a discontinued Seiko Marinemaster 300 SBDX001. The first is a modern €1,000 Seiko Prospex that seems to offer everything one will need from a modern diver. The other is a discontinued but iconic Seiko Marinemaster model manufactured in the same facility where mechanical Grand Seiko watches come to life, even sharing some of the same case finishing and movement platform.
Now it’s time for our editors Daan and RJ to defend their picks once more in this final stage of the Seiko World Cup. In the end, it’s your vote that counts!
Daan: SPB317 “Turtle Origin”
Oh, wow, I’ve made it into the final with a relatively new and up-and-coming Seiko diver! But I’m going to have to choose my words wisely this time. RJ’s Marinemaster already had Nacho’s “Mini Turtle” for breakfast, and it ate Gerard’s “Darth Tuna” for dinner. This final asks for a whole different strategy because I’m never going to win this one on specs. RJ’s SBDX001 might be the more expensive watch here, but it also offers quite a bit more quality than my SPB317. Especially in terms of its finishing and its movement, it’s superior. Also, in terms of looks, I’d say that neither of these watches is inferior to the other.
So I’ll just go ahead and admit it here, right at the start of my defense: RJ’s Marinemaster is the better watch. But, crucially, is it also the better watch for most people out there? RJ keeps going on about how his 44mm beast wears so well on his wrist. That’s probably because he laced it up quite firmly with that micro-adjustment setting on his bracelet. Otherwise, it would be shifting from left to right while banging into anything that crosses its path. And that’s the main problem that I see with the SBDX001. It’s simply too much of an apparatus for my 17cm wrist.
The SPB317 is the more wearable of the two
Apart from the Marinemaster’s 44mm diameter, there’s also the 15mm thickness and the 220g weight. My SPB317 is 2.5mm thinner, and on a strap, I think it’ll cut that weight in half. And it’s not like you’re losing a lot of features because of it. The SPB317 is still water resistant to 200 meters, which is plenty for most people, and while its movement certainly isn’t the best or most accurate one out there, it gets the job done. Oh, and there’s a nice bonus here: you get a sapphire crystal instead of the Hardlex one on RJ’s watch.
But let me get back to the matter of wearability for a moment. That SBDX001 looks strong and beefy on that (mismatching) bracelet. But it’s very heavy, so let’s exchange it for a strap. The problem is that you then have a very heavy watch head that you have to carry around on a flimsy-feeling strap. Oh, and don’t even think about putting this one on a NATO. If you do, you’ll increase its thickness by at least 2–3mm, and then it’ll become even more unwearable. I much prefer the slimmer and slender profile of my SPB317. I feel it’s the more versatile of the two.
The more affordable of the two
Second of all, besides being more wearable, it’s also more affordable and approachable. The cool thing about Seiko dive watches is that they pack a bunch of great specs in a relatively high-quality package for an acceptable price. Indeed, RJ’s SBDX001 doesn’t cost the world either, but on the pre-owned market, it’s still double to triple the retail price of my Turtle Origin. That’s a lot of money, especially for people who remember when most Seiko divers used to cost less than €1,000.
As I already mentioned in one of the earlier rounds of this World Cup, I feel the SPB317 has the ideal combination of specs, quality, and price. Yes, there are very nice, higher-specced, higher-quality Seiko divers out there, and RJ’s Marinemaster is one of them. But I’m not sure if I’d want to spend that kind of money on such a watch. Some of the charm of Seiko divers is in the fact that they are so affordable. And for me, €1,000 is more or less the limit here.
So yes, RJ’s Marinemaster might be the better watch overall, but I think my SPB317 is the better watch for most people out there. And, of course, that will be reflected by the votes underneath this article.
RJ: Marinemaster 300 SBDX001
There seems to be some confusion about the Marinemaster name. It’s a name that Fortis also has been using for many years, and from what Fortis has told me, is that it is not clear which brand started using it first. first. Fortis doesn’t know, and neither does Seiko, so there has been a longstanding mutual agreement that both brands can use the name.
The perfect all-around sports watch
In all fairness, I think that I’ve said everything there is to say about this Seiko Marinemaster 300 ref. SBDX001 in the previous rounds. To sum it up, I believe that it’s the perfect modern all-around sports watch from Seiko. It hails from an era when there was no (or very little) fluff (i.e. the Prospex logo).
Why does it have a Hardlex crystal?
I’ve touched upon the Grand Seiko-based caliber 8L35, the Zaratsu polishing, as well as the monocoque construction of the case. However, some of you complained about the fact it doesn’t have a sapphire crystal but a Hardlex crystal instead. That’s very true, and it’s a good point. Seiko replaced the crystal on later iterations with a sapphire but only because it was a demand from the market. Upon asking Seiko’s representatives several times, they kept insisting that their Hardlex material was chosen as it’s just as good. Commercially, however, sapphire sounds better to consumers.
It does the job
Another point of criticism, even from me, is the bracelet. Although the quality and finishing of the bracelet are fine in general, it’s the extension system for the clasp that looks a bit cheap. Oh, and it often releases by accident while opening the flip-lock. On the wrist, though, it’s perfect; it stays put and does the job.
Get yourself a Marinemaster 300!
Despite these two “issues”, I think the Seiko Marinemaster SBDX001 is the OG of every modern Prospex watch, without having that hideous “X” logo on the dial. As I’ve previously written, if you’re in the market for a diver’s watch and can find one of these Marinemaster 300 models on the pre-owned market (as it was discontinued in 2015) for less than €2,000, get it! It can easily compete with watches that are double that price. Well, to be honest, these days, it isn’t that hard to do since many brands shamelessly increased their prices without offering that much more to consumers. Nevertheless, I still feel that the SBDX001 packs a high-value punch for the price.
Two very different watches with different objectives
So, what happens if I put the SBDX001 up against Daan’s SPB317, which has a very friendly retail price of €1,000? It feels like I am putting a serious diver’s watch up against a watch that does the job but doesn’t excel. The SPB317 uses a fairly plain 6R35 caliber, which is a good movement, to be honest. But the 8L35 is an incredibly reliable and stable movement, and it has a higher 28,800vph frequency as well. It also shares the same platform as the 9S55 Grand Seiko caliber. That partially explains the price difference, I guess. The other difference is the level of finishing in general.
No compromises were made with the SBDX001
Looking at the SPB317 and other Seiko watches in that price range, the finishing on the case is quite superficial. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it shows where the money went. The objective for the Seiko SPB317 was also completely different than for the SBDX001. The SPB317 is an affordable diver that gets the job done, whereas the SBDX001 is a watch without many compromises. Seiko’s designers and engineers just did the best they could 23 years ago because, honestly, a tool watch doesn’t need Zaratsu finishing on the case or a Grand Seiko-derived movement. Seiko just went above and beyond with its historical strategy, creating the best watch possible for a reasonable price.
It was only in recent years that Seiko (and Grand Seiko) started to operate a bit more like Swiss watch brands, including the obligatory marketing fluff. In the past, it was always product first (and sometimes even product only). The Seiko SBDX001 Marinemaster 300 is from an era that I sometimes miss, one when Seiko was a bit more honest and offered an equally honest price-to-quality ratio.
Which watch will reign supreme?
There you have it, dear Fratelli. That’s our final battle for this year’s Seiko World Cup. Please cast your votes below for the watch that you think deserves to come out on top! And, of course, tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did!