Sunday Morning Showdown: Seiko Prospex SPB379 Alpinist GMT Vs. Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT
Welcome to another edition of Sunday Morning Showdown. We are slowly returning to a normal routine after Geneva Watch Days 2023 and the great buzz surrounding the introduction of the Blancpain × Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms Collection. For this week’s battle, we have picked two recently released affordable GMT watches. One is the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT that came out earlier this year. It’s going up against the Seiko Prospex SPB379, also known among watch fans as the Alpinist GMT. The GMT version of Seiko’s Alpinist was introduced last week, much to the delight of many Alpinist fans. Will it be able to beat the C65 Dune GMT? Time to find out!
The market for affordable GMT watches has been flooded with nice releases lately. Big brands and small indie brands alike have expanded the GMT landscape so much that we are now blessed/cursed with the “agony” of choice. And it’s not just about picking a nice-wearing GMT watch. There is also the matter of the caller versus flyer GMT — or “office” versus “true” GMT if you will. We have seen an increase in great affordable flyer GMTs at a great price point. Today’s contestants are both caller GMTs, making them less practical when traveling than the much-desired flyer GMT. But both the Seiko SPB379 Alpinist GMT and the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT are also from much-respected brands. As such, they are a great match-up for this week’s battle.
Last week, on Sunday Morning Showdown…
But first, let’s take a look at last week’s battle. In a solo exercise lining up two titanium divers, Thomas asked you to pick between the Tudor Pelagos 39 and the new Sinn T50. The outcome, not quite surprisingly, was a comfortable victory for the Tudor. The popular Pelagos 39 ended up taking 67% of the votes versus 33% for the T50. It proves once again that Tudor is hard to beat in terms of popularity these days. But it’s time to go over to this week’s battle. It’s time for Jorg and Daan to make their respective cases.
Jorg has picked the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT. This sold-out limited edition will soon make its return with a different dial color. As Jorg explained in his review, he will be ready to add it to his collection. Daan, on the other hand, picked the Seiko Prospex SPB379, also known as the Alpinist GMT. It’s the latest addition to the Alpinist lineup that is part of Seiko’s popular Prospex line. For a long time, Seiko fans have wanted to see a GMT version of the current Alpinist, and finally, it is here. Will it be able to beat the Christopher Ward? Over to Daan and Jorg to find out.
Jorg: Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT
Every time I see or write about the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT, I feel a mix of emotions. The first glance always triggers a big smile because I love this watch. And quite quickly after that, I feel rather frustrated and disappointed with myself for having missed out on being able to buy one of these watches when they came out. The C65 Dune GMT turned out to be an unexpected answer in the quest for my favorite GMTs that I’d buy. And it comes from Christopher Ward, a brand that is generally praised for its incredible value for money and great designs.
I have always liked several of the brand’s watches but never really loved any of them. But with the C65 Dune GMT, that completely changed. It even goes as far as completely overlooking my biggest beef with Christopher Ward — the brand’s logo. I understand the combination of the English Flag and the Swiss flag, but it looks like an undefined pixelated image rather than an actual logo. But after wearing the C65 Dune GMT for two weeks, I can safely say that it doesn’t stand out at all if you love the watch. That is a great thing to discover because I’ve always appreciated the Christopher Ward brand for creating timepieces that are among the best in class for the money.
My love for the C65 Dune GMT
But let’s start at the beginning. As I mentioned, I have always liked several of Christopher Ward’s watches. Good examples are the C65 Aquitaine GMT and the C63 Sealander GMT. But that feeling never turned into the urge to actually buy one. But when I saw Vincent’s introduction to the Dune series, I knew I had to check out the C65 Dune GMT. The watch has a 38mm case that measures 11.9mm thick and 43.7mm from lug to lug. It makes it a nicely sized piece that fits a great variety of wrists. At first, I was a bit reserved because I generally like the case size or at least the lug-to-lug a bit larger. But on the stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet, it wears like an absolute dream. On top of that, it has that old Explorer-style charm that I adore.
On the wrist, the dial design comes to life. It’s a busy dial, yes, but it sings to me. It strikes the right balance between functional elements and a perfect amount of zing to give it character. The standout elements for me are the 24-hour scale in black and sand for the day/night indication, the red GMT hand, and the applied indices. Another detail that I love is the integration of the date window at 6 o’clock. Besides the fact that it blends in perfectly, there is a little marker underneath that is both functional as well as a nice stylistic detail.
It’s all a matter of using the right colors
But maybe most of all, I love the colors that Christopher Ward chose and the balance of them. The combination of black and sand-colored elements looks great. The tones of the 24-hour scale and the Super-LumiNova give the watch a light injection of vintage vibes without trying to mimic a vintage watch. I love that there is a slight difference in color between the two as this gives the dial something extra. If the colors had matched, perhaps it would have looked a bit bland. Plus, in a nice surprise twist, the lume lights up blue in the dark instead of the more obvious green.
The cherries on top are the red GMT hand and the little red GMT script on the lower part of the dial (well, I guess the latter would be the “cherry on bottom”). They inject the dial with a little hint of color to complete a look that I adore. And the funny thing is that I didn’t even discuss the hands. While I am not, admittedly, the greatest fan of the design of these hands, they do suit the watch. I would normally opt for a better size balance between the hour and the minute hand. On top of that, the trident counterweight is an acquired taste. While I certainly do not dislike it, I could easily do without it. But once again, sometimes, some of the elements that usually would stand out negatively do not do so if you love a dial design. That’s what I discovered with this C65 Dune GMT.
Quality-wise, the C65 Dune GMT is simply the best in class
Christoper Ward uses the Sellita SW330-2 to power this watch. This movement is a trusted choice that operates at 28,800vph and provides a 56-hour power reserve. Plus, as this battle involves two caller GMTs, there is no reason to excuse the fact that a flyer GMT would be the better pick for traveling. I fully agree with that. But as I explained multiple times here on Fratello, if a watch looks amazing and it has a caller GMT movement, I won’t hesitate to jump on it — if I am there in time, that is.
On the wrist, you will experience one other important thing. The overall quality of the C65 Dune GMT is simply great. The watch feels rock solid, and the finishing is fantastic. In my opinion, that’s where the Seiko is no match. While I love the Alpinist in general and like the new GMT a lot, we know that the bracelet will not be on par with Christopher Ward’s. In the clasp especially, there will be a world of difference. Granted, the C65 Dune GMT’s clasp is too big, but it offers amazing quality and functionality with its micro-adjustment and firm closure. At €1,610, this truly was a bargain.
This Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT is the best in class at that price point. And it’s nothing spectacular to say that it beats a lot of watches up to €3K easily in terms of quality, including your Seiko Alpinist GMT, Daan. Tell me more about why you think it’s better than the Christopher Ward…
Daan: Seiko Prospex SPB379
This is a tough one. But it’s not because I’m unable to choose which of these watches I’d want on my wrist. No, it’s tough because I don’t want to crush your love for the C65 Dune GMT, Jorg. And while I like it as a watch and do agree that Christopher Ward offers a lot of value for the price, I’m most certainly not in love with it. As you already mentioned yourself, your rose-tinted glasses make you unsee some of the C65’s shortcomings. For me, on the other hand, I still very much see them as shortcomings.
The most important one is the fact that I feel the C65 Dune GMT lacks any particular character of its own. It does indeed have some of that “old Explorer-style charm,” as you said, but I feel many of Christopher Ward’s watches look somewhat familiar in a way. Don’t get me wrong; they look good, but I feel the brand still doesn’t have a signature design language. Or let me put it like this: many of the watches in the collection make me think of another brand’s watch.
And when you’re not in love with something — or a person, for that matter — it’s the shortcomings that become even more annoying over time. So that Tetris-like logo in combination with the trident counterweight, would simply drive me crazy when glancing over to check what time it is.
The C65 Dune GMT does punch high, though
However, as I’ve said already before, I do think Christopher Ward’s watches offer a lot for the money. And that also becomes clear when you start comparing the C65 Dune GMT and the SPB379. The bracelet on the Christopher Ward feels a lot more substantial than the one on the Seiko. And, as Jorg already mentioned, it also offers the possibility to adjust it on the fly and quick-release spring bars. In that respect, it doesn’t only beat the Seiko but also many other watches at this price point that don’t have those features.
I also prefer the way the designers at Christopher Ward have integrated the date window into the C65’s dial. It truly is an integral part of the overall design. However, on the SPB379, the date feels like a complete afterthought. It’s the same date window that, I feel, works quite well on my Seiko SPB317 diver. But on a dive watch, the date isn’t a very important feature, and on a GMT watch, it’s an essential feature. In addition, I also feel that on this GMT watch with those four big Arabic numerals, the date window falls out of place and throws the dial design out of balance.
The SPB379 has that Alpinist character
I do prefer the overall looks of the SPB379, though. It’s still very much an Alpinist with those big numerals, the cathedral hands, and that familiar case shape. The GMT function has been integrated like a charm, and on top of that, it suits the Alpinist’s adventurous character very well. I also love how the designers kept that inner compass bezel. I’m sure they thought about making it part of the GMT function, but the fixed 24-hour scale on the outer bezel in combination with the fourth hand is more than sufficient.
By the way, what I don’t quite understand is why the designers went for such a classic kind of strap. As far as I’m concerned, a nice sailcloth or an Oyster-style bracelet like on the C65 would have been a far better choice. But that’s a negative that can be changed into a positive in a matter of seconds. And for me, what’s most important is that the SPB379 is the far better-looking watch in my opinion. It’s also very recognizable as a Seiko Alpinist, whereas the Christopher Ward without that quirky logo could be a watch made by almost any random microbrand out there.
Time to vote!
There you have it, folks — another Sunday battle with two popular timepieces going toe to toe for the win! Will the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT get your vote, or are you a Seiko Alpinist GMT fan? Make sure to vote for your choice below, and also let us know why you picked it in the comments. See you next week for another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown!