Sunday Morning Showdown: Seiko SJE093 Vs. Airain Sous-Marine
It looks like people are still not tired of vintage-inspired dive watches, and many brands keep coming up with re-editions of ones that used to be in their catalogs. Today, we’ll put two of our favorite revived skin divers up against each other. In one corner, we have the Airain Sous-Marine, which is inspired by the 1962 original. In the opposite corner is the Seiko SJE093, which is a re-edition of the 1965 62MAS. Let’s see which one of these classic skin divers is going to lure in most of the votes.
As Mike mentioned in a themed Pre-Owned Spotlight article, many different brands had/have their take on the skin diver. The angular case shape with the slab sides makes for a strong-looking piece on the wrist, and the functional dial designs are often easy to read. They’re also easy to combine with a wide array of two-piece or NATO straps. These things are all true about the Airain Sous-Marine and the Seiko SJE093. But apart from their similarities, there are also plenty of differences that set them apart. Today, we’ll explore those in this edition of Sunday Morning Showdown. But before we let Thomas and Daan fight this one out, we’ll take a look at last week’s battle.
The rally of the rattrapantes
The Czapek Antarctique Rattrapante Ice Blue and the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante both have the word “rattrapante” in their names. They also both feature an integrated bracelet. However, other than that, they’re very different from each other. In the comments, Parmigiani’s Tonda PF was praised for its impeccable style, but its rattrapante GMT function was considered to be more of a party trick. Czapek’s application of the rattrapante to the chronograph complication earned more praise. The skeletonized dial might also have helped a little in securing its victory with 56% of the votes. All right, let’s get on with this week’s clash of skin diver re-editions.
Daan: Seiko SJE093 — 62MAS re-edition
It’s December, and the end of the year is closing in soon. It’s time to come up with “best of” lists and favorite watch releases of the year. I think this Seiko SJE093 might very well be on my list of favorite releases. As I mentioned in my introduction article, Seiko has already taken quite a few shots at launching re-editions of its iconic 62MAS. To be honest, though, I don’t think any of those earlier attempts were as good as the SJE093. All we wanted was a true modernized version of that original 6217-8000/1. The SJE093 is exactly what we asked for.
Sure, there will be plenty of you who will say, “If you want the 62MAS, then buy the 62MAS.” But it isn’t that simple. It’s quite tricky to find one in acceptable condition. Many of the available ones are quite banged up, and some have been fitted with the necessary replacement hands and/or dials. Aside from the condition of the watches, the prices have also gone up quite a lot and are now somewhere between €3,000 and €5,000. For that kind of money, I’d rather buy myself a brand-new watch that I know is working well and has all of its original parts.
The perfected 62MAS re-edition
For this latest revival of the 62MAS, Seiko finally took the dimensions of the original and applied them to the SJE093. Its circular-brushed case is 38mm in diameter and measures 46mm from lug to lug. But the most important measurement here is its 12.5mm thickness. That’s thinner than the original but also thinner than those earlier re-editions. The SLA017, for example, is 14.1mm thick. In terms of looks, it is very close to the original, but because of the thickness, it doesn’t wear that well on the wrist.
The new SJE093, on the other hand, sits very nicely on the wrist. Its case back doesn’t protrude so much, so the watch doesn’t have that “hovering” effect. It seems like Seiko finally realized that the dimensions on the original 62MAS were the right ones. This indeed makes the SJE093 more of a 62MAS copy than a reimagined modern version of it. But I think that’s exactly what the people wanted. Not everything about it is old, though.
A slim movement
One way that Seiko was able to make adjustments to the thickness was by opting for the new automatic caliber 6L37. At 3.69mm thick, it’s the latest addition to Seiko’s series of slimline calibers and, basically, a more durable and shock-resistant version of the 6L35. Now, in terms of specs, it isn’t a revolutionary movement or anything. It runs at 28,800vph, has a 45-hour power reserve, and is antimagnetic to 4,800 A/m. The most disappointing thing might be its advertised accuracy, which Seiko claims is between -10 and +15 seconds per day.
Indeed, these are not the most impressive numbers. But, as I also said in my introduction article, I’m really happy that the 6L-series movement helps to keep the SJE093 as slim as it is. And when it comes to that fairly broad accuracy range, many Seiko watches run more accurately than advertised. However, at €3,700, this watch competes with watches from brands like Tudor. Most of those watches have more accurate, COSC-certified movements.
On the other hand, I do think the finishing on the SJE093 is on par with its competitors. The brushing and polishing on the case are done well, and the sunburst dial, with its huge applied markers and big, fat date window, looks absolutely delicious. All right, Thomas, over to you. Let’s see what you got.
Thomas: Airain Sous-Marine
Thank you, Daan! You make a compelling case for a compelling watch. I, too, was completely smitten when I handled the Seiko SJE093. Admittedly, here we have a Sunday Morning Showdown where I would be happy to own and wear both contenders. The similarities, after all, are striking. Both take direct inspiration from 1960s skin divers. The diameter and thickness are within tenths of a millimeter of each other. The Airain is slightly longer from tip to tip, but the real differences are in aesthetics and the companies behind these cool throwback divers.
I feel I’m in the right corner defending the Airain Sous-Marine. Overall, I believe that it is a significantly better proposition. Why? Well, except for the more famous name on the dial — which some find an issue on higher-end watches — the Seiko SJE093 offers nothing extra over the Airain Sous-Marine. It does cost more than twice as much, though. You could buy your two favorite colors of the Airain and a bunch of cool straps for the price of the SJE093. I cannot find a single objective reason why that should be the case.
I would argue that the La Joux-Perret caliber inside the Sous-Marine is just as good or better than the SJE093’s Seiko movement. From a specs perspective, you get a power reserve that is 23 hours longer, and, although Airain doesn’t communicate accuracy, it is adjusted in four positions. I would be surprised if it weren’t more accurate than the Seiko 6L37. Regardless of that, the watch is equally slim.
More choice with the Airain Sous-Marine over the Seiko SJE093
To reduce this purely to price would not do the Airain Sous-Marine justice, though. Another aspect that puts it ahead of the Seiko SJE093 is the sheer amount of choices you get. There are no less than six variations to choose from, with pretty radically different looks. You can get the classic black dial with a gold-plated handset, either with the quirky “DNA strand” seconds hand or a simpler alternative. There is a modern-looking blue version, a clean, faded black, and two more colorful dials for the adventurous skin divers among you.
Additionally, you get both an FKM rubber strap and a re-issue Fixoflex bracelet with your Sous-Marine. Speaking of which, don’t you agree these skin divers are absolute strap monsters? Well, the Sous-Marine is, anyway, with its 20mm lug spacing. The SJE093, not so much. The 19mm strap width is one spec that I wish Seiko had not carried over from the original.
The SJE093 from a massive conglomerate or the Sous-Marine from an aficionado like us
My last point is about the brands themselves. Don’t get me wrong; I adore Seiko. I’m a bit of a fanboy. In the end, however, would you rather wire your hard-earned cash to a massive international conglomerate or an aficionado like you? Airain’s owner Tom van Wijlick is not just passionate but also one of the kindest and most modest guys in the watch world. I know who I would rather support.
Tom includes his fan base in the design process and regularly does online meetings with folks interested in Airain. Just like me, Tom also has an obsessive eye for detail, which is clear when you look at his watches. I know there is some value in the longevity of big brands. However, the inexhaustible drive of a single passionate person weighs heavier for me.
To me, the Airain Sous-Marine just feels like a labor of love. Because of that, it has a little more mojo and a more distinct identity. Add to this the fact that it is pretty amazing value in today’s market, and I feel we should have a winner here.
Time to vote
Okay, Fratelli, with both cases made, which watch takes the cake? Is it the heavy-hitter, the Seiko SJE093, or is it the characterful underdog, the Airain Sous-Marine? Cast your vote and let us know your reasons in the comments below!