Wrist Game or Crying Shame: Seiko Marinemaster 300
Welcome to another installment of Wrist Game or Crying Shame. This week, we take a look at a watch that some consider as one of the best values in watchdom, the Seiko Marinemaster 300.
Last week on WG or CS, we took a look at a bit of a strange bird of a Rolex. Up for your choosing was the Rolex GMT-Master 16700, a watch that was made concurrently with the far more popular GMT-Master II 16710. The 16700 might have been offered as the “Aldi-special” econo GMT, but that didn’t stop a full 76% of you from deciding that you’d like to take to the open skies – or allow someone else to pilot you to another time zone – with the neo-vintage GMT. Yes, it was a proper Wrist Game walloping!
But better than that, I received a great email after the article from a current Delta Pilot, Captain Dean Baker, who shared pictures of his gorgeous 1995 bi-color GMT-Master II that he bought new. Captain Baker served in the US Navy (thank you for your service!) and has had the pleasure of working with the riff-raff (my words, not the captain’s) we call “the public” for 33 years as a commercial pilot! Congratulations on a fantastic career and all the best! Folks, when Captain Baker is at the stick, behave yourselves and really…keep those seat belts fastened until the seat belt sign is turned off!
And one last comment for you, Captain…you mentioned that your two-tone Rolex isn’t “cool” any longer. We respectfully disagree! First off, two-tone is back in a big way and second, just look at how it works with that uniform! I’m not quite sure how to segue from our reader mail to a look at our next subject as it might come off as a letdown, but let’s get into the Seiko Marinemaster 300!
Do you have any of those friends who, despite regaling them with your experiences, have somehow managed to achieved something similar, but waaaay better? Maybe you wouldn’t call them “friends”, but you’re likely familiar with the reference. You know the type because when you talk about having done something that was either very hard to do or took a long time to save for, that smirky a-hole on the other side of the table passes your deeds off as simple “been there done that”. That’s pretty annoying and I, personally, don’t like to hang out with those type of people. I can tell you, it makes events like watch get togethers and Baselworld lonely experiences indeed. But there’s a close relative to the “I’ve done it better than you” person and that’s the “I’ve done it cheaper than you” type of individual. Now, normally, I find this type of person even more revolting because they not only don’t shut the hell up, but they, in essence, like to insult what it is that you’ve spent your hard money on and that really pisses me off.
You likely know this type of person. They book holidays last minute and get a “great deal” which often equates to sleeping in a windowless or crappy room at a resort. Or, they wonder why their hangovers are worse when staying at that all-inclusive resort with middle shelf booze. But still, they paid less than you and they’re going to tell YOU all about it and why it was a better overall deal. Well, let’s bring it back to watches and, specifically, the Seiko Marinemaster 300 because this is probably the watch that is, or was, most often mentioned as the best “pound for pound” value for money diver on the planet. Yes, folks, if you read enough forum listings, the “MM300” would strike you as Roy Jones Jr. if he were a mechanical watch. (Editor Note: I really hope people still remember Roy Jones Jr.)
It was the early 2000’s and the Seiko Marinemaster 300 was born as reference SBDX001. At this time, Seiko had professional divers, but they were anything but mainstream. Seiko offered a digital professional watch that one could only describe as “Gerard-esque” and they sold a host of tuna-shaped pieces with varying depth ratings. Considering the current, almost limitless, buffet of dive watches within the Seiko and Grand Seiko lineup, it’s amazing to think that there was nothing “everyday” wearable 15-18 years ago. But again, all of this changed with the Seiko Marinemaster 300.
With the Seiko Marinemaster 300, the brand did something that it does with regularity today and that’s reaching back into its history. The MM300 may not be an exact replica of a prior Seiko, but it looks a lot like the 300 meter divers from 1967-1969 which included the 6215 and 6159. Cues such as the overall 44mm case shape, the external bezel styling and a large screw-down crown at 4:00 are just some of the similarities. Technically, the MM300 used a monobloc case and that’s also consistent with those vintage late-60’s gems. On the dial front, Seiko used a legible face and handset that all at once pays tribute to the older pieces, while lobbing a shot at the undisputed and far more expensive king of the genre: the Rolex Submariner.
With the Seiko Marinemaster 300, the brand did something that it hadn’t done in a long time if ever; it created an instant classic that drew in all sorts of supporters. In fact, the love for the initial SBDX001 was so deep that it gained fans who would never have thought about spending the roughly $2,000 price tag for, yikes, a Seiko. Despite the use of Hardlex mineral glass, fans were drawn to the watch’s stout build, high level of finishing and 300 meters of water resistance. I’d also say that even at this time, watch buyers and collectors started their undying and overhyped fascination with the idea of “in house”. Well, on that front, the Seiko has it in spades because the brand makes everything including the 8L35 automatic within its confines. One thing that causes the Seiko faithful and other value shoppers to giggle with glee relates to the movement. This 8L35 is a cousin of the Grand Seiko 9S55 and due to this, has a bulletproof reputation and accuracy that often meets or exceeds chronometer certifications. You’ll often find articles comparing it to the vaunted Rolex 3135. That sort of juxtaposition, by the way, has resulted in multiple injuries from owners of these timepieces due to excessive jig dancing in celebration of getting something for nothing!
Yes, the Seiko Marinemaster 300 has loads of fans who feel that the behavior of those who spend 3-4x on a Sub is akin to throwing said extra cash into a dive boat’s prop wash and/or making it spontaneously combust. To recap, they claim that this well-finished 300-meter in-house diver with crazy lume which includes both a bracelet and rubber waffle strap is as good as the legend from Switzerland. And to prove the point, those MM300 followers like to rebelliously sport their watches, show them online and proclaim that they’ve brought their lowly Seiko to a high-brow event. One such subversive is our own Robert-Jan who likes to wear his MM300 to hoity toity dos like SIHH and, trust me, he revels in the irony while giving his best James Dean sneer.
So what’s my opinion of the MM300? It’s a hell of a watch and a value but allow me to list a few detractors. First off, the watch is 15mm tall and for a slim-wristed person such as myself, that’s like having a small person sitting on my wrist at all times. I’d also tell you that the bracelet is a good example of the juice not being worth the squeeze; it’s not great looking, has a crappy stamped clasp, and is a bit of an overall letdown when compared to the watch head. The waffle strap also dates to a time when Seiko was apparently doing collabs with canine chew toy companies. But if you can pull off a watch of this height, straps and bracelets are easily replaceable.
The Seiko Marinemaster 300 that we have today is an original SBDX001 and comes via Chrono24 and a dealer from The Netherlands. The seller tells us that it is worn, but it does appear to come with all of its original kit. This SBDX001 is listed for 2,200 Euros or $2,443 at today’s rates and that probably puts it relatively close to retail back in the day. On the other hand, when I was heading to Japan with relative regularity, these were available for about $1,200 – 1,400, so it appears that they have increased in value since their discontinuation in 2016 or so.
And now, team, it is time for you to vote on this first gen Seiko Marinemaster 300 for $2,443 (or 2,200 Euros) – do you feel that this diver is worth more than the sum of its parts or is this too much talk and not enough action?