A Day on the Lake with the Seiko SPB087

The Skinny

  • Case: 44x51x13.1mm Stainless Steel
  • Movement: 6R15 Seiko Automatic
  • Lume: LumiBrite (blue and green)
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Strap: Black Silicone
  • MSRP: $950 USD

My wife is making sandwiches at 06:30 in the morning. I’m in the garage on a ladder. We keep the big cooler and the paddleboard on shelves. There are countless other items that are essentially quintessential for our day trip. Snorkel, fins, noodles… I think about the pick-up truck that I used to own (pre-kids). Throw it all in the bed under the tonneau cover. 

“Seikos & sweats” is one of my favorite luxuries.

After getting the gear stuffed into the back of our FUV (family utility vehicle), I head back inside. My wife, efficient as always, has the food ready to go before I’m back with the cooler. I head upstairs to wake up the kids and get myself dressed. I debate over which of my bathing suits to bring and what shirt to wear with it like anyone cares or notices. Geez, this bathing suit must have shrunk in the laundry. It couldn’t be me. I tried on another and another. Shoot- they all must have shrunk. It’s definitely not me. 

I already know what watch I’m going to bring. It’s my Seiko SPB087 also known as the “Baby Marine Master”. A few years ago it would have been an SKX009, last year it would have a Seiko Samurai. I grabbed the watch. Nobody will care except me. That’s fine. I’m dressed and the circus prepares to head out the door.

Riding shotgun as my wife drives North.

My wife drives so she doesn’t get carsick. It’s about 7:24 and traffic is light. The car is stuffed. The kids are in the back excited but quiet. I’m riding shotgun. The hour hand on my Seiko is a big chunky arrow. It’s covering part of the PADI logo on the dial. The pencil shape minute hand obstructs the rest of it. Below the PADI are two lines of white text: “AUTOMATIC” and DIVER’S 200m”. My cold brew coffee on ice is black and bitter. Delicious. It’s going to be hot today.

We were headed about an hour away to Lake George. It’s a gorgeous lake in New York that sits at the entrance to the Adirondacks. My family has found it more economical to rent a boat multiple times per season versus owning one.

It’s all my brother-in-law’s fault for getting the SPB077 last summer. Damn you Brian!

The whole Seiko Marine Master 200 exploit is my brother-in-law’s fault. Last year, almost to the day, he showed up to one of these Lake George excursions with a recently purchased Seiko SPB077. I noticed immediately that he had a new watch on. It’s always hard not to ruin family adventures with watch talk. I waited for the opportune time to ask him to try it on. Within seconds of the SPB077 being on-wrist, my wallet started having palpitations. 

It’s now 08:45 and we’re pulling into the marina at Bolton Landing. We have two carloads of people and stuff to unload. I instinctively cover the watch with the sleeve of my ¼-zip pullover knowing that it is about to get banged around as I shuttle gear down the 50ft dock to the boat. The case is 44mm wide, 51mm lug to lug, and 13.1mm tall. It’s the largest watch that I own by the specs. 

Adding an extra black silicone keeper for the tail is recommended.

Enter the “Seiko Magic”. This HUGE watch wears much better on my 6.75” wrist than the following Seiko sweethearts; SKX, Turtle, and Samurai. There I said it. Are you fired-up? The Seiko magic is actually engineering and design that de-bulks a larger watch. Seiko does this in a couple of ways. This does not feel like 44mm.

We’ve finally completed all the rental agreements and watched the required boating safety video for the 20th time. The propeller has been checked and photographed (pro move) for pre-existing damage. It’s 09:30. Time to shove off. There are a few clouds hanging around as we make our way out of the no-wake zone.

Lake George is called the “Queen of American Lakes” for good reason.

The cloudiness makes the angled and highly-polished edges disappear. The watch visually shrinks in width by 2-4mm. The same slope is present on the tips of the lugs; they’re now visually gone too, reducing the lug-to-lug perception by 2-4mm as well. We are now passing Sweetbriar Island. Time to drop the hammer and clear Huddle Bay.

All of the adults instinctively yell to the kids to “sit down and hold on”. (They are already sitting and ready to go.) I push the throttle down with my palm and all 90 horses of the Mercury outboard motor roar to life. The bow picks up slightly and planes-out quickly. After all, this is a 26’ pontoon boat and not a Donzi ZRC. We head past the Sagamore Resort with a trajectory for “The Narrows”.

It’s very open here and already rough. Rough enough that I’ve cut back on the throttle to save everyone’s’ backs. My left hand is on the wheel and the 6R15 in-house movement of Seiko SPB087 feels every vibration. This is my active-life weekend watch. I’m not worried in the least. The 6R15 automatic movement is rated for +25/-15 sec per day. Mine usually hangs around -15secs. That’s not a big deal to me. Neither is the 50-hour power reserve because it will inevitably run out of power mid-week in the box. It just needs to work on weekend adventures, and it does.

The silicone strap is a lint magnet. You’ve been warned. 

Our family-laden pontoon boat slows as it approaches The Narrows. Take away the weekend boat traffic and it was a scene from a James Fenimore Cooper novel. We pass Mohican Island to port and we’ll stay on that side of the channel if traffic permits. The narrows are full of large semi-submerged rocks. Some are marked and some aren’t. The smaller islands, fenced by steep slopes on either side of the lake, are breathtaking. There’s no time for appreciating the Adirondack view or looking at my watch. I must stay on alert for buoys marking larger underwater rocks. I’m not buying a propeller. Not today.

Are “The Narrows” very narrow? Yes.

The destination is a small bay near Hazel Island. You aren’t supposed to anchor in it, but we’re going to do it. We practically glide in with no wake. The water is still and clear. I can start to see the bottom. It’s about 15 feet deep and as clear as a swimming pool. A quick hitch-knot and the bow anchor is secure. I look at my watch, it’s 10:12. Time to play.

The moms reapply sunscreen to the kids and check their life jackets. The grown-up boys (men) start getting all the toys ready; paddleboards, noodles, snorkels, and flippers. Soon the pontoon’s deck is a sea of water toys. I set my bezel. I need to time something today. The bezel insert on the SPB087 is red and blue, referred to as “Pepsi”. It’s one of my favorite watch color combos. On this model the red stops at the 15-minute mark, as opposed to the 20 on the SKX009. The pip is green LumiBrite and I’ve rotated it to the minute hand so I can time how long we’re been at this spot. The bezel action is just the right feel with ASMR worthy clicking sounds.

Look at the left flank of the case as it disappear into my wrist.

The kids are already jumping off the front platform of the boat into the water. I’m not far behind them. It’s starting to get hot. The “Baby” Marine Master’s crown is at the iconic Seiko four-o’clock position. It’s not signed and there are no crown guards. I give a twist to make sure that it’s tight. With a splash and an awkward jump, I’m in. The water is crystal clear and chilly at first.

It’s nice to let let loose and feel like a grown-up boy instead of a man.

Treading water, the weight of the case is felt as my left arm moves forward and back across the surface. I call for flippers and mask. My wife throws them into the water near me … more like at me. It’s my turn to play pretend. Lake George is renowned for its water clarity. I swim down to about 12ft with the help of my flippers. The Seiko SPB087 is rated with a water resistance of 200m, hence one of its nicknames. I’m only going 3-4 meters deep max. How often do you recreationally swim deeper than that? Never. Still, I need the street cred of the ISO 6524 certification and screw-down crown to feel confident.

The concave bezel insert of the MM200 makes a big difference vs the flat insert found on the SKX.

After swimming it’s time to heat back up in the sun and that requires a beer. Thankfully there’s not a White Claw in sight. The kids are in front of the boat pounding potato chips. “Everything tastes better on a boat” is a phase they know too well. It’s 11:25 and I’m also hungry. The portable speaker is playing “Southbound” by Carrie Underwood for the tenth time today.

This is how you get a wrist shot for review on the DL.

The break is short. At 11:40 the kids are ready to tube. They are between 5 and 9 years old. It’s their first time being pulled behind a boat by themselves. They’re excited and nervous. We have to go easy on them so that they won’t be traumatized by getting thrown off. That automatically disqualifies me from driving and I post up with a beer for the show.

The sun is bright and I notice the brilliance of the Seiko polishing on the SPB087. Technically, it’s not the “Zaratsu” polishing that you’d find on a Grand Seiko, but it’s pretty darn close. Seiko’s level of execution is unheard of at this price point from other brands. The definition between the brushed surface of the case and the highly polished flanks is razor sharp. This creates the Seiko Magic

Summer action ready. Note the SUP strapped to the side of the boat.

The entire package of hands, dial, and the bezel is one of my favorite combos in Seiko’s entire catalog. Individually they are all Seiko-esque components. Together it’s like Seiko took all the “right” dive watch components and put them together in the most aesthetically pleasing package possible. 

The lume on the Seiko SPB087 is only second to Rolex’s Chromalight.

Lume treatment is only second to Rolex’s Chromalight. The PADI (Professional Association of Driving Instructors) designation on the dial means that you get blue LumiBrite treatment on the hour indices and hour hand. The Bezel pip and minute hand are treated with green LumiBrite. The human eye is also more sensitive to shorter wavelengths making “blues” appear to be brighter. The dayglow is insane. Walk inside on a bright day and check the PADI Marine master 200 and you’ll see what I mean. 

I’m glad that I have the stock silicone strap on today. The SPB087 only is available from Seiko on the black rubber. I’m reapplying sunscreen for the fourth time today. It’s good to know that the caked-on SPF50 will easily wash off with a little dish soap later tonight. The keeper is an oversized piece of metal that barely does its job. I’ve added an extra black keeper to manage the long tail. The 20mm lug width really de-bulks the watch. The signature Seiko fans (bumpy part) let the bracelet expand and contract as you wrist swells in the heat and contracts in the cool water. It’s also super comfy.

Swapping between silicone and steel is the way to go with the SPB087.

If you are OCD like me you’ll want to put the Marine Master 200 PADI on a steel bracelet as well. There is good and bad news. There is a bracelet available, you’ll just have to track one down. Make sure that the endlinks are ref 431 (curved). I love Seiko the 20mm bracelet. It’s a big step up from something that you’d find on a Turtle or SKX. Solid endlinks, a diver’s extension, and a milled clasp make it almost seem aftermarket. My big complaint about the Seiko bracelet is the pin and collar links. Screws-screws-screws, get with it Seiko! That’s a little dramatic. Once the bracelet is sized, it’s an afterthought. Thre are also aftermarket bracelet options, but I’m sticking with the Seiko version. 

A big buckle requires a big beer.

It’s now 13:20 and time to leisurely putt around the lake for the rest of the afternoon on the pontoon boat. I’ve had two beers and have now taken control of the music. No-one’s complaining about the Fleetwood Mac. My nephew comes over and tells me, “This is the best day of my life”. The other kids are sharing that sentiment. The adults are all smiles as well. We’ve managed to shed the stress of our life-challenges, if only for a day. I’ve managed to review a watch that I own on a family getaway without being obtrusive. We all won.

Conclusion

The Marine Master 200 PADI got a bad rap initially due to occasional QC issues relative to the price points. These issues are mostly found in the early released models. There are tell-tale signs to look for. Check the indices. Does the chapter ring perfectly line up with the center of the twelve and six o’clock hour markers? If not, don’t buy it. This will also impact the alignment of the date window. If everything lines up, you’re good to go.

Not so fast SPB143, the “Pepsi” colorway still reigns supreme as the king of summer. 

In typical Seiko fashion, the reference numbers can be confusing. The Special Editon PADI version review here can be referenced as both SPB087J1 or SBDC071. They are different for each region of the world that the watch was intended for sale in (even though it’s the same watch).

The Seiko “Baby” Marine Master is available in enough color combinations to satisfy almost anyone. Some of my favorites include the “Great Blue Hole” Ref. SPB083J1 / SBDC06 and “Ginza Limited” Ref SBC079. Even with all of the Marine Master 200 variants, “Pepsi” still reigns supreme as the king of summer.