Hands-On: Seiko SBP143 / SBDC101 62MAS Prospex 200m Diver

The Skinny

  • Diameter: 40.5mm
  • Movement: 6R35 automatic-winding mechanical
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $1200 (only comes on steel bracelet)

Finally! Thank you, Seiko.

As Seiko’s first dive watch, the 62MAS has become nearly mythical, not only among fans of Seiko but also among fans of dive watches generally. Seiko produced the 62MAS from 1965 to 1968, and in recent years the 62MAS has grown into a coveted and rare collectible. As such, prices for the original 62MAS have shot up over $10k for clean examples, and the recent limited edition reissues have peaked over $7k. Those prices would have seemed impossible just five years ago, and I’m sure I’m not the only one kicking himself for not scooping these up when they were “cheap.”

Keen to bank on this passion for the original 62MAS, Seiko has reissued it a couple of times in recent years. Seiko’s most accurate recreations of the 62MAS have cost many thousands and then shot up over market value, while the more affordable tributes to the 62MAS have been disappointingly unlike the original. In short, Seiko didn’t give us a relatively affordable and reasonably accurate recreation of the 62MAS until just a few weeks ago when they released the SPB14x series.

Seiko released four versions of the SPB14x under the Prospex sub-label, and Seiko fans around the world rejoiced – yours truly included. There is a gilt version, a blue, and a sort of green one, but the one with the charcoal dial I have here (SPB143 in the USA, SBDC101 in Japan) is the closest to the original 62MAS. The other three colorways look pretty good, but for those who long for that first Seiko diver of 1965, only the charcoal dial will do.

No, the SPB143 is not an exact replica of the original 62MAS. The bezel is proportionally wider, the Prospex logo is “incorrect,” and the dimensions (41.5mm) aren’t the same as the original (37mm). However, the SPB143 is a modern watch, and there’s an argument to be made that the deviations from the original 1965 model have helped this watch avoid the whiney microscopic comparisons to the original that too often crescendo into howls of existential crisis from the hardcore Seiko collecting community. Indeed, Seiko is clearly not trying to be dead-accurate here. Instead, the SPB143 announces itself as a Seiko Prospex diver that pays tribute to the original 62MAS without the disappointment of previous attempts.

How I Decided to Buy The SPB143

I immediately bought the SPB143 after hearing James Stacey talk about having bought one on The Gray NATO podcast. James doesn’t buy a ton of watches, and as one of my trusted sources of both good taste and deep knowledge, I pay attention when James buys a watch. I also had amassed quite a collection of Seiko divers (cresting to 9 or 10 not too long ago), and though these divers were all quite good (and certainly good value), none were truly great watches. It’s worth mentioning, too, that my Grand Seiko SBGH269 more or less ruined more affordable Seikos for me.

My issue with many of Seiko’s more affordable divers (e.g., SKXxxx, Sumos, Turtles, etc…) is that the case and dial finishing are lackluster. I don’t expect a $179 SKX007 to compete with the bliss-inspiring Zaratsu-polished case and the magical dial of my Grand Seiko, but owning the Grand Seiko certainly has revealed to me that affordable Seiko divers tend to suffer from buttery case edges, so-so polishing and brushing, and flat, unexciting dials. So I took a chance on the SPB143 with the hope that it might elevate my Seiko diver game. And it has – considerably.

Just How Good Is The SPB143?

Of course this watch does not compete with my Grand Seiko, but it does blow away the Sumos, Samurais, Turtles, SKXs, and SPBs I’ve owned. Yes, you’re going to pay much more for the SPB143’s superior finishing and design, but I believe the cost is well worth it. As with all of Seiko’s watches, you get what you pay for, and the quality-to-price ratio is always more than fair.

So what exactly does one get out of a Seiko Prospex with a $1200 price tag?

A Lovely Dial

The dial of the SPB143 is kind of perfect, minus that pesky Prospex logo and the lack of a frame around the date aperture. But the world keeps turning, despite these shortcomings, and if I just enjoy the watch rather than scrutinizing it – pffft – big deal. At a glance the SPB143 reads like a 62MAS to a degree that puts a smile on my face. Set realistic expectations, and the SPB143 will easily meet them.

The charcoal radially brushed dial itself is warm in color and has incredible depth for a $1200 watch. I’ve owned gray radially brushed dials before from a few brands, and have found that they pick up ambient light too much and, thus, change hue in a way that turned me off. The SPB143’s dial is reliably charcoal in color, regardless of the ambient lighting, and that means it doesn’t veer into baby-blue or lavender or puke green, none of which would suit a masculine dive watch.

Importantly, we get rectangular markers and hands that are key in nailing that 62MAS vibe.

A Hardened Steel Case

The quality of the case finishing lies somewhere between that of my ultra-sharp Grand Seiko and the melted-butter of the SKX00x cases. Edges aren’t ultra-sharp on the SPB143, but they are clean and create decent contrast.

Seiko has applied their super-hardening tech to the steel here, and while I appreciate the durability, it is the color of the steel that excites me. At a quick glance, I’d almost guess this was titanium – but upon closer inspection this hardened steel lacks the warm, almost yellowy, tones of titanium and looks blackish in hue. As you might expect, this color really looks great with the charcoal dial. (I’ve not seen the other three colorways in person, so no idea how that plays out there.)

A Wider But Nice Bezel

Works great, but needs to loosen up. It will.

The finishing on the bezel is a flat-ish black, but I have no idea what the material is. Seiko doesn’t always explain all the features of their watches. It looks great with the rest of the materials, and allows that dial to shimmer.

A Very Good Bracelet

The bracelet is very very good, but not great. Links are secured with the familiar Seiko pin-and-collar mechanism (which I happen to enjoy tinkering with, but probably isn’t a DIY job for the mechanically challenged). I’d love screws instead, but for $1200 you get what you pay for. The bracelet does seem to share the tone of the case’s hardened steel, but I’ve not been able to confirm that this bracelet is also hardened. It looks the part, however. Maybe it’s just the brushing.

There’s some play in the links, which I find allows the watch to sit more comfortably on my wrist. I’ve read some criticisms of this looseness, but for me it is a benefit – perhaps even vintagy.

The clasp is standard fare, and that means the diver’s expansion mechanism is puzzling and hard to use. I usually dive with NATO straps anyways (easier to resize for wetsuits and to hand off to other divers for photos and such), so I don’t really care personally. I’m sure most owners aren’t going to be diving with this watch, so the diver’s expansion shortcoming gets a whateves from this reporter. It’s solid and comfortable clasp wiht a dual locking mechanism. Good stuff, if not perfect.

A Movement With 70-Hour Power Reesrve

This section is by our resident Seiko expert, David Flett.

Being a 2020 issue, the SPB143 contains Seiko’s newest mid-range movement, the 6R35. In Seiko tradition, the 6R35 is an evolution of the earlier 6R15 movement that found its way into the previous 2017 SPD05x generation of 62 MAS-inspired midrange. The 6R15 can also be found within much of the SARB and Sumo lines in addition to the last generation of Seiko Alpinist.

The 6R15 movement was released in 2006 as a higher quality alternative to the budget 7S25 Seiko had released in the late 90s. The 7S25, itself was an evolution of the 700x movement so the 6R35 represents the latest iteration of a movement design that first emerged from the Daini factory in 1970.

The 6R35 retains the 21600 vph of that original 700x design but many other things have changed in the intervening 50 years. However, put the 6R35 next to an old 7002 and the similarities will be apparent. The jewel count remains 24, which is the same as the final iteration of the 6R15.

The main improvement over the 6R15 is with the mainspring. It it still made from ‘Spron’, Seiko’s proprietary alloy of Cobalt, Nickel, Chromium and Molybdenum, but a revised formulation has increased the power reserve from 50 hours in the 6R15 to 70 in the 6R35. Seiko have also eliminated 1mm in height from the 6R15 which has translated directly into a reduction in height of the watch. Accuracy is unchanged from the 6R15 at -15/+25 seconds error per day.

Phenomenological Evaluation

Disregarding notions of objectively considering this watch’s design, in a phenomenological evaluation we seek to communicate how the watch emerges in our minds.

Every time I look at this watch on my wrist, I find myself thinking “How masculine!” My eye is drawn to the black and white bezel insert, which really should be where the eye goes on a dive watch as that’s the critical info when diving. My eye also locates and interprets whatever info I’m seeking very easily – be it the date, the time, whether the watch is running (via the second’s hand), or whether my steaks are done grilling via the minute-hand pointing to the timing bezel. It is one of the easiest dive watches to read that I’ve experienced.

I also find myself tuning out the world when I look at this watch on my wrist. I fall into its logic, it’s assertions, its confidence, and its rich, masculine colors, and in all of that I escape reality just a little bit and find my imagination running toward SCUBA diving and childish fantasies of adventure. Good stuff.

I also find myself feeling confident and masculine while wearing this watch – two qualities that don’t always come easily to me. As my very old friend John Drenning once suggested, perhaps we are drawn to watches that seem to possess qualities we aspire to in ourselves. This SPB143 certainly has qualities to which I aspire.

The One & Only Seiko Diver For Me

I’m going to flip all of my other Seiko divers and just rock the SPB143. I’ve heard of other folks planning to do the same. I think Seiko has finally given many of us exactly what we wanted: just enough of that classic 62MAS vibe to feel like that slot is filled at a relatively reasonable price point. The only thing I’ll have to give up is the enjoyment of getting to know more Seiko divers on a personal level, but more and more my wrist is growing monogamous as of late. There’s something masculine and mature in monogamy, which seems in perfect alignment with the general vibe of the SPB143. Perhaps that vibe has inspired my monogamy, or perhaps my monogamy led me to the SPB143. Chickens, eggs – who knows? – it’s an evolution, and one that I wholeheartedly embrace.