Five monsters of the deep: How Seiko moulds 44mm+ cases into pure comfort Five monsters of the deep: How Seiko moulds 44mm+ cases into pure comfort

Five monsters of the deep: How Seiko moulds 44mm+ cases into pure comfort

Thor Svaboe

Lately I have been parading up and down the virtual streets of SoMe, carrying a whopping placard with the words “Go Small or Go Home”. With a dainty 36mm watch sitting smugly flush on my medium wrist, I have been writing stories on anything from TAG Heuer’s bargain gold Carrera to the IWC 36mm Pilot’s Watch, but after my holiday I had pangs of remorse.

Monsters of the Deep

Because would you feel comfortable with a 36mm field watch on the beach with the kids? Diver’s watches, and especially Seiko’s output, make monsters of the deep of 42-46mm sit like a dream on even a smaller wrist, and a big tough submersible tool works so well with any aquatic activity, from snorkelling to diving off a pedalo.

Am I the only one taking pocket shots with swim shorts?

Take it home and rinse off the saltwater stains, and it’ll look just as sharp with that polo shirt as you grab a G&T on the sun-drenched terrace. This was brought home to me after bringing my limited edition Seiko Prospex SPB083J1, and reconnecting with what is a 44mm cased diver’s watch that sits like a 40mm ergonomic dream. So much so that I’m toying with the idea of doing the ultimate upgrade to another big Seiko or even Grand Seiko diver’s watch, with the prerequisite of well-shaped, short lugged comfort. Here are my top five deceptively comfortable bruisers in steel and titanium, which one would you choose?

Seiko Turtle, the SRPE39K1, the one-for all entry ticket

Monsters of the Deep

The Turtle is 45mm, really? That’s a response you might get from anyone trying on the Prospex submersible classic. With a wealth of models to choose from, a lug to lug of 47.7mm ensures size deception, together with that pebble-smooth case and softly wrist-hugging presence. You will be happy with any Turtle, from monochrome tool to gilt-infused, but why not contribute to saving the oceans you want to dive into? The most beautiful Turtle dial yet is plainly evident in the evocative shadows of manta rays in the SRPE39K1, within an impossibly deep blue abyss of a dial. I’ve had about three Turtles myself, and it is by far one of the best ways to enter the hallowed halls of Seiko fandom. For me it proved yet another step to obsessing over mechanical watches, and today writing this as one of the editors in Time+Tide. So try one on at your peril, it is a bullet-proof entry ticket with a great value in-house Seiko movement. And at Seiko, in house means just that, not an ebauche with a new rotor. Price: $453USD

Seiko Prospex SLA023 a.k.a the New MarineMaster 300, the name-defying origin of the species

This is almost too real for me, as mine is the “Baby Marinemaster” on the first beach shot, and am seriously considering this very SLA023 as yet another step up the ladder of Seiko. The case is finished by Grand Seiko craftsmen (don’t tell), while the 8L35 movement is an undecorated version of Grand Seiko’s own calibre. So, a rather tall, 44.3mm short lugged version of the legendary Marinemaster 300 (Seiko, we will always call it that no matter what it says on the dial). And it’s only because we love this narrow, tall diver’s watch with its top-tier dial quality. From the deep blue sun-ray background to the sharp, applied indices there is a depth and clarity that befits a much dressier reference than what is in essence a proper tool’s tool watch. I know you might be nervous of the gorgeous Zaratsu getting its first hairline scratch, but believe me, this will follow you into the depths and beyond. Price: $3,100USD

Seiko Prospex LX SNR029J, the best of both worlds?

The SNR029J might look like a touch more angular SLA023J1, but this is the mysterious LX series.  But what is it, a Seiko or a Grand Seiko in disguise? In a Marinemaster-like case (very much so) seemingly after visiting some kind of diver’s watch boot camp and crown-sizing contest, this is one tough cookie. At a chunky 15.7mm of thickness with a 44.8mm diameter, in the company here this is a bit long in the lugs at 50.9mm, but with its super-hard coated titanium it once again trumps smaller pieces of wristwear with its light weight. That’s because Seiko knows ergonomics, from the perfect arc of the case sides on even a smaller wrist, to the sharp chamfers underneath, all polished to a tee, while making the wrist-touching surface several millimetres less than the case width suggests. As with the SLA023, the 300m depth rating is there, as is the best lume in the business, perfect crown at 4, and a small power reserve indicator. A-ha! This means that we have the only pure Seiko lucky enough to be powered by the Grand Seiko-derived 5R65 Spring Drive movement with its immaculate +/- 1 sec per day. The perfect hybrid movement within the perfect iteration of what is very much looking like a M.. (don’t say it) masterful diver’s tool. Sublimely light at $8,500USD

Grand Seiko SBGA229 Spring Drive, the alternative to an icon

The best Submariner alternative hailing from Japan, in fact, in its Zaratsu coat, a proper Sub alternative full stop. Perhaps the most traditional looking diver’s watch from Grand Seiko, nevertheless with a bold and very Japanese set of tool-tastic weapon hands it is very much its own, non homage classic. I have had this in my brief possession, and once again will confess to being blown away by the comfort imbued by a 44.2m case with a 14mm thickness. To come across as just as comfortable though a tad more weighty than two main Swiss competitors at this size, is sorcery. The devil is in the detail here from the aggressively grippable bezel to the lantern-like glow in the 12 o’clock pip. The fit and tolerances of the SBGA229 and the level of polishing makes it transcend a mere diver’s tool status. And that doesn’t even take in the mighty 9R65 Spring Drive movement, the hybrid’s hybrid, the originator of a category that it rules. The silky smooth sweep of seconds and a +/- 1 sec per day accuracy says it all. A 200m depth rating completes this winning formula, try it on, transcend status trends, and you might never look back. Price: $6,000USD

Grand Seiko SBGH 255, the mighty but comfortable beast

OK, this might not be particularly short in the lug department at 48.5mm, but as any Grand Seiko in titanium you’ll be hit twice and might take some time to recover. First by the lack of weight imbued by the titanium construction, leaving this massive 46.9mm diver’s watch madly light for its size, and secondly the execution of each tiny aspect of fit and polished angular lug corner. Titanium is notoriously difficult to work with, hence the proliferation of smooth shapes and bead-blasted surfaces in this material. You might be told that it’s all about the vibe, but let’s be honest, it’s because titanium is damn hard to finish to flat, polished surface. That makes the glitter of light-catching angles here all the more striking, as the Zaratsu polish of Grand Seiko turns the skill knob to a level unreachable for most manufacturers. Unapologetic and angular in its weapon-like beauty, and the juxtaposition of a gilt-infused hobnail patterned dial. Gold-toned polished large indexes sit proud applied on the dark dial, a gold seconds hand needle and date window frame picking up the gold flashes. As does the three serious lines of text, indicating that the smooth action of the seconds hand is through 36,000 vph from the Hi-Beat movement. The 9S85 has a 55 hour power reserve and a +5/-5secs accuracy. A tool of idiosyncrasies perhaps? Me, I love its brutish charm and with an impressive 600m depth rating it will quietly make fun of your desk diving exploits. Buy some SCUBA gear for heaven’s sake! Price: $9,600USD