HANDS-ON: The new Shogun is finally here in the form of the Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191 HANDS-ON: The new Shogun is finally here in the form of the Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191

HANDS-ON: The new Shogun is finally here in the form of the Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191

Thor Svaboe

OK, let’s start by remembering the SBDC007, the legendary Seiko Shogun. Now I might be slightly biased because, at one point, I had two of them — after reading reviews saying the watch was so good it’d make you forget your other wrist-worn beauties. Well, believe the hype. The watch was that good and pretty difficult to get your hands on, too. It was a pure JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) model, large but deceptively light in a way that made its 43.5mm size seem smaller on the wrist. Now the new Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191 have arrived and they’re a significant step up. Here’s why …

Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191

First impressions

After a couple of years lamenting the discontinuation of the SBDC007 … voila! The Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191 are here. The Shogun is back in business, sharp as before, and with a crisp white brother in arms on soft rubber.

The Author’s OG Shogun in 2019, suited up.

The case and bracelet

While the faces are different and specs are seriously improved, the body of the watch still exhibits that muscular angularity and sharp dynamism. As soon as you grab it, you’ll notice that it’s deceptively lightweight is due to the titanium build.

The bracelet on the black SPB189 is a smooth brushed, single-link design of superb comfort that contributes to the watch’s overall weight of a mere 121 grams. As a reference point, the Seiko King Samurai in steel weighs just over 200g, so that’s a palpable 40 per cent weight reduction.

Both case and bracelet deliver Seiko’s “super hard coating”, which does exactly what it says on the tin. The case has got some razor-sharp transitions that will seriously impress even the most staunch Swiss-watch devotee (they’re especially noticeable on the top left flank of the case).

There is also a flowing, polished bevel along the case circumference that ends in a point of four perfect angles where the steeply angled lug descends. So, just like the previous version, you get a clear message of quality that’s close to Grand Seiko levels.

The dials

The biggest change here is the dials. What strikes you first are smoother, more rounded hands that are still similar to those of the Seiko Monster and still lumed to the max with the effervescence of LumiBrite. The intricately shaped lollipop seconds hand is pure OG Shogun, while the indices are now large arrowheads instead of the round classicism of the original. While the white SPB191J is monochrome, the black version has a black and bronze coloured bezel. What’s more, in an absolutely delicious twist, the latter also has a polished bronze-coloured seconds hand. It plays beautifully with the light, bringing a small but significant pop to the black tool face.

The aggressive bezel is still shark-tooth tough and easy to use, with a titanium bi-colour bezel insert. The dial surfaces are matte-finished emphasising legibility and making the applied indices stand out. We have a classic black on the SPB189, and an icy fresh arctic white on the SPB191, which is even lighter in weight on its soft silicon rubber strap.

With the fairly bulletproof 6R35 movement — itself an evolution of the original 6R15 — and a sapphire crystal with a debatable but charming cyclops, the Shogun is ready to capture the hearts of a new audience with its tough armour. What sticks in your mind after trying it on is how preconceived the very notion of size is.

In 2020, this watch should feel too large at 44mm. But no, it shows up on every forum or Facebook discussion as being wholly acceptable – the ergonomic wizardry of Seiko combining with the lightness of titanium forcing you to double-check your wrist. Often.

Yes, there will be plenty of Seiko die-hards nostalgically remembering their surreptitiously sourced pure JDM 2012 Shoguns smuggled out of Japan. But they’re bound to be swiftly converted by this next generation of lightweight 200m divers.

Seiko Prospex SPB189 and SPB191 price and availability:

The Seiko Prospex SPB189 is $2350AU and the Seiko Prospex SPB191 is $1995AU. For more details, visit your local Seiko boutique.