HANDS-ON: The Seiko SLA055J1 Save The Ocean Limited Edition HANDS-ON: The Seiko SLA055J1 Save The Ocean Limited Edition

HANDS-ON: The Seiko SLA055J1 Save The Ocean Limited Edition

Fergus Nash

Seiko’s Save The Ocean series has been a favourite among the brand’s fans for years, with the charitable contributions and environmental associations delivering a host of fun new dial variations of established watches. While those Save The Ocean editions have definitely been a great option for anyone looking for something a little more unique straight out of the Seiko factory, those colourful and occasionally creature-filled dials could sometimes feel like a bit of an afterthought at times. Not this time. The Seiko SLA055J1 is an entirely new beast for the Save The Ocean line-up of watches, with a wonderfully cohesive design that would make a phenomenal watch in its own right.

The case

This modern re-interpretation is based upon Seiko’s 300m diving watch from 1968 that was worn in a Japanese Antarctic expedition, and its most faithful aspect is the case. Now made from Seiko’s proprietary Ever-Brilliant Steel that resists corrosion ever better than 316L stainless steel, the watch is designed to fit the average wrist neatly with a lug-to-lug length of 49.3mm, and a total diameter of 42.6mm. It’s definitely a chunky looking watch, with thick lugs and bold, sloping chamfers that really sell the whole watch as a precision instrument. The crown is unsigned, but what it lacks in decoration it makes up for in innovation with a separate component to more easily service the crown when needed.

The dial

Seiko and Grand Seiko are already renowned for their dials, but the SLA055J1 has to have one of the most breathtaking ice or water-themed dials ever made. Those specific desaturated hues of ice blue and deep navy already do well to represent the vast array of blues you would see during an Antarctic expedition, however the fine granulated patterns on the dial really sells the effect of rippling reflections passing through towering glaciers and gently disturbed waters.

The printing, with the exception of the baby-blue chapter ring, is in a pleasingly warm eggshell beige that harkens back to the vintage theme, while still allowing the superb Lumibrite to do its work. Plus, if you didn’t notice at first, the bezel inset also includes pastel blue markings that match the lighter tones of the dial perfectly. There is also a date display at 4:30, with a black background to help it blend in with the darker edges of the gradient design.

The movement

Seiko’s Calibre 8L35 is essentially a modified version of the Grand Seiko 9S55, with a larger balance spring to make sure that it has enough torque for the bigger, heavier hands that dive watches tend to come with. It’s also less lavishly decorated, although given that all Prospex series of divers use a solid caseback depicting their “Great Wave” emblem, that is no great loss. That caseback also includes the watch’s limited edition number out of 1300. The 8L35 has a beat rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and a power reserve of around 50 hours, and uses a SPRON hairspring to reduce magnetic interference and increase its durability.

The straps

The SLA055J1 comes standard with a bold waffle-style rubber strap, with its bold ridges matching the aggressive edge of the watch seamlessly. Seiko have come a long way since their notorious SKX straps back in the day, and now their rubber is some of the most comfortable you can find. It’s flexible enough to feel good on the wrist, but still thick enough to support the weight of the watch. Also included is one of Seiko’s new breeds of fabric strap, crafted with the ‘Seichu’ technique that makes them tougher than a regular NATO strap. The navy blue colour nicely matches the outer edges of the gradient dial, and is also supposedly more resistant to sun fading.

The verdict

It’s debatable whether the use of what is essentially a Grand Seiko movement, made in the same Shizukuishi factory, could make this watch comparable to a Grand Seiko as a whole. The price tag may cause some sharp intakes of breath from Seiko fans, as $7250AUD is a far cry from the $300-1000 range that we’ve come to expect from the Seiko 5 Sport and upper-end Prospex watches. That said, even ignoring the limited production of 1300 pieces, this watch is clearly on a different level to what we’re used to from Seiko, both in engineering and design. It looks phenomenal from every angle, and isn’t too thick either at 13.1mm. It might not be the first watch that someone would drop several thousands of dollars on, but it could certainly be a solid addition to a collection.

Seiko SLA055J1 Save The Ocean Limited Edition pricing and availability:

The Seiko SLA055J1 Save The Ocean Limited Edition is available now as a limited edition of 1300 pieces via Seiko Boutiques and authorised dealers. Price: $7250 AUD

Case Material Ever-Brilliant Steel
Case Dimensions 42.6mm x 13.1mm x 49.3mm
Water-Resistance 200m
Dials Ice-blue / deep navy
Straps Rubber strap plus an additional fabric strap
Movement 8L35
Power Reserve 50 hours
Complications Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Price $7520 AUD