Last year, Seiko fans around the world had a collective skipping of heartbeats when the Japanese firm announced the release of the SLA033. This was no normal Seiko dive watch. As its full name suggests, the Seiko Diver’s Re-Creation Limited Edition SLA033, is a watch inspired by one of the most iconic Seiko dive watches of all time — the 6105. The 6105 was forever embroidered in the fabric of popular culture when it was worn by Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. The model was favoured by real American G.Is in combat, which made the placement all that more authentic. This year, Seiko have announced the release of the Seiko SPB151J and Seiko SPB153J, two new references based on the classic 6105 wristwatch.
But what is different — and what will be most exciting for enthusiasts about these two — is they won’t be produced in limited numbers.
A watch from humble beginnings, the 6105 was launched into the stratosphere when it found its way onto the wrist of Martin Sheen as he starred as Captain Willard in blockbuster film Apocalypse Now. Ever since, it has been one of the most sought-after historical Seiko references, with examples in good condition commanding strong prices in the vintage market.
The release of the SLA033 in 2019 saw another surge of interest, however it was limited to 2500 pieces worldwide, and came with an Australian dollar price tag of $7000, meaning demand for the uniquely shaped watch was nowhere near met. Fortunately for the legions of passionate Seiko collectors who didn’t pick up the SLA033 but are still aching for a chance to wear a modern update of the 6105, the release of both the Seiko SPB151J and Seiko SPB153J should put a smile on thousands of faces around the world.
The Seiko SPB151J maintains a closer relationship to both the original 6105 and the SLA033 reissue. It has the same matte black dial and wide black bezel that sits proudly above the rest of the case. The hands are also very similar, except they are slightly pointed at their tip compared to the squared-off baton hands of the other two. On the dial of the Seiko SPB151J we are greeted with the blocky lume-filled hour markers, and a date window at 3 o’clock, with the dial text updated in this reference.
The instantly recognisable Prospex X logo sits above AUTOMATIC DIVER’s 200m at the bottom of the dial, with the Seiko logo prominent at 12 o’clock. The Seiko SPB151J has a refreshingly modern touch with its brushed steel bracelet, breaking the mould a little as both the 6105 and the SLA033 were sold on rubber tropic-style straps. This is a thoughtful option for those who prefer a little more weight on their wrist, and fits seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the watch, as if it were always sold on a bracelet.
Turning our attention to the Seiko SPB153J, the new olive green bezel and dial are a refreshing new addition to the collection. The muted tone of the green keeps it under the radar, as well as invoking a vaguely militaristic impression that might be a nod to Captain Willard in the jungles of Vietnam. The dial has been radially brushed to catch the light, unlike its matte black sibling, which adds some pop to a dial that otherwise might be underwhelming. In contrast, the bezel has the same matte finishing as the bezel of the black SPB151J.
Another difference between the two is the patterned silicone strap found on the Seiko SPB153J. It doesn’t have the same waffle-style texture of the SLA033 reissue from 2019, further identifying it as a modern watch with vintage design cues instead of a 1:1 reissue of the past. Regardless of pattern, it is extremely comfortable on the wrist, allowing the slightly curved case to sit snugly on the contour of your wrist.
Both the Seiko SPB151J and Seiko SPB153J have a couple of nice details that really make you appreciate the effort that has gone into these watches. The sapphire crystal above the dial is slightly faceted as it meets the bezel, reducing the raised edge of the crystal that might otherwise be prone to knocks as you wear it day-to-day. Both watches are powered by the automatic caliber 6R35, which has a power reserve of 70 hours, not something you would have found in 1970. The steel case of both watches measures 42.7mm in diameter, but a relatively slim 13.2mm in thickness. Once again, the slightly curved case and low profile makes it extremely comfortable on the wrist.
There is a lot to like about these two watches. The design is one of the all-time most recognisable Seiko designs. The modern movement and build quality means it can take care of itself. Finally, the price is very hard to argue with.
Pricing and availability of the Seiko SPB151J and Seiko SPB153J
The Seiko SPB151J on bracelet will ring the till to AUD$1995, while the Seiko SPB153J on rubber strap costs AUD$1695.
This is a fraction of the price of the limited edition SLA033, and while you forfeit some of the details that the 2019 reissue nailed, it is an exchange that is definitely worth considering. Both watches are due to be released soon, and are sure to make their way onto wrists very, very quickly.