IN-DEPTH: Is the Seiko Prospex SLA017 62MAS re-creation their best dive watch ever? IN-DEPTH: Is the Seiko Prospex SLA017 62MAS re-creation their best dive watch ever?

IN-DEPTH: Is the Seiko Prospex SLA017 62MAS re-creation their best dive watch ever?

Cameron Wong

The story in a second

The most eagerly awaited dive watch release from Seiko…ever?

Seiko were relative latecomers to the professional dive watch game, coming some 10 years after the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and the Rolex Submariner. Released in 1965, the legendary Seiko 62MAS (ref. 6217) was Japan’s first professional dive watch and inspired a long tradition of Seiko divers that has seen the brand release some of the most widely used and respected divers on the market. In fact, some of Seiko’s own design innovations contributed to the foundation of the ISO 6425 dive watch standards.

So, when the news leaked, that Seiko were finally answering the prayers and wishes of collectors by releasing a re-creation of the iconic 62MAS, the watch world was abuzz with excitement. Was it true? Were the pictures fake? Will they accept MasterCard? All was revealed at Baselworld 2017, when Seiko unveiled one of their most faithful vintage reissues ever, the Prospex SLA017. In fact, if you spotted someone wearing the modern re-creation, you would have a hard time distinguishing it from the original, without resorting to some expert level wrist stalking.

The case

The SLA017 is an almost exact duplicate of the original 62MAS. It has the same utilitarian case shape, with sharply angled edges, integrated short box-like lugs, and oversized screw-down crown — even the screw case back is inscribed with the same oddly cute dolphin as the original. However, the case is now slightly larger — at 39.9mm wide and 14.1mm thick, it’s been upsized for modern tastes but kept as true to the original as possible, even being finished with the same circular brushing on top. It’s also now coated in what Seiko are referring to as a “super-hard coating”, to protect it from scratches. The only other notable difference is the water resistance, which has been increased from the original 150m to 200m, again, designed for the modern wearer and to meet industry ISO standards. To further meet these standards the narrow bezel is now unidirectional and in staying true to the original, uses the same font and style for its almost fully graduated 60 minute markings, with an identical circular pip of lume at zero. It also has the best action of any Seiko bezel I’ve ever handled, with a distinctly crisp feel. The crystal has been upgraded to a glassbox sapphire, in a nice departure from the norm of Seiko’s usual proprietary Hardlex.

The dial

My favourite design feature on the original was the stunning colour and finish of the dial — thankfully Seiko have perfectly recreated it on the modern re-creation. It radiates between a dark anthracite to a light grey in colour and using the same style baton hands and applied rectangular hour markers as the 62MAS, which are generously filled to their polished edges with lume. The date window is also framed with the same polished border, just like it was on the original. My only issue is that the Seiko logo is now printed, instead of being raised and applied to the dial. However, overlooking that one little fault, all other dial writing is comparable to the original – the only change in text referring to the change in water resistance.

The movement

The most significant difference from the original is the movement, which has been understandably upgraded to the modern automatic caliber 8L35, designed for diver’s use. It is hand-assembled and adjusted in Seiko’s Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio in Morioka and is the undecorated version of the Grand Seiko Caliber 9S55 movement. With a respectable power reserve of 50 hours it beats at a much faster 28,800vph compared to the original’s 18,000vph, and is rated to -10/+15 seconds a day – although most should run with far greater accuracy, and indeed the one I wore did.

The strap

Although the SLA017 comes with both a waffle patterned silicon rubber strap and a stainless-steel bracelet, it’s the former that truly befits the vintage tool styling of the watch. The silicon strap is soft, supple, and comfortable to wear, however like many silicon straps I found it be something of a dust magnet.

On the wrist

This Prospex re-creation feels thoroughly modern in terms of wearability and construction but remains faithful to the original design thanks to its modest sizing. In fact, it’s about as close as you are likely to ever get to wearing a NOS 62MAS. However, it doesn’t feel like a vintage watch since everything has been finely tuned and updated, and it’s a cut above anything else in the Seiko Prospex collection.

The verdict

The SLA017 was made for the hardcore Seiko collector — its $5500 price tag and limited availability of only 2000 pieces worldwide, putting it out of reach for most. However, Seiko has done an extraordinarily good job of paying tribute to their first professional diver, showing that they can look back into their vast back catalogue, and produce a re-edition that’s been sensitively updated, but remains faithful where it matters.

Talking point

Will it be more collectable than the original?

Who’s it for?

The hardcore Seiko collector, or anyone who’s a fan of vintage reissues. If you can find one.

What would we change?

Can we have a non-limited version, please? Please?

Seiko Prospex SLA017 Australian pricing and availability

Seiko Prospex SLA017, limited to 2000 pieces, $5500