Prospex is the largest growing Seiko line-up with buyers flocking to add pieces from the collection to their wrist. Highly robust and value-driven, these watches can be more affordable than their competitors with little to no sacrifice in the quality of fabrication. While many will refer to this watch as a new entry into the “Willard” line of Seiko divers – named after the watch worn by Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) in Apocalypse Now – that’s actually not the back story here. This watch is really a tribute to the Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura, who wore a similar piece in the 1970s while completing a 12,500km solo dog-sled run from Greenland to Alaska. Now outfitted with a textured charcoal gray dial, the Seiko Prospex SLA051J1 is a modern re-interpretation of the diving watch that Uemura wore on that expedition. The SLA049 meanwhile is available in a limited-edition run of 1200 pieces and celebrates the 80th anniversary of Uemura’s birth with a blue dial reminiscent of the mountainous terrain that he explored.
The stainless-steel cases are 44mm in diameter, but more compact than their diameter lets on with a lug to lug measurement under 48mm. The flying saucer-like profiles wear well on a variety of wrist sizes, making these robust divers appealing options for many collectors. The screw-down crown flanked by crown guards at 4 o’clock helps secure the watch to depths of up to 200 metres.
The front facing elements of the watches are entirely satin-brushed radially, with casebands finished in mirror polish. There is an ever so slight polished bevel to the circumference of the cases, giving off the vintage vibes appropriate for a 70s recreation. As divers, the watches also feature a divers’ timing bezel – in a slightly darker tone than the dial for the SLA05J1 and dial matching blue for the limited edition SLA049J1.
Both watches have the same dial layout, but in different textures and tones. The SLA05J1 has a textured grey dial that evokes the look of charcoal, while the SLA049J1 offers a blue dial with a mountainous terrain texture that celebrates the summits that Uemura traversed. While divers typically have plainer, less distracting dials, the textured grey and blue incorporated in each manages to increase the intrigue and artistry of the dials without making them any less functional for use.
A concentric ring of printed white hashes signify the minutes track, while large squared lume plots represent the hours with pentagonal marking at 12 o’clock reminiscent of the home-plate in baseball. Like the hour indices, the hours, minutes, and seconds hands have luminescent coatings to increase visibility in the dark. Situated between the 4′ and 5′ hour indices is a white on black date disc that peers through a cut out aperture. The black colour of the date wheel is an excellent choice that blends seamlessly into both the charcoal grey and blue dials.
The bracelet, like the cases, is made of stainless-steel with a super hard coating for added protection against scratches and damage. The five-piece link construction is comprised of three broader satin-finished elements with two narrow mirror-polished pieces framing the central link. The bracelet is secured to the wrist by a three-fold clasp with a secure lock necessary for a diver and daily wear.
The limited edition SLA049J1 has the added bonus of having a dial/bezel matching blue silicone strap with a textured train track pattern. This provides owners with the added benefit of swapping between the two, switching up the aesthetic at their discretion.
Inside the watches, underneath the solid screw-down casebacks, is the Seiko caliber 8L35. It has a respectable 50 hours of power reserve and runs within +15/-10 seconds per day. It is a highly reliable automatic movement ready to take on the shock of a full-contact lifestyle.
The limited edition SLA049J1 features an engraved caseback, with Uemura’s name and individual limited edition serial number.
Seiko Prospex SLA051J1 and SLA049J1 Uemura 80th Anniversary Limited Editon pricing and availability:
The Seiko Prospex SLA051J1 and SLA049J1 Uemura 80th Anniversary Limited Edition of 1,200 pieces will be available at Seiko Boutiques and selected retail partners worldwide in July 2021.
SLA051J1 Price: $4595
SLA049J1 Price: $4895
Made in partnership with Seiko. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.