The Seiko Prospex SLA043J1 is the less expensive version of the $10k Seiko Prospex SLA037J1Thor Svaboe
For us, there was only one effective way to rate and review the luxurious Seiko Challenger diver, the $9995AUD Seiko Prospex SLA037J1, a re-creation of Seiko’s first dive watch, the 62MAS, launched in 1965. And that was to put it up against a brand nobody baulks at spending that kind of money for a diver: Omega with their Seamaster 300 Co-Axial vintage. Once put in the ring, we let them duke it out, spec for spec.
And the verdict? I concluded that some will no doubt be attracted to what might be the very pinnacle of Seiko’s dive range, and an entirely new paradigm for quality within the brand collections. Others, of course, will consider that there are too many other options at that price point. Me, I’m in the former camp. The SLA037J1, limited to 1100 pieces, is the very realisation of 62MAS-inspired divers, and comes at the perfect size, under 40mm. The only issue I could muster is the Grand Seiko vibe it emanates.
Surely that is pure bliss? Well, yes and no. The finish is so perfect in every sense, with the slight bevel at the end of a lug so pristine that I would compare it to a Fifty Fathoms. Because, like the Fifty Fathoms, the SLA037 is almost too beautifully finished to even be considered a tool watch. A Grand Seiko dressed to kill. A tough tool watch, yes, but with that investment, most would stop before using it at anything more sporty than a hotel pool party to not scratch that delicious Zaratsu.
That’s where the new SLA043J1 comes in — with a bang. Yes, the beautiful blue semi-matte sunburst dial of the 55th Anniversary series is there, as are the absolutely gorgeous applied and perfectly proportioned indices that glow like lanterns by the nature of the LumiBrite magic. Polished baton hands still have that GS feel, with their Swiss perfection-trouncing sharpness, with the only change here being a pop of light blue for the lollipop seconds.
The case is just as beautiful as its high society brother, the SLA037. But with the razor-sharp details this time being truer to the origin of Seiko divers: all brushed silken steel, still EverBrite and whiter than 316L, but now also less susceptible to scratches, though still perfect in its Japanese ’60s minimalism. Tick your boxes for improved Tool Factor.
The strap, no longer the beautiful blue tropic, but a pitch-perfect waffle strap in black, once again turning up the tool factor, and knowing Seiko, it will be sublime. So all this is good. But one of the reasons the SLA037 was — let’s be honest — quite the investment was the utter brilliance of the hand-built Hi-Beat movement, a small yet giant step up in the engine department for a tool watch, like fitting a factory-tuned hand-balanced Le Mans-spec Corvette engine in a Jeep. This time we have the bulletproof, tried-and-tested 8L35 movement that we find throughout the toughest divers from Seiko Prospex.
The 8L35 is still an exceptionally reliable movement, with a rock solid design, 50 hours of power reserve and 26 jewels. But with this move, the tool factor goes up another notch – the brilliance of Seiko in-house production is still present, though in a tougher engine that makes us both rejoice at the tool-centric nature of the SLA043J1, and the price. Yes, this is considerably less than the SLA037 (which is $9750 AUD), coming in at $6995 AUD. I can hear that applause from the Seiko community, and I sincerely believe that this, even in a strong year for Seiko, is the best 62MAS re-creation yet – if we balance Beauty and Tool on the scales of Horology.
Seiko Prospex SLA043J1 price and availability:
The Seiko Prospex SLA043J1 is $6995 AUD and is limited to 1700 pieces worldwide. For more details, visit Seiko right here.