HANDS-ON: The Seiko Black Series makes a welcome return with the stealth of a ninjaFergus Nash
It should come as no surprise that a second round of additions to Seiko’s Black Series have arrived, given the instant success of the first few watches. The series perfectly pulls off that stealthy, tactical look without sacrificing legibility or needing third-party modifications, and the four new watches are each full of character that will raise the eyebrow of even the most staunch Seiko cynic. The latest Black Series drop is split into two brackets, with the first three watches sticking closer to the usual Seiko catalogue and the fourth watch reaching considerably more upmarket. There’s no need for any more confirmation that Seiko is happy to cross-breed between Seiko and Grand Seiko, allowing the once bargain-focused Seiko name to dip into the luxury pool on a regular basis.
Each of the initial three Seiko Black Series watches share a number of traits that are said to evoke a glowing light from beneath the sea at night. The most immediate changes are the orange highlights applied to the minute hand and first quarter of the rotating diving bezel, as they pop out gloriously from their jet-black backgrounds. The other bezel markings are a slate grey that serves to heighten the legibility even more by not drawing too much focus away from the hour markers. The case has a satin-finished PVD coating that’s very satisfying to the touch, and each dial is laden with creamy beige Lumibrite.
Up first in the lineup is the SPB253J1, using the 40.5mm Prospex interpretation of the famed 62MAS as its base. The watch’s sleek lines usually bring out an elegance that typified the 1960s skin diver design in a remarkably versatile way, however the Black Series version twists that. This version of the architecture sees it become almost like a pilot’s watch in its precision.
Next, the SPB255J1 is the newest iteration of the Marinemaster style watches from Seiko’s Prospex series. This 42mm shape is one of the best all-rounders that Seiko currently produce, with an undeniably sporty and quirky look that summarises the best of Seiko without being as inconspicuous as the 62MAS or as wild as the Turtle. Here in black and orange, the SPB255J1 leans into its masculinity and looks ready for action.
Lastly for the trio models, the SPB257J1 takes the shape of the barnstorming Captain Willard with its charmingly retro rounded-off cushion case. Off all the Black Series watches, this is the one which feels the closest to its vintage-accurate counterpart, and can still be imagined swinging alongside a machete through the jungles of Vietnam.
In addition to the visual similarities, those three watches all utilise the 6R35 movement with its extremely convenient 70 hour power reserve at 21,600vph, and coms with a standard silicone strap as well as Seiko’s new “Seichu” woven straps, designed to be much more durable than a standard NATO. My only minor complaint has to lie with the white date window, which could be a little distracting given that it’s surrounding markers are all off-white. Each of these watches are limited to 5,500 units, and priced at $1895AUD except for the SPB257 which is $100 more.
Bringing things into a whole other league is the Seiko SLA061J1. In the past we’ve seen the SLA series contain a more faithful rendition of vintage reissues while the more affordable Prospex versions modernise their design, however this watch is thoroughly hot-rodded to stand out from the regular Black Series entrants. The case is that of a 44mm 6105 Turtle case inspired by the 1970s original, but slathered in black PVD along with the steel bracelet or additional silicone strap. The dial is a wavy texture reminiscent of a horizontal White Birch, although in this charcoal black supposedly representing the rippled sands of the sea bed at night. It’s much more harmonious and balanced than the other models, with the orange highlights confined to the traffic-light seconds hand and the “DIVER’S 200m” marking above the 6 o’clock. The date window is much more nicely integrated too, being located at 4:30 and revealing a black date wheel.
The SLA061J1 uses the 8L35 movement, which at first sounds like it could logically be a step up from the 6R35 and two steps up from the 4R35, but that’s not exactly the case. The 8L35 is actually derived from the Grand Seiko Calibre 9S55, assembled by hand in the famed Shizukuishi Watch Studio, arguably an enormous jump in quality and craftsmanship from the 6R35 mentioned previously. It has a power reserve of around 50 hours at 28,800vph, and mainly differs from the 9S55 in its lack of elaborate decoration and larger balance wheel needed for the larger hands associated with dive watches.
At $5,195AUD and limited to just 1000 pieces, the SLA061J1 is without doubt a serious collector’s watch, and one for die-hard fans of Seiko at that. It’s hard to call a stealth-black jumbo dive watch under-the-radar, but a Seiko Prospex that costs five times as much as some others in the range must bring about some serious satisfaction when you want to wear something that oozes subtle luxury vibes.
2022 Seiko Black Series Limited Editions pricing and availability:
The 2022 Seiko Black Series Limited Editions are available via Seiko Boutiques and authorised dealers. Prices: $1,895 AUD (SPB253J1), $1,895 AUD (SPB255J1), $1,995 AUD (SPB257J1), $5,195AUD (SLA061J1)