VIDEO: The Seiko SPB239J is a retro-styled crowd pleaserFergus Nash
The craze for the Seiko 62MAS style shows no signs of slowing down, with the release of this SPB239J essentially confirming the brand’s intention to continue their climb into a higher tier of watchmaking. This vintage-inspired blueprint will continue to be adapted for all tastes, and this particular reference is sure to be a crowd pleaser, lathered with tasteful faux-ageing.
The SPB239 takes a refreshing approach to the black-and-gold colour scheme which dominates the world of vintage dive watches by incorporating a subtle two-tone look. Instead of having conflicting metallic surfaces, Seiko have kept all of the solid metal components such as the case, indices, and hands in their original silver finish, and use all of the printed and painted elements on the dial and bezel to represent the gold tone with a rich, creamy parchment colour. It carries all of the retro weight that gilt dials do, although appearing much more utilitarian instead of potentially blingy. Over the softly sunburst black dial, the SPB239 carries a lot of character for a very versatile watch.
The layout of the 62MAS-inspired Prospex line is quickly becoming an unbeatable platform for Seiko enthusiasts, with all the details perfectly executed. The thick fencepost hands are half-brushed and half-polished for more light dynamics, and the ever-so-slightly trapezoidal hour markers are just distinct enough from the rectangular blocks at 3, 6, and 9 for easy orientation without disturbing the symmetry. The printed logo and specifications are classic Seiko, and aren’t overbearing.
When Seiko released the SLA017 back in 2017, it kickstarted a wave of obsession for the Japanese giant’s first professional dive watch released in 1965, and understandably so. The 62MAS represents all the highlights of vintage Seiko, with perhaps the best part being the stainless-steel case. The SPB239, being a modern interpretation of the 62MAS, shares those same characteristics. A calculated blend of sharp angles from the clipped lugs, and simple curves that follow the bezel’s edge, combine in a way that perfectly encapsulates the mid-‘60s “skin diver” vibe.
Bridging the gap between Seiko’s budget models and the higher-end range, the 6R35 has now been regularly popping up inside a lot of Seiko collections. The beat rate is 21,600vph as we’re used to with a lot of their movements, although the 70 hour power reserve is a welcome upgrade, and a worthy successor to the ever-present 4R35, also known as the NH35. It’s not an especially complicated movement, with 24 jewels, hacking and hand-winding, and some decent magnetic resistance, but the accuracy is usually much better than its stated tolerances of -15/+25 seconds per day, and the servicing costs remain low.
It seems something that we can look forward to more often from Seiko is the lack of bracelets or rubber straps in favour of two NATO straps purpose-built for diving. The nylon weave is thick and textured, really honing in on that vintage canvas look that you might find at a military surplus store. The black strap is subdued and stealthy, while the sand-coloured strap lets the gilt highlights breathe and brings a characterful, summery charm to the watch.
Aside from the luxury NATOs and upgraded movement, the other factor which signifies Seiko’s upmarket intentions for the SPB239 is the price tag of $1895AUD. While there’s definitely still a case to be made for value, it seems that the days of Seiko’s bargains are beginning to fade. If you love the vintage look, but aren’t into the NATO straps, then the SPB147 on rubber offers an even more retro vibe for $300AUD less. But, as always, if you saw the photos and fell in love, then the SPB239 is definitely a worthy purchase.