Monday, October 7, 2013

Seiko Prospex Landmaster Spring Drive SBDB005 – Shiny, Bright and Light as Snow

I have always coveted the Seiko Spring Drive technology. This technology uses a tri-synchro regulator to control and release the mechanical, electrical and electro-magnetic energy generated by the mainspring. It replaces the escapement and, with its one-way motion, it is inherently more stable, durable and precise. Spring Drive is accurate to 1 second per day. As the movement has no escapement, all the motion within it is circular, in a single direction, allowing the hands to move constantly with a unique glide-motion. The new generation mainspring delivers more power, more smoothly and for longer. A special alloy, developed in-house by Seiko, generates increased power in addition to being durable and highly resistant to heat or corrosion. Spring Drive has a power reserve of 72 hours.

After a long wait and decision making, I decided to “spring” (no pun intended!) for a Seiko Landmaster Spring Drive SBDB005 under Seiko’s Prospex class of activity watches. Unfortunately, Prospex and Spring Drive watches are not part of the repertoire of the Malaysian Seiko authorised distributor. I have to source it elsewhere.

Mr. Katsu-san, the proprietor of the world famous website that has been the source of all my JDM watches again came through with this order.

The SBDB005 Landmaster. With its super-clear sapphire crystal coating, the dial is so vivid. With titanium as the base material, the way the metal shine is different than stainless steel – brighter.

Before I give a run-down on the watch, let’s go through it specifications. The watch comes in at 46.8mm long by 45mm wide by 14.2mm thick. With an all titanium construction, the weight (with bracelet) has been kept to a low 140g despite the size. The front of the dial is covered with sapphire crystal while the back is a solid screw down cover. Although the huge crown at 12 o’clock is a screw down, water resistant is only 100m (why not deeper?). It comes with a date window at the 3 o’clock position, a power reserve indicator between 4 and 5 o’clock position and an additional GMT hand. The primary dial reference is indexed while the secondary dial reference is in Arabic (odd numbers intersperse between the main indexes). Apart from the brand, the only other words on the dial are “LANDMASTER”, “SPRING DRIVE” and “10BAR”.

The watch is powered with the Spring Drive movement caliber 5R66 with 72 hour power reserve, +/- 15 seconds/month accuracy. The whole engine consists of 30 jewels and 295 separate parts.

The first thing that I noticed when I took it in my hands is the texture of the titanium and the weight (or lack of) of the watch. My collection of predominantly sports and diving watches trained me to expect a certain rule-of-thumb when it comes to size and weight. This watch goes against that completely. Although the bracelet and the 3-point clasp has the same design as other Seiko’s, the use of titanium makes it feel as if I am holding on to something similar to plastic. It is just a sub-conscious feeling which would go away once you get used to the watch but at the start, it was a discomforting sensation.

Focusing closely on the dial, you would note Seiko’s signature lume technology on the indexes as well as on the hour, minute and second hands. It is interesting to note a couple of interesting observations about the hands. The first is the second hand. The lume is only put on the pointing side. On the opposite end, only the round bubble at the end of the second hand was lumed, the rest has the same colour as the dial. In the dark, the effect is like a floating white ball. Nice.

The second interesting observation is the GMT hand. Of the 4 hands on the watch (I exclude the power reserve hand for the moment), the GMT hand is the widest. However, it is also the only hand that is not solid. It is only framed by a thin metal edge. It is also the hand with the least lume. The lume only extend to the pointing edge of the GMT hand. As it moves, it does not block much the dial.

Apart from white and black, the only other colour you see is red and this is only to indicate empty on the power reserve indicator. Generally, watchmakers would give the GMT hand a brighter colour for ease of reference. In this case, it is not. This is because the purpose of the GMT hand on this watch is to indicate the hour for the reference time zone and not a new time zone.

To adjust the timing on the watch, you first unscrew the large crown. The first position allows you to move the minute, hour and GMT hands as usual. The second position allows you to only move the hour hand. This means, the GMT hand is actually the reference for your actual time zone and the hour hand is the actual “GMT” reference. Confusing isn’t it? However, I was told this is the same method used in the Rolex Explorer 2 model. The only issue I have with this system is the inability to manipulate the date directly i.e. it does not have a quick date adjusts function. Honestly, although I never use a date (or day function for that matter) function on my watches, the thought of going through the motion to adjust to the right date is bothersome, to say the least.

The various photos show you how thick the case is. Nevertheless, the curved casing (see the first picture above) makes it rest on your wrist very comfortably. The use of forged bridge linking the two halves of the bracelet together (see second picture) gives it that exclusive feeling. Moreover, the crown at the 12 o’clock position provides the necessary symmetry to the watch that you seldom find in other watches.

A slight letdown to me is the lack of imagination on the part of the Seiko designers when it came to designing the case back. I expected to see a spectacular etching like what you see done for the Prospex diver series. However, this is what you get.

The wearing experience is actually quite pleasant. Despite it being a large watch, the design of the casing and the use of titanium make it latched on to one’s wrist nicely. The use of a 24mm lug width also helps balance the size. The smooth surfaces and the use of a lot of curves in the casing allow it to easily move in and out of shirt cuffs. This is important as it meant it is quite at home for formal functions as well.

The bracelet tapers to just under 18mm at the clasp. From the picture above, it looks like any typical Seiko end-clasp except that it is made out of titanium.

See the quality of polishing on the casing? Like mirror!

Overall, despite the lack of a quick-adjust date function and the unimaginative case back design, this watch is superb. The quality of engineering and construction is precise and excellent. I appreciate the power reserve indicator. I wish all automatic watch makers should considering putting it as standard function on their watches. It does not need to be on the dial, event at the back is fine (like the Panerai PAM328). If Seiko consistently perform at this level of competency, its watches will command a premium going forward.

Photo Gallery


  1. Hi,
    I am very keen with this watch after reading your review just a month ago, and considering getting one.
    I am very interested to know after more than 2 years from this review, what is the state of your watch and your reaction now?
    Hope to hear from you very soon.

    Thanks and best regards,

    1. Hi Chris,
      Still in excellent working order. No complaints at all. The Diashield protective shield used on the titanium remains shinny. If you do get it you won't be disappointed.

      Anyway, Seiko has issued a new model. I was made to understand the latest version comes with the newer lumibrite paint that makes the already awesome lume even more spectacular.

      Good luck on your hunt!

    2. Hi,

      Thanks for the reply.
      Just ordered and on its way from JP.
      Can't wait to handle it.

      What's is this new model that replaces SBDB005?

      I read that and also was told when I was in JP recently that SBDB005 is no longer in production. And Seiko is rumored to limit Spring Drive movement to Grand Seiko.
      What's your view?


    3. Hi!
      Congratulations on the new acquisition.

      The new replacement is the SBDB015.

    4. woah thanks for this info.
      Managed to cancel my order on SBDB005 before it ships, and ordering SBDB015.

  2. just got my SBDB015.
    Ya the lum is great, glow even in slightly dim light.
    I think SBDB015 has another apparent difference from SBDB005. There is a laser etch Prospex icon on the crown, I don't see it on SBDB005.


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