Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT Reference SUN019P1 - The 'Vader-Tuna-Turtle' or "VaTT" for short is a runaway winner with a lot of possibilties, A Review

With the globalization on the Prospex series by Seiko earlier this year, a number of new releases were made. One of the most anticipated is the release of the diver model, the Kinetic GMT.

This model (the one I got is also referred to as the SUN019P1) was launched on March 27, 2014. It uses the same double case system as the renowned 1975 model. It is also available with a silicon strap and more colorful hands and markers (SUN021P1) or all black piece with a silicon strap and colorful hands and markers (SUN023P1).

This time, instead of getting it from the internet, I've decided to visit an Authorized Dealer of Seiko that I know. Within a short space of time, I got the watch, sized the bracelet and packed to bring back home.

As this model is under Seiko's professional watch series, the box that came with the watch is not the standard that one gets. I actually expected to get a box that is typical of the Prospex series i.e. in yellow. Instead, I got a big white box with the "SEIKO" brand printed in silver that is more towards the Ananta class.




The box opens up reveling another smaller watch box. The extra spaces in the main box is used to keep the instruction manual as well as the guarantee document.  


You know you got a very important model under Seiko if you find the instruction manual to be dedicated purely to your model and not shared with others.

Like most Seiko's this unit comes with the standard one (1) year international warranty.


The inner box does not open like the first. Instead, it opens hinged at the back.


Surrounded with black velvet, you will find the watch resting on a large pillow. The top half of the box carries the brand logo prominently. Apart from the watch, there is not a lot of places left to put other stuff in.


As highlighted earlier, the SUN019P1 takes design cues from the famous Seiko Tuna watches of old. Instead of the typical straight walled sides, the SUN019P1 has taken a more modern and aerodynamic interpretation to create a 'Tuna' with more sexy curvature. More about this later.

With the watch comes the typical labels with information about this model including the standard selling pricing here in Malaysia at RM2,320 per unit.


The model number as well as the movement model.


The dial is designed for ultimate legibility. The deep chapter ring allows the designers to raise the markers higher than the bottom of the dial. This gives a clear 3-dimensional experience that you seldom get in most watches.
 


The professional level of the specifications becomes clear when you study the details, the hour markers, the anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal and the precise operation of the uni-directional bezel.

The only wordings on the dial is the 'SEIKO', 'KINETIC', 'DIVER'S 200m' and some additional micro-wordings near the edges. A small Prospex logo is also printed on the dial.

On the dial itself, the first set of scale is provided. Set in increments of 2, it alternates between Arabic and a 'dash' up to 24. This is the GMT scale. In between this scale is where the designers placed the date window between 4- and 5-o'clock. Using just a font size larger than the scale has the effect of making sure people do not confuse it with the GMT scale yet makes the whole dial systematic and clean. 

The main markers are huge and gives a good amount of space to paint Seiko's famous LumiBrite illumination paint. With the markers raised high above the dial, even at any angle, the 3-dimensional effect mentioned earlier still remains. The minute markers are set against the chapter ring and it complements the huge hour markers. 

As this watch provides a GMT function, it comes with a fourth hand. The hand that is dedicated to the GMT function is a cut-out version of the hours hand with minimal area covered with LumiBrite paint. The hours and minutes hands are much thicker and extensively painted with LumiBrite paint. For the seconds hand, only the tail bubble is covered with LumiBrite paint.

As required by the ISO6425, the international standard for diving watches, the pip at the 12 o'clock position on the bezel is painted with LumiBrite. 


Once you had the chance to touch it, you will realize it's size. It has a  case diameter of 47.5 mm (excluding the crown). Made of stainless steel case, this watch was designed (or more like over-designed) to tackle water depth of up to 200 meters. Coupled with the stainless steel bracelet that comprises of a three-fold clasp with secure lock, push button release with extender (in diving mode), this watch packs in some considerable weight. Meanwhile, the height of the watch has been estimated to be approximately 16 mm (by my own measurement).

The glass covering the dial is sapphire crystal. It has a anti-reflective protection on its surface. Around it is the uni-directional sawtooth bezel that moves in 120-click increments for a full cycle.

I find manipulating the bezel to be slightly difficult than usual. Because of the protective shroud, your fingers can only latch on to two sections that are free from the shroud. Excessive drag is felt if you tried to turn the bezel fast. However, at a certain speed and pressure the bezel moves along nicely. At first I thought I got a dud piece. However, it seems that it is part of the design. The bezel will only move it given the correct pressure. Any other level of pressure is assumed to be unintentional and the bezel is designed to resist such 'moves'. This is a very impressive piece of engineering.


The side view of the watch allows one to see the level of protection that this watch has. The cut-through center-line and the two screw points shows the two-piece construction of this watch. It is interesting to note if you disengage the 3 main screws (one on the crown side, two on the opposite side), the watch will drop out of the shroud without effecting the bracelet. This is because the lugs are attached to the shroud piece.

This design concept creates a very interesting possibility. The option to have two or more distinctive watch modules using the same shroud attachment. For example, a diver module that can be replaced with a pilot module or even a chronograph module. The possibility is endless. Although this concept is not new, I would love to see Seiko do something about it.

From the picture below, the crown is wide but thin. This is because it is not designed to wind the movement. The button on the right (at the 2 o'clock position) initiates the power reserve indicator that will show the level of energy left in the batteries. If you press it, the seconds hand will start moving. A complete half turn means it is fully charged i.e. capable of operating for 6 months without any movement.

Both the crown and the power reserve button are screw-downs to allow the watch to go diving.


The polished bracelet and end links are solid pieces. Lug width is 24 mm. The Seiko bracelet is tapered down to 20 mm at the clasp. This bracelet is of a higher end of the quality spectrum as shown by the machined bridge between the two halves of the bracelet. A standard Seiko bracelet usually uses stamped metal sheet as the bridge.


The case back of the watch is a solid screw-down piece and decorated with the famous Seiko 'Tsunami'. Basic information about the watch is sand-blasted on to this piece of metal.

The movement used is the Seiko Kinetic caliber 5M85. The Kinetic movement is a hybrid movement used by Seiko to convert kinetic energy to electrical energy. The capacitors in the watch is capable of storing 6 months of energy. This particular caliber movement has the option for the fourth hand, the GMT hand running at a slower 24 hour per cycle.

Before traveling, ensure the GMT hand is pointing towards your home base time. When you have arrived at your destination, you only need to adjust the independent setting hours hand, which can be adjusted by the first click out on the crown. 


Although it is commonly accepted that the concept is based on the 'Tuna' design, the angled side walls make it unique and should be given a new designation in my opinion. For example, below are three classic designs by Seiko, the 'Turtle', the 'Vader' and the 'Tuna'.

Seiko Turtle
Seiko Vader
Seiko Tuna

Compared that to the SUN019P1 and you can see this latest design by Seiko took cues from all three classics. Therefore, I would prefer to give it the nickname of 'Vader-Tuna-Turtle' or "VaTT" for short. Not sure whether this nickname could hold traction but I truly believe this is its true origin or DNA.



The watch sits high on the wrist. However, the 'turtle' shape of the watch case helps it transition quickly into a watch in formal setting. Coupled with the flowing design of the shroud and casing, it has style to be a dress watch as well.

The weight is noticeable when putting it on for the first time. For diver watch users, this feeling (heaviness) disappear after a while after your hand gets use to it. Since I got the bracelet version, this may not be an issue but for those opting for the rubber strap versions, the weight of the watch and shroud casing may cause some imbalances. You should be extra careful strapping these versions on as you could easily misjudge the weight distribution and accidentally drop the piece on the floor (ouch!).


Seiko was kind enough to design a 24 mm wide lug width for this watch. For a watch this size, only a 24 mm wide strap could help balance the bulkiness.

The standard bracelet of this watch is just 20 mm (from 24 mm at the lugs, it tapers down quickly to just 20 mm after the end of the second link). To create the semblance of balance, Seiko utilize a simple trick of making the center links bigger with a bulge than the side links. Due to the effect of visual perspective, it appears 'balanced' despite the narrower bracelet. Coupled with solid links, the bracelet effectively distribute the weight of the watch rather evenly.


The sawtooth bezel is thick. However, the shroud is able to mask the size of the bezel rather well. Visually, the watch looks more fragile than it is actually is. In fact, quite the opposite. Compared to a Seiko Tuna with a straight wall shroud, the angled shroud of the VaTT gives it even stronger protection.


The use of the push button power reserve indicator is one design feature that I would like to touch upon. If given a choice, I would have opted for a power reserve meter to be included as part of the dial. In the similar way seen in many of Seiko's Direct Drive Kinetic models. This will eliminate the need to have the small push button crown in the first place (plus all the other design features required to make it workable).

For example, the picture on the right shows a small power reserve indicator on the dial of a Grand Seiko. Why can't Seiko use this style for the VaTT? As it stands now, to know the power available requires one to first unscrew the button and then push it down. I believe an always-visible-scale would be more useful.



The classic clasp of a Seiko bracelet with the simple diver extension system above it. Simple, practical and safe.


This is the second watch that I own that utilizes the Kinetic movement. With a possible maximum error of up to 15 seconds per month, this watch is by far the most accurate watch compared to any mechanical watch. Despite that level of accuracy, it was very difficult for me to appreciate the technology in a watch. For me, a watch should always be mechanical. This is the soul of a watch.

Nevertheless, from a technology perspective, Seiko has married the best of mechanical and quartz together. Honestly, I can't find fault there.

In the form of suggestions, I do have a few that Seiko could consider. The first is the possibility of using titanium as a base material apart from stainless steel. Second is to replace the current bracelet with the Seiko Marinemaster bracelet with the more complicated ratcheting diver extension mechanism instead. The third is replacing the push-button power reserve indicator to a always-visible-power-reserve-meter. The fourth and final suggestion is for Seiko to offer other modules of the watch case so that owners can change depending on the requirements. For example, a diver module, a pilot module and one with pure digital screen. All these can be packaged in a nice presentation box which gives owners the option to change depending on the mood. This would be awesome.




4 comments:

  1. Sustitución del botón indicador de reserva de marcha por una ventana de reserva de marcha en el dial, siempre visible.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very nice review!! Thanks. I own one my self and agree with you that this is a big, heavy but a really really beautiful watch to have!!!
    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice review!! Thanks. I own one my self and agree with you that this is a big, heavy but a really really beautiful watch to have!!!
    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great review. Same as you, I prefer by far mechanical watches but sometimes it is fun to grab a watch that doesn't need any time or date adjustment before wearing it.

    FYI, since you own plenty of watches and doing a rotation may not allow your watch to keep enough charge, here is a simple trick I posted on WUS (look at the post with both the ska582 and the ska649).

    http://forums.watchuseek.com/f21/induction-chargers-work-seiko-kinetic-482363-45.html

    ReplyDelete

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