I just got my hands on the latest Seiko ‘Baby Tuna’ reference SRP653K1. Part of the Prospex (Professional Specification) series, this watch was designed and made to a higher standard than the normal Seiko manufacturing process which, in itself, is already of high quality.
By now, you would have known that I love dive watches. Seiko is one watch brand that amazes me with its design and innovation in dive watches. Since its first dive watch released to the world in 1965 - the famous 6217 diver automatic 150m watch - Seiko was able to build on this momentum, year after year. In my collection of Seiko watches, I have 10 with depth rating of 200m or more. Although some of them are not strictly designed as divers, the ability to withstand such depths is testament to the design specification that Seiko insist they have. Looking at my own collection, I have the entry level Pepsi SKX009 and Monster SKX779 as well as the professional dive watches such as the Sumo SBDC003 and VaTT SUN019P1; right up to the high-end Emperor Tuna SBDX011 and Marinemaster SBDX001. This latest acquisition would nicely complement this group.
This watch was given the term ‘Baby Tuna’ as it was designed to follow the general lines of the Emperor Tuna but without some special specifications to help reduce manufacturing costs. Despite the 'reduce' form, the 'Baby Tuna' is more than capable to handle 99% of the task it is asked of it. Let's face it, only a few people would dare go right down to 200m underwater and beyond. The fast majority of owners would not even go lower than 10m underwater. In fact, most of them can be classified as 'desk' divers, just like me :P
This affordability or the continuous designing and manufacturing of many models to ensure every level of society can afford a Seiko dive watch is what gives the Company a very big, strong and loyal following. Seiko is only one of the few brands in the world that caters to the needs of students right up to Head of States and Captain of Industries.
When the watch was unveiled during Baselworld2015, it caught my interest immediately due to its design and materials used in its construction. Precise, sharp, capable as well as being quite stylish and cool. The price point for this watch is also at a level that is well within capacity of the vast majority of watch enthusiasts.
It took two months for the watch to finally make its appearance on the shores of Malaysia. The pair to the watch that I got is the SRP655K1 which is in black. However, I had my heart set on the blue piece. In terms of styling, I was told that 'Blue is the new Black'.
As luck would have it, my favorite AD for Seiko got the first consignment last Friday. My friendly salesperson contacted me on the same day and I immediately booked it. Within three days, I got the piece. The MRP for the watch has been set at RM2,650. Officially, the AD was instructed not to provide any store discount due to the expected overwhelming demand for this piece. Not surprised as the particular store I frequent was only allocated two pieces! However, due to my credential as a repeat customer, I was given a discount.
The box it came in is larger than usual. Measuring 16.0 cm x 9.5 cm x 13.0 cm, the white cardboard box has the Seiko brand name printed in silver on one side. When opened, you will find the main watch box plus slots for the manual and guarantee documents. The main watch box is slightly smaller at 16.0 cm x 8.0 cm x 13.0 cm and in black.
There are more printed stuff on the top of this box compared to the previous one. Apart from the mandatory brand name, there is also the sub-brand name and logo printed in silver. This box is also made out of cardboard and has a hinge at the back.
When you open the box, you will able to note some expected as well as unexpected features inside the watch box. Resting on a black pillow, the watch is snugly tucked into a slot. The perimeter of the slot is painted the customary yellow that is synonymous with the Prospex series. What is unexpected is the print on the top inner part of the watch box that commemorates the 50th anniversary since Seiko's first dive watch in 1965.
When Seiko decided to enter the professional diving watch category, they did so by generating their very own set of standard even more stringent than the internationally accepted ISO 6425 standard (you can click on the link to go the document or just scroll down to the end of this article to read it directly). This particular model that I got is a special edition to commemorate this important milestone for Seiko.
The Seiko SRP653K1 ‘Baby Tuna’ is a new model for 2015. A large watch in terms of dimensions but wears reasonably well for those of average height. The width is 50.2 mm (excluding crown), 18.0 mm at its thickest to just 13.5 mm at its thinness. Why this non-consistent thickness you might ask? This is because of the unique shape of the watch case, made out of a round stainless steel central part, with a curved shell-like case-back that cleverly hides the otherwise protruding lugs. This design cue enables the otherwise large and thick watch to curve itself on the wearer's wrist to make it more comfortable. It is also because of this that this watch can be worn with formal wear which I shall demonstrate later.
In the photo below you can see the 'hidden' lugs and the pin-holes for the lug pins. This style of pin-hole makes it easier to change straps or bracelet.
Like most Seiko dive watches, this watch comes with large luminous indexes and hands. There is a sloping chapter ring on the side with minute markers. On the main dial surface, there are large hour makers with large amount of LumiBrite painted on them. Apart from the markers, Seiko has also printed Arabic numbers is 5 minute intervals beside every hour markers except for the four corners of the compass. Other than these numbers, only the words 'SEIKO', 'AUTOMATIC, 'DIVER'S 200 m' and the Prospex logo can be found on the dial. The dial is dark blue although it is more closer to black in my eyes.
This watch also comes with a Day & Date complication in a window at the 3 o'clock position. The window has a thin LumiBrite painted border with dark blue background. Apart from the English language for the Day option, you can also choose numbers instead.
The hands on the watch is huge. The hour-hand is like an arrow head whereas the minute-hand is like a broad sword. Only the second-hand is slightly unique. Painted in yellow, the slender pointer has a small triangle near a third of its length painted in LumiBrite.
The bezel is a typical diver's bezel with a 120-click unidirectional full rotation and engraved with a combination of numbers and markers in a 60-minute scale. As required on all professional dive watches, a luminous pip is provided at the 12 o'clock position. The outer-side of the bezel is gear-like in design with additional groves at the 'gear-peaks' for easy of gripping with gloves. It is stainless steel metal coated with a glossy blue lacquer. Movement is smooth and precise without any noticeable looseness.
Overall, the information on the bezel as well as the dial is easy to read.
One interesting design feature of this watch is the partial shroud that both protects the watch case and bezel. This feature is what give the 'Tuna' nomenclature to this series of watches by Seiko. In previous Baby Tunas, the shroud were made out of plastic. However, this new release has something new. Made out of blue ceramic hard coating, it has a smooth finishing like porcelain. This shroud is fastened to the main watch case with four stainless steel screws that you can see in the picture above.
I believe this is the first time that Seiko (I stand to be corrected) has this technology. As a consequence of this technology, the price point for the model is much higher than a typical Baby Tuna.
Behind this thick case-back sits the Seiko 4R36 automatic caliber. Ticking at 21,600 bph, this 24 jewels movement has hand-winding and seconds-hand stop function capabilities. This movement is capable of 41 hours of power reserve. As expected, the case-back and the crown are screwed down to take on 200 m of water resistance. It is also interesting to note that the crown does not screw down next to the watch casing. Instead, it screws down to a thick stem (see the above photo). Note also the notation about the 'SPECIAL EDITION' and 'CERAMICS' on the case-back.
I would like to focus now on the strap which is worth mentioning. I also believe that this is a new design in terms of the material used. For the SRP653K1, the clasp and strap guide is similar to design to that of the Seiko Emperor Tuna SBDX011 although made out of stainless steel instead of titanium. However, the strap material is something else. Unlike the strap on the Emperor Tuna that is more rubbery in texture and harder to manipulate, the strap on the SRP653K1 is sublime, softer and has a smooth texture. It is, in my view, the most comfortable silicone strap that I have ever worn from Seiko. It is like wearing an ISOfrane watch strap! I hope Seiko will equip all its strap watches with this material. I like it.
After a week of wearing the watch, there were a few observations that I would like to share. The first is the size issue on wearing comfort. The size is actually very deceptive. The curved watch casing actually hugs the wrist and keeps the watch from flopping about. You can wear this watch with formal clothing and I did use it for office use. The series of pictures below show me wearing the watch with my long sleeve shirt. The shape of the shroud actually makes it easier to slip under the cuffs.
The second observation is the comfortableness of the silicone strap. As mentioned earlier, this particular version from Seiko is softer, more supple and it does not trap moisture at all. I guess Seiko finally heard the grouses that fan's have on their existing rubber straps in light of the availability of ISOfrane or similar types of silicone based straps in the after-market space.
The watch is heavy. However, the tank-like structure and hence the weight penalty, is something that watch enthusiasts have accepted when it was first launched (the first Tuna) in 1975. To commit to one is to accept the weight consequence and everyone that do decide to get one acknowledges this.
Overall, the SRP653K1 remains true to its pedigree and continue to set new benchmarks. Without a doubt, if Seiko continues this winning formula, do expect another special edition to come out to honour the 100th anniversary in 2065.