Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Seiko Prospex SBEC001 TRANSOCEAN 200 meter Chronograph Diver (similar to SBEC002 and SBEC003) - A Boardroom Quality Tool Watch, A Review (plus Videos)


Earlier this year, Seiko announced a series of new watches under the Prospex line. A new sub-line of Prospex called the Transocean Series was created by Seiko to bridge the quality gap between the more tool-like Prospex line and the more refined Grand Seiko line.

I was fortunate enough to be able to grab the SBDC039 when I visited Japan in June of this year. I was actually very impressed with the finishing quality of the watch. Read the full review of that watch here: SEIKO Transocean SBDC039 Dive Watch - A Chic Executive Watch With Elegance Yet Capable Of Extreme Adventure, A Review. Since I have written about the philosophy behind the new Transocean Series, I will dispense from it up again in this review. If you want to know more, read my review on the SBDC039.

About the same time, Seiko announced a new model under this sub-line which would incorporate a new mechanical chronograph movement with the designation 8R49. The SBEC001 (as well as the SBEC002 and SBEC003) was expected to be released on 8 July 2016.



This got me excited as I have yet to add in a Seiko mechanical chronograph movement into my collection thus far. After a lot of searching (the unit was sold out in many places) I finally was able to land one through my long-time watch agent.



The SBEC001 is a chunky watch. With a width of 46.5 mm (excluding crown), it is a watch that not everyone can carry confidently. Its lug-to-lug length of 53 mm can cause an overhang for smaller wrists. Moreover, the addition of a chronograph function makes it a tall watch at 16 mm. All this makes the SBEC001 a watch more suited to the outdoors instead of boardrooms.



Two core elements were used in this watch, stainless steel and black zirconia ceramic. The latter is the material that makes up the unidirectional bezel as well as the top of the crown. Coupled with Seiko's special "DiaShield" coating (super scratch-resistant and ultra-tough) and "Zarastu" polishing technique, the surface of the watch is unbelievably smooth. The dial is protected by a flat Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inner surface.

The ceramic bezel has an illuminated pip at 12 o’clock as required of dive watches under the ISO 6425 divers’ watch international standard. This pip is located in a triangular pilot watch-like marker. There are minute markers around the bezel with Arabic numbering at every 10th minutes except for the 10 minute and 60 minute marks.



The SBEC001 comes with a full DiaShield coated steel bracelet with a double-locking divers clasp with push button release and divers extension. This bracelet design is new and is more angular than the typical bracelets used by Seiko. It is specially suited to the unique lug design based on a central lug concept instead of a pair of corner lugs. This makes it difficult to find strap replacements.

There are two schools of though about this. On one extreme, proponents are dead set against this styling as it does not provide strap options like other typical watches. I, on the other hand, is more on the other extreme where it does not matter at all. To me, making sure the watch remain stock standard is more critical to preserve originality.



Apart from this particular 'uniqueness', the lugs have pass-through holes that facilitate easier engagement of the spring-bars. Using the traditional pin-and-collar friction system to connect the bracelet links, the watch comes four micro-adjustment points on the clasp to make for a perfect adjustment. 




Due to the size and the material used in the making of the watch, it weights in at a hefty 242 grams.

The dial has a black textured surface. This watch has six hands and three sub-dials arranged in the typical 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions. The seconds sub-dial is located at the 3 o'clock position. The 12 hours chronograph timer is located at the 6 o'clock position while the 30 minutes chronograph timer is located at the 9 o'clock position. The date aperture is located between 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock. The date wheel has the date in white on a dark background. This help it blend nicely with the black dial. Moreover, no markers were sacrificed for the aperture which I can appreciate immensely. Meanwhile, the crown and chronograph pushers are located on the right side of the casing.

There are minute markers (finer 1/5 of a minute sub-markers are also included) located along the chapter ring while the main hour markers are located on the dial itself. All the hour marker are painted with liberal amount of luminous LumiBrite paint.

The hands for the two chronograph timer sub-dials are simple hands painted in white paint. The hand on the seconds sub-dial is more elaborate with a rounded weight at the hilt and a dagger-like shape on the other end. It is also painted white except for the rounded weight where it is painted with LimiBrite. The main minutes hand has a broadsword designed while the hours hand has the arrow shaped design. Both are painted with Lumibrite with edges left bare. Meanwhile, the chronograph seconds hand is as thin as a foil sword and painted black (the back third) and gold (front two thirds).

There are seven lines of text. On the center-line there are four lines; the brand name, the Prospex logo,  the watch genre and water rating, and (in very small print) the manufacturing reference in code. Inside the seconds sub-dial is the fifth line of text which highlights the type of calibre, "AUTOMATIC". The sixth and seventh are the scales for the chronograph timer sub-dials.

As a dive watch, the SBEC001 is capable of diving down to 200 meters of water pressure. To ensure it is able to dive to such a depth, the crown is a screw-down as well as the case-back. Since this watch is also a chronograph, the two chronograph-pushers also have a screw-down function to eliminate any potential water ingress. However, to engage the screw-down function for the chronograph-pushers, one has to screw it OUT of the watch casing to LOCK.

The watch is also advertised to have anti-magnetic protection system in place. It has a magnetic resistance of up to 4,800A/m.



The solid screw-down case-back has the iconic Prospex Tsunami logo in the centre. Basic information about the watch is etched around the logo.

The movement is the 8R49, which is a vertical clutch and column wheel chronograph designed and manufactured solely in-house by Seiko.  There are 34 jewels and a power reserve of at least 45 hours. It operates in the 28,800 VPH frequency (or 4 Hertz). The Caliber is an automatic movement with manual winding mechanism (seconds hand stop function when adjusting the time). It has a reported accuracy of -15 to +25 seconds per day although in reality it is much better than that. Its functions include: a date aperture, a chronograph up to 12 hours with 30 minutes increments and a seconds sub-dial.

The 8R49 is the latest movement by Seiko. The SBEC001 is the first watch by Seiko to have this new movement. Below is the movement of the sub-seconds hand.



Below is the manual for the watch. Please note that the English version is on the second half of the document.

Manual: Seiko Prospex SBEC001 TRANSOCEAN 200 meter Chronograph Diver (8R49 movement) on Scribd (the English version is on the second half of the document)



The Series
  1. SBEC001 is the standard production run stainless steel model with black dial
  2. SBEC002 is the standard production run black coated stainless steel model with rose gold pusher and crown panel
  3. SBEC003 is the limited edition stainless steel model with blue dial

The Wearing Experience

The watch has the shine that is seldom seen in any stainless steel watch apart from Rolex’s 904L. The special DiaShield coating to protect the surface of the watch from normal wear-and-tear has the added benefit of providing a clear glass-like exterior finish to the base metal. The SBEC001 is definitely designed to be more presentable than a tool watch.




Adjusting the watch is uncomplicated. Unscrewing the main crown which is protected by a couple of shoulders protruding out of the watch casing puts it in position one. In this position, the watch can be manually wound up. Pulling the crown further to position two give you access to adjust the date. The last position, position three is where adjustment of the main hands is done. At this position, the seconds sub-hand will stop (hacking).



Unlike the previous Seiko Prospex dive watches, the crown on the SBEC001 easily catches the thread inside the watch casing when screwing down to lock without needing to try for a couple of times. This has always been a complaint especially by owners who happened to also own Swiss branded dive watches that do not have such an issue.

The chronograph pushers are easily manipulated. It has a nice ‘trigger-pull’ effect where it will engage only when a certain pressure on the button is exceeded (somewhere along the line of 2lb of force is required for the pushers to engage). The reset is quick, precise and consistent. The alignment is also perfect through visual inspection. The only quirkiness is the water ingress protection system utilized for this watch. The locking screws are to be engage away from the casing instead of towards the casing like the crown. This needs getting used to.



The watch is weighty and tall. Surprisingly, despite the extreme dimensions, it has no problem pairing itself with formal attire. The ceramic bezel is a major help as it allows the watch to slip in and out of shirt cuffs smoothly. Come to think of it, I have to correct myself – this watch is well suited for the boardroom.

I find it to be comfortable on the wrist despite its size and weight. Even with the pushers and crown on the right side of the casing, due to the height of the watch, one would not face any issue of the pushers and crown pinching into one’s hand or skin when flexing the wrist.

The ceramic bezel is a 120-click unidirectional that is smooth without any looseness. It is kept in place using two small screws at the side near the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock position.

As mentioned earlier, the bracelet is unique. The width of the bracelet tapers down from the lug area to 20 mm at the clasp. I like the more angular design of this bracelet compared to the other previous stainless steel bracelets used in earlier Prospex watches. It feels more modern and sophisticated.

Overall, I like the watch immensely. Originally I had some reservations when I ordered it as I was keener to have the 8R49 movement instead of the watch itself. However, after seeing it in real life, it is a stunner.

Below is a video of the watch on my wrist.





The Un-boxing

The packaging for the watch comes in two parts. The outer covering is a cardboard box in black with the logo printed in silver at the top. At the bottom is printed information about the watch box and the fact that is made in Japan. The part of the package measures 16 cm long by 12.5 cm wide and 10 cm tall.



Inside this box is the main watch box which is also in black. Having the same length and width as the outer box, it is however on 8 cm tall. The difference in height is taken up by a small sleeve which holds the guarantee document and manual. The main watch box is also painted black and hinged at the back. At the top of the watch is printed the words ‘SEIKO’ and ‘PROSPEX’ as well as sub-brand logo in silver.



 Flipping the top open reveals the SBEC001 sitting on a pillow in the centre.



Free Gift

My AD was nice enough to give me a gift of a watch winder by Beco Technic of Germany. More about this watch winder in dedicated review later.




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