Monday, November 7, 2016

Seiko Prospex Titanium 200M Air Diver SBDC029 “Shogun” – A Balanced Design, A Review (plus video)

As you all know I am an active collector of the Prospex series of watch by Seiko. Tool watches built not for style but for professional tradesman to be used and abused. The genre within this series that I am follow closely is the mechanical diving watches (I do have some Spring Drive powered watches but I tend to lump these as being mechanical as well. I guess sooner or later I will have to look at solar powered as Seiko seems to be making a push towards building this technology into more of their newer offerings).

Strictly looking at Prospex watches in my collection with movements of 6R and above, I have the 300m Marinemaster SBDX001, the Spring Drive GMT SBDB011, the Transocean Chronograph SBEC001, the Transocean SBDC039, the 1000m Titanium Hi-Beat SBEX001, the 1000m Emperor Tuna SBDX011 and the Scuba Sumo SBDC003. The Shogun is a gap that has been missing in the collection for some time now.

In 2015, the SBDC029 was released as the next generation shogun, superseding the original SBDC007 which made its debut in 2009. From what I can gather, the latest iteration has only a number of superficial changes such as the logo and words on the dial and an upgraded LumiBrite paint. All else remains the same.

Personally, one part of the watch that Seiko could have considered upgrading in this new model is the crystal. A domed sapphire crystal would be a welcome change to the original Hardlex crystal in the SBDC007. Recent Prospex launches have sapphire crystals as standard. It is a pity that Seiko did not find it vital to make the change for the SBDC029 as well.

Let’s start with its dimensions. The SBDC029 Shogun watch casing measures 44 mm wide without the crown. It has a lug width of 22 mm and a lug-to-lug length of 50.75 mm. Its height is 13.3 mm tall. It comes with a bracelet with divers’ extension (a standard Seiko rubber strap was also provided as a spare backup in the watch box). Because the watch is made out of titanium (including the bracelet), the weighs in at just 113 grams!

Unlike the other Prospex divers that I have in the collection, the SBDC029 Shogun is design more like any typical wristwatch with the screw-down crown located at the 3 o’clock position. It comes with a date complication in an aperture located also at the 3 o’clock position. It has 3 hands as well as a unidirectional bezel. The case-back is solid and is a screw-down.

The casing and the bracelet are very well designed. The amount of beveling and polishing incorporated into the edges of the watch shows the level of manufacturing that belies the price point of the watch. The smooth curves coupled with the brushed and polished areas are done flawlessly which gives a Zen-like feel to the watch. The titanium metal with the special DiaShield protective coating gives the watch a very mesmerizing glisten to the surface. Moreover, the curved lugs actually make the watch more wearable compared to a similar watch with the same dimensions. The curved lugs help hug the wearer’s wrist more snugly. Also, the lugs have pass-through pin holes for ease of strap replacement.

Although some would say it has some uncanny resemblance to the Rolex No-date Submariner, I feel the SBDC029 to be more balanced when it comes to casing and bracelet design. For example, the design of the links compliments the watch beautifully and gives the watch a continued edge in its look and feel.

The bracelet uses a pin-and-collar system to join the links together. It is easy to resize and with micro-adjustment points on the clasp, there should not be a issue to resize the bracelet perfectly to one’s wrist. The clasp is signed and has a double locking fold-over push-button system with diver’s extension.

I especially like the gear-like edge of the bezel. The grip is firm and the 120-click unidirectional turning system is smooth and solid, without any play. The lumed pip is bright and the markers are properly outlined for ease of reference. What is even amazing is the fact that the bezel is painted on instead of having an insert. The paint job is perfect.

Seiko made an effort to bevel and polish the crown and crown protection lugs. This focus is detail is truly amazing. I am happy to note that the signed crown continues to have the “S” etched on it instead of “X” like the newer Prospex models.

The conventional styling of the dial makes it well suited to any occasion. The dial has texture and painted in solid black. There is depth and with the markers stuck to the dial, it gives a three-dimensional feel to the watch face. The hands are a mixture of the monster series (the hour and minute) and the 300 Marinemaster (the second). Although the shapes are the same, the finishing is different. For the Shogun, the hands had gilded outline.

Meanwhile, the markers on the four corners of the dial are Egyptian obelisk in design that is consistent with the shape of the hour hand. This coherent in design factors makes the dial on the Shogun very pleasing to look at. My only gripe is the loss of the 3 o’clock marker to the date aperture. If would have been better to have the date aperture as a standalone and not disturb the symmetry of the dial. As it stands, the white background date aperture gives some balance to the markers.

All markers and painted parts of the hands are given the latest version of LumiBrite. This latest concoction is said to brighter and last 60% longer than the previous version of LumiBrite. Below is a photo of the illumination.

Compared to the predecessor, the SBDC007, there are some changes to the text and logo on the dial. Both have 5 lines of text and logo. The brand which is located on the top half of the watch remains the same. However, second, third and fourth lines are different. For the SBDC029, one will find the Prospex logo, the words “AUTOMATIC” and “DIVER’S 200M” instead of the words “AUTOMATIC”, “SCUBA” and “200m”on the dial of the SBDC007. The final line which is at the edge of the dial and in micro font has the manufacturing reference coding for the model. In many write-ups, a lot of the reviewers have negatively commented on the decision to put the Prospex logo on the dial. I think this disapproving view is unplaced. For a manufacturer, it is important to have its logo on its product as a form of branding. It is very seldom that one would find a watch without any form of branding. I suspect people have equate the brand “Seiko” as a logo in itself. In reality, this is not the logo. If you look closely at Seiko watches over the years, you will see a number of interesting logos e.g. the double-triangle or lightning-bolt of Daini which represents Seiko Instruments; the Swirl of Suwa which represents Seiko Epson; the famous “5” for the Seiko 5 series; and many more (for more on the logos of Seiko visit this link: Therefore, it does make sense for Seiko to put the Prospex logo on the dial.

The whole dial is protected by a Hardlex crystal. The crystal is slightly domed. I love the way it refracts the light at certain angles. As I said before, sapphire crystal as a standard will complete the design and put it under the “superb” level.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side, the case-back is solid and is a screw-down. It has all the necessary information stamped on it around the peripherals. In the middle is the famous tsunami logo synonymous with Seiko’s dive watches. Underneath it is the 6R15 engine that drives the watch. This engine was introduced in 2006 as a higher-spec derivative of the familiar Seiko 7S26. The 6R15 is an automatic movement operating at 21,600 BPH (3 Hertzs) with hacking and hand winding capabilities. It has 23 jewels with a power reserve of 50 hours through a Spron 510 mainspring. The technical specifications has its acceptable daily error rate at -15/+25 seconds a day (+/- 10 seconds day isochronism fault, +/- 15 maximum positional variation).

The Wearing Experience

At just 113 grams inclusive of the bracelet and diver’s extension system in the clasps, the watch feels like feather on the wrist. Quite disconcerting for anyone who loves to wear weighty sports watches on their wrists.

Visually, the watch has that balanced design that appeals to me. With the crown located exactly east of the watch casing (perpendicular to the north-south alignment of the bracelet) coupled with the similar alignment of the date aperture plus the placement of the texts and logo on the dial, the symmetry is perfect. The Shogun’s conventional styling makes it very versatile to wear. It has the same evergreen attraction as the Rolex Submariner (some of you may not agree but let’s agree to disagree). Not too bulky at it wears well with formal attire despite the fact it is designed for the outdoors. Below is a video of the watch on my wrist.

Overall, another great all-rounder watch from Seiko.

The Reveal

The watch box is rectangular with a longitudinal alignment. There is a cardboard packing sleeve in black with a window cutout which corresponds to the brand and logo printed on the main watch box.

The main watch box is also black with the brand, logo and series name printed in silver. The top of the watch box opens completely and what you see is the watch on its black pillow on one side and the spare rubber strap on another. The rubber strap is the standard for titanium Seiko divers i.e. the strap lead and the buckle are also titanium.

Apart from the manual and guarantee documents, there are a few tags related to the watch. One of them is the MSRP for Malaysia, RM5,671. If we minus the 6% GST component, the clean price for the Shogun in Malaysia is approximately RM5,330. This is equivalent to YEN133,253 (as at 25 October 2016). Compare this to the MSRP in Japan of just YEN120,000 (before the 8% VAT in Japan). This price gap makes it cheaper to buy the watch from Japan directly. If you were to bring the item in personally, the likelihood of needing to pay the GST is remote which would increase the savings even more.

With the internet, the whole world is a shopping mall and some great deals can be had.

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