Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Seiko PROSPEX Diver Scuba GIUGIARO DESIGN Limited Edition SBEE001 (Similar to SBEE002) – A Good Conversational Starter, A Review (plus Video)

I have been eyeing a GIUGIARO DESIGN watch from Seiko for a long time. The first that caught my eyes was the timepieces from the Alien movie remake; the Seiko chronographs “RIPLEY” and "BISHOP" models. Both are sold under Seiko’s SPIRIT product line. The next collaboration that was offered came under the form of the 'Motorcycle' series, also under the same product line. In recent years, GIUGIARO DESIGN has started to make models under the ASTRON and PROSPEX product lines as well.

The Seiko PROSPEX GIUGIARO DESIGN Limited Edition Diver SBEE001 is the first by the design house that has come into the collection. I got it via Gnomon Watches (Singapore) for a price of USD349.00 (MYR1,479.87). The listed price in Japan is YEN43,200 (including taxes).

The sister to the SBEE001 is the SBEE002 which has gold-toned steel with gold dial. This particular model retails at YEN48,600 (including taxes). Apart from the colour, both models are similar in design and specifications. I personally prefer the SBEE001 over the SBEE002.

After making payment, the watch was delivered within 48 hours via DHL. The best part of buying via Gnomon Watches is the courier charge is inclusive with the price. Moreover, custom clearance was a breeze.

The relationship between the Italian design house, GIUGIARO DESIGN and Seiko was forged back in the 1980s. Then, the output from the arrangement was the 7C43-7A00 series dive watches (see below). In this latest iteration, the SBEE001 (as well as the SBEE002) is a close match to the original. I must say, after getting my hands on the watch, this is watch can definitely be defined as a ‘re-issue’ instead of a ‘re-craft’ timepiece.

GIUGIARO DESIGN watches have a distinct asymmetrical case layout. The straps are fixed on the right side of the case and the crown located at 7 o’clock. The case measures 43.8 mm across (excluding the crown) and a lug-to-lug width of 48.0 mm. It has a unique lug width of 17.0 mm and a height of 11.2mm. Made from a combination of stainless steel and molded plastic, the casing is paired with silicon straps. The whole package weights in at 88 grams.

The basic concept of the watch is rather generic. Like any typical dive watch, it needs to conform to the international ISO6425 Dive Watch standards.

It has a unidirectional bezel by way of a printed metal inserts with a combination of Arabic numbering and markers to represent the minutes. As required by the ISO6425, there is a luminous pip at 12 o’clock on the bezel. It takes 120 clicks to make one rotation. The movement is crisp and the gear-tooth edge helps get a good grip on it, even if you have a glove over your hand.

The dial is painted dark blue with just three lines of text. The texts are all in different font and sizes. They are painted in white except for the middle text; “DIVER’S 200m”; which is printed in red. Unlike other new watches under the PROSPEX product line, Seiko decided against printing the logo on dial. I bet a lot of ‘Seikonistas’ were relieved not to see that logo on the dial. Personally, I have nothing against having the logo on the dial.

The dial has a sloping chapter ring from where the glass cover starts and the surface of the dial. The chapter ring is marked with minute markers in white.

The main hour markers are a combination of circles and rectangles with a special double trapezoid marker for 12 o’clock. All the markers are painted with Seiko’s famous LumiBrite compound for low-light viewing. At the 3 o’clock position is a day and date aperture where the day and date wheels with white background are located. Although it is quartz powered, it does not have a perpetual calendar function. Once in a while you need to readjust the date manually.

The hours and minutes hands are thick and painted with LumiBrite. The seconds hand is needle-like with the front-end painted white while the back-end painted black except for the ball; this part is painted with LumiBrite. I have never seen the hand design being used in other modern Seiko dive watches before but when compared to the original 7C43-7A00 series dive watches, the hands look similar.

As highlighted earlier, the casing is 43.8 mm across. Due to the presence of the bezel, the actual dial surface only covers 28.0 cm across. This gives a ratio of dial diameter to total casing diameter of 0.64. Generally, the ratio would be about 0.67. The lower ratio for the SBEE001 is due in part to the additional material needed to incorporate the position of the off-centered lugs.

The dial is protected by a ‘curve glass’ that is set lower than the top surface of the bezel. This means the highest point of the dome is still lower than the bezel. Any side impact would hit only the bezel. Although a smart design for a tool watch, for a ‘desk diving’ collector, a protruding crystal dome would be preferable. At least one can appreciate the way light refracts through the dome much better.

At the point of publishing this review, I have yet to identify what ‘curve glass’ meant. Is it Hardlex or some other type of crystal? Based on the Seiko’s own glass technology, it can only be one of five types:
(a) Acrylic Glass - a plastic glass also known as a Plexi. It is easier to scratch than Hardlex crystal, and reflects more light. Shallow scratches can be buffed out easily;
(b) Hardlex Glass - a toughened mineral crystal glass developed by the Seiko Watch Corporation, which is highly resistant to knocks and scratching. Hardlex glass is standard in most Seiko , PULSAR and LORUS models;
(c) Mineral Glass - a synthetic mineral crystal glass which is highly resistant to knocks and scratches;
(d) Sapphire Glass - a synthetic sapphire glass which is extremely hard to scratch or mark. This glass is second in hardness only to a diamond and is used mostly in the Premium Collection.
(e) Sapphlex Glass - a new type of glass also developed by and unique to Seiko. It is a combination of Seiko's Sapphire and Hardlex glasses. The base of the glass is Hardlex and the top is Sapphire. It is used only in Seiko sports watches.

Based on the “tongue test”; the crystal is definitely not an (a). Since, Seiko did not mention Hardlex or Sapphire, it would have to be either (c) or (e). I would hazard a guess that it is Sapphlex Glass but I not really sure. If anyone knows, please leave a comment below.

In the dark, the LumiBrite paint shines bright.

I am rather pleased that Seiko has kept the dial on the SBEE001 to be strikingly similar to the original 7C43-7A00 series with just small subtle changes. Seiko was smart to omit the word “PROFESSIONAL” that was present in the original 7C43-7A00 series. It helps reduce the amount of text on the dial hence making the new version more balance in appearance.

The screw-down crown is located at the 7 o’clock position. I personally have no issue with the positioning since the likelihood of needing to adjust the time, day and date would not be as frequent as compared to a mechanical watch. Moreover, it has another advantage that becomes more apparent with the way the lugs are located. I will explain further about this later.

The asymmetric casing design of the SBEE001 is its unique feature and is the signature of the GIUGIARO DESIGN collaboration with Seiko. For this model, the lugs are offset to the right. The lugs are short and hooded (sometime known as Euro Lugs). Surrounding the right side of the watch casing and enclosing up to 80% of the lugs is a plastic sheet attached with two screws. The plastic sheet has a surface with many small raised protuberances to give it a distinctive texture. A similar textured plastic sheet is also attached on the other side between the 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock position with two screws.

If you wear your watch on the left hand, the off-set lugs reduces the possibility of the casing pinching your skin if you flexed your hand upwards. Ergonomically, this makes it very comfortable to wear. Having the crown located at 7 o'clock also stops adding additional dimensions to the width of the watch casing (East to West alignment).

My only concern about the plastic bits is its durability. Over time, the plastic may get brittle and when that happens, will Seiko have replacement parts for it? In the manual, Seiko did highlight that it is the manufacturer’s policy to maintain 7 years of parts for all watches it makes. Since this is a limited edition piece, it implies that parts support for the SBEE001 will be available until 2024. After that, depending on supply, Seiko may use parts as close to the original to make repairs. There is a possibility that the watch you sent for repairs many look different after being returned.

Attached to the hooded lugs is a very soft silicone strap that comes with a signed buckle as well as a metal strap follower. It has the accordion-style design like typical Seiko dive watches except that it is boxy instead of wavy. Like the casing on the SBEE001, the pattern on the strap is also asymmetrical. I actually love this type of strap compared to the usual rubber strap made by Seiko. The silicon strap is soft and very comfortable to wear.

The screw-down solid case-back is a typical Seiko dive watch styling with the famous ‘Tsunami’ logo at the center. Additional items found on the case-back would be the GIUGIARO DESIGN logo, the limited edition serial number as well as the next battery change date. Seiko has allocated only 2,000 pieces for this production run and I got number 1217/2000. My next battery change is expected to be around the first half of 2021.

It is interesting to note that the SBEE001 is a JDM model or Japan Domestic Model. Usually associated with Made in Japan products, in more recent times, Seiko watches may not necessarily be fully made in Japan to have the JDM classification. In fact, the SBEE001 is made in China.

The movement that powers the SBEE001 is the Seiko caliber 7N36. This caliber has a day and date complications. It operates at 32,768 hertz and allows for monthly deviation of plus/minus 15 seconds. It uses the SEIKO SR920SW battery which should last for approximately 4 years.

This will be my first quartz watch from Seiko. Although I say I don’t have a bias against quartz watches, my acquisition history has been otherwise. Nevertheless, I do see the benefit of quartz watches: accuracy; multiple complications and value-for-money. Given a choice, solar technology would be preferred but looking at the bright sight of things, every time you send the watch for a battery replacement a qualified technician would at least get a change to give the watch a ‘once-over’ to ensure the watch is operating at optimal level (especially the gaskets etc).

The Wearing Experience

Size and weight are two important considerations especially for tool watches. In this regard, the SBEE001, being a simple watch actually has a lot of advantages. It is light and thin and therefore can be used in all occasions. Moreover, the unique shape makes it a good conversational starter.

It is comfortable to wear and the soft and supple silicone strap does not feel constricting despite when wet either with water or sweat. Below is a video of the watch on my wrist.


This watch is another output of the re-craft strategy conducted by Seiko in the last few years. The Brand recognized the many iconic models in its illustrious history and has anticipated  demand. I suspect Seiko is financially compensated by doing these projects hence the continuation of this strategy going forward. I can’t wait to see what else they would like to reintroduce to the market.

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