Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seiko Prospex JDM Baby Marinemaster 200 Meter Diver SBDC061 (similar to SBDC063 or SPB077/SPB079) - Similar to a Seiko Sumo, A Review (plus Video)

My trip to Japan in June 2018 has been very memorable. I visited for the first time, Fukuoka, capital of Fukuoka Prefecture that sits on the northern shore of Japan’s Kyushu Island. To commemorate the occasion, I decided to get myself a Japanese watch. Inside the Yodobashi Camera superstore in Hakata, Fukuoka City, I found a Seiko that was launched in Baselworld 2018.

The watch is the Seiko Prospex JDM Diver SBDC061. This watch has the International reference SPB077 when sold outside Japan. Similar to SBDC063 (or SPB079), the watch has been dubbed 'Baby Marinemaster' by Seikonistas. I got the watch on 19 June 2018 for just YEN82,633 after taking into consideration store discounts.

The SBDC061 is the more affordable modern reinterpretation of the famous Seiko 6159-7001 diver. The reference 6159-7001  diver was the first Seiko Professional diver (where the PROSPEX line was born) first released 50 years ago in 1968. The 6159-7001 was the first Seiko diver to bear the marking “Professional” on the dial. Seiko did also issue a much closer reinterpretation of the Seiko 6159-7001, the SBEX007 (internationally known as the SLA025) but that particular model is a limited edition and the specifications (as well as the price!) is very high-end.

Below is a simple table highlighting key differences between the 6157-7001 and the SBDC061:

Seiko 6159-7001 DiverSeiko Prospex SBDC061 Diver
Large mono-block caseLarge case with screw-down case-back 
300 meter water rating200 meter water rating
Hardlex CyrstalSapphire Crystal 
Rubber strap Bracelet with divers’ extension 
Calibre 6159A, 36,000 bph movementCalibre 6R15, 21,600 bhp movement 

The Buying Experience

I got the watch from Yodobashi Camera Hakata, Fukuoka City on the Japanese island of Kyushu on 19 June 2018. Since I am foreigner, with my passport, I would be exempted from the VAT of 8% charged for nay purchases in Japan. As it stands, the MSRP of the SBDC061 is YEN110,00.

Even without the need to bargain, I was given a whopping (close to) 25% store discount for a newly release Seiko Prospex. The price for me was just YEN82,633. I was really impressed. That kind of discount is very hard to get even in Malaysia especially for a walk-in customer with no prior relationship with the dealer.

The Watch

The watch is made out of stainless steel with Seiko's Diashield surface protection compound that protects the polished surfaces from scratches. It is 44 mm wide (excluding crown) and its lug-to-lug width is 51.0 mm. Lug width is just 20.0 mm. The bracelet tapers down from 20.0 mm at the lugs to 18.0 mm at the clasp. The thickness is just 13.2 mm. All in, the SBDC061 weighs in at 184 gm.

The SBDC061 has a typical dive watch design. It has 3-hands, a date aperture located at 3 o'clock and the screw-down crown located at 4 o'clock. The dial is matte black with applied luminous indexes framed with polished steel. The 12 o'clock marker which looks like a 5-sided obelisk is the largest with the luminous paint (Lumibrite) separated into two halves by a polished steel line running through the middle. The same obelisk design but smaller was also used for the 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock markers. The rest of the markers are circles.

It is a pity Seiko continues to place the date aperture in the same position where the 3 o'clock marker was supposed to be. I would have preferred it if Seiko just eliminate the need for the date or reposition it without the need to replace any of the hour markers. I like symmetry and I don't really have a use for a date complication.

The watch has a sloping chapter ring with a second set of timing scale. This second scale shows minute markers which complements the hour markers.

There are five lines of texts and logo on the dial. The 'SEIKO' brand name is the only text printed on the upper half of the dial while the rest are on the bottom half.

The dial is protected by a flat sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inside surface.

The bezel is painted stainless steel and flawless. The quality makes you think ceramic or sapphire crystal yet it is just a Seiko's paint job. Just stunning. Meanwhile, the bezel has a coin edge to facilitate grip. The unidirectional bezel has a 120-click gradation for a complete rotation. Only the pip at the 12 o'clock position on the bezel is painted with the Lumibrite luminous paint. 

The side profile of the casing has that edged bevel-like design that facilitates the wearing of cuff shirts. It actually helps the watch slip under the shirt cuff easily without snagging. This watch can definitely double up for formal events.

You can also see the drilled through lug holes that would facilitate strap replacement.

The large screw-down crown is located at the 4 o'clock position. The crown is sterile like the original although I would have preferred at least some etching on it considering its size. Manipulating the screw-down crown is easy and for the first time, the transition between screw on and screw off (and vice versa) is smoother. I always find it easier on Swiss watches compared to Seiko as I believe Seiko uses a higher twist ratio on their screw thread. Now, Seiko definitely got the balance right.

The solid screw-down case-back has the typical Prospex diver design with the iconic tsunami emblem in the centre and key information about the watch around it. The watch has the 'MADE IN JAPAN' stamp on it.

Underneath the case-back is Seiko's mid-range workhorse, the 6R15 automatic movement.  It has 23 jewels with 21,600 vibrations per hour or 6 beats per second. Power reserve is approximately 50 hours. It also comes with manual winding and hacking features. A date complication is also provided. The watch has a rated accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day.

This watch has been certified with 200 meters of water resistance and looks well within the ISO 6425 international standards for a diver watch.

As highlighted earlier, the lugs on the watch casing is 20 mm. The bracelet tapers down to 18 mm at the clasp. I believe this is a new bracelet design as the links looks more angled and sharper than previous iterations. The links join together using the pin-and-collar friction system.

As you can see in the picture above, the bracelet is a premium piece from the way the clasp bridge is constructed. Moreover, the Diashield surface protection compound used throughout the bracelet is another indicator of the level of care and quality put to the final product. If you want to wear this watch over a wet suit, a simple diver extender mechanism is included with the clasp.

As expected, the dial illumination of the SBDC061 is good. The Lumibrite compound is very potent. Even in a relatively lighted room, you can still see the illumination. My only complaint is the illumination on the bezel. Instead of just the 12 o'clock position, Seiko should have illuminated other parts of the bezel as well.

The Wearing Experience

The watch wears the same way like the Seiko Sumo. It feels secure and it does not protrude too much which makes it also usable during formal functions or when you need to wear a suit. For those of you that don't ever intent to put this watch through its paces, switching the bracelet with a leather strap is one good styling option.

Below is the video of the watch on my wrist.


Compared to the classic Sumo, the SBDC061 has similar specifications and target market. As such, in my humble opinion, the SBDC061 should be compared against the Sumo.

Baby Marinemaster SBDC061
Sumo SBDC003
Dimensions: 44.0 mm in diameter, 51.0 mm lug to lug, 13.1 mm thick
Weight: 184 grams
Water Rating: 200 m
Caliber: 6R15
Dimensions: 44.9 mm in diameter, 52.2 mm lug to lug, 13.7 mm thick
Weight: 170 grams
Water Rating: 200 m
Caliber: 6R15

As you can see in the table above, nothing much separates the two. It boils down to users preference. For me, the Sumo wins with a very slight margin.

The need to provide a cheaper alternative to a high end timepiece may not be a good idea in the long run. By equating the SBDC061 as a cheaper alternative to the the SBEX007 (or SLA025), in the same way the SBDC053 (or SPB053) is the cheaper alternative to the SLA017 (or SBDX019), Seiko is creating a dangerous precedent. 

Consumers will have an expectation that Seiko will always design cheaper alternatives to their watches. This implies Seiko will start to design watches with a high value as part of the design brief and later design something similar at a much lower cost. Why I say it is a dangerous precedent is that Seiko could completely disregard the middle ground and go for the high-and-low price manufacturing strategy. If consumers start to accept design shortcuts in the name of cost efficiency, the brand franchise that was built on value-for-money timepieces can be threaten. 

For example, if the SBEX007 (or SLA025) call to fame or signature design is a monocoque casing without a proper case-back, how can one accept the SBDC061 as a cheaper alternative when it has a screw-down case-back instead? For me, Seiko can reduce the specifications in the form of Hardlex instead of Sapphire, 4R36 instead of 8L55, 200m instead of 300m, standard polishing instead of Zaratsu polishing etc. Seiko should not replace the monocoque casing with something else as this changes the overall DNA of the alternative versus the original.

Moreover, the SLA017 (or SBDX019) and the SLA025 (or SBEX007) are special limited edition timepieces that should remain exclusive. If Seiko just wanted to have a high-and-low price manufacturing strategy, those watches should not be categorized as special limited edition.

Therefore, Seiko must go back to first principles and seriously re-think their production and design strategy.


Maker: Seiko Japan
Movement: Caliber 6R15. Seiko Automatic
Accuracy: +25/-15 sec per day
Dial: Matte black with applied luminous indexes
Luminous: Lumibrite
Date: 3 O'clock
Case: Stainless steel
Case coating: Diashield
Crown: Screwdown
Bezel: Uni-directional with 120-clicks for full rotation
Lug: 20 mm
Crystal: Sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Strap: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 200 m
Dimensions: 44 mm in diameter, 51 mm lug to lug, 13.1 mm thick
Weight: 184 grammes
Power Reserve: ~50 hours
MSRP: YEN110,000 (excluding tax)
Purchase price: YEN82,633
Source: Yodobashi Camera Hakata, Fukuoka City
Date: 19 June 2018

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