The story of Seiko and dive watches started in 1965 with an important watch, the 62MAS. Five years later, in 1970, the brand launched a model with a functional shape and an asymmetrical case with a crown at 4 o’clock that would define the design of many following editions. This watch, reference 6105, became known as the Turtle and is to this day, one of the brand’s most popular watches. Later popularized by its appearance in Apocalypse Now and nicknamed Captain Willard, the watch is also closely linked to Japan’s most famous explorer. Coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Naomi Uemura’s birth, Seiko launches the new Seiko Prospex 1970s Diver SLA049. And there’s also a new SLA051, another modern re-interpretation that won’t be limited in production.
It isn’t the first time that Seiko reinterprets the design of the 6105 (aka Turtle watches). There’s already a widely available modern interpretation in the collection, with the accessible SRP series. On the other side of the range, there was the Seiko 1970 Diver’s Re-Creation SLA033, a far more precise and high-end take on the Turtle watch, this time a faithful recreation of the 6105 watch. And recently, the brand launched the Prospex “Captain Willard” Reissues SPB151 and SPB153, this time mid-range models with a cool vintage design. But before looking at the new SLA049 and SLA051, some background is required.
An example of Seiko 6105-8110 – image by Fratello Watches
Produced from 1968 onwards, the Seiko 6105 was a sturdy dive watch with a water-resistance of 150 metres. What caught everybody’s eye was the crown positioned at 4 o’clock (which was, in fact, used for the first time in the 1961 Seiko Silver Wave) and the big, lower crown protector. It will be replaced in 1976 by the 6309 series. While quite similar to the 6105, the 6309 has an even more asymmetrical case design and also adds a day function and a dial with circular luminous plots instead of rectangular ones.
The watch is famous for two things. First, most of us will remember its appearance in the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now, worn by one of the movie’s main characters, Captain Willard, portrayed by Martin Sheen. Second, and most importantly, it was tested in real life by explorer Naomi Uemura, a very popular Japanese adventurer, well respected for having achieved solo feats. For instance, he undertook a one-man dog-sledge run from Greenland to Alaska, a journey of 12,000 km that took 18 months. He was the first to reach the North Pole alone. He was also the first to descend the Amazon river in a boat. Why it matters is because he was wearing a 6105 during most of his travels. Not as part of a marketing campaign orchestrated by Seiko; it was just a watch that was robust, reliable and durable enough to accompany Uemura on his adventures. He disappeared on 13 February 1984 while attempting to climb Denali (Alaska) and to this day the disappearance of Uemura remains a mystery.
The Seiko Prospex Naomi Uemura 80th Anniversary Limited Edition SLA049
Technically speaking, the two watches you’re about to see are identical; they share the same case, the same overall design and movement. However, Seiko has decided to launch one of them in a limited edition of 1,200 pieces to honour the legacy of Naomi Uemura. This is the SLA049, launched in 2021 to mark the 80th anniversary of Naomi Uemura’s birth.
Being part of the SLAxxx series, we’re talking about the higher-end models in Seiko’s Prospex line, in the same vein as the original SLA033. As such, you can expect high-grade mechanics and an upgraded execution of the case and dial too. The SLA049 is housed in a 44mm x 13mm case in stainless steel, with the brand’s classic super-hard coating. The shape is unmistakable, with its rounded profile, asymmetrical crown guard and crown positioned at 4 o’clock. The top of the case is circular brushed while the sides are polished by the Zaratsu technique. It is completed by a screw-down crown and caseback and is water-resistant to 200 metres. A unidirectional bezel with a 60-minute scale is, of course, part of the package.
However, this new Naomi Uemura 80th Anniversary Limited Edition SLA049 is not as faithful to the original 6105 as was the SLA033. It is advertised by Seiko as a modern re-interpretation and, as such, takes a few design liberties. While the hands and markers are typical of the 6105, they have been reshaped, the date has been relocated to 4:30 and the hands now have an arrow-shaped tip. Finally, the historical printings have been replaced by a modern Prospex logo and depth rating.
The main specificity of this new watch is its deep blue colour (for the dial and bezel) as well as a new texture, as this patterned dial evokes the mountainous terrains that Uemura explored. The texture is relatively discreet and doesn’t disturb the legibility. The SLA049 is worn on a 5-link stainless steel bracelet with super-hard coating, with a three-fold clasp and diving extension. A blue silicone strap is also included.
Inside its case is the calibre 8L35, a 4Hz automatic movement with a 50-hour power reserve. This movement was designed especially for diver’s watches by the watchmakers at the Shizukuishi Watch Studio in northern Japan.
The Prospex Naomi Uemura 80th Anniversary Limited Edition SLA049 will be available as a limited edition of 1,200 pieces at Seiko Boutiques and selected retailers worldwide in July 2021. Price will be EUR 3,200 (fairly lower than the SLA033).
Quick Facts: 44mm x 13mm stainless steel case with super-hard coating – unidirectional bezel in blue – sapphire crystal – 200m WR – calibre 8L35 – automatic – 26 jewels – 4Hz – 50h power reserve – time and date – steel bracelet and blue silicone strap – limited to 1,200 pieces – EUR 3,200
The Seiko Prospex 1970s Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation SLA051
In addition to the watch commemorating Naomi Uemura, Seiko is also releasing another model, the Prospex 1970s Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation SLA051. We’re actually talking about the same watch – identical 8L35 movement, same case and proportions – but now offered with a black bezel and a charcoal grey dial featuring the same mountain-inspired pattern.
The main difference is that this SLA051 will be offered as part of the permanent collection and won’t be limited in production. It is only offered on a stainless steel bracelet (no silicone strap included). It will be available at Seiko Boutiques and selected retail partners worldwide in July 2021, and priced at EUR 3,000.
Quick Facts: 44mm x 13mm stainless steel case with super-hard coating – unidirectional bezel in black – sapphire crystal – 200m WR – calibre 8L35 – automatic – 26 jewels – 4Hz – 50h power reserve – time and date – steel bracelet – permanent collection – EUR 3,000
More details at seikowatches.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.