Already released as the Japanese Domestic Market (ah, that legendary ‘JDM’ abbreviation that’s been rice-rocket freaks’ and watch aficionados’ darling for so many decades!) models, the new Seiko Prospex Diver Scuba Giugiaro Design Limited Edition (available as refs. SBEE001 & SBEE002) is an almost perfect re-issue of the wristwatch from the 1980s that had a great potential, but for some reason failed to become an icon of industrial design. Well, I can only welcome the Japanese brand’s decision to give the collection a second chance, even as only a limited edition model.
It‘s a not particularly rare instance when yours truly is not really sure why the Japanese watchmaker decided to reintroduce the watch. Was it in order to celebrate its partnership with the legendary Italian design atelier? Or, perhaps, the watchmaker simply wanted to jump on the hype train of the recently released Alien: Covenant blockbuster (although the movie bombed in the box office and its current rating on IMDb is below 7, I am still sure that true fans loved it deep in their hearts, I surely did,) by releasing a similarly shaped “off-centered” wristwatch? Nevertheless, I can only welcome the idea: the world really needs a wristwatch that doesn’t look like millions of others, has an idea behind the design, and doesn’t cost like a Porsche 911 plus a year’s supply of gas.
While the watch wasn’t linked directly to the PR campaign, the idea behind the case’s strange shape seems to have been inspired by the deliberately asymmetrical Seiko Speedmaster ‘Bishop’ limited edition watch (and a similarly styled Ripley Watch: a unicorn for every true fan of the franchise) that was worn by Lance Henriksen’s character in the ‘Aliens’ movie (and it’s only just since the gadget, too, was designed by the same Giugiaro studio at approximately the same time although, frankly, I am not sure which model made it first to the drawing board and/or the market.) The Diver Scuba actually takes the idea to an extreme by moving the case to the left of the imaginary line that goes through the black rubber strap.
As you can see, the design not only looks more original compared to thousands of inexpensive divers available out there, but also seems to be more ergonomic, at least for those of us righties who are used to wearing their watches extremely low on their wrists: the long setting crown will no longer bite you into the back of your palm. Not only because the lugs have been moved so far to the right, but also because the setting crown is now on the other side of the case.
Lefties, on the other hand, will find themselves in the world of pain, but that’s good: being statistically more talented in most areas, it was only time before a right-handed person would create a watch that would make them suffer for their sins.
Case & Bezel
Predictably, these are the most interesting things about the watch. Well, maybe not bezel since it is a generic part with the usual “diving time” scale and huge, deliberately crude notching. The latter not only provides fairly good grip for those operating the diver in thick neoprene gloves, but also gives the device an even more “rugged” appearance playing nicely with the huge dots on the black rubber patches on both sides of the case.
The markers and bold, boxy Arabic numerals on the bezel are not luminous, but the single glowing dot at “00” (apparently, it is the same LumiBrite compound that is applied to the hands and hour markers on the dial) will work just fine minimizing the visual noise and giving you a good idea of how much time you have left before going back to surface (or before taking your boiling eggs off the kitchen stove, which is a more common use case scenario for most of these crude timers.)
Being a sort of “re-issue” (there are a few very subtle differences between these new watches and the originals, but they seem to be limited to the dials (see below),) the watches seem to be identical when it comes to cases having the same mildly oversized diameter of 43.80 millimeters (boy, they were considered HUGE three decades ago!) and a lug to lug width of full 48 mm thanks to their very short lugs. Yes, guys from Giugiaro Design clearly knew a thing or two about ergonomics: despite being larger than an average “diver,” this limited edition Scuba will take less space on your wrist than a great deal of modern dress watches!
When it comes to vertical space, it is not as impressive (at least, for a quartz-powered timekeeper that is rated for just 20 ATM of water resistance,) but I would wager that you would still be pleased with how comfortable it is on a wrist: just 11.20 millimeters from top to bottom (with, perhaps, two fifth of this occupied by the aforementioned extra-thick bezel and a sapphire crystal that, too, appears to be slightly thicker than usual,) it will fit nicely under most shirt (or jacket) cuffs I can imagine.
I have already mentioned that I am not really pleased about the way the setting crown is positioned (it will make correcting the timekeeper’s reading a real pain in the butt for most persons,) yet, being a “re-issue,” there was nothing that Seiko could have done about it. On the other hand, a quartz-powered watch (especially the one powered by such a great caliber that even now has very good specs for the price) doesn’t need to be re-adjusted as often as one powered by a mechanical movement. So it doesn’t seem to be real problem here if you weigh-in the extra comfort of a wristwatch that would never bite you in the palm of your hand with its long crown: something that yours truly experiences quite often while wearing “standard” timepieces with their crown placed at 3 o’clock.
Dial & Legibility
I like blue and white color scheme better, yet in this particular case the “gold-plated” one with its gold-toned dial seems to be more interesting and, surprisingly, more contrast. Kudos, of course, go to the way the bold hour markers, as well as all three hands (this seems to be the only thing that is visually different between this “re-issue” and the version from the 1980s) are now blacked-out and filled with white LumiBrite luminous compound.
While the same elements on the ‘blue’ version predictably look too fat and sort of bloated without a nice black frame around them, on the ‘yellow’ model they look highly contrast and surprisingly slim. They also seem to better work with the black ring on the unidirectional rotating bezel with its gold markers and numerals.
Unlike their many recent divers and military-styled timekeepers, this one seems to have a lot more balanced appearance: there are no deliberately exaggerated elements aside the bezel, and no gimmicks whose main purpose is solely devoted to hi-jacking your attention while scrolling through thousands of “affordable” divers on Amazon, eBay or, perhaps, your local online retailer.
I also can’t praise the brand enough for their decision to remove the “Professional” inscription from the dial since this is clearly not a professional diving tool and I think that it never was: even by the standards of the 1980s the inscription was misleading.
The only part that I don’t really care for is the way the Date and Day of Week rings are slightly misaligned, but, well, this is a fairly affordable watch: I have seen timekeepers ten times more expensive with the same problem.
As the engraving on the solid back tells us explicitly, only the quartz-powered mechanism is of pure Japanese origin: the watch itself is assembled in China. Still, as far as I know, Seiko has set up a very thorough quality control process on their Chinese plant, so there is a good chance that the timekeeper’s land of origin won’t spoil the satisfaction of owning this beautiful “homage” in the slightest.
Speaking of the case back cover, I admit that I admire the finish: while the part in your average ‘affordable’ time measuring device rarely sports anything more impressive than some technical information that is legally required, this one also has a nicely done ‘wave’ pattern that seems to be not just stamped on the metal cover, but also polished and -if eyes don’t lie- finely machine-brushed or sand-blasted for an even more ‘premium’ look.
The only thing that stings my eye a little is the Guigiaro Design logo below the medallion: the way it touches the ‘wave’ seems a bit untidy. Also, given how bright both versions of the watch are, I would probably prefer to see the three dashes below the GD letters filled with colors of the Italian flag as it is done on the brand’s original logo: it probably wouldn’t raise the cost in any noticeable way, but would at the same time make the watch look even more expensive.
According to the Japanese watchmaker, the movement that powers this timekeeper is the good old Seiko caliber 7N36: a great quartz engine that is known for its reliability and long lifespan. Although clearly not the most accurate mechanisms out there (the official specification allows for monthly deviation of plus/minus fifteen seconds,) it is nevertheless a more than adequate choice for this gadget: back in the 1980s, it powered a whole plethora of inexpensive divers, most of which are still in perfect working order (although, as you can see on numerous eBay listings, in need of some serious work in the cosmetics department.)
Besides the usual hours, minutes and central seconds, the mechanism is also equipped with two calendar wheels: one for date and the other, which is closer to the center, for the current day of week. Although, as my experience with other watches powered by the same 7N36 caliber tells me, the wheels are not always perfectly aligned (they almost always seem to be just a hair off their common axis,) the whole setup still looks quite convincing leaving an impression of a high-quality product.
Being a piece of old technology, the mechanism predictably doesn’t feature solar charging technology or other means of saving power, but it uses a fairly large battery that will be good for approximately four years: not particularly impressive, but, well, at least you will have a chance to regularly test the gadget’s water resistance and also earn a respectful nod from a service person: they probably rarely see this sort stuff in their normal life.
Pricing & Availability
As it was the case with previous iterations of “Giugiaro Design” watches issued during the last decade, the watch is not really that expensive even for your average quartz-powered diver. Released as a Japanese Domestic Market (aka JDM) model, the ref. SBEE001 will retail for just ¥40,000, while the ref. SBEE002 is expected to set you back at slightly higher ¥45,000 (at current exchange rate, this roughly translates to €325/$365 and €365/$410 respectively, taxes are not included.)
However, you should keep in mind that, as soon as the first (and last since both timepieces will be limited to just 2000 numbered pieces) batch of divers will be sold out their re-sale price will immediately go through the roof. So, if you are really interested in getting one of these unusual beauties, you should probably start looking for a way of buying the watch right now or else, although you’d still have to pay some extra premium given the JDM factor and all.
Photos: Seiko (Source) / WorldWatchReview.com (collages)
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 4.5/5
Overall Legibility: 5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4.5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Seiko Prospex Diver Scuba Giugiaro Design Limited Edition (refs. SBEE001 & SBEE002) watch specification
Price: ¥40,000 (MSRP, ref. SBEE001) / ¥45,000 (MSRP, ref. SBEE002)
Movement: Seiko caliber 7N36, 23.3mm x 2.5mm, Made in Japan
Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month
Number of jewels: 1
Power reserve: Approx. 48 months (depending on use and temperature variations)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, day of week
Case material: Stainless steel / “Gold” PVD-coated steel
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round, off-centered
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 43.80 mm (48.00 mm lug-to-lug)
Case height: 11.20 mm
Lug width: No data
Dial: Blue / Yellow
Numerals: Arabic (diving scale on the bezel)
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 200 meters
Strap: Black silicon strap with stainless steel buckle
Case back: Solid, engraved, screw-down