Although not as technologically advanced as the stunning Astron GPS Stratosphere, the 2014 Seiko Prospex Solar Quartz Chronograph (Ref. SSC279) is also about five times less expensive.
Offered at an MSRP of just $450 (and you can find one on eBay at less than USD $350), it looks cool for a daily beater, and its built-in solar charger makes the gadget a must-have for a person that spends more time outdoors than inside an air-conditioned office. Just don’t forget to swap the brown leather strap for something more practical, like a solid steel bracelet or a hypoallergenic silicon band.
As usual for Seiko‘s aviator-style timekeepers, the watch features a somewhat cluttered layout that -at least, at a first glance- never fails to overwhelm your senses with too much information. The main problem here, perhaps, is the Breitling-inspired slide rule bezel that just draws too much attention to itself. The extra small typeface on each of the two scales certainly doesn’t help to make your life easier.
The choice of layout could have been justified about twenty years ago when smartphones with their advanced and lightning-fast unit converters were a thing of too distant a future. However, now, when you have all the information you need literally at your fingertips, and logarithmic bezels on wristwatches serve nothing, but purely a decorative purpose, this contraption looks more like yet another example of poor industrial design.
Still, giving the Japanese watchmaker its due, I must admit that, if you ever decide to use the slide rule, you will be surprised at how easy it is manipulated thanks to a notched bezel that not only looks great but also gives you a good grip even with gloved hands.
When your eyes finally get used to the overwhelming maze of numerals and inscriptions, you will find that the dial, which is equipped with a tiny photovoltaic module and matches in color the brown leather strap, is quite contrasting and the seven stylized Arabic numerals and the pair of hour and minute hands feature just enough greenish LumiBrite substance on them for the watch to be legible in darkness.
According to the official specification, the watch sports Seiko’s own Caliber V175 quartz movement. Featuring all the usual functionality of a quartz chronograph, the caliber is not as precise as an ETA Thermoline thermo-compensated movement (it is supposed to lose or gain no more than 15 seconds per month), but will probably do for most applications.
While its battery, once fully charged, is good for whole six months, it is still nice to know that the mechanism features a battery end-of-life indicator: the second hand will jump in 2-seconds increments when the power source is almost completely drained.
Still, despite these minor annoyances, I must admit that the gadget as a whole leaves a good first impression of a solid, tough-built timekeeper. Its massive 44 mm body with 23 mm lugs is well sculpted and, believe it or not, looks a lot more expensive than a similarly priced Swiss watch.
See also: Seiko Prospex Solar Diver SBDJ007
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Seiko Prospex Solar Quartz Chronograph (Ref. SSC279) specification
Price: $450 (MSRP)
Movement: Quartz, Caliber V175, solar-powered, Made in Japan
Power reserve: 6 months once fully charged
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 44.00 mm
Lug width: 23.00 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown leather strap with steel pin buckle