Seiko "The Turtle" Re-Issue
When it comes to the world of vintage divers, Seiko sits at the top with some of the very best. That’s no exaggeration. Few brands can boast a history as storied as Seiko’s when it comes to divers, a history that began in earnest in 1965 when the brand released their first dive watch, the 6127 (62MAS). In the decades that followed, Seiko would build upon this legacy with the 6215 (and subsequently, the hi-beat 6159)—Seiko’s first divers rated to 300m—to be followed by the 6105 (made iconic on Martin Sheen’s wrist in Apocalypse Now), the 6309/6306, and the 007—the current benchmark of affordable divers everywhere. And the above list simply scratches at the surface; Seiko’s historical catalogue of divers goes deep.
In recent years, Seiko’s vintage divers have gained a relatively robust following. Or rather, that following has become more mainstream, since it would be unfair to discount all the Seiko diehards who have loved the brand and its watches long before today’s vintage boom. As a result, the interest in rare references like the 6217, the 6215, and the 6159 means that they can fetch several thousand dollars depending on their condition. Even the 6105, which was produced for 9 years and arguably more common, can easily command a grand if well preserved (a feat since a good number were worn by US soldiers in Vietnam).
As far as Seiko’s collectible divers are concerned, the 6309 has remained accessible for those of us without deep pockets. That said, the 6309 is no consolation prize, but rather a great watch in its own right. Nicknamed the “Turtle” by some collectors (it’s divisive, but c’mon, just look at that case), the 6309 is a 150m cushion-cased diver first released in 1976. Designed to be a recreational dive watch, the 6309 saw continued production for 12 years, and for that reason alone they’re more plentiful on the vintage market. In recent years, however, it’s gotten harder to find them in unmolested condition, with numerous examples popping up containing aftermarket parts. But if you’re willing to commit the time and effort to finding one in OG condition, the 6309 remains a great entry point to the world of Seiko’s vintage divers.
For those of us who find it too daunting (or expensive) to wade through the vintage muck, homage watches have provided an adequate—and often reasonably priced—solution. Companies like Helson, Dagaz, Athaya, and Smiths have all produced watches nearly identical to or inspired by some vintage Seiko models. Better yet, however, is when a brand reissues a watch from their archives. Sure, it’s an homage too, but when the original maker does it just feels a touch more authentic. For 2016, Seiko has done just that; they’re bringing back the legendary 6309 and planting it firmly in the brand’s Prospex line. And from what we’ve seen thus far, it does justice—and then some—to the original.
In some ways this is really unexpected, as Seiko can be hit or miss when they dip into their archives—something that Seiko’s vintage lovers often bemoan on the Web. Case in point: the entire retro-inspired Recraft line that in my opinion fell flat across the board. It’s not unprecedented, however. The beloved SBDX001 is, after all, a nod to the 6159, and last year’s limited SBDX012 is an even more honest recreation of that iconic watch. Seiko even took a crack at the 6217 with the JDM “Sumo” SBDC027 (also limited), though it was a somewhat half-committed attempt in execution.
This 6309 reissue, however, hits every mark. Not only is it a faithful adaptation aesthetically speaking, it also features a bevy of heightened specs worthy of the Prospex designation. And better yet, it’s a general release that is slated for worldwide availability. Seiko’s vintage lovers can rejoice.
Coming in at 44.3mm, the dimensions are left largely intact. The iconic cushion case features a unidirectional bezel, an unsigned screw down crown, an upped water resistance of 200m, and a screw case back featuring the Tsunami logo. The glass is Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex, a choice I am more than okay with as they hold up quite well.
The dial is for the most part true to the original, with many of the classic cues. The indices are largely the same, as are the classic sword hours and minutes hands. Seiko retained the cool hilted sword at 12, and they even kept the classsy bevel on the date window!
There are some noticeable differences, though they are for the most part improvements. The strangest would have to be the seconds hand, which is just lifted from the 007/009. The reissue has the lollipop as the counter weight, whereas the original had the lollipop close to the front tip. The original also had a single line of text on the bottom half of the dial: “WATER150mRESIST” accented in red. The reissue, however, has the Prospex logo, followed by “AUTOMATIC” (which appeared on the original, but under the Seiko logotype), and the depth rating using Seiko’s modern format. Despite the added verbosity, the dial does not look cluttered in the slightest and the whole thing looks perfectly balanced. The indices appear to be applied and for all the lume fanatics there appears to be a healthy heaping of Seiko’s LumiBrite paint on the indices and hands; both of these details giving the dial some added texture and dimensionality, which is far more interesting than a simple flat printed dial.
Beating away inside is Seiko Caliber 4R36 workhorse movement, featuring a power reserve of 41 hours, manual winding and hacking, and a day/date function that remains faithful to the original. It’s a movement used in some of the other Prospex watches, but I feel it’s a slight step down from the well-established 6R15 caliber available across their SUMO series and SARB/SARG lines.
Seiko succeeded in bringing back and modernizing the 6309. As someone who really loves vintage Seikos, it’ll be great to get one that I don’t have to worry about ruining. The 6309 is a great watch, but they’re getting up there and years and parts are getting harder to find. Plus, the 6309 was designed so that that crown tube cannot be replaced, so there’s not much that can be done if you’ve mangled the threads.
The new 6309 will be available in four references: SRP773 (blue bezel and dial on bracelet), SRP775 (black bezel and dial with gold accents on bracelet), SRP777 (black bezel and dial on rubber), and the SRP779 (pepsi bezel and black dial on rubber). The original catalogue scans show some future potential models as well, one with a batman bezel and one with orange accents, though if these were just samples and not future production models is unclear at this time. There hasn’t been word on official pricing in the States, but European pricing is €419 on rubber, and €459 on bracelet. So expect something around $454 and $497, respectively. As is common across Seiko’s lower and mid-tier dive range, the street price will likely be lower, so there is some real value to be had here.