While Grand Seiko is busy celebrating its 60th anniversary, Prospex isn’t far behind at its 55th, and like GS, it has had many milestones along the way. Today, the brand releases four new watches, three of which are historical re-recreations from the brand’s illustrious past, and one is a modern re-imagining of a classic. In its five and a half decades of watchmaking, Prospex has established itself as a leader in the area of dive watches. These dive watches have earned the reputation of being tough, no-nonsense tools, with a history of innovation, not just in Japanese dive watch design, but for dive watches in general. Although the models released today come from different ancestors, they all share a unique 55th anniversary feature, namely a beautiful blue dial.
We’ll start with the SLA037, a new version of the very first Prospex ever made, and indeed, the very first Japanese dive watch ever made. That was was the ’65 62MAS, widely considered to be a milestone in dive watch design. Although the 62MAS was re-released in the form of the SLA017 a few years ago, this new model not only has a unique dial but even an upgrade.
That upgrade, oddly enough, takes the form of the case. While it’s very close to the original, the new model’s 39.9mm case uses Seiko’s Ever-Brilliant Steel, which is brighter than normal steel, but more importantly, more corrosion resistant (about 70% more, according to Seiko). That means that this case can take on harsh marine environments with little fear of pitting or degradation.
The movement is also up to the challenge. Inside beats an 8L55, a Hi-Beat (36,000 BPH) movement derived from the famous Grand Seiko 9S85. The SLA037 will be available in June for $6,300.
The next new limited edition from Prospex is the SLA039, a re-release of a model from 1968. That model was the 6159-7001, the first Prospex to feature a Hi-Beat movement, making it truly world-class both inside and out. Like all of the watches today, it has a beautiful blue dial.
Like the SLA037, it uses corrosion-resistant Ever-Brilliant Steel but also uses an ultra-tough one-piece case structure. Size-wise, it’s 44.8mm in diameter.
Again we find the excellent GS-derived 8L55 beating at 36,000 BPH inside. The SLA039 is a limited edition of 1,100 and priced at $6,800. It’s expected in July.
The SLA041 is the last of the three re-releases, and my personal favorite. This model comes from the ’75 Professional Diver’s 600m, AKA the Tuna, a watch created to meet the demands of Japanese divers who needed extreme pressure resistance. The original 6159-7010 was an elegant innovation in dive watch design, utilizing L-shaped gaskets to prevent helium buildup.
Like its 1975 predecessor, it has a titanium one-piece case protected by a shroud. Water resistance has increased to 1,000 meters and the shroud itself is made from ceramic, so it’s extremely scratch resistant. I’m also told that the bezel is made from Ever-Brilliant Steel for high corrosion resistance and hardness, again tying it into this new trinity of limited editions. I expect that the contrast of unusually bright steel against a matte black ceramic shroud should be very impressive.
Unlike the other two models, this uses the 8L35, a 28,800 BPH movement, but also of Grand Seiko origin. It’s the largest of them at 52.4mm, but despite being titanium, also the most affordable at $4,500 and it’ll be available in August.
Last, but not least, we have the SPB149, Prospex’s modernized, updated version of the original 62MAS. It still uses the same attractive blue dial, but it’s the only watch of the anniversary releases that has a bracelet. Unfortunately, despite all that steel, this doesn’t seem to be the new Ever-Brilliant Steel. A bit of a missed opportunity, but I suspect this watch will be far more affordable than the other three, so that might have been a factor in making it more accessible.
Size-wise, it’s fairly moderate at 40.5mm and 13.2mm thick, making it a solid every-day wearable option. It’s powered by the 6R35, a solid movement, but clearly the more affordable choice among the other models with Grand Seiko-derived movements. On the plus side, it actually has a superb power reserve of 70 hours, so at least in that sense, it’s better than the others.
I don’t have a price for the SPB149 yet, but I expect it to be the most affordable of these releases by far. I think that it’ll succeed in bringing some of the 62MAS’ good looks down to a more accessible price point, so for those that abstained from this or the last 62MAS re-release, this may be your time to get one. It’s a limited edition of 5,500 and it will become available in June.