Continuing its trend of successful new models for its 55th anniversary, Prospex released two new limited edition watches this week, the SLA043 and the SPB183. Perhaps most exciting of these two is the SLA043 because, if you missed the boat on the very similar SLA039, not only do you get another shot at a blue-dial 62MAS-inspired piece, but at a much more affordable price as well.
The new SLA043 limited edition looks terrific with its ultra-utilitarian case design and gorgeous dark blue dial, although comparisons with the slightly older SLA037 are inevitable. Despite their looks, there actually are a number of important differences between them. Perhaps the most obvious visual cue that the watch is different is the light blue seconds hand, which gives the watch just a dash of levity compared to the steel hand on the SLA037. The blue used is also a little darker, which Seiko calls “marine blue,” and has less of a greenish tone.
While both cases remain the same diameter (39.9mm), the new SLA043 is actually a bit thinner, at 14.1mm versus 14.7mm. Both are still pretty thick, but dropping more than half a millimeter is enough to be appreciable. Each use the same steel, however, Seiko’s Ever-Brilliant Steel, a highly corrosion resistant material that is also a bit brighter than ordinary steel alloys.
But the biggest differences can be found in the movement and price. Instead of the 8L55 Hi-Beat from the SLA037, which was basically an entry-level version of the Grand Seiko 9S85, this watch uses the 8L35, which beats at an ordinary 28,800 BPH. Worry not, however, as the 8L35 is also a Grand Seiko-derived movement, this time based on the older 9S55. In exchange for that, you also get a substantially lower price, $4,500 versus $6,300.
The next model is, of course, the new “Willard” SPB183, famously worn in the Coppola classic “Apocalypse Now.” I’ve always had a soft spot for this model and its funky case, and I think this SPB183 is my favorite of the modern interpretations of it. I really like the shade of blue used here, both for the dial and matching bezel insert, and the gold seconds hand and 6:00 writing punches up the contrast a bit. It’s a little less vintage and a little more playful.
Naturally, the case gets all the attention here, and despite the flamboyant shape, the size is actually pretty reasonable at 42.7mm and 13.2mm thick. Material wise, you miss out on the Ever-Brilliant Steel, but this steel does get Seiko’s Super Hard Coating, so it should be pretty scratch resistant.
The movement, the Seiko 6R35, does not deviate from its modern predecessors, but does keep the price relatively reasonable at $1,400, just $100 more than the “plain” SPB151 (the black dial). It’s a reliable workhorse of a movement, but it lacks that touch of Grand Seiko exoticism possessed by its more expensive counterpart. No, the selling point of the SPB183 is all about the looks, but it does look great, and being about 1/3rd the price doesn’t hurt either.
As per which I’d have, despite being movement obsessed, I’d actually probably save the money and go with the SPB183. I just love the weird case and the whole design feels more fun to me. Objectively, it’s the lesser watch, from both a material and movement standpoint, but I can’t ignore its good looks and far more approachable price. Speaking of which, I would spend the extra $100 to get this limited edition simply because I prefer the blue dial/bezel.
Still, if you felt the SLA037 was just a bit out of reach, or you simply missed it before it was gone, the SLA043 looks just as good, still offers a GS-derived movement, and is far more accessible, so get it before it’s gone. That SLA043 is limited to 1,700 pieces compared to 5,500 for the SPB183, and given the broad popularity of both of these designs, you might want to get them sooner than later.
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