Tag

Seiko

Browsing

You may have heard of CrafterBlue before but probably not for making watches. Based in Hong Kong, Crafter Blue have made a name for themselves making curved end Block-integrated straps for Seiko dive watches including the SKX, Marinemaster, Sumo, Turtle, Samurai and Shogun. Their range has since expanded to include straps for the Tudor BlackBay and Pelagos.

So what happens when a strap company starts to make watches? We reached out to Crafter Blue’s founder – Steve Chan who kindly sent us their Mechanic Ocean to spend some time with and put it through its paces.

Design

To start with, the Mechanic Ocean is clear in purpose. It is a dive watch through and through. At 45mm across and over 16mm in height there is no getting away from the fact that this is a large watch. It is not going to ‘slip under a cuff’ or be worn subtly with a suit. Nor should it. It was designed to be highly robust and reliable when faced with the rigours of the ocean, and the design language clearly speaks to this. For example the crown has been placed on the left hand side of the watch. Not to allow this to be worn on the right wrist, but to ensure the crown doesn’t dig into the back of your hand when swimming. In addition it is far less likely you will strike the crown on an object when its pointing up your arm.

The Crown on the left ensures you’ll be hard pressed to hit it on anything

On the right hand side of the watch is an automatic helium release valve that sits flush with the case. If you want to know more on our thoughts of helium release valves take a read of our article here.

The textured dial features applied markers and offers an unexpected level of detail. The hands are easy to read and are filled with a generous quantity of lume!

Movement

Powering the Mechanic Ocean the Calibre 3531 which is a modified Seiko NH35 adorned with a decorated red gold rotor with Geneva waves. Unfortunately this detail is completely lost on owners as the Mechanic Ocean is fitted with a solid caseback which is what you might expect from a ruggedized dive watch. But the bigger question is why adorn the movement with a level of Swiss finishing for a watch with no Swiss connection – nor the ability to appreciate it? However, the NH35 is a solid movement which is easy to service, highly durable and overall a great choice for a watch in this price bracket.

The modified NH35A movement with a rosegold rotor is decorated with Geneva waves

Strap

As you might expect, the mechanic Ocean is fitted with a CrafterBlue rubber strap that the company is renown for. In this particular instance it is a block-integrated bi-colour vulcanised rubber strap which is made in line with CrafterBlues’ signature design aesthetic – namely a flat tang buckle with twice as many holes as you might expect. This allows for a much finer adjustment on your wrist ensuring a good fit and comfort all year round. in addition the strap is a good length allowing it to be worn over a wet suit. It also allows the watch to be worn without having to have links removed from a bracelet.

However it’s not all plain sailing. Look a little closer and you’ll see that the crown guard doesn’t actually guard the crown – it protects the stem leaving the crown exposed. For a watch of substantial proportions, the dial itself is smaller than you might expect. For comparison the dial on the 40mm Oris divers 65 is actually 5mm larger than the mechanic ocean, even though the Oris case size is 5mm smaller.

Throughout my time with the Mechanic Ocean, I had a troubling thought in my mind. While the Mechanic Ocean is a very capable and robust watch, its a newcomer to an already saturated market which therefore poses the question: “Why would I choose this watch over a comparable watch from Seiko who are probably the undeniable champions in this sector with a proven history of dive watches for over 50 years”

This becomes an even more prominent question when you consider the Mechanic Ocean is in fact more expensive than an ISO 6425 certified divers from Seiko such as the Turtle or Samurai which use the very same movement – but in the Seiko it’s an in-house movement.

If you re looking for a dive watch for under £1000 then quite frankly your options and choices are far and wide with countless microbrands offering a seemingly unlimited choice, and often very little to differentiate one watch from another as design queues often point to the same inspirations.

This watch however does not follow the herd and is clearly not another watch trying be be something it’s not which is a refreshing change. It is has been designed for a singular purpose and in that regard it does exactly what it says on the tin – its a capable, solid, reliable divers watch with no pretence.

So if what you’re looking for is not something that follows the trend of historical divers and boldly embodies its own more contemporary design language, then the Mechanic Ocean might just be for you.

The CrafterBlue Mechanic Ocean is available from:
www.crafterbluewatches.com
Price: $425

On the 7th August Seiko stunned the watch community by the surprise launch of of 27 Watches marking the revival of the Seiko 5 line of watches now re-vamped to become the Seiko 5 Sports collection. While this was a surprise (rarely has a manufacturer launched so many watches at once) the SKX has been a problem brewing for some time for the brand. Allow me to explain why Seiko had little choice…

So what are the new watches?
Well, Seiko has taken to revamp the Seiko 5 series by taking one of the most cult watches in history and updating it for today. Based on the Seiko SKX visual aesthetic (which itself is based on a number of heritage models) Seiko has introduced 5 ‘Themes’ – Sports, Suits, Specialist, Street & Sense within which they have ostensibly created 27 different visual variants of the beloved SKX. These include models with Steel, Mesh, NATO and Rubber straps, with regular or blacked out and rose gold cases, textured dials and even an orange dial (a re-invigorated SKX011 – their least popular SKX model). These new watches include a much wanted upgrade to the trusty 7S26 movement in the guise of the 4R36 movement. This benefits from the addition of hand winding and hacking and is the base movement for the Prospex Range. But these watches are not referred to as ‘Prospex’ but as Seiko 5 Sports so why not? Well the most significant and notable change is the removal of the screw down crown and that the new range is not ISO certified unlike the SKX that they replace.

So why did Seiko chose to do this?
Well to understand this, you need to take a look at where the Seiko SKX sat in the range. You see the SKX represented a marketing nightmare for Seiko. As a watch, it is the perfext embodiment of a no frills diver. It is an ISO6425 certified dive watch (which means each and every watch has been tested to 125% of the depth stated on the dial as well as a whole variety of other stringent tests) which in theory places it in the same camp as the Seiko Samurai and the Turtle whose RRP is ostensibly the same as the SKX (although the SKX can invariably be purchased for less) But the SKX doesn’t carry the Prospex logo on the dial and doesn’t have hand winding or hacking so cannot be accurately set to a reference time. This is because it contains the extremely robust and clever 7S26 which has served Seiko well for decades, however the public are demanding more.

This leaves two courses of action for Seiko. Improve the movement and upgrade the SKX to Prospex status in Seikos’ lineup – which would delight SKX owners but then create too much competition and not enough diversity in the bottom end of the Pro series range, or demote the capabilities of the SKX by removing the screw in crown and ISO6425 rating of the watch and create a whole series of watches with enough models to appeal to those wanting to get their first mechanical sports watch – which quite frankly is where the SKX sat anyhow.

Given the choices Seiko had in front of them I completely understand why they chose the course of action they did and I hope that we see a whole new generation of watch enthusiasts embrace and adopt the new Seiko 5 Sports range, however I know that there will be many mourning the demise of their beloved SKX for a technically inferior model. The New Seiko 5 Sports range should provide a robust entry level sports range to attract customers looking to buy their first ‘propper’ watch and provide great selection to choose from.

One small concern…
The new models have a push/pull crown and a 100m waterproof rating. While this should be more than adequate for those wanting to swim with their watch rather than dive professionally, we have unfortunately had some bad experiences with Seiko models that don’t have a screw down crown – specifically the SNZH55 which is a Seiko 5 dive watch with a push/pull crown rated to 100m. This let water in while swimming in a swimming pool (so at most 2 metres deep). We hope that Seiko has done a better job with the new Seiko 5 Sports range as early negative experiences could inhibit a potentially great watch that will inspire the next generation of watch lovers.

This might also be the time to go and buy a Seiko SKX while you still can as we can see demand for this is already on the rise. The new Seiko 5 Sports range goes on sale in September with an indicative pricing of £250-£350.

Items in this article:
New Seiko 5 Sports range
Related:
The Problem with an SKX

They say that there are in fact only two kinds of watch enthusiasts, those who have discovered the Seiko SKX, and those who are yet to discover the SKX!

The Seiko SKX is one of the worlds most ubiquitous watches. Universally loved by so many around the world, it manages to achieve the seemingly impossible. Let me explain the problem…

As a divers watch it is inherently robust, yet the case of the SKX has curved sides ensuring the watch is extremely comfortable when you flex your wrist. The lug to lug dimensions are modest at 46mm meaning it can be comfortably worn by wrists of all sizes (for comparison the 38mm NOMOS Club campus has a considerably larger lug to lug distance of 48.5mm). The crown is offset to the 4oclock position ensuring it doesn’t dig into the back of your hand. The dial is extremely legible and includes both a day and date, and it has an in-house movement that is so robust, people typically count the time between services in decades! What’s more this isn’t just water resistant to 200m – its an ISO6425 rated dive watch which means every single SKX has been tested to 125% of this depth(250m). The icing on the cake is that this amazing watch does not cost the earth but is available for the quite frankly unbelievable price in the UK of around £200.

The Seiko SKX is by no means perfect though. The action of the bezel leaves a lot to be desired, there are comments from numerous owners complaining that their chapter ring is misaligned, and you would be forgiven for thinking the jubilee bracelet available was a free gift in a box of cereal! Seiko uses their proprietary Hardlex crystal which is not as scratch resistant as sapphire glass, and the movement cannot be hand wound or stopped to synchronise it to a reference time.

However despite these shortcomings, every SKX owner will tell you they love their SKX – probably disproportionately – which is where the problems start…

If you were to look through watch collections you might be able to spot a theme. A series of beautiful, strategic and valuable watches from one or more manufacturers brought together to form the collectors choices and lurking at the back somewhere you will find the obligatory SKX. The most common ‘excuse’ that a collector will publicly admit to, is that they bought it as an everyday ‘beater’. In other words they bought it with the intention that they didn’t mind what happened to this cheap watch and that any damage it sustained while doing the gardening or other activity was damage not received by the rest of the collection. However if you look closely you will discover the SKX rarely has any damage. Why? because after buying this cheap watch he’s discovered how incredibly wearable it is. For some reason it looks great on almost any strap! Leather, NATO, canvas, crocodile, sailcloth, cordura – everything seems to go with an SKX.

Its at this point that things take a further turn for the worse. “If the watch is so wearable, how about fixing one or two of the shortcomings?” Well as you might imagine there is a whole host of companies producing parts specifically for the SKX including crystals, movements, bezels, dials, hands and many other alternative components should you wish to truly customise your watch. A common disposition is to replace the movement upgrading it to the NH35 and replace the Hardlex crystal with a sapphire crystal.

By this point in time some owners have spent as much getting the watch modified with the cost of a watchmakers time and parts as it cost them to buy in the first place and are left wondering why they had to do all this themselves and Seiko didn’t produce a more ‘premium’ Seiko SKX

This year at Baselworld, Seiko launched the SPB079 – while in derivative terms, its not a direct lineage of the SKX, it is in form. It’s powered by the 6R15 movement (Seiko’s in-house name for the NE15 which is an upgraded NH35 with a better main spring and a longer 50 hour power reserve) with hacking and hand winding, a sapphire crystal with AR coating, a quality rotating bezel, applied markers on the dial, a traditional crown at 4o’clock and like the SKX is an ISO6425 rated divers watch. The case design is sympathetic to the SKX’s iconic shape but with every contributory element improved, these all add up to a whole lot more. Once you hold the SPB079 the quality improvements are immediately apparent and the watch feels altogether a much more premium watch. The SPB079 retails at £799 and while that is considerably more that the SKX, it is far cheaper than the build quality suggests!

While it may be a little cheaper (but not much) to buy an SKX and upgrade the dial, hands, crystal, movement, bezel insert, bezel and strap, once you have added the watchmakers time you will be pretty close to the price of the SPB079.

The problem with the SKX is that it is such an amazing watch and so versatile that it connects with people causing them to fall in love with it for so many reasons. So here’s my advice: Buy one and love it. Don’t upgrade it – appreciate it for what it is. If you want a more premium watch buy a different watch. and if you want a beater watch – buy a G-Shock!

For the first time ever, Seiko have released two limited edition watches specifically for the European market. These are the Seiko Prospex “Dawn Grey” Turtle SRPD01K1 and Seiko Prospex “Dawn Grey” Samurai SRPD03K1. Each watch is Limited to just 2018 pieces each and available exclusively in Europe. The Dawn Grey theme pairs a silver/grey dial, bezel and chapter ring with a highlight burst of orange marking the initial dive time on the bezel, orange tip seconds hand, and subtle orange markers at the 3,6,9,12 on the chapter ring. I visited the only UK Seiko boutique to take a look.

The Dawn Grey Turtle (SRPD01K1) is priced at £470 and comes with both a steel bracelet with divers extension as well as a Grey colour matched silicone strap in a Limited Edition box. The dial is a beautiful metallic silver/grey dial with the dive time marking running round to the 20 minute marker aligning with the position of the crown. This was my first experience of a Seiko Turtle and I must say I was very impressed with the build quality and attention to detail. It certainly is a massive step up from the build quality of an SKX (a great watch in its own right but not in the same league) and many “accessible” high street Seiko’s. The 4R35 movement was beautifully smooth to wind and adjust, and the bezel action was superbly smooth with no play whatsoever.

The Dawn Grey Samurai (SRPD03K1) is priced lower at £410 however this only comes on the steel bracelet with divers extension and does not include the additional silicone rubber strap. The Samurai’s execution of the colours, fit and finish is essentially the same. In keeping with the design intention of the turtle, the orange marker on the bezel for the dive time runs to the 15 minute marker where the crown is located. This design element may seem trivial, however on execution demonstrates a level of intentionality with each watch and ensures a balanced aesthetic that is not immediately obvious. 

Interestingly, the Dawn Grey Samurai is selling faster than the Turtle here in the UK with the last one of their initial stock sold as I was in the boutique on Monday afternoon. Rest assured, more are available and the London Seiko boutique will be receiving more next week as they we sent an initial stock only.

However if you want one I would advise you to act quickly as these are already showing up on Ebay with listings as high as £750!

More information and details available here: www.seikoboutique.co.uk

Have you bought a Dawn Grey Limited Edition or are you hoping to purchase on? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

%d bloggers like this: