Seiko has released a reimagining of its first dive watch, on its 55th Anniversary. How does the Seiko SPB149J1 compare to the Swiss brands at its price point?
Seiko SPB149J1 1965 Diver Review
Seiko is one of the best-regarded diver’s watch brands in the world of affordable watches. As well as its iconic SKX007/009 series and the venerable Orange Monster, Seiko produces a higher-end range of dive watches called “Prospex”. It is into this range that the Seiko SPB149J1 has been launched as a reimagining of the first-ever dive watch the Japanese brand launched, back in 1965. You can read the full story on Seiko’s website. Limited to 5,500 units, it will set you back about £1,000. I was lent this watch by a friend for the review so thank you, Mikael, for the opportunity to try it out!
The Seiko SPB149J1 comes in a familiar package: Seiko tends to use similar two-part boxes across its range. However, this one has a little extra internal padding and is a bit bigger to accommodate the additional rubber strap that it supplies with the watch. It’s functional and well-suited to a watch that is designed to be worn and used, not kept on display.
The case design of the Seiko SPB149J1brings to mind some of the more recent vintage-inspired designs from Oris and Christopher Ward. At 40.5mm in diameter, the Seiko is actually rather conservatively sized – but everything is well proportioned, and the fit and finish is superb. The side of the case is designed to make it look even slimmer than its already thin 13.5mm. On the top is a curved sapphire (not Hardlex) crystal. The watch has a really low centre of gravity and feels great on the wrist whether on bracelet or rubber: Seiko dive watches are always extremely functional, and this one is no different.
Inside is a Seiko 6R35 movement with an astonishing 70 hours power reserve, albeit a less than stellar accuracy of +25 to -15 seconds per day. That compares well with the Sellita SW200 of the Christopher Ward C65. The crown screws down and is well finished but unsigned. I’d expected to see the Prospex “X” logo there. The case back is deeply embossed with laser-engraved text showing the serial number and other information. The 120 click bezel has a great action, and I particularly like the recessed dot at the 12 marker – it can’t get caught on clothes or get knocked off like the Rolex-style “pip” but still adds some depth that is lacking in some competitors.
Dial and Hands
A tool watch needs a legible dial, and the Seiko SPB149J1 does not disappoint. The markers are applied and have crisp metal surrounds. What most impressed me on closer inspection is the quality of the application of the lume within. Seiko lume is the best in the business, and it has been applied here perfectly, in a totally uniform mound every time. The dial does not have the depth of some Seiko models, but what is there is crisp, straight and finished to perfection. Few brands achieve the finish of Seiko at the same price points.
The hands are pleasantly simple and easy to read. Too many dive watches are ruined by fussy hands, so I’m glad Seiko went with something functional here. It’s a really attractive watch to use as a daily wearer and could easily be the only watch in a collection – it is that versatile.
Strap and Bracelet
You get both a bracelet and a strap with the Seiko SPB149J1. The rubber strap is soft and supple, very comfortable and finished to the same high quality as the rest of the watch, including a neat metal retainer.
The bracelet is also superb: solid links, solid end-links and a thick, milled clasp (the clasp being a weak point in many Seiko dive watches). The bracelet feels as smooth as silk, and the finishing is, again, excellent. The clasp is solid but would have benefitted from a glide-lock system for adjustment – something that is becoming increasingly common in dive watches at this price point.
Seiko SPB149J1 – Video Review
What I Liked
- The fit and finish is superb
- I like the conservative look of the watch as a daily wearer
- The watch is beautifully balanced: it is a pleasure to wear and use
What I Didn’t Like
- I was surprised not to find a signed crown at this price point
- A glide-lock for bracelet adjustment would have made the watch even better
- There are a lot of similarly-priced competitors that offer as much or more for the money
Seiko SPB149J1 – The WRUK Verdict
I am ambivalent about the Seiko Seiko SPB149J1. It is a beautifully-designed, perfectly balanced tool watch that is objectively excellent. However, for the asking price, it is going up against some stiff Swiss competition: the Oris Divers 65 and Christopher Ward C65 being the two obvious comparisons at just above and just below this watch’s asking price.
Personally, I prefer the thinner bezel of the Christopher Ward watch, which is similarly well-made and has a brilliant sliding clasp extension. At the end of the day, I can’t fault the Seiko SPB149J1 – I just can’t see it fitting into my collection.
Buy a Seiko SPB149J1
This is a limited edition Seiko, and so it is getting harder to come by. You can try your usual Seiko dealer (for example, WatchNation in the UK), or search for a Seiko SPB149J1 on eBay if you can’t find it in stock.