Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

The Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 has an impressive water resistance of 300 metres, making it suitable for saturation diving. Angus Davies reviews this stunning diver’s watch, endowed with a glorious green dial.

This detailed review of the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

As I grow older, I have a tendency to repeat myself. Regular readers of ESCAPEMENT will already know that my favourite horological genres are chronographs and divers’ watches. I think one reason I am drawn to chronographs is they allow me to interact with the movement. Repeatedly pressing the push-pieces evokes a grin on my face. Likewise, I have never yet picked up a diver’s watch without manipulating the unidirectional bezel. It is the tactile experience these watches provide which engenders a sense of pleasure.

However, my attraction to divers’ watches goes beyond the capacity to fiddle with their bezels. I am drawn to the practicality and robustness these timepieces proffer. They do not require the wearing of kid gloves. A spell in the shower or a dip in the swimming pool will not lead to water ingress. Divers’ watches are designed to be highly legible underwater, where light conditions can be very poor. This impressive readability is equally valid on dry land.

There is one company which is synonymous with divers’ watches, Seiko. In 1965, Seiko unveiled its first diver’s watch with a maximum water resistance of 150 metres. Three years later, the Japanese company released a diver’s watch featuring a high beat movement and an impressive water resistance of 300 metres. Later, in 1975, Seiko launched its first ‘Professional’ diver’s watch with a prodigious water resistance of 600 metres. As further years ensued, the company’s capacity to innovate never waned.

Mr Ikuo Tokunaga joined Seiko in 1970 as a watch specialist tasked with ‘developing speciality watches’, including divers’ models. His engineering prowess was instrumental in the company acquiring over 100 patents for its speciality watches. The company created an L-shaped gasket which, coupled with one-piece case construction and a glass fixing ring, augmented water resistance. Over the years, Seiko has collaborated with professional divers and worked extensively in the field of saturation diving.

A saturation diver occupies a chamber or a bell, breathing a mixture of helium and oxygen, working at depths of 1000 feet or more, where prevailing pressures are colossal. The domain of the ‘professional diver’ is incredibly hazardous, where a brief moment of carelessness can have grave consequences.

In 1983, ‘two Seiko Professional Diver’s 600ms’ were attached to the exterior of the research submersible, Shinkai 2000. While the watches were intended for use up to 600 metres underwater, they actually withstood submersion to 1062 metres without suffering any damage or any functional impairment.

Often watch companies assert their divers’ models conform with independent standards, such as ISO. Seiko made an active contribution to the official standard, ISO6425 as well at the JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) – ‘Diver’s watches – classification and performance’ issued in 1993. Seiko’s reputation as a pioneer in the field of divers’ watches is unparalleled.

A recent addition to Seiko’s impressive collection of divers’ watches is the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019.

The dial

Divers’ watches are typically utilitarian objects, often practical rather than attractive. The Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 is different. Its deep green dial and bezel bestow a handsome appearance.

Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

This distinct shade of green is said to ‘reflect the lush tones of the ancient cedar trees on the island of Yakushima at the southern end of the Japanese archipelago. As well as being a World Natural Heritage Site because of its forests, Yakushima is a much loved destination for the diving community, thanks to its crystal clear waters, coral reefs and abundant marine life.’

Close examination of the dial, using a powerful loupe, reveals a very subtle sunray motif, barely visible to the naked eye. This decoration toys with light, yielding temporary pockets of brilliance.

The dial’s three hands feature a liberal application of luminescent treatment. Furthermore, the hour and minute hands are notably plump, aiding visibility. The legibility of the central sweep seconds hand is enhanced with the addition of an arrow-like luminous section.

The hour markers are mainly circular, however, 6 and 9 o’clock are denoted with batons. The index at noon is delivered in two sections which collaborate to form a point. All hour markers are luminescent and framed with a trace of glinting brightwork.

A date aperture resides at 3 o’clock. Black numerals sit on a silvery-white disc, conveying information intelligibly. A discreet border frames the aperture, guiding the wearer’s eyes to the adjacent indication.

The flange, encircling the dial, is adorned with crisp white markings. Each 5-minute integer is denoted with a bold marking, distinguishing it from those nearby. The markings prove useful when interpreting the minutes or seconds.

All elements of the dial unite with one common aim, to convey information in a highly lucid format.

The case

There is no escaping the fact that the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 is a substantial timepiece. It measures 44.3mm in diameter with a case thickness of 15.4mm. The case is constructed of stainless steel and features a ‘super hard-coating’. It exudes toughness from every pore of its being and looks capable of post-apocalyptic survival.

Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

Despite its overt robustness, Seiko has not abandoned the aesthetic niceties found on some of its dressier watches. The case-band features three intricately formed facets. The two outer facets sport highly polished surfaces, while the middle section is satin-brushed. This latter facet, a mere sliver of metal, will have proved to challenging to polish. However, with this watch, Seiko has shown it is up to the task. The demarcation between the satin-brushed and polished surfaces is crisp and clear.

Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

A green, unidirectional rotational bezel sits proudly atop the case. It is boldly styled and turns with a series of reassuring clicks. Turning the bezel provides a tactile encounter I could never tire of. Everything moves with a positive action without the merest hint of play or wobble. Simultaneously, the bezel plays a comforting soundtrack of crotchet clicks. There is a palpable sense of quality with the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019.

Seiko has treated the 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute markers on the bezel with ‘Lumibrite’ in order to enhance legibility. When the Japanese watch company first used Lumibrite it stated that the luminescent material was 50% brighter than its predecessor. Indeed, I have not seen another watch capable of surpassing the luminosity of the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019. The knurled section of the bezel is presented in a gleaming, highly polished form.

The 3-rows stainless steel bracelet is beautifully detailed. The central row of satin-brushed links is framed with slender strips of gleaming metal. The sides of the bracelet are, once again, highly polished. The tasteful blend of different surface finishes reinforces the perception of quality.

Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

The bracelet features a three-fold clasp with push button release. An extendable section / slide adjuster facilitate wearing the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 over a diving suit. An additional silicone strap is supplied with the watch.

Consistent with horological convention, this diver’s watch is fitted with a solid case-back. The screw-down crown is positioned at 4 o’clock, mitigating the risk of chafing the wearer’s skin or impinging on free movement of the wrist.

The movement

The Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 is equipped with the Caliber 8L35, an automatic movement. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 26 jewels. The power reserve delivers 50 hours of autonomy.

Beyond its deep water capabilities, this watch also proffers an impressive magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m.

Owing to the fitment of a solid case-back, no assessment of the movement finishing was possible.

Closing remarks

There is a palpable honesty to the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019. Its impressive construction and extensive specification provides ‘professional divers’ with the necessary reassurance that the watch will perform under adverse conditions. Indeed, when it comes to the sphere of divers’ watches, Seiko’s legitimacy is beyond reproach.

However, this watch has much relevance on terra firma. Legibility, robustness and notable water resistance all have relevance to non-professional wearers. Active individuals will appreciate the suitability of this watch when swimming in the pool or showering after a workout. The Seiko does not require undue pampering.

Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019

Appraising the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019 with a discriminating finger and a shrewd eye, reveals a high quotient of quality throughout. Each element feels like it is hewn from granite. The case finish is exemplary and would shame the execution found on some costlier watches.

This leads me to talk about another key attribute of this Seiko watch, the incredible value it offers. The recommended retail price of £2900 (RRP as at 18.8.2018) is remarkably keen and, once more, distinguishes this watch as noteworthy. Seiko has produced 1968 examples of the Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019, a number which references the year its ‘forerunner’ was released. Based on its impressive range of qualities, I suspect demand for this watch is likely to outstrip supply, a scenario which Seiko richly deserves.

Further reading

https://www.seikowatches.com/

Technical specifications

  • Model: Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Divers Commemorative Limited Edition SLA019
  • Case: Stainless steel case; diameter 44.3mm, height 15.4mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid case-back; water resistant to 30 ATM (300 metres).
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date
  • Movement: Caliber 8L35; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 26 jewels; power reserve 50 hours.
  • Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with three-fold clasp with push button release, secure lock and slide adjuster.
  • Price: £2,900 (RRP as at 18.8.2018)
  • Limited Edition: 1968 pieces