About a week ago, me and alex.other had a watch geek meetup over some fine single malt whiskey and a lot of very cool watches. One of the watches that Alex brought was a Seiko Automatic Chronograph, now this is a very strange occurrence for his collection and it isn’t because he does not like Seikos, but there is a lot of competition for his wrist time in the collection!
That being said, this is not your regular Seiko so it did make sense, that Alex found himself with it in his possession. After a few drinks (not that they were required), I managed to snatch it from Alex for a few days.
And here we are 1 week later. The Seiko in question is the SRQ029 limited release, celebrating 50 years since the launch of their 6139 automatic chronograph, Seiko’s contender for the first automatic chronograph race.
As to who won that race, it is a highly debated subject with people on all sides claiming they were the first, but regardless who won it, I believe that all of them were spectacular movements for their time.
To anyone that knows what the 6139 chronographs looked like it will be very obvious that Seiko did not try to recreate an old design here and rather deliver a modern watch with their top of the line chronograph movement the 8R48, to mark the 50 years mark.
Since we mentioned the movement, let’s get a bit into it. The 8R48 movement is Seiko’s top end automatic chronograph at the moment of writing this article. This is a 34 jewel column wheel movement with a power reserve of 45 hours and 28.800 beats and bi-directional automatic winding. It obviously has all the bells and whistles of a modern movement such as hacking, hand winding and a quick date set (date at 4:30).
Seiko have also added a sapphire caseback through which the movement can be admired.
The real surprise (good and bad) shows up in the case and bracelet. The moment I saw this case, it reminded me a lot of the MarineMaster 300 case. It is very well finished with sharp transitions between brushed surfaces and the zaratsu polish. Yes, you read that right, it is a prospex line watch with zaratsu polishing and Seiko’s super-hard coating to prevent scratches as much as possible. The case finish is absolutely stunning. The case sizing is a bit trickier. It is a 41mm diameter watch with 20mm lugs, 47mm lug to lug and a thickness of 16mm, including the beautiful box sapphire crystal that hovers over the whole case. I say it is tricky because the watch feels very tall for the other dimensions, especially when on a strap and not it’s bracelet.
Fortunately for most people there should be zero reason to take it off the bracelet as the bracelet is just spectacular. If I am not mistaken it is the exact same bracelet that is used on several Grand Seiko.
It is mostly brushed, with nice contrasting polish accents on the inside links and the sides.
For a better fit Seiko also includes 2 half links which is very helpful, even more so considering there is no micro adjust in the clasp.
Unfortunately the bracelet is not all positives, the clasp is in my opinion very poorly executed, with a major gap present between clasp and first link. Huge as in 2-3mm wide, it is very slopy and looks like it was not meant to be the clasp used for this watch, and that they were aiming more for a traditional clasp, like in dive watches.
Seiko keeps insisting on using the dreaded pin and collar system to adjust this bracelet. I am sure a lot of people won`t mind that, but seeing it on a watch that retails for almost 4000$ is really a shock.
The dial is a rather subjective thing, and as I do not really enjoy lightly colored dials, I can’t exactly praise its beauty. But I can praise the beautiful brushed finish that pops out from the silver dial, the very balanced round date wheel that fits beautifully next to the chronograph round subdials and of course the panda configuration. Who doesn’t like a panda chronograph?
The silvery dial is also surrounded by a contrasting black tachymetre scale that provides a nice balance to the dial by giving a sort of bezel effect and not making the watch wear larger than intended. The markers and the Seiko logo are beautifully applied, the only thing that might annoy some people, is the prospex logo (we are gonna have to start living with this one by now). All this is situated under the cover of the most gorgeous crystal I have ever seen from Seiko. It is a box shaped Sapphire that stands proudly above the case. It is super clear and provides no distortions straight on, and no reflections, but as soon as you tilt the watch, the edges of the sapphire create a beautiful distortion show.
Overall, while I do not feel that this resembles that old 6139 in any way, I think Seiko have made an interesting watch that is not “just another generic chronograph”. The attention to detail to the case finishing and bracelet, but also to the dial is astonishing. Unfortunately there are also some downsides, that feel that Seiko just rushed things, or lost its enthusiasm along the way. The clasp is one of them, but also the super generic Seiko 5 unmarked crown. I would also love to start seeing screws in Seikos above the 1000$ mark as the pin and collar system, while secure, is a pain the adjust. But as we know, no watch is perfect and while unfortunate that there are some negatives, there is also a huge number of positives, like the zaratsu polishing, the Grand Seiko bracelet, a top of the line movement and of course the stunning sapphire crystal! Can really see this one having a place in any collection, as long as you do not mind lightly colored dials.