Seiko have reissued one of their most iconic watches, but is it worth what they're asking for it?
As anybody even vaguely familiar with Seiko will know, the brand is famous for its tough dive watches. I won’t rehash their history, because I’m sure most have you have heard it a dozen times before.
But last year they released the SPB151, a modern take on their iconic 6105-8110. A watch famously worn by Martin Sheen’s character Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now. Which is of course why the SPB151 has been nicknamed the "Willard".Its design is very close to the original 6105, which is great news for fans of vintage Seiko. However, the downside is that Seiko is charging £1,200 for this new Willard.
It’s quite a lot for a brand that until recently, was known for its affordability. So, I couldn’t help but wonder- is the Willard actually worth it?
If you just looked at the specs then maybe not. With 200m of water resistance, a sapphire crystal, and an aluminium bezel insert, the watch doesn’t seem all that special. The 6R35 automatic movement is fairly standard too. It beats at a rate of 3Hz and is only accurate from -15 to +25 seconds per day, which isn’t all that great. In fact, the most impressive thing about it is its 70-hour power reserve.
But here’s the thing. A watch can be much more than the sum of its parts.
Whilst the SPB151 might be fairly standard in its specs, the design is really what makes this watch special. Like the 6105 that inspired it, the Willard feels every inch the proper tool watch.
The cushion case, with its bulging crown guard, is instantly recognizable as Seiko’s. It’s 42.7mm wide and 13.2mm thick, and thanks to a short lug to lug of 46.6mm it wears well, even on smaller wrists. The curved sides also help the watch wear thinner, and I was surprised by just how unobtrusive the watch is on the wrist.
As I found when I reviewed the SPB143 (which you can read here), I’m not the biggest fan of the bracelet. It suits the Willard better than the SPB143, but it makes the watch feel quite heavy and cumbersome. The clasp is also really chunky, which makes it feel a bit clumsy.So, it should come as no surprise to hear that I much prefer to wear the Willard on a rubber strap. It’s in keeping with the toolish feel of the watch, and it’s less bulky on the wrist than the bracelet.
There's a lot of potential choices, but my favourite is the ZULUDIVER Padded Tropical Rubber Strap. The crosshatch pattern adds a nice bit of detail, but the strap doesn't detract from the watch itself. It's also slim enough that it helps the Willard hug the wrist nicely, so it sits pretty low down.
How It Feels On The Wrist
Focusing back on the watch itself, once I’d worn it for a bit I got a sense of why the original 6105 was so popular amongst US servicemen in Vietnam. With most of the surfaces having brushed or matte finishes, the watch feels very functional. It also means the polished hands and markers have some great contrast against the dark grey dial, so the Willard is easy to read.
It also goes without saying that Seiko has been liberal with the application of lume on the Willard, and the watch is an impressive sight in the dark.
What’s more, there’s no need to worry about hitting the screw-down crown on something, because it’s very well-protected by the distinctive crown guards, yet it’s also really easy to use.
Similarly, the unidirectional bezel is easy to turn and has a nice crisp action. Though this one is slightly misaligned, which really is unacceptable on a watch that’s priced over £1,000. Some people won’t like that the insert is aluminium either, but it does help keep the watch feel closer to the original.
On the plus side, Seiko has seen fit to give the Willard a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on the inside. The crystal has a bevelled edge that mimics the crystal on the 6105 and adds some interesting distortion to the dial.
So, to sum up, even though the Willard isn’t the type of watch I’d usually go for; I can’t help but be drawn to it. Where a lot of divers these days are built to be beautiful watches you can wear with a suit, the Willard is the exact opposite. It’s a purpose-built tool that you’re not afraid to bash about.Though unfortunately, the fly in the ointment is that hefty price tag. Because, as much as I like the Willard, I think that £1,200 is far too much to ask for it. As I said at the start, the Willard isn’t anything special on paper. And you can get a good dive watch with the same specs as this for a lot less money.
So personally, this is one I’m going to struggle to pull the trigger on. Which is a shame, because I think Seiko has done a great job of updating the 6105 design, whilst still keeping what made that watch appealing in the first place.
The Seiko Prospex SPB151 "Captain Willard" is now available for £1,200. Click here to find out more.