The SPB143 proves why Seiko are are known for their divers...
It’s fair to say that Seiko are probably the kings of affordable dive watches. The Japanese brand has established a strong reputation over the decades for making tough, functional dive watches that do their job very well. As a result Seiko are held in very high regard by the watch community. Their latest SPB14X models pay homage to their first ever diver – the 62MAS.
The SPB143 is one of these new models, and with its grey dial and brushed black bezel is the one which resembles the 62MAS the closest. To my mind the SPB143 offers something Seiko fans have wanted for ages- a moderately sized, affordable interpretation of the 62MAS. Until now, your only affordable option was the SPB053, which has a similar appearance to the SPB143, but comes in at a sizeable 43mm and features a divisive broad arrow handset. In contrast, the SPB143 has a modest 40.5mm case, with a lug length of 47.6mm and a thickness of 13.2mm. It’s also a much more faithful homage to the 62MAS, and as a result it’s getting a lot of attention.
The Seiko SPB143 - What it does
So as you’d expect from a watch that carries the Prospex mark, the SPB143 is a tough, practical diver at heart, and has a decent 200m water resistance. Whilst this is a fairly standard depth rating, it will certainly cover most people’s diving needs.
What’s more, the case and bracelet have Seiko’s DiaShield coating. This is a super-hard coating that protects the watch from the usual minor scuffs and scratches steel picks up. And, with a steel bezel insert, it can certainly take whatever most wearers will throw at it.You’ll also be pleased to hear that the SPB143 has a sapphire crystal. For me it’s the only choice for a tool watch that carries an £1,100 price tag.
Powering the SPB143 is Seiko’s 6R35 automatic movement. The 24 jewel calibre beats at 21,600 bph, and has a fairly average accuracy of +25 to -15 seconds per day. Though on the plus side the movement does have a healthy 70 hour power reserve. This means that it can compete with the newer high power reserve movements made by the Swatch Group. Indeed, I’m sure any Seiko fan will tell you that their movements are capable of going toe-to-toe with the Swiss competition.
As I mentioned earlier, the SP143 has a modest 40.5mm case. In my opinion this a perfect all round size that will look great on most wrists. Indeed, the watch wears nicely on my 6.75” wrists. It’s the perfect width for me, and it’s also not too tall, so it doesn’t look out of place on a military style strap. The case shape itself is heavily inspired by the angular skindiver case of the 62MAS, but Seiko have brought the design up to date by adding some sharp polished chamfers on each side. And, as you’d expect from Seiko, the finishing is top notch. It's also nice to see that Seiko have given the SPB143 drilled lugs, which is a simple feature, but will make strap changes a breeze. Even the screw down case back is nicely executed, with a polished Seiko Tsunami logo at its centre.
I think my one complaint about the case is that the screw down crown is unsigned, which I think is pretty lazy for a watch that’s over the £1,000 mark. However, to make up for this the bezel action is incredibly smooth, and it offers just the right amount of resistance. It’s also nice to see Seiko using something tougher than aluminium for the insert.
The sapphire crystal appears to be a vintage-style boxed one, but as it barely protrudes over the bezel it's not immediately obvious. In many ways this is a good thing. The less exposed the crystal is, the less chance there is for it to get damaged. Thanks to a healthy dose of anti-reflective coating, the sapphire also produces very little glare. This means it’s incredibly legible in any lighting.The dial itself is a gorgeous sunburst grey that’s shade I think is best described as titanium. The colour changes subtly with the light, which really helps let those polished applied markers stand out. Disappointingly the lume isn’t printed squarely onto the markers, but it’s not something you’ll notice unless you look for it.
Of course, despite their simple shape it’s the handset that’s the real star of the show. The finish differs on each half, with one side being polished and the other brushed. The end result of this is that it creates some fantastic light play that makes the hands look incredible from certain angles.
When it comes to the lume, I think it goes without saying that it’s incredibly bright. Anyone who’s had a Seiko diver before knows that their lume is some of the best around and it lasts a good while. It’s just what you’d expect from a true tool watch, and it will satisfy the lume junkies amongst you.
Things we would change
Now I have to be honest and say that I’m not too keen on the bracelet. In fairness to Seiko the quality of the bracelet is decent, but there are a few cosmetic niggles that bug me. For starters, there’s a fair bit of play between the endlinks and the case, which isn’t great for an £1,100 watch. And why they don’t sit flush with the top of the case is beyond me. What’s more, I think the links themselves don’t suit the watch itself. They’re too curved and chunky for the sleek angular case. The bracelet is also pretty heavy, and the watch feels really weighty on the wrist as a result.
The clasp is the sort of generic three-fold clasp I’m used to seeing on watches half the price of the SPB143. However Seiko have added a dive extension. Though, with it’s tension based locking system, it feels cheap compared to the ratcheting micro-adjustment clasps we’re seeing from other brands.
Overall, given how much I like the watch itself, the bracelet is something of a disappointment. Though I have to admit that the finishing is good, unfortunately it doesn’t stop me from preferring to wear the SPB143 on a military style strap.
Watch Straps for the Seiko SPB143
All this talk of the bracelet brings me nicely on to some alternative strap options for the SPB143. Fortunately for me, Seiko's are known to be very versatile when it comes to what they look good on, and the SPB143 is no different. Here are my top three picks of alternative strap for the watch!
ZULUDIVER Beads of Rice Premium Watch StrapFirst up is the ZULUDIVER Beads of Rice Bracelet. The links suit the retro nature of the case, and they’re also nice and slim. This means the watch is nice and light on the wrist, and isn’t encumbered by that chunky Seiko bracelet.
ZULUDIVER Padded Tropical Rubber Watch StrapNext up is our new ZULUDIVER Padded Tropical Rubber Watch Strap. With its vintage roots, the SPB looks superb on this strap, which harkens back to the classic tropic straps you’ll find paired with vintage dive watches.
ZULUDIVER Military Herringbone Watch StrapLast but not least is our black Pro ZULUDIVER Military Herringbone. The military style keeps the watch looking tool like, but the clean black and smooth material give a very sharp monochrome look that proves simplicity is the height of sophistication.
I think it says a lot that I initially bought this watch just so that I could review it, but that I’m probably going to end up keeping it instead. The Seiko SPB143 just ticks all my boxes for what I want from a Seiko diver. Classic looks, solid specs, and great quality – what more could you want?
Usually there’s something about a Seiko’s design that puts me off buying it. For example, the distinctive broad arrow handset of the Samurai, or the cyclops of the new King Turtles. But the SPB143 has a truly timeless design that shows unusual restraint on Seiko’s part. It’s because of this that the watch has such widespread appeal, amongst both Seiko fans and the average consumer.
Of course, the cherry on the cake is that as well as being a damn good looking watch, the SPB143 is also a true diver. With a sapphire crystal, steel bezel insert, and that hefty 70 hour power reserve I think you’ve everything you could want for £1,100. Oh, and let’s not forget that super bright signature Seiko lume.
So all in all it’s not a stretch to call the SPB143 one of the best divers available at this price point. It offers both looks and quality in equal measure, and from one of the oldest and most well-respected watch brands to boot.
You can find out more about the SPB143 from Seiko's website here.