When it comes to watches introduced in 2020, Seiko wins in my book. Going from what I felt was a very underwhelming 2019, Seiko has made me eat crow this year. From fantastic reissues like the Captain Willard SPB153/SBDC111 to the watch I will be reviewing today, Seiko has some of the hottest watches of the year.
The Seiko SBDC101 (also reference number SPB143, or the Prospex 62MAS) is Seiko’s attempt at bringing a few things together into one watch. Seiko fans have been clamoring for more divers at or under 40mm. I reviewed the SBDC061 which was a fantastic watch but commanded wrist presence. There has also been a calling for more affordable versions of the limited edition models Seiko has been releasing (like the SLA017). While those watches have their place, they are unattainable for most Seiko fans.
The SBDC101 is certainly a premium Seiko diver coming in at above $1,000 MSRP, but it accomplishes two things Seiko fans have been asking for. It isn’t a limited edition and will be available below MSRP at some point. Also, it comes in right at 40mm and when combined with that Seiko magic, it is almost guaranteed to be a great-fitting watch for most. Let’s find out if it lives up to the hype.
On the Wrist
The short answer is that the SBDC101 is a comfortable watch with great dimensions and wears well all day. Review over. I’m kidding of course, but this is the best Seiko diver I’ve put on my wrist. After I unboxed the SBDC101 and sized it, I was happy right away. The feeling I got from the Black Bay 58 was translated over to the Seiko. In terms of dimensions when compared to other, larger Seiko divers, this is the Black Bay 58 of the lot.
Seiko has never had a problem making large and small watches comfortable for a variety of wrists. The SBDC101 is no exception. The watch looks flat from the top, mainly due to the squared off lug shape but the lugs turn down gently for a good fit. The lug-to-lug distance (just under 48mm) feels comparable to the SKX, but the watch wears dramatically smaller because it is thinner and less blobby than Seiko’s darling.
I had a good feeling I was going to like this watch and that it would fit well. Seiko divers are almost always a sure thing. What I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed with was the finishing on the SBDC101. We all know Seiko knows how to finish a watch as their exploits at Grand Seiko will tell you. However, taking finishing techniques and making them blend perfectly on a tool watch is another thing entirely.
The coin edge bezel glimmers brilliantly and is contrasted perfectly by the brushed bezel insert. Coming down from the bezel, the brushing on the top of the lugs looks fantastic with the squared lug shape. A slim but noticeable chamfer runs down the side of the case, breaking up the lines on the midcase. There is a significant undercut which not only helps the watch wear more comfortably, but also slims down the watch. When put together, these elements look fantastic together and create a diver that could fit in at the beach or be dressed up to go with a suit and tie. Of course, you can do this with any dive watch, but you won’t look as good as the SBDC101. I highly doubt Seiko intended this to be a dress diver, but they certainly created one. Part of this is because of the lug shape, which I’ll touch on later.
I was concerned that the sunburst gray dial would totally absorb the hands and make the watch difficult to read. Seiko must have thought the same thing because they mitigated it by how they finished the hands. The hour and minute hand are polished on one side of the hand and brushed on the other. This keeps the handset from disappearing into the dial. Either the left or right side of the handset is always contrasting the dial to make it readable. It’s a neat trick.
Seiko SBDC101 Video Review
Let’s Talk About the Bracelet
If you’ve made it this far you might be thinking I can’t say anything negative about the SBDC101. How I wish that were true. This watch is great, but some of Seiko’s demons have found their way into this watch, one of which is the bracelet.
The bracelet is the best Seiko has produced. The links are solid, beefy, articulate well and finished beautifully. The clasp is also solid and is a step up from other Seiko clasps, especially from the garbage they put on the new Seiko 5s. I’m not a huge fan of Seiko bracelets in general and while some may find this bracelet fantastic, I do not.
The endlinks do not fit the case….at all. They don’t match the shape of the lugs and surprisingly, there was some play in my example that created a small gap. They are also male endlinks which detracts from the rest of the watch and how great it looks and fits. They feel cumbersome and an afterthought.
After seeing some videos on this watch while I was waiting for it to arrive, I had high hopes for the clasp. It is too long and uncomfortable. I truly wanted to like this bracelet but after a few days of wear, I couldn’t wait to get it off.
Thankfully, this watch looks amazing on just about any strap. The squared- off lugs combined with the lug hole position make this watch shine on straps. NATOs flow perfectly though the lugs and under the watch for a seamless fit. Straps fit the case perfectly because of the squared-off lugs. This watch was meant to be worn off the bracelet.
The Dial & Bezel
Seiko knows how to execute a great dial. The SBDC101’s gray sunburst dial looks fantastic and creates a pleasing monochromatic look when viewed with the rest of the watch. The dial can take on a bright flat gray to a dark charcoal gray depending on how the light is hitting it. This change in color makes for a dynamic look that helps it pair well with various straps.
Seiko has carried over the rectangular markers from other reinterpretations of the 62MAS. There’s no surprises here; the applied markers are finished well and pack a ton of Seiko’s LumiBrite lume.
Many will be happy with the handset Seiko has chosen for the SBDC101. They have thrown out the large arrow hour hand from previous Prospex divers and gone for the aesthetically pleasing baton handset. This change alone might be enough to sway some into picking up the SBDC101. The handset is perfect for the watch.
Something I didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me was that the SBDC101 doesn’t have the chapter ring. The minute hash marks are printed on the dial and flank the markers. This isn’t uncommon and the only reason it was pointed out to me was because of Seiko’s history of misaligned chapter rings. How I wish that fixed the problem.
As I said above, some of the demons from previous Seiko models have found their way into the SBDC101. The bezel on my example is ever so slightly misaligned when at 12 o’clock. It’s about a half a click off from being perfect. Some of this misalignment can come from the parallax effect and is simply your eyes playing tricks on you. That isn’t the case here but it isn’t a deal breaker for me. I am able to get it lined up and the tension from the bezel keeps it in place to soothe my watch-related OCD.
While we’re on the top of the bezel, it is the best bezel action Seiko has produced. Previously, the Marinemaster 200 aka SBDC061 had the best Seiko bezel in my book and while this is almost the same, the SBDC101 is a notch above. If you’ve experienced any Seiko bezel, close your eyes and think about it. Now imagine it is 5 times better. That is how the bezel on the SBDC101 feels. It has a lovely fluid tension to it with satisfying, muted clicks. It’s a fun bezel to spin around. With that said, it is a little stiff out of the box but loosens up quickly with use.
Seiko has been pushing upmarket for the past few years and seems to be accomplishing what it set out to do. There are those who say $1,000 is too much for a Seiko but we all need to face the fact that the $250 Seiko Prospex diver is dead. We need to start looking objectively at what Seiko is offering in their higher-tier dive watches. Seiko is interesting in this respect as they can make the ~$200 Seiko 5 DressKX worth the money and simultaneously make the SBDC101 worth the money. There is a difference between the two. With that little preamble, let’s take a look at where the SBDC101 stacks up against the competition.
Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53
I’m sure there are a few people audibly gasping at this pick. Zodiac seems to fly completely under the radar, especially at the >$1,000 price point. However, their reputation precedes them and while it may not be as storied as Seiko, they deliver a solid watch. The Super Sea Wolf 53 falls into that same vintage-inspired yet modern styling class and comes close to the Seiko in both dimensions and price. If both the Seiko and Zodiac can be had for less than MSRP, they are in close competition.
While Sinn does not classify the 104 as a dive watch, it certainly fits the mold. 200 meters of water resistance, a screw-down crown, and a countdown bezel help it fit the dive watch buyer’s needs. The Sinn comes in at a slightly higher price than the SBDC101 but once you’re in the $1,000-$1,500 price segment the Sinn is a hard watch to ignore and not at least give some consideration to.
Any other Seiko diver
Seiko’s biggest competitor is itself. Seiko fans are more likely to look at another Seiko diver than any other watch while considering another Seiko diver. It’s an odd conundrum Seiko fans might find themselves in, but it’s true. To make it even more nteresting, many will look at the SBDC101 and also consider the SKX or Turtle hich are roughly ⅓ the price. With almost everything and anything in beteen, the SBDC101 might get beat out by its own brother.
The SBDC101 is my favorite Seiko in years. It is the watch I have been wanting and waiting for. Previous Prospex divers scratched an itch but never solved the problem. There was always one little thing that bothered me enough to not keep it in the collection. The SBDC061’s handset grew on me but didn’t make me happy. The Turtle was too chunky on my wrist. The SBDC051 was too big. The SBDC101 is just right.
Even with some of the bothers like the bracelet and bezel alignment, it is almost something to be expected of Seiko at this point. They aren’t the only brand making these mistakes and I’m not giving them a pass, but it almost seems like a right of passage at this point to have a Seiko with an issue. However, those things aren’t enough to deter me from recommending this watch. The bracelet is easily removed, straps look amazing and the person wearing the watch might not even like bracelets, period. After my initial inspection, I don’t find myself staring at the bezel to check its alignment. I get more enjoyment out of wearing this watch, its overall styling, and how comfortable it is. If you’ve been on the hunt for a Seiko diver and nothing has quite lived up to what you wanted, the SBDC101 might be the one you’re looking for.
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Seiko SBDC101 Specs