What makes a great dive watch? Is it the dial? The case? Or could it be how it fits and feels? The answer is different for almost every person, but if there was someone who could deliver an answer to that question it would be Seiko. Seiko has been producing some of the most highly sought-after dive watches for decades. One of their most popular dive watches is the Marinemaster 300 and many argue it is the pinnacle of great dive watches. The Marinemaster is a bulky, purpose-built dive watch that carries over an elegant case design from Grand Seiko.
However, when it comes to a slimmed-down version that is more affordable, a gap has been present in Seiko’s lineup for years. The SBDC061 or “Marinemaster 200” attempted to fill that void and while it was a good entry and an objectively great watch, it still loomed large on the wrist. Seiko has remedied this with the release of the Seiko SPB187 or “Marinemaster 200 Reduced.” If the SBDC061 is the Marinemaster 300 on a diet than the SPB187 is that watch on a diet while hitting the gym every day. Let’s take a closer look at the SPB187 and see if it truly fills the void for those looking for a Marinemaster 300 style case in a smaller size.
On the Wrist
There is no better place to start than how this watch wears. When I saw the SPB187 announced, my first question to myself was how it was going to feel. Coming in at 42mm (2mm smaller than the SBDC061) and with a lug-to-lug of 48.8mm (a little over 2mm smaller than the SBDC061), the SPB187 is already looking more attractive to those with wrists that aren’t Hulk-sized.
The thing that always comes up when people get a look at Seiko’s stated dimensions is “does it have that Seiko magic?” For the uninitiated, Seiko magic is the wizardry Seiko puts into their watches that helps them feel smaller than they are. In the case of the SPB187 the answer is…there is no Seiko magic here. This watch wears exactly like you would expect it to given its dimensions. That isn’t to say it isn’t comfortable, it just isn’t going to feel like a smaller watch.
With that said, I did find that it looked great on my 6.75” wrist but this isn’t entirely surprising to me as it falls in the case size range that fits my wrist well. I found that it felt similar to the Omega Speedmaster for a number of reasons. The shape of the case and heavy, polished chamfers reminded me of the twisted lugs on the Speedmaster. The SPB187 is undoubtably bulkier but not by much. The lugs curve down and hug the wrist which keeps the 12.5mm thickness in line. I didn’t feel that it was as slim as one of my other favorite Seikos from 2020, the SBDC101, but it was close.
Once you get past the case, you’re greeted with an absolutely beautiful dial. The dark blue sunburst jumps out at you in sunlight yet remains subdued and almost black in most other light. It reminded me immediately of the dial of the blue Oris Aquis, which often has the same effect. As you would expect from a premium Seiko diver, the dial is legible. The markers and hands stand out prominently. The dial and bezel proportions were better looking to my eye than the SBDC101, which had a wider bezel.
One of the gripes I had with the SBDC101 and SBDC109 (the Willard) that were released in 2020 was the bracelet. I’ll cover more on the bracelet later, but it appears that the SPB187 is using the same bracelet but with some extra finishing and bevels. I’m not sure why, but the bracelet on this watch felt more comfortable. It could be the millimeter or two difference in how the bracelet comes off the watch and fell on my wrist. However, it still isn’t my favorite bracelet.
Seiko SPB187 Video Review
This is one of my favorite dials from Seiko, perhaps because I am a sucker for blue dials. One of Seiko’s strengths is dials. They’ve been crafting beautiful dials in watches of every type at almost every price point. The SPB187 is no exception. The sunburst blue is downright gorgeous, as I mentioned before. However, there are a couple things going on with the dial that bring it down a notch and left me scratching my head.
The markers look applied but I’ve heard that they are actually printed with thick lume and surrounded by a silver ring, similar to the Seiko Turtle. They don’t stand out while it is on the wrist, but I suppose that is the problem. The markers look a little flat, especially when compared to other Seiko dials with true applied markers. For a premium Seiko diver, I’m surprised Seiko didn’t pull out all the stops. It is surprising for a $1,200 watch. With that said, the lume application is heavy as one would expect from Seiko and I have no complaints in that department.
The handset is combination of the SBDC101 and SBDC109. Thankfully Seiko ditched the broad arrow handset from the older Marinemaster 200s and are now using the much better-looking handset from the rest of their 2020 diver releases. The hour and minute hands are brushed and polished (like the SBDC101). This gives the hands a unique look as each side of the hand reflects light differently. The stoplight second hand (like the SBDC109’s) is my favorite second hand design of any watch and I love seeing it on this model. The SBDC109 (Willard) had completely polished hands and I found that I preferred their look and I wished those hands were carried over on to the SPB187.
Now we come to the bezel and I can almost hear you asking the question, “Is it aligned?” The answer is no. Seiko simply cannot align a bezel and they obviously don’t care. As a fan of Seiko, one gets to the point where they either resign themselves to that reality or become put off from wanting to buy Seiko watches. For me, isn’t so much that I can’t stand the bezel alignment; that is easy enough to ignore. What dwells more in my mind is that they have to be aware people are upset with this and yet they continue to ignore it. Seiko will listen to what watches you want, but not what makes you upset with those watches. If you’re reading, Seiko, just fix it.
The bezel action itself is fine enough; there isn’t anything to write home about here. It is torqued correctly and feels a little more clicky than some other Seiko bezels but it is most likely the same mechanism. I still want to see Seiko add more lume to their bezels. Lumed bezels are becoming more common from manufacturers and there is no reason Seiko can’t jump on the bandwagon.
Case & Bracelet
The case of the SPB187 is the best-finished case I’ve handled that doesn’t have Grand in front of Seiko. The brushing and polishing are all flawless and the lines are crisp and sharp. The transitions from the brushing on the top of the lugs to the huge polished chamfers are gorgeous to look at.
It doesn’t stop on the top of the lugs. There is another transition from the polished chamfer back to a small brushed edge that runs the length of the case. And we’re still not done. There is yet another transition into the polished undercut on the bottom of the case. The undercut ensures that the caseback is all that touches your wrist when wearing the watch. The case design reminds me of Christopher Ward’s lightcatcher case in the way that it has many transitions with alternating finishing techniques. The Seiko is a little chunkier in its execution but it doesn’t keep the case from looking beautiful.
The crown is placed at about 4 o’clock. I say about because it more lined up with 3:45 than 4. I may be nitpicking a little with this but after I noticed it, I wanted to move the crown down to be lined up with 4. However, it does keep the elegant lugs from being interrupted so I’m taking a shot in the dark and saying this was a design decision.
The lugs have a small chamfer on the inside that thins them out and adds another small detail that isn’t obvious at first glance. One thing that bothered me to no end was how poorly the bracelet fit the case of the SBDC101 and SBDC109. Thankfully this has been remedied on the SPB187. The endlinks fit the case profile and there is no slop between the endlinks and the lugs.
Seiko’s bracelets have never knocked my socks off. There is always one thing that keeps it from being a great bracelet. Given that this bracelet is shared with Seiko’s other 2020 releases, not much has changed in that respect. The bracelet is comfortable yet the male endlinks add unnecessary length to the watch. While the clasp is functional as a diver’s clasp, it isn’t great for everyday use. It is long and a touch bulky. I am thankful that Seiko added 4 microadjust positions to dial in a good fit because it is needed with the large links.
Seiko is getting good at being their own worst enemy. They’ve released 3 great divers in the span of a few months. All of these watches fall within the same price segment and share some similar styling elements. It is hard to pick just one but if your budget is $1,200 that is exactly what you’re going to have to do. It seems as though the decision will come down to whether you want square markers, a funky case, or a Marinemaster case.
It is hard to argue that the SPB187 and the blue dial Oris Aquis don’t have a few things in common. I spoke about the similarity between the SPB187 the Aquis above, but both watches are falling into the dressy diver category. They are both modern divers with lots of polishing yet can still be fully functional as a dive watch. While some may see it as anecdotal, I have found that Oris’ quality control is a few steps ahead of Seiko’s.
Mido Oceanstar Diver 600
Mido is a brand that often gets overlooked, especially their fantastic Oceanstar line. The chronometer-rated Oceanstar Diver 600 is worth a look if you’re wanting to spend a little more than the SPB187, although it can likely be found for the same price on the gray market. If the Diver 600 and SPB187 are a little out of your price range, the Oceanstar 200 is a few hundred dollars cheaper and offers a similar look.
Through this review I’ve made comparisons to other watches that the SPB187 has either drawn inspiration from or reminded me of. Those watches are all great watches so it’s easy to see why the SPB187 is so appealing, at least on paper. The original Marinemaster 200 was a watch that made me consider 44mm watches, especially from Seiko. However, after experiencing the SPB187, I’m back to where I originally was in thinking that 42mm and under is truly the right fit for my wrist. Based on Seiko’s releases alongside this watch, it seems their thoughts are in the same place.
This watch is by no means perfect and I feel like I keep saying that about Seiko’s releases. Misaligned bezels and poorly fitting endlinks (SPB187 aside) seem to be creeping into all my recent Seiko reviews. At the time of this writing, I am working on a Seiko Safarnie review which also has a misaligned bezel. If Seiko was able to correct these issues I feel as though the watch community would have an easier time stomaching their push up-market. With the QC they are currently offering, it is making that pill harder to swallow.
Even with all that, the SPB187 and Seiko divers in general are watches I keep coming back to. They simply look good and wear even better. It is almost easy to ignore their faults because other things shine so brightly. I’ve had some time to ruminate on the big 3 Seiko dive watch releases from the past few months and the SPB187 frequently entered my mind as being the one. However, as I mentioned in the Willard review, that watch keeps calling my name and remains the up-market Seiko diver for me. But maybe, just maybe, the SPB187 will somehow also find its way into my watch box.
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Seiko SPB187 Specs