To say Seiko has been killing it with Prospex this year is quite an understatement. I’d go so far as to say this has been their strongest year in recent memory. Or, at least my recent memory. From high-end SLA models to SafArnies to mid-tier modern reinterpretations, they’ve been firing on all cylinders. Best of all, the watches they are releasing aren’t just cool on paper, they’ve quickly become cult hits. Models like the SPB149 62MAS reinterpretation I reviewed here, or the SPB153 “Willard” Ed took for a test drive here, are some of the hottest dive watches on the market right now. With just a little under two months left to 2020 (phew), Seiko has just dropped a couple of watches that are once again going to get fans all riled up, the SPB185 and SPB187, two more mid-tier divers that continue the 6159/MM300 lineage.
Now Zach, you might be thinking, didn’t Seiko just release the SPB077, 079 (and a few others in that range), which are also mid-tier reinterpretations 6159/MM300? And the answer would be yes. But like with the SP149 and it’s similar 62MAS-born brothers the SPB051 and 053, the new SPB185 and 187 are further, dare I say, refinements on the theme with several substantial differences. One of which is the use of the newer 6R35 caliber, the rollout of which I would venture to guess is a driving force behind this new generation of Prospex divers.
New for 2020 the 185 and 187 feature the same dramatic lines and robust lugs that are core to the 6159 DNA, but come in at 42mm with a 12.5mm thickness. For comparison, the 077 was 44mm x 13.1mm. That’s a substantial reduction that will certainly be felt on the wrist. If you haven’t read my SPB077 review here’s the most important takeaway: although that watch was 44mm it wore incredibly well. It was a small-watch-guy’s big watch. Curves, proportions, and a relatively thin profile just made sit so well. While we don’t have the lug-to-lug on the 185, I can only imagine that this even smaller, thinner case will be exceptional. Oh, and it still has Seiko’s scratch resistant super-hard coating for good measure.
Thanks to the smaller size everything on the dial is closer together. The markers have been updated slightly, and there is now a sliver of a marker on the edge of the date window preventing there from being a blank spot in the dark. And, like other newer gen Prospex divers, the chapter ring is gone as well. Most significantly, perhaps, is that the controversial big arrow hour hand has left the party. Instead, you’ll find what you’d hope to find, a modernized take on the 6159’s handset. While very similar to that which is found on the SPB153, to my eyes the minute hand has a tapered shape for a more aggressive look that plays nicely off of the dramatic case lines. The stop light seconds hand then acts as an attractive nod to the past.
The 185 and 187 offer pleasantly different takes on this new format. The 185 pairs a brushed steel bezel with black numerals and matte black dial. It’s unabashedly modern and techy. While Seiko has made a “monster” or two with a steel bezel, it’s not common in their repertoire and it looks damn sharp. The 187 has a bit more ordinary but nonetheless attractive styling with a gloss black bezel and a deep blue sunray dial. It’s classic and handsome, so you can’t go wrong. Both watches come on bracelets, both are $ 1,200, and both will likely make you cooler than you were before.
As a former owner of the SPB077, I am particularly excited about these new watches. I was initially drawn to the 077 because it was like a slimmed-down, less expensive MM300. And I loved it for a time. The 6159-based case is unlike any other, and despite a large diameter, wore so well. But a few quibbles with the dial kept it from being all I wanted it to be. The 18X watches are smaller, but not so small as to lose the aggressive essence of the design, are thinner and fix many of the issues I had with the dial. Throw in the increased power reserve of 70 hours and It’s hard to find anything but positives about these new watches.
Sure, $ 1,200 is not inexpensive, but it’s in line with other similarly outfitted Seikos, and the reality is the day of the bargain Seiko is gone. I think it’s time to start thinking about mid-tier Prospex divers for what they are, fully in-house watches with genuine provenance, unique looks and some interesting features, such as super-hard coatings. If you were to look for something similar from Switzerland, you’d still be paying far more, so the value is definitely there. Seiko Luxe