Very well built and finished.
Well specified for diving. Tough, robust construction.
None, especially at this price point.
Seiko watches have always been making waves. Many professional divers actually use their dive watches for their work. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization. Both started out serving the diving industry in 1965, and to celebrate this special relationship, Seiko announced two Special Edition pieces for the Prospex collection: the Seiko PADI Kinetic GMT’s Diver (SUN065) and the Seiko PADI Automatic Diver’s (SRPA21). Here we review the new Seiko entry level Automatic Diver.
Seiko’s journey into the depths of diving watches began in 1965 with the 6217 (also known as the 62MAS). The 6217 was Seiko’s and Japan’s first diving watch, rated to 150m. It was an expensive watch for its time. It sold for ¥ 13,000, which was roughly equivalent to half a month of a college graduate’s salary in those days. This was followed in 1967 by the 6215 which was rated to 300m and was Seiko’s foray into the high end diving watches.The first Seiko dive watches to earn the nickname “Turtle” for its cushion shaped case reminiscent of the shape of a turtle’s back, was probably the 6306/9, which was rated to 150m, made from circa mid-1970s through the mid-1980s. These were extremely durable, reliable and were relatively more affordable. The Turtle returned as the SRP775/777 and in this special edition for PADI: the SRPA21.
It is also appropriate that Seiko partners with PADI to issue this special edition. PADI is the leading diving instructor association since 1965. It has more than 6,300 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts, and more than 136,000 individual PADI Professionals who have issued more than 24 million certifications around the world. And have become a de facto standard to qualify to be a scuba diver.
The Seiko PADI Automatic Diver SRPA21
The watch closely resembles the SRP779K1, which sports a similar blue and red (“Pepsi”) bezel, with a few minor changes. The movement is the same 4R36 automatic movement.
The case, dial and hands
The case is pure “Turtle”. The cushion shape which defined this nickname looks like it means serious business.
On handling the watch for the first time, the impression of an awesome heft and purposeful ruggedness prevails. The case is matt finished, but feels smooth to the touch, like a pebble which is weathered the waves for ages.
Even the scoring on the sides of the bezel to increase traction for gloved fingers are not sharp as some dive bezels can be. As a comparison, the Rolex Submariner comes to mind, whose bezel edges are more like they are serrated than the rounded grooves scored on the Seiko. Not the Seiko PADI. It feels smooth. The unidirectional click bezel is smooth to operate and with a light twist, it clicks easily. The clicks are not as distinct as with the Sub, but each is precise, and unmistakable.
The hands are large, as a diver watch needs to be, and the markers very legible. The hands and markers have a thick layer of luminous material. Seiko does not specify, but it looks like the ubiquitous SuperLuminova. The lume glows very bright in the dark.
The dial is where the PADI Special Edition differs from the regular SRP775/7. The SRPA21 carries the PADI logo above the markings “AUTOMATIC” and “DIVER’s 200M”, a space occupied by the Prospex logo in the regular “Turtle”. On the PADI, the Prospex logo moves up above the hands, and just below the “SEIKO” marking. The hands are the same shape and size, but the PADI version has the minute hand with a red outline painted on the polished edge.
The dial is also a deep blue hue, with what looks like an anodised finish with a beautiful play with light as it catches at different angles.
The bracelet deserves special mention.
The entire bracelet is magnificently designed and built. The links are solid, and feel very hefty. The sides of the links are polished, and the rest receives a matt finish. The links have no sharp edges, and the feel of a well eroded, smooth pebble remains. The deployant buckle and security clasp works very well, and as this is a dive watch includes the ability to expand so that it can go over the diver’s neoprene suit. And best of all, it is quite beautiful to look at.
The movement: 4R36
The movement is the robust automatic movement Caliber 4R36. This movement is common in many of Seiko’s watches. The movement was first introduced in 2011 where it was well received. It replaced the earlier bumper automatic movements, and was capable of being hand wound and hacked. Power reserve is 41 hours.. And as is Seiko’s custom, the entire watch is made in-house within their facilities. Seiko does not specify which factory the SRPA21 is made.
We did not of course open the watch case to view and photograph the movement. The review watch belongs to a very good Deployant Friend, and the resource to open and examine the movement was not available to us. The movement is said to be reasonably well finished, with a decorated rotor.
The day and date feature on the movement is perhaps a signature of the Seiko Diver watches. The watch is able to display the day either as a Roman numeral or in the standard 3 letter English abbreviation. We are certain other languages are also available . The user can choose by scrolling forward from the 3 letter day name to the Roman numeral by using the crown. During changeover, the display starts scrolling over at just past midnight, and completes just before 4am. For example, the use chooses to display his day as the name. On Monday, the display would show MON. At about midnight, the day would change to I (for Monday), and the change over complete to TUE at about 4am.
The day and date displays will move backwards when the hands are being set backwards.
Did we skip the Competitive Landscape section? Well, we did, as there are probably no competitors at this price range. The Seiko PADI Automatic Diver SRPA21 retails for S$ 667.70 including GST, it has few peers. We made some references to the Rolex Submariner in the review, but the least expensive version, the Submariner Ref. 114060 with no date retails for S$ 10,030.
The watch is very well made. Exceedingly so. It sometimes makes us wonder that if Seiko can achieve this quality and sell at this reasonable a price, why do we need to pay more for a dive watch? The case and bracelet oozes high quality and class. The dial design is legible, and very clear, even in the dark. The unidirectional bezel works well, although if we had a nick to pick, it would be here as we prefer a more positive feedback as it goes through the clicks. The entire package is well executed, and very nice indeed. And at this price. Its an instant winner!
One thing to note that though this is a Special Edition, Seiko does not mention that the series is limited in any way.
The watch wears well, and is very comfortable, despite its 45mm size would suggest. The clean, smooth lines of the case with the matt finishing is remarkably beautiful, and extends its use from the scuba dive to a smart casual wardrobe easily.
Specifications of the Seiko PADI Automatic Diver is found in our Press Release article here.