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Revisiting the Seiko Alpinist

Navigating the sports watch
by Chester Lau on October 19, 2019

First introduced in 1961, the Seiko Alpinist was a significant milestone in the brand’s history. It was the first ‘Sports Watch’ for the brand, with the intention of it becoming a reliable timepiece for Japanese mountain climbers. These men required a tough and rugged that could be used in the rough terrain.

More recently in 2007, Seiko released the Alpinist Green Ref. SARB017 and quickly became a cult favorite of the brand. It’s classic design with a sporty element made it an ideal versatile timepiece. The SARB017 was discontinued in 2018.

In February this year, Seiko ‘revived’ the Alpinist line with a blue dial variant in a limited edition run for the US market. As of today, the model is said to be sold out at retail.

The case and dial

The stainless steel case of the SARB017 has a diameter of 39.5mm and measures 12 mm in thickness. This gives it a accessible size for both dress and sports use. The Alpinist features a unique sunburst green dial with gold applied indexes with matching gold hands. An iconic look for the watch, the green sunburst dial makes the Alpinist instantly recognizable together with its secondary crown.

The second crown at 4 o’clock controls the inner bezel which can be rotated to approximate the wearer’s bearings. To adjust the scale for a good reading, the wearer starts by pointing the watch’s hour hand toward the Sun. Then, he can turn the crown to rotate the inner bezel until the “South” marker is in the middle of 12 o’clock and the hour hand.

The Movement

Powered by Seiko’s caliber, 6R15, the self-winding movement beats at 21,600 BPH and is equipped with hacking and hand winding capabilities. The 23 jewels movement contains a power reserve of 50 hours and is armed with a Diashock absorber. The additional shock resistance is only available on the Alpinist within the SARB line. The Diashock absorber is designed to make the movement less susceptible to damage from shock or impact.

Concluding thoughts

The Alpinist is fondly missed by fans and its popularity seems to have risen following the discontinuation. While the green variant is what most are used to seeing, having been in the market for a decade, the blue US edition is undoubtedly more collectible. It is a limited edition of 1959, individually numbered, and a subjectively more refreshing take on the sports watch. The matte blue dial and silver hour markers and hands give the watch a more subdued character as compared to its sunburst green dial predecessor. Both watches retailed at approximately US$600 and are likely only available on the grey market today.

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