Seiko was one of the original players in the automatic chronograph market. This was the Speedtimer, their first chronograph, released in 1969. The Speedtimer is one of the 3 chronographs which have legitimate claim to be the the world’s first automatic chronograph, released in 1969- together with Zenith and a Swiss group of collaborators known as Chronomatic. This was an exciting race, which resulted in 3 legitimate claims.
Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Chronograph World Athletics Championship 2022
In October 2021, Seiko released a series of 2 automatic chronographs, one a limited edition of 1000 pieces, and the other in regular production. The base underlining theme is these chronographs are inspired by Seiko’s 1969 Speedtimer Cal. 6139 and leverages on the brand’s rich tradition in sports timing. The new watches were equipped with the 8R46 automatic column wheel chronograph with vertical clutch and are part of the Prospex collection. In this new release, the line is extended with a new 400 piece limited edition series dedicated to the World Athletics in 2022, a global event to be held in Eugene, Oregon where Seiko has been the official timekeeper since 1985.
The watch is presented on a stainless steel bracelet that is specially designed and constructed for this series. If the wearer chooses, the bracelet can be replaced with the black leather strap that is also included.
The case measures 42.5mm in diameter and 15.1mm in thickness. Most of that height is attributed to the thick vertical clutch modular movement with date wheel. The crystal used is a dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating in the inner surface.
There is quite some space at the periphery of the dial that is filled with a rehaut and minute marker track. This is symptomatic of a larger case small movement design. The watch wears on the larger side at 42.5mm, but considering the inevitable thickness of the case, it may be more proportionate to have a wider case than anything under 40mm. The bracelet is fully matte finished and is treated with a super-hard coating as with the case. While there is nothing peculiar about the design, the end link fit looks strange against the lugs. We are not sure if this was done by design or otherwise, but having an aligned fit of the end links may be more appealing to some.
The Dial and Hands
The sand patterned dial adds some variety to the dial, accompanied by applied hour markers. The chronograph second hand and the 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock are in yellow, the color of all Seiko’s timing and measurement devices. The second hand is gently curved down towards the markers and its tip extends right to the edge of the dial so that the elapsed time can be read accurately at a glance. The hour and minute hands are generously coated with Lumibrite to enhance readability in the dark.
This new Speedtimer is powered by Caliber 8R46, which, like the Caliber 6139 used in the original 1969 Speedtimer, incorporates vertical clutch and column wheel mechanisms to ensure the highest possible levels of precision and durability. The escapement is lightweight and strong, due to the use of MEMS technology which enhances the stability of the watch’s precision.
The movement also features an interesting hacking mechanism with a heart shaped cam operating under the balance wheel, ensuring that balance wheel is kept absolutely stationary while the watch is put in setting mode. This special cam device is protected by a Seiko patent.
The main drawbacks are concerns with the accuracy of 8R movements, which are possibly not as regulated to prevent cannibalizing Grand Seiko movements. The accuracy ranges from +25/-15 seconds/day. The strongest alternative for a chronograph in this price range likely comes from Longines, which also touts its own vertical clutch column wheel movements but with greater accuracy ratings and power reserve. While this is a lovely watch, the larger case and less stellar movement performance do give us a level of uncertainty at this price point.
The Speedtimer benefits from retro styling and a tested movement. It retails at EUR 3,200, priced the same as with the regular, 1000 piece limited edition Prospex Speedtimer Chronographs., and just EUR 200 more than the non-limited edition version.