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The Seiko Prospex Shrouded Divers Review

October 19 2002 at 8:05 AM
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The Seiko Prospex Shrouded Divers



I always sort of admired from afar the Seiko Prospex shrouded divers. Theyíve got a cool rugged purpose built look to them and really appear to be well built and thought out designs. After discovering this forum and reading Ryanís outstanding articles about Seikoís involvement in the development of these models, I became hooked.



The 300M

47MM Wide
14MM Tall

Besides a couple of G-Shocks and a Kinetic Swatch, I hadnít bought a quartz watch for at least ten years before I purchased this 300M. Believe me, it was with much trepidation that I ordered this one from Higuchi, and I had a tough time convincing myself to spend this kind of money on a quartz watch. But at the same time, I couldnít stand it anymore. Some of the forum participants had already purchased this model, and the posted scans were driving me crazy!



All fears disappeared as soon as I laid eyes on my own 300M. First of all, it comes in what I think is the coolest packaging of the three watches reviewed. Nothing fancy, just purposeful. The box is a yellow and gray cardboard affair with a sort of high tech composite feel to it. Hard to explain, but it just seems to fit the personality of this watch.

Upon reading the instruction manual for the 300M, you realize that Seiko believes this is a serious watch. ďYour watch literally is a professional diverís watch which enjoys very high water resistance. As a diverís watch, Professional 300 is so designed and fabricated as to fully perform its functions. You can be confident in your watch.ď So many so called sports watches, really arenít, and itís nice to see that Seiko stands behind and believes in the ruggedness of this watch.



Thereís a lot to like about this one, and in a lot of ways, itís the most sensible and attractive of these 3 divers. While itís not the lightest, that honor goes to the 1000M, it does fit best on my wrist and is the easiest to wear. Itís also the most strap friendly of these divers in that there actually are some lugs here that arenít partially covered by the shroud. (more on this later) Finally, the single spring bar hole drilled through one of the lugs is a nice touch. Some donít like their lugs drilled all the way through, (Iím not one of themÖespecially with those pesky Seiko 22mm shoulderless Springbars) and this is sort of an intelligent compromise to address that issue. Finally, I will say that I like the fact that there is a screw back on this one. When the battery does die, Iím pretty sure that Iíd feel comfortable replacing this one myself rather than having to send the watch all the way back to Japan for something as insignificant as a battery change. I just hope I can find one of those special Seiko ďLĒ gaskets that seals the back.

From the domed crystal, to the perfect feel and design of the screw down crown, to the oversized hands and markers, to the subtle interplay in metal finishes between the case, bezel and shroud, everything about this watch screams fun. I always smile when I strap this one on, and itís one of the few watches I own that I actually force myself not to wear because it monopolizes my wrist. This is the watch that Iíve worn the most in 2002. If you donít already have one of these and are on the fence, do it, if you donít like it, it seems to be a pretty easy model to sell and holds value relatively well.



600M

51MM Wide
17MM Tall

Okay, Iíve got a confession to make. Iím a little guy with little wrists. 6.5 inches little in fact. Problem is, I do like big watches, and as ridiculous as they sometimes may look on me, I still wear them. For years, Iíve worn a 44mm Panerai and Iíve got a big Glycine that I like to strap on as well, but, I am very stealthy about it, and usually only wear them when Iíve got long sleeves on and can hide the watch under my shirtsleeves. That said, Iíve gotta tell you, this watch may be the first that really is too big. Itís not really the diameter of this one that psyches me out, but the height. Itís a whopping 17MM tall, and as such, has a really high center of gravity. When this thing is on, you can feel it on your wrist, and because itís so high, I donít have many shirts that I can pull over it.



One of the things I really notice about this one is the hands. While the other Prospex diver hands have horizontal bisections through the luminous, this one has a single vertical line going through each hand; the theme even extends to the small luminous circle on the second hand. A nice touch. The lugs on both sides of this one are drilled through and the case is finished in matte titanium. Iím not sure what the shroud material is on this one. It could be titanium or it could be steel. Whatever it is, it really adds a presence to the watch. Itís the thickest and most commanding of the three shrouds on the Seikos and absolutely dwarfs the shroud on the 300M. The screws that hold the shroud to the case are sort of gun metal grey in appearance, and I still canít decide if I wish they were polished or not.



The movement is the same 8L35 as found in the Marinemaster, and it runs at what seems to be the Seiko standard +10 seconds per day. Iím not an accuracy freak so this is no big deal. Winding this one with itís huge 8MM crown is a joy. The face on this one is a perhaps just a tad bit more gray than the other two, and itís the only one that doesnít have the day feature. The bezel on the 600M is unique among these three watches in that it moves in one minute as opposed to 30 second increments. Itís gotta real nice heavy duty mechanical click type of feel to it. I prefer this over the 30 second bezels, but this is a purely subjective opinion.

Overall, size issues aside, this is easily the flashiest of the three divers. The bezel is actually highly polished, and along with the hands seems to sparkle much more than the other divers. Perhaps itís a visual illusion as a result of all the black that sorrounds the case.

Unfortunately, (I really like domed crystals) the crystal is flat on this one, and seems to have quite a lot of anti-glare coating. There is a bluish haze thatís very visible in many lighting angles that permeates over the face of the 600M.

The Titanium back is engraved with the regular Seiko information; model number, case material, country and movement as well as the edition number and a ďSeiko Historical Collection The Year 2000Ē inscription.

As much as I like this one, Iíve got a few criticisms, not with the watch, but with the packaging and the strap. Not only is this an expensive watch, but it really does have a lot of history behind it. Seiko makes no mention of this or their diver history in any of the literature supplied. You just get the standard Seiko booklet along with an 8L35 manual. Itís a shame, because it was Seikoís genuine history and innovation (Thanks Ryan) in diver watch development that piqued my interest in this watch.

The box it came in was a standard sort of long jeweler watch case affair. Pretty generic, and not as cool as the 300M Prospex box. Finally thereís the issue of the strap. Okay, the buckle is titanium, but otherwise, this is just an everyday 22mm Seiko strap. I understand that the strap that comes with the Marine Master is not a standard Z rubber strap and it would have been nice had Seiko put some effort in supplying the 600M with something a bit more exclusive. I donít know about you guys, but Iíve got a box full of those darn Seiko Z straps that are just sitting unused. I put a ďtropicalĒ rubber strap on this one and think it looks just great.

Sorry if I sound negative about the above points, but really, combined with the price and the heritage of this model, I really donít think they gave the watch justice in the packaging.



1000M

48MM Wide
15MM Tall

Although this was the last of my Prospex purchases, it was actually the one I had wanted for the longest time. As I mentioned, I was extremely hesitant to spend the money I did on the 300M, (because it was quartz) so there was no way I was going to spend twice as much for this thing.

Lets just get this out of the way right up front. Yes, itís big, yes, itís ugly, and yes, itís gold. BUT, it really, really is a neat kind of ugly. Hard to explain, but I really am oddly and strangely attracted to this one. I can understand how others arenít though. Iíve got a collector friend who thinks Iíve officially gone off the deep end with this one. (sorry ) As others have mentioned, the gold tends more to a copper color than gold and sometimes it even looks like thereís just the tiniest bit of green tint to it. Very subtle though.



Like the 300M, the bezel turns in 30 second increments, however, and I donít know if this is sample specific or not, but the bezel on this one is very tight. Almost to the point at which itís difficult to turn. When I received this watch, I was shocked to see that there was no luminous dot at the 12:00 position on the bezel. ďThis canít beĒ, I thought, and actually checked out a few shots on the internet to see if I had gotten a defective bezel. I hadnít, and upon entering a dark room actually realized that the whole triangle is luminous material. Seiko did a great job on it because unless itís dark and glowing, I canít tell that the triangle is any different than the printed characters on the rest of the bezel. Another note on the bezel that seems exclusive to the 1000M is that the printing on the bezel seems to actually be protected by a layer of plastic or polyurethane insert. This is one bezel that could probably take lots of abuse.

To me, this one wears so much easier than the 600M. Although itís large, and dimensionally pretty close to the 600M, itís not as heavy, and believe it or not, can actually disappear on the wrist. This watch feels smaller than it is. It comes on that standard Seiko strap, but you do get the coated titanium matching buckle, and a neat gold keeper too. Hey, even the screws that fasten the shroud to the case are gold. Of course the (unsigned) crown on this one is gold, and mine does have that slightly gritty quality (unique to the 1000M) to the threading that others have mentioned in the past. The dial is unique among the 3 on the 1000M in that the luminous is circled by gold colored indices.



One thing about the ďfeelĒ of this watch. I always felt there was something odd about this watch as I would handle it. Hard to explain, but let me say that you almost didnít feel like you had a watch in your hand. Randall, a week or two ago made an excellent observation and pinpointed what I was perceiving. Apparently, the shroud is made of a ceramic compound, and as such, it really does have a cold, porcelain sort of sterile feel to it, a feeling Iíve never gotten from handling a watch before.

Although the 1000M shroud is not as large as that on the 600, this one does covers the lugs completely. This and the fact that there are no holes in the lugs makes strap changing really difficult on this one. This is one Seiko that I guess Iíll keep the original band on. Iím not sure I could remove it without leaving a scratch on the case or shroud. Also, both this and the 1000M designs make one piece strap uses sort of tenuous. I tried a Nato on the 600M, but because of the way the shroud partially covers the lugs, the fit on a one piece strap was so tight, I just didnít feel comfortable keeping it on.

Like the 600, the Hardlex crystal is flat, but interestingly enough, there doesnít appear to be an anti-reflective treatiment on the 1000M. And again, the packaging was similar to the 600; a plain jewelers Seiko box with the regular Seiko manuals.

I never thought Iíd own all three of these divers, simply because I didnít think that they were different enough to justify the desire, but having them now, I can appreciate how different each watch is.

Seiko could have cut a lot of corners with this line basically using the same dials, hands, crowns etc. in slightly different cases; kind of a big, bigger and biggest approach. Although on the surface it may appear that this is what they have done, closer inspection reveals that they have actually created 3 completely different watches, differing in dials, movements, crystals, and case materials. The 300M is the most modern with itís all steel high tech look and domed crystal, the 1000M perhaps the most technical and functional with itís ceramic/titanium construction, and the 600M the most traditional with its genuine replication of Seikoís original flagship diver.


 
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