This is a long overdue report and review on the good ol Seiko MarineMaster.
There are tons of reviews out there, so I am not going to make you read all the same ol thing over and over again. Hence I will try to point out several key points that maybe of interest to the current owners of the MM or prospective owners out there. I will compare the watch parts one by one, with some of the best player around in the industry (not just Japanese but Swiss watches as well). I will not belittle the Seiko MM, by comparing and rating the watch limited to its price league, but also some of the top houses in the market (that I know of and . I have, haha)
As some of you guys know, I have sold almost my entire Seiko collection with the exception of the two bullheads (which started this whole darn thing!) and move on to my Swiss ambition. However, just the other day, I was browsing for a trusty daily wear (no, I never need a beater as I got my Casio Protrek for that!) and I thought that it is time for a MM as I have always been intrigued with the aesthetical and quality of the watch. And just has luck got it, I chanced upon this seller from SCTF and it was not long that I got it on my wrist. (thank God for USPS Express)
Without further ado, lets proceed with my little review and comparison to my other Swiss origin watches (the idea came from Kevin MC though~)
My first impression is.. GOD this is a damn heavy watch!!! It feels heavier AND chunkier than my vintage Omega Speedmaster 125 (which I thought was already very heavy) and of course, being a heavy weighter, this feels slightly uncomfortable when you strap it on.. BUT you simply love the feel! Sorry if I sounded like some masochist, but truth is, this is one watch that will remind you that you are really wearing a watch. LOL. Well, if you think that a Rolex SeaDweller DeepSea feels heavy, you might like to try feeling the MM side by side with it. The only feel difference is, the MM is way much wearable and nicer IMHO (and way better bang for your buck)
Ok, now for the part by part analysis of the watch.
The bezel is one of the best out there that I have toyed with. Using Rolex Sub as an example, the clicks feels way much more refined on a MM as compared to a Sub. You can feel the tightness, as well as the smooth clicking sound when you rotate the bezel. The Sub on the other hand feels much tighter and it is harder to use. Though you can loosen the tension (bend the click spring) but the overall feel is, in a word, less sophisticated than the MM. The MMs bezel yells quality in terms of functionality. Some forummers pointed out that the bezel rotate too easily and there were concerns of unintentional rotation on the bezel. But as far as I am concern, this is definitely not an issue, not even close enough. In a nutshell, it is near perfectly smooth, but not loose (at all) to be rotated accidentally.
Other than the functional aspect of the bezel, in the aesthetical department, I really like the finishing on the insert (I was told that this is a single piece bezel with no insert).The finishing is near mirror shine, just like the polished ceramic bezel on the new Rolex GMT Master II. It looks great, but also it comes with a price; it is can be fairly easy to be scratched if you bump into something. The grip teeth at the side of the bezel is easy to hold and unlike the Rolex Sub, which is way too sharp and uncomfortable to use, is near perfect for its function. I also noticed that at 12, I see two click mechanism on the bezel instead of the usual one found in many divers. My guess is that this is used for the 120 clicks thing and unlike Rolex which has 120 grooves under the bezel for the 120 clicks, the MM has 60 grooves to make 120 clicks. Quite an interesting feature to me actually.
At certain angles, the marking on the bezel appears to be slightly off-white, white gold in color. It has a matt appearance as compared to the glossy black surface and this give a very 3D impression if the bezel is scrutinized at an angle. The lume dot is slightly protruded from the bezel and has a flat surface. The metal surrounding the lume dot appears to have a 2 steps contour holding the lume. I do not really understand the architect of the metal ring, but I must say the finishing and all looks impressive. Sorry, no pictures on my SeaDweller as it is due for a service and hence I do not have it with me currently. But googling for it will yield approx. 50 million available shots (ok, I am exaggerating).
In my opinion, I would rate the bezel at 9 out of 10 for its superb workmanship and being highly functional. If the bezel insert is made of ceramic, then I would say that the MM may have gotten near full marks for this area.
The watch case finish is impressive too. As mentioned, this watch feel really really heavy, much heavier than I would have imagined and expected. The finish at the side of the case is really beautiful, with a nice brushed finish at the side and high shine polish at the sweet curves. From the front view, I really like the curvy shape of this watch.
I used to own a vintage 6159-7000 and I must say that I love it a lot, as I really like the shape and curves exhibited by it. But this MM is exceptional. It went a few steps further to enhance the shape by having a flat brushed surface at both of its sides. I have seen some of the nicer shapey ones like the older vintage Rolex Submariners with a nice curves, but all pales in comparison to the MM. There is no shape edges on the MM overall and feels like a 5 figure dollar watch. I have a Patek Nautilus 5712, and the finishing feels somewhat similar, with smooth edges everywhere, just that the Patek feels much refined. I am not trying to put the MM down by comparing with a Patek, but I would like to share my experience with everyone; comparing some of the best in its game as mentioned earlier. The Patek is a true champion in its league and it is virtually perfect for the overall case finish, a class on its own. See pictures for its details
I would rate the case at 8.5 out of 10 overall. If the MM caseback exhibit a non-common tsunami logo at the back of the watch, it may give a different prestige feel on the Prospex range just like the way GS did on theirs. And the same time, if I were to scrutinized the watch curves under a loupe and run it through a strong light, there is a certain level of unevenness on the surface. But for the price that the MM demands, you are buying platinum at the price of copper.
Bracelet & Clasp
My first impression of the bracelet is,. Bad! I thought that this is yet another Omega copy, which Omega done it for their SpeedMasters. The unmistakable style and design is definitely heavily borrowed from Omega. However, the construction of the bracelet feels much solid compared to the Omega counterpart. There is little play on the bracelet links, which are necessary for expansion and contraction due to temperature, and feels quality.
However, being an Asian, having a smaller wrist than most of my peers, the links are too lengthy and not all the links are removable. Hence this resulted in a lopsided, longer 6 oclock side compared to the 12 oclock side. This is only an issue for smaller wrist folks, but Seiko, being an Asian brand, should have thought of that. However, I found a fix to the above problem, by removing the link nearest to the end piece and attaching a few removable link in place of the few unremovable links. The only cons is, the width of the removable links are slightly smaller to the original one as the bracelet is being tapered down to the clasp area. But to me, it is still looking fine and does bother me lesser than the watch not being able to sit properly on my wrist.
Also, when the links are on the longer side (means lesser links too), the bracelet tend to be inflexible and dont hug your wrist perfect.
And though I have no problems currently, I do believe that there are better methods out there to hold the link together other than the good ol pin and collar method using friction as the only way to hold the links together. Rolex uses the screws method to hold them, which I think it is highly effective and easy to size the bracelet. Patek as far as I know, went a step forward to utilize a self locking screw thread, which the screw threads are waxed using a special material to protect the threads and prevent the screws from accidental unscrewing due to movements, and wear, etc.
The clasp on the other hand is interesting. From the color, texture, weight and overall feel, this looks like titanium. I am pretty certain that this is a Titanium material, and have search for answers high and low, but no one has confirmed on it. Anyway, this is the 2nd generation clasp and supposedly works better with a bigger solid piece of the clasps blades as compared to the first. The diver extension is also cleverly hidden under one of the blades and though it is thicker than most bracelet clasp, it feels good and I like it alot, like a tool watch. The method to release the diver extension is sure innovative too, and my only complain is that it should be also be designed with a increased difficulty level to decrease the extension. I find it a little too easy to push back the diver extension which could have cut off my blood circulation to my wrist should I accidentally push it on a diving trip. (Ok, confession time, I dont dive, just a hypothetical example).
The adjustment holes on the clasp is good too, not too far apart for any micro adjustments. The double lock snap almost perfect and almost no play can be felt after the clasp is closed.
For the bracelet & clasp, I would like to rate it separately to be fair as the bracelet in my opinion didnt perform as well as I would like it to be. I would rate the bracelet at 7, due to the some of the flaws mentioned above and the clasp at 8, being highly functional but losing on the aesthetic appeal (such as indifferent in the finish at all areas, just brush finish on the whole clasp and some areas are uneven as well).
Crown and Screw Thread
When I unwind the screw down crown for the first time, it feels smooth, yet it doesnt feel robust and secure. It didnt feel any better when the crown pops out with too much force (is the spring too powerful?) after the last round of unscrewing and I am certain that it is inevitable of a higher chance of depreciation giving the size of the screw threads. Though there is no strong evidence of a correlation on stripping of the screw threads to the measly sized screw threads, I just somehow didnt feel too confident on that.
Compared this to the best at its game, the Rolex screw down, especially the Submariners, or Daytona in my example, which the latter two feels totally perfect, the MM is really let down in this aspect. The Rolex crown when screwed, unscrewed, set time, etc, is almost perfect, even beating my Pateks screw down crown hands down. Even when you set the time on a Rolex, there is virtually no play when you snap the crown back into position. The Rolex is really that good. No wonder they are the founder to this screw down crown system. The MM also has little play when you snap the crown back into position after setting the time, but so far, it has not really bothered me that much. (Unlike some Valjoux-powered piecesnotably the 7750, etc)
For this department, I would have to rate the overall crown and screw thread system at 5. It has not fail me, yet, nor would I expect it to do so, but I am discouraged from really abusing it. Ok, maybe its Seikos ploy for us to take care of our watches more. Maybe.
Well, there are a lot of debates over this, Sapphire or glass, but the general consensus appears that most would prefer a sapphire material, as it is virtually scratch-proof. I do not really think that the sapphire crystal will be easily smashed (as what Seiko claims) and if that is so, use a thicker sapphire at 3mm, if necessary. Maybe its a way for Seiko to cut production cost, I dont know. But I would very much prefer it to be sapphire too. Though the crystal is set much lower than the bezel, there is still a good chance to scratch it (ok, the bezel is first to get the damage and I am sure it hurts more than scratching the crystal).
Again, at certain angles, the crystal seemed to have disappeared due to the contours of the crystal. The inner dome shape of the crystal also magnified the watch dial and giving the watch dial a very sunken appearance. The surface of the crystal is slightly domed too, but I think Seiko wanted the dial to be magnified and legitimate (and undistorted) at all angles. There is a very light AR treatment in the inner surface and it worked really well, blocking some of the reflection, but not too much to show a blue hue on the dial. The chapter ring surrounding the crystal seems to have a lowered profile, probably attributed by the crystal which covered it nicely.
I would rate the crystal at 8. If it is made in sapphire, it would have easily scored full points in this area.
Marvelous work done. The minute and hour hands are really perfect, like a GS. The high shine beveled sides are so perfectly done even stared at using a loupe. The brushed sides of the hands are well done too. The design of the hands are innovative and makes reading time (or appreciating) a breeze. However, the second hand is a total disappointment. I think that it shared the same hands as the Seiko Samurai Ti. The second hand has an uneven finish, and the mirror shine finish is not close to perfect unlike the hour and minute hands. There is so much unevenness on the second hand that it makes it look like a alien to the other two. I am so tempted to remove the second hand to modify or enhance it further (maybe brushing it? As trying to mirror shine it without stripping too much of the metal and show the gold tone underneath will be tough).
Overall, the only thing closet to perfection in this department is made by IWC (the in-house ones), or Breguet or GS or Chopard LUC hands. And the hour and minute hands on the MM would have easily scored a perfect 10, with the second hand scoring a 6. I think its only fair to grade it separately.
The dial is somewhat a hit-and-miss. The printing on the dial, looks somewhat near perfect, with a very nice matt finish on the dial which give the hands more legitimacy when viewed at all possible angles.
However, the only complain I have is the uneven Lumibrite lume. I do suspect that Seiko uses a slightly higher micron in size luminious compound that give an uneven finish like those strontium aluminate compound.
However to compensate for the uneven lume, and because of the fact that it is bigger in grit size than the Superluminova (SLN) compound, it does glow brighter than the SLN. Dont believe me? Ok, here is a test, Panerai is pretty well known for its brightness for its lume. Panerai uses a combination of C1 (60%) and C3 (40%) to achieve a signatured whitish green lume under light. See below and the result, though close, is still pretty conclusive and obvious enough to tell.
The other thing I didnt like about the dial is the SEIKO word. It is oversized, too oversized for my liking. Maybe just my personal opinion.
The date window size looks normal, and readable at an arms length.
The overall dial as mentioned looks magnified because of the crystal and with the chapter ring, it gives the overall appearance a lot of depth which I really like that a lot. It gives the watch a lot of character and a mysterious feel while the second hand creeps away slowly.
Anyway, my overall rating for the dial is an 8.5. Many points were deducted mainly for the uneven lume.
I cannot comment for now on the movement as I currently have no intention to open the watch up. However I may, given that I may "need" to swap the crystal to a sapphire upgrade. Till then, I hope that you have enjoyed the review and got something out of it.
Happy Watch Hunting!
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