Adored by many, but known to so few, the Seiko Alpinist (Sarb017) is a Japanese emerald destined to become a classic.
Seiko Alpinist Review
Until recently Seiko was a brand I cared very little for. Sure, I had read many glowing reviews of a number of their watches and watched several videos pointing out what great value for money they were, yet I still held the opinion that they were cheap, mass produced and unlikely to stand the test of time.
As I said, that was until recently, when my eye was caught by an unmistakable piece and I duly added it to my collection; the Seiko Alpinist (Sarb017).
Having only started collecting in the last few years, I began with pieces that pleased me aesthetically, not caring too much about the internal workings, nor the overall level of finishing. When I received my Alpinist all that changed. The moment I opened the parcel I was simply blown away with the level at which this piece had been finished, it was, and is, a work of art. The clean lines of the case, subtle brushed and glistening surfaces, as well as crowns at 3 & 4 o’clock all add to what is in my opinion one of the most captivating dials available at this price point. The contrast of the green sunburst backdrop for the gold cathedral hands & indices is unique, and the fact these indices are applied to the dial as opposed to printed elevates the refinement of the watch. However, when it comes printing on the dial, Seiko have nailed it.
Three lines of text mirroring the applied Seiko logo at 12 o’clock not only give the dial balance, but they also provide the wearer with some very important information. Starting at the bottom, 20BAR indicates this watch is waterproof to 200 metres, something not all dive watches can boast, and this is partly thanks to the screw down crown at 3 o’clock. The middle line of text reminds us the movement is fitted with Diashock shock resistance, worth noting as this watch is designed to be lived in. Finally, the top line simply reads ‘Automatic’. On the surface this is pretty unnecessary, but what’s special about this, and is arguably my favourite detail on the dial, is the font in which it is printed.
Flowing and in italics, it is very similar to the font used on all previous incarnations of this watch to print the word Alpinist, dating back to the 60s. A small detail, but one that ties this historic watch and it’s ancestors together. All three lines of text are white, as is the lume in the hands & dial and the border of the date window, completing the balancing act of the dial. Lastly the outermost chapter ring acts as a compass and is rotated using the crown situated at 4 o’clock. Although I haven’t had the chance to use this as of yet, the occasional burst of red amongst the white markings draws your eyes in and gives you no doubt as to which way is North. Somehow when all this is brought together in a sub 40mm case, you are left with a rugged watch that still holds a refined charm.
Flip the watch over and you are presented with a solid case back with an engraved Alpinist mountain logo. This is very fitting for a watch of this caliber, as it not only helps with the water resistance, but it retains it’s masculine, no nonsense feel. The cherry on the cake is the aforementioned engraving, cementing the Alpinist’s iconic status in the same way Omega’s Speedmaster and Seamasters do with their respective case back engravings. Behind this however lies the real heart of this watch, the 23 Jewel 6R15 movement. As mentioned previously, this carries Diashock protection meaning you really can knock this watch around without fear of damaging it. The movement isn’t decorated, and nor should it be as it is hidden away, but it does provide a mighty 50 hour power reserve, considerably more than most of it’s Swiss cousins at this price point.
There are of course downsides to everything, and the Alpinist isn’t immune to criticism. I have to echo the thoughts of everyone who owns or has come across this watch; the stock strap is horrendous. I mean really, really bad. It’s poorly finished, feels terribly synthetic, and although the colour goes well with the watch, I would wholeheartedly advise you to have a replacement waiting before you receive your watch. I do have to admit though, the brushed buckle is lovely, and that has been transferred to the strap I currently have resting on it’s lugs. There is an aftermarket metal bracelet available for the Alpinist, but that comes at a cost. Green clearly will not go with everything, nor will it be everyone’s cup of tea and perhaps this knocks the watch’s versatility a little, but putting that aside, the overall watch really will sing on leather, metal or indeed a NATO strap. With this in mind I would have liked to have seen drilled lugs for strap changing included, indeed this would have added to the overall robust aesthetic, but you can’t have it all. Beyond that there really is little for me to pick up on. Sure, it’s not the most accurate watch in the world, but it’s a £300 watch – you wouldn’t expect it to be.
The Seiko Alpinist remains one of my favourite watches in my collection and I don’t see that changing any time soon. It can fill almost any requirement I need, whether that be a daily casual wearer, something to take swimming or even assist me if I’m lost in the wilderness. The highest praise I can give this watch though? It spurred me, the former Seiko snob, into buying another Seiko.
Where to buy
The Seiko Alpinist is a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) only model, making it hard to find outside of Japan. Luckily, they are available here on Amazon US.
Make sure you get one now as they are becoming harder and harder to find!
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