Seiko’s New High-End Diver Is Gunning for Your Swiss Watch Money

The 2023 Prospex Marinemaster is controversial but it just might be one of the most competitive offerings in its price point.

Seiko’s dropped yet another buzz-worthy watch. Many fans of the Japanese watchmaker are excited while others point out some of the brand’s puzzling choices. But the bottom line? Seiko’s come out with some pretty awesome-looking dive watches—once again. 

Sounds a lot like your typical Seiko release, right? But the new Prospex Marinemaster SJE series is a bit different. 

Why? It just might be ready to compete with mainstream, luxury dive watches in the circa $3,000 price point, and even above. This is territory where most Seiko offerings have often had pretty niche, collector-focused appeal. Though high-end within Seiko’s Prospex collection, the new Marinemaster cuts handsome, traditional dive watch vibes with distinctive looks, is packed with luxury features, boasts crowd-pleasing sub-40mm sizing and has plenty of Seiko heritage cues for the fans. It even comes with a little controversy around its name to get people talking.

The basics 

 

The new watches come in a trio as the SJE101 with black dial and bezel, the SJE099 with blue bezel and light blue dial and the limited edition (1,000 examples) SJE097 with a steel bezel and cream-colored dial. They’re powered by the 6L37 “slimline” automatic movement that was introduced earlier this year in the (not Marinemaster-designated) SJE093. Many will be pleased with its 39.5mm by 12.3mm dimensions. Ok, now let’s get to what you really need to know about the 2023 Marinemaster.

It’s like an elevated SPB14X

 

You know the SPB14X series. It’s been one of Seiko’s biggest hits in recent years, the gray-dial SPB143 variant being especially popular. It was yet another stab (among many) at reinterpreting the brand’s vintage icon, the 62MAS, as a modern watch, but there was broad consensus that they’d really nailed it.

The new Marinemaster watches cut a similar silhouette with the blocky hands and indices that recall the 62MAS. But it’s full of refinements and details that set it apart (more on those more below). It’s also positioned at the upper ranges of the Prospex line where past models have often been limited editions with deep Seiko collectors in mind—but we think the new Marinemaster line could have mass appeal. 

A Marinemaster by any other name would dive as deep

 

The most controversial element of this new series of watches is in its name, especially vis-a-vis its water resistance. The Marinemaster name has graced the dials of watches taking many forms over the years, so it doesn’t belong to a certain design. It has, however, always been associated with some of the brand’s most serious dive watches.

And therein lies the controversy. Reviving the Marinemaster name will excite collectors, but with a water resistance “only” 200m, as is pretty much the minimum that many will consider to define a true dive watch, some are feeling a bit jaded. For this release Seiko seems to interpret the Marinemaster name as its most elevated dive watches rather than the deepest diving—as there are other (non-Marinemaster) models which now serve that role. 

While the Marinemaster name never disappeared completely, it’s mostly been absent outside of Japan. The new series is meant to reintroduce it to the international market.

It’s small and thin, especially for a Seiko dive watch

 

It’s easy to imagine as many people complaining about a watch being too big or thick as gripe about the low water resistance. Lord knows (and so does Seiko), it’s hard to please everyone. Watches rated to a kilometer underwater (or even half that) tend to be chonky. And that’s exactly what the new Marinemasters aren’t, according to their specs.

At 39.5mm wide and 12.3mm thick, they’re even smaller than the SPB14X watches and apparently the thinnest divers Seiko currently makes. That’s going to sound damn good to a lot of people. The combination of size, design and elevated execution makes them extremely competitive, perhaps in a way and in a segment that Seiko rarely is. The first thing I thought when I saw these? My Tudor Black Bay 58 savings fund is in danger. 

It’s premium-priced, but competitively positioned

 

The price? $2,800. That’s no Seiko Turtle or SKX, and it’s more than twice as expensive as the SPB14X watches ($1,200 on a bracelet). It puts it in direct competition with the likes of, say, an Oris Aquis, a Sinn U50 or a TAG Heuer Aquaracer. It’s not actually an especially crowded price point but with its relatively classical and handsome looks along with a highly versatile size, again, it feels like it’s aiming for my BB58 money.

The little things that make a difference

 

The 2023 Marinemaster is full of little elements that place it on a higher tier and which many will overlook when crying “too expensive!” It’s got a premium, “thinline” movement which the brand says is made especially for dive watches, and it’s visible through a display caseback, a first for a Marinemaster.

Moreover, you can see right away that the case and bracelet finishing is of a higher level than you’ll find on more affordable Prospex models. The case design is distinct, too, with the likes of prominent polished bevels (no mention of “zaratsu”) contrasting with otherwise brushed finishes. Rather than aluminum or ceramic, interestingly, the black and blue bezels are lacquered steel with a hard coating, according to Fratello. The dial features a horizontal pattern which may remind some of, say, a TAG Heuer Aquaracer or Patek Philippe Nautilus, but which to me has a distinctive look.

Finally, many have pointed out the bracelet design with its center links brushed in the middle and flanked by polished sections. It looks fantastic, and helps to elevate the watch’s feel and set its design apart, though some complain about the endlinks’ integration with the case and lack of an easily adjustable clasp. You can’t please everyone, but many will still be pleased. 

Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 2023 Tech Specs and Price

 

Movement: Seiko 6L37 “Thinline” automatic; 4Hz; 45-hour power reserve

Functions: Time and date

Case: 39.5mm wide; 12.3mm thick; Seiko super-hard coating

Dial: Horizontal stripe pattern in light blue, cream or black

Strap: Steel bracelet with Seiko super hard coating

Price: $2,800

Visit Seiko online to learn more about the Prospex Marinemaster SJE101, SJE099, and SJE097.

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