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Recently, for its 55th anniversary of its (and frankly Japan’s) first diver, Seiko released 3 limited-edition models with a blue-grey dial, the SLA037, SLA039, and SLA041, which correspond to its longtime models, the 62MAS, the MM300, and the Tuna, respectively. For now, I’d like to focus only on the SLA037, Seiko’s “re-creation” of its first diving watch limited to 1100 pieces:



Despite being an objectively, aesthetically pleasing watch, and I say that with all intent and bias, there is a lot of hate around this timepiece, in particular its price of $6300 USD. Perhaps, if this was a once-in-a-generation remaking of its iconic diver, I, along with many others might let it slide, but Seiko still refuses to make any sense.

You see, Seiko released a “reproduction” of its first dive watch, the 62MAS, 3 years ago in 2017. This watch was also a limited edition of 2000 pieces with a price of about $4000 USD.



The differences between the two are miniscule with the main advantage of the SLA037 being a hi-beat caliber (8L55) and an Ever-Brilliant steel case, a metal that no one apparently has any information on. So besides the ridiculous pricing (strike 1), Seiko released TWO limited edition timepieces to commemorate its first diver (strike 2), thus making consumers really question how special these and future limited editions will truly be. If only Seiko stopped here, it could be accredited to a faulty marketing decision, but of course, there had to be a strike 3. Enter the recent SBDC107



Before I am ambushed by the mob of fans of this model (and the SBDC101), allow me to clarify. I love both models. While the SBDC107 is “limited” to 5500 pieces, the grey dial SBDC101 is not, and both are priced very reasonably in the range of $1100-1400. For this price, one gets a very nice looking watch with an updated 70 hour caliber and a ton of heritage. And the best part, it is extremely wearable at 40.5mm.

But, considering the SLA017 and SLA037, both models that cost 4-5x more than this new release, one has to be baffled by what Seiko is doing with its current modern “re-interpretation” of the 62MAS. They are great watches, and can compete with even the Tudor BB 58 for some! But what does that say about Seiko’s first two homages? They definitely are not 4-5x more watch, and the limited-edition logo cannot be worth that much. Was Seiko merely testing the waters for an eventual mass-produced tribute to the 62MAS?

Regardless of the motivation, it feels like Seiko is trying to accomplish every objective at once, even if they are mutually conflicting. Seiko wants to move upmarket, so they release overpriced (to many) limited-edition versions of one of their most famous watches—the 62MAS. But conversely, they still want to appease their fan base by releasing an affordable version of the 62MAS that is 5x cheaper than their expensive first model.

To put this in perspective, imagine Tudor releasing an homage to its Submariner line—something many anticipate--as an overpriced limited-edition only to release a second homage that is nearly identical for much, much cheaper. This marketing strategy makes no sense to me because it does not seem to satisfy anyone.

One may say long time fans are happy to have a well-priced 62MAS, but that also means that Seiko as a brand has failed to push itself upmarket. Meanwhile, hardcore fans that bought the expensive homage version may feel possibly cheated. After all, is a bit of exclusivity, a different caliber, and whatever ever-brilliant steel is, really worth the enormous price differential? No modern brand prices their limited edition releases with this disparity, barring the inclusion of a lot of precious metals. Sure, limited edition Omegas can cost a few thousand dollars more than the standard version, but the price discrepancy there may only be 2x at most.

The only way I can make sense of Seiko’s move is that the brand is trying to create micro-cultures of fans. It is hoping that wallet-heavy supporters will relish in the subtle differences between their model and the model for masses, thus allowing for a boost in image while simultaneously pleasing its standard base with cost-efficient time pieces. To me, that doesn’t really make sense, but as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I really hope I’m wrong.
 

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Very well-written, interesting post.


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That is one well articulated perspective. Oddly enough I was about to pen an op-ed piece myself given all the back & forths on the 6105 type reissues. No need as I think you've pretty much nailed it. It would seem that whatever strategy Seiko has adopted, it has flummoxed the Seiko community. The fact that some long time SCWF members (myself included) have openly considered getting a Sharky or whatever replica/homage in lieu of legitimate releases is amazing to me. It did not seem that long ago that such considerations would be considered heresy! Yet here we are, faced with some new Seikos that are more expensive and some considerably so, which reflects the brand's desire to go upmarket but does not seem well thought out.

Now if you are also a car lover, your analysis of the 62mas situation is analogous to McLaren. Great cars, too many models of essentially the same car and quality issues. Not that I'm in a position to even contemplate such a car, I think the best thing to do will be to wait it out. Easier said than done btw ;)
 

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Seiko has been stating this publicly for several years. Push to be viewed as upmarket in higher end offerings with comensurate pricing and abandoning ISO dive watches unless co-branded Prospex.

GS is a brand now. Heaven forbid 'Grand' be tainted by being followed with something so low brow as a department store brand like 'Seiko' on its precious dial.

Presage now gets a SpringDrive.
SKX007 family is gone. Affordable, iconic, tough, wearable, popular, profitable.
Street Series to appeal to youth (or so they believe).
GS Boutiques can't sell $6000 SLA offerings or showcase Astron, etc.

No one can follow all of their thought processes, at least not me anyway.

All sorts of other heresy to folks who frequent places like this forum.

Life changes so does Seiko as we knew it.

Still lots to love, new and vintage.
 

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As we all know the SLA017 had a wait list a mile long. As the first high end 8L reissue it sold out fast.

Both the SLA025 and SLA033 were available unsold from ADs a year after launch. Now the SLA033 is being heavily discounted to move out the end of new stock. The SLA025 had not completely sold out at the NYC Seiko Boutique before COVID hit, nearly 2 years after launch.

Point is Seiko better wise up they can't sell all the watches they've made and are pushing out more? I guess as long as they strong arm their dealer network into taking them all they met their corporate objective. Retail sales be damned it's channel stuffing for profit.

Methinks it's an ego issue with the HMFIC back in Japan trying to act like he runs Rolex or Omega or whoever and not recognizing who he is, who Seiko is and why Seiko has more rabid brand fans total than all the Swiss added up.
 

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Personally there is not enough difference, or value for me, to justify the price delta between the SLA models and the SPB & SBDC models.

I like Seiko for their solid value, dependability, and workhorse blue collar attitude. That's just me.

Never been into the high end, and what I persieve to be vastly overpriced watches, which I'll not name.

In other words if I hit the Powerball lottery tomorrow I'd still wear a Seiko.
 

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Hopefully if I hit it I would be in a place where I wouldent ever need to wear a watch again :)

Personally there is not enough difference, or value for me, to justify the price delta between the SLA models and the SPB & SBDC models.

I like Seiko for their solid value, dependability, and workhorse blue collar attitude. That's just me.

Never been into the high end, and what I persieve to be vastly overpriced watches, which I'll not name.

In other words if I hit the Powerball lottery tomorrow I'd still wear a Seiko.
 

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Honestly, all this , and where Seiko seems to be headed, makes me quite happy I'm into the vintage stuff.
Just feel more comfortable with the history and bulletproof timepiece reputation. ( still bulletproof but doesn't seem like an everymans watch anymore.)

Rob
 

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My take has been expressed several times.

There is significant interest in the watch community for an automatic, hacking, hand windable, screw down crown, 120 click unidirectional bezel 6217, 6105, 2nd 6105, and 6306/6309 with an entry to midlevel movement.

At about the 500$ price point.

Wit’s the same hour, minute, and seconds hands, With the same dial layout, indices shapes, and fonts, exactly the same as the originals except for “200m” instead of “150m”.

The above is peak interest.

Not different shapes indices, different hands, different fonts, big PS Xs, etc.
That lowers the interest and market size.

There is also way less interest in them at the $1000 plus price point.

Those truly interested in a very high grade version are mostly tapping out at the 2K or 2.5K price for an 8L35 level movement.

And the market for high end quartz, let alone a fancy, even more expensive mechanical way to power a quartz crystal is way, way smaller.

The reality is they are acting like people are looking to them for new designs. They are not. Classic lines and designs dominate the market.

They cannot secure a massive high end market. Not when the same brand sells sub $100 cheap autos. Not with the Swiss putting out $500 auto divers with better water resistance, ceramic bezels, and 80 hour power reserves.

Toyota and Honda had some success with luxury branding. They started decades ago. When US and European automakers were at their worst. And they did it by offering a better product for substantially less money. They did not start trying to do it when US and European automakers were out of their slump and making great products at great price points.

Right now the only beloved, although a little over shadowed, vintage basic 150m autodiver they have not jacked up with super expensive limited editions, Or big Xs, wrong hands, wrong indices shapes, etc. is the first model 6105.

Build a new version true to the original, with a good bracelet, true Seiko repro straps, and at the new turtle price point-
and watch how they sell. And how they wont be able to make chocolate bar, tire tread, and waffle straps fast enough.

They are losing tons of revenue to homage watches, strap reproductions, bracelets, etc.

If they MUST innovate, and offer something high end and new,
combine some vintage cues with a new package. Take the 300m resist SS tuna case, put framed indices on a 6309 looking dial, classic hands, call it a Marine master tuna automatic, and put a high end 8L35 type auto movement and sell it for $2500.
 
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