In anticipation of spring, we took Seiko’s Alpine inspired collection of timepieces for a walk in the park.
Seiko makes watches for the people. Reliable timepieces that are often very affordable. And many Seiko collections have achieved cult status among collectors.
For example, let’s go back in time to 1959, when Seiko introduced the Laurel Alpinist. Its raison d’être was to supply Japanese yamaotoko (Japanese for mountain men) and other sports enthusiasts with a reliable timepiece.
While there aren’t a lot of mountains near Watchonista’s US headquarters, we took these three rugged timepieces for a ramble in the most outdoorsy place in the city – Central Park.
For New Yorkers, Central Park is the people’s park. It’s a place where anybody can find trees, see the sky, and find respite from cranes and traffic.
Likewise, the latest additions to the Prospex Alpinist family – the SPB117, SPB119, and SPB121 – offer a versatile and accessible way for enthusiasts an escape from waiting lists and crazy prices.
AMBLE IN THE RAMBLE
The original Laurel Alpinist was important because it was the first real attempt at making a Seiko-branded sports watch. It had a modest 17-jewel, hand-wound movement, housed in a sturdy stainless steel case with an acrylic crystal. It was available in two colors, black and cream, and came with a sturdy leather Bund strap.
So, what does this new generation of Prospex Alpinists share with its Laurel lineage? Other than providing dependable timekeeping at a good price, these watches share an attitude. It’s a sports watch that can easily adapt to more formal occasions.
Each comes in a 39mm stainless steel case, either a black, cream, or green dial, and a trusty stainless steel bracelet or leather strap. They also feature the Prospex logo on the face.
Naturally, these timepieces are perfect for taking a quick break from city living to park life.
The original Laurel Alpinists were only in production until 1964. Over the years, Seiko resurrected the Alpinist name under different collections such as the Champion series, and, in 1995, within the Prospex line.
The first Prospex Alpinists were only produced for two years but became highly desirable among collectors in the 2000s. In 2006, Seiko resurrected the fifth-generation Alpinists with a trio of models that became instant cult classics, especially the green-dialed SARB017 (aka, the “Japanese Explorer”).
These were a distinct upgrade from the first-generation Alpinists. They used the high-beat 4S15 caliber, which was one of Seiko’s finest mechanical movements at the time. These watches also introduced a Sapplex crystal with a cyclops date window magnification lens and a four o’clock crown with a unique inner bezel compass. These two features proved so popular they became the signature of all subsequent Alpinist watches.
Now, the new Prospex Alpinists have preserved these design codes, while continuing to improve the mechanism by using the automatic 6R35 movement, which beats at 600 VpH. And, it has an impressive 70-hour power reserve. They also have a display case back so you can admire the calibre, just like a trip to Central Park’s Conservatory Garden allows visitors to admire six acres of luxuriant gardens.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
Central Park first opened to the public in 1858 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1963. Throughout its history, its character has evolved. In the 1890s, for example, the space saw a proliferation of attractions and amusements, threatening to turn it into a landlocked Coney Island. During the Great Depression, it was both homeless shelter and warehouse, serving as a home for the destitute and surplus material from subway construction. Starting in the 1960s and continuing today, it's become a place to play, a spot to enjoy Shakespeare, and more recently, live music. But whatever persona it takes on, it’s quintessential New York spirit has endured.
Finally, enthusiasts who may have missed out on earlier versions of the Prospex Alpinist will be pleased to learn that this year’s models are evergreen and not a limited edition.
By joining the more high-end Prospex family, these three new Alpinist models are a little more genteel than other Seikos. But this quirky collection is still accessibly priced: the SPB117, black dial with stainless steel bracelet comes in at $750, while the leather strapped white dial SPB119 and vibrant green dial and gold accented SPB121 come in at $725.