Has Seiko Already Won 2021?

Johnny Davis
·3-min read
Photo credit: Seiko
Photo credit: Seiko

From Esquire

Seiko’s first sports watch came out in 1959. It offered a suitably Eastern interpretation of “sports”. The Seiko Laurel Alpinist was marketed as a wristwatch for Japanese mountain climbers. It was inspired by the yama-otoko, ruggedly equipped “mountain men” who worked at high altitudes along Japan’s many peaks.

Their watch requirements were simple: they needed something legible and dependable on their wrists. The Laurel Alpinist’s screw-back case protected it from sand and dust, had eye-catching indexes on its front and came attached to a sturdy leather cuff, the better to protect the watch from perspiration. Shock-proof and waterproof, it was it was built for clambering around outside. Its Alpinist name was evoked by four mountain-shaped markers at three, six, nine and 12 o’clock, a compass-like design feature subsequently carried over to many other Seiko sports watches.

Japanese mountain men. Derring-do. Mid-century design. It sounds like a ready-made cult classic, and so it proved.

A “modern” version with a green dial, the Alpinist Green, was introduced in 1995, and then refreshed in 2006. (The popular ‘almond green’ shade of the dial was inspired by a Mini Rover car and put paid to the idea that green watches don’t sell. Though Seiko took a curiously literal interpretation of the notion of "green"; promotional photographs showed the Alpinist Green being modelled by tweedy gentlemen carrying guns. “It has the sophisticated aura of a British gentlemen’s sport, such as sports cars, fishing, or even hunting,” its designer Shiheo Sakia explained. “It is this aura that brings out its elegance.”)

Now, for 2021, Seiko has announced its Seiko Prospex “The 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation”, a much more faithful recreation of the original Laurel Apinist.

The hands and stylised triangle markers follow the original design, with the addition of a (unnecessary?) date window at three o’clock. There are three dial options to choose from: grey, cream and green – the latter comes on a leather strap, the other two on a steel bracelet. The indexes and the hour and minute hands are coated with Lumibrite for legibility in the dark, as per the original. There’s no original Alpinist logo, though the word “Automatic” is displayed in elegant retro script.

All three watches are 38mm, have a power reserve of 70 hours and use Seiko’s recent “high performance” caliber 6R35 movement. They’re all lovely; the cream version especially so.

Photo credit: Seiko
Photo credit: Seiko

In addition, there is also a fourth model – a limited edition “The 1959 Alpinist Re-creation” at 36.6mm. This one comes on a cuff band with a higher-quality movement and better finishing and will exist in an appropriate run number of 1,959.

The watches will arrive in shops in August. The limited edition will cost €3,000 (£2,600) with the three non-limited editions going for €750 (£650), a truly great price.

seikowatches.com

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