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Watch Freek
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Welcome to my unpaid and unsponsored review of the Seiko Alpinist SPB197J1

The original Alpinist was made back in 1961. Seiko stopped making the last version back in 2018, and shortly afterwards brought out their new improved range. Not long afterwards they released a limited quantity of the European Alpinist SPB 199J1, which had the Mountain Glacier blue dial. These were snapped up quickly by enthusiasts. As a result of their success, Seiko became a little greedy and released the SPB197J1, the watch I am reviewing today, which is fundamentally the same watch, but without the premium packaging and the numbered case back. This was a bit naughty to say the least, and left some of the purchasers of the SPB199J1 a little peeved, to say the least. In addition to this, the 1971 came with a stainless bracelet and cost over £100 less.

As of late I have become a fan of sports watches, although the majority of my collection are still divers. They tend to fit the wrist a little nicer, especially as they are a little more compact. The Alpinist is one of the most iconic sports watches, but it’s not without its flaws.

SPECIFICATIONS – Case 39.5mm, depth 13mm, lug width 20mm, lug to lug 46.5mm, weight on the adjusted bracelet for my 6 7/8 wrist is 136 grms.

The watch comes in a rather basic box, similar, if not the same as the more budget Seiko watches. If this were a head-to-head, it would probably get marked down for this.

The SPB has the newer 6R35 as opposed to the 6R15 on the older SARB models. It has a rather impressive 70 hour power reserve, runs at 21,600 bph, hacks and hand winds. They are a good movement, probably comparable with the Powermatic 80. Personally, I would have preferred the cleaner sweep of a high beat movement, and suffered a shorter power reserve, but this is down to the individual.

The watch has two crowns, unfortunately neither are signed. The upper crown controls the movement, and is of the screw down variety. This operates the movement and engages well. The lower crown operates the bi directional internal compass dial. From what I remember, if you point the hour hand at the sun, something else faces due south. I suppose you then need to align the bezel accordingly. Please correct me if I am wrong. I have found the bezel aligns perfectly if either the south or north are at the twelve position, but not if the east or west are.

Something Seiko do very well is design and finish their cases beautifully, and this is no exception. It is almost solely polished, with exception to the brushing on the top of the lugs, which is a strange considering its meant to be a utility watch. I should mention, the polishing is fantastic, and the case fits very well to my wrist.

The crystal is sapphire, and has anti reflective coating, whilst the exhibition case back is Hardlex. I would rather have had a solid case back and knocked a mil off of the depth, but that’s just a personal opinion. Unfortunately, it has a cyclops. Whilst it is applied well and serves a purpose, I find them ugly

Unlike a dive watch, this bezel is internal and operates the compass wheel as previously mentioned. Unfortunately it turns too easily, and as a result never stays where you set it.

It was the dial that attracted me to this watch, especially in the Mountain Glacier blue. I may have considered the black if I could have landed one at the right price, but this was always my first choice. The Alpinist is famed for its green dial and gold indices, but that isn’t for me if I’m honest. I absolutely love the polished shark teeth indexes, and the general lay out and fonts on this dial. The cathedral hands filled with lume suit the dial perfectly.

The lume is Seiko’s proprietary Lumabrite. This compares well with Swiss Lumanova, and is well applied. Don’t expect it to compare with a good divers lume, but for a sports watch it is excellent.

Whilst it doesn’t have an ISO rating, Seiko claim this has a 200m WR rating. That is pretty impressive for any watch that isn’t a diver, and is probably the best in its class.

I chose to go for a watch that came on a bracelet, because I feel a bracelet suits this particular model the best. That said, it’s certainly a bit of a strap monster. It is an Oyster style bracelet, and whilst better than Seiko’s budget bracelets, it’s not fantastically premium. It is lightly brushed on the top, and polished on the sides. It tapers down from 20mm to 18mm, then back up to 20mm for the clasp. It has no sharp edges, and is very comfortable. Fortunately, the links are solid, as is the female end link. Unfortunately, the links are attached by the use of split pins, rather than using screw pins or a pin and collar system. This means I will have to get the Loctite out. To be fair though, the split pins are of very good quality, and sizing was easy.

The clasp is partially milled, has double push pins, but only two micro adjusts. I was lucky enough to get a good fit, others may not be. For a watch at this price, I don’t believe the clasp is good enough, END OF!

This is where things become particularly subjective, particularly as the prices vary depending on the country you live. Needless to say, if you live in the USA you will get the better prices, whereas if you live in the UK you will always pay a premium. I accept this is a European addition, but it goes pretty much for the entire Seiko range. I managed to buy a three month old watch in mint condition for £550, whilst the new price is nearer £700. This doesn’t make the watch fantastically expensive, but if compared with some of the micro brands offering equal or higher specs, it’s certainly not a bargain. Of course, if you want history and heritage, you may not begrudge the additional cost. I should point out, if looked after correctly, this watch will return good residual value, and may even have a chance of increasing in value, but that’s to be seen.

Ultimately, you make up your mind whether you consider this watch good value for money, don’t let me do it for you.

QC ISSUES, Dislikes & Likes
As far as QC issues are concerned, I am not particularly impressed with the performance of the movement, however, it falls within spec, so I can’t really complain.

:- I don’t like the cyclops. It wasn’t on the last model. So why add it to this one?

:- The bracelet should either have a pin and collar system or screw pins, and the clasp simply isn’t premium enough

:- I’m not normally bothered by packaging, but can’t help feeling Seiko have cut corners.

:- I would have preferred a solid back and less depth. That said, it doesn’t feel particularly deep when being worn.

:- The crown was signed on the last model, so why decide not to bother this time around?

Of course, I have likes, otherwise I would never have spent so much of my son’s inheritance on this watch. I simply adore the dial, the case finishing, and the dimensions, not to mention the fact it is sooooo comfortable. Whilst I have a list of niggles, needless to say it’s strengths out way it’s negatives.

Hands up, unlike some people, I am not a massive Seiko fan. I love some of their designs, and their case finishing is always top notch. However, the days of them offering great value for money are long gone. To be fair, they are a brand that cater for the masses, and the masses know nothing of micro brand watches that offer better value for money. Put the Alpinist next to a Relio Solstice that costs half the price, and it’s got a battle on its hands

Sorry Seiko lovers, it’s true. This may make you think I regret this purchase, but I don’t. The Alpinist in all its guises is an iconic watch, and every time I look down at it I get a thrill. This is what watch collecting is all about, and I sometimes have to remind myself of this.

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Super Moderator
14,317 Posts
That really is a stunning watch Wiggles, wow ! 😮:D

This dial alone leaves you speechless with it’s ice-like
hue, as well as mesmerizing sun-ray finish. I swear it
goes from a powder blue, to slate, and even gray, or
silver at times. 😎 And the special effects of that dial
alone are worth having this looker in the collection

Nevertheless, the rest of the dial is exceptional too,
and love the beautiful case, along with dual crowns,
and how you get almost super compressor personality
as a result.

Honestly, I can’t find anything negative from here sir. 😊
Maybe, a solid case-back would have been the one
thing as you pointed out. But other than that it’s near
perfect ! ..Can’t thank you enough for sharing this terrific
review with all of us !!!
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