Today I have the pleasure of reviewing one of the classic divers. The Seiko Marinemaster SBDX001 has a monobloc case which is guarding an 8L35 automatic mechanism. This timepiece is almost 20 years old now but it is definitely a hall of famer in the dive watch world. We have looked at a number of Seiko divers on the Watch Review Blog before and there are modern divers that boast better specs but that takes nothing away from the classic quality of the Marinemaster.
The monobloc case feels indestructible. It is heavy and, at 15.7mm, quite thick. This design was not intended to be large and bulky just for the sake of it but is made to withstand the extreme depths of deep sea diving. The fact that the back of the case is solid and can’t be screwed increases the structural reliability of the piece because the only point of access is through the domed hardlex crystal. The hardlex crystal makes sense due to its natural strength but does scratch easily. This fact, coupled with the above average weight, makes its case for a daily wearer very weak and in my opinion is better kept for the relevant occasions. There is a combination of brushed and polished finishes. The lugs are brushed stainless steel with the surrounding materials polished to perfection. The curvature of the watch and the flat caseback let the watch fit snugly on the right sized wrist. Other than the tsunami engraving there is little else to discuss on the caseback.
The bezel is serrated stainless steel and has a black lacquer coating on. The rotation on the bezel has just the right amount of play so that it won’t be too difficult to turn but most importantly won’t shift without your intention. At the top of the bezel is a lumed pearl with the arrow marker. A 4 o’clock crown well thought out and comfortable for a piece of this size because it won’t be digging in to your wrist. It is a simple coin edged crown with no Seiko stamp on the top.
SBDX001 Dial and Movement
The nature of the Monobloc case gives the dial a sunken look which also makes it look a slight bit smaller. The black dial has a grainy appearance that gives it a textured look and a feeling I can only describe as real or genuine. The chapter ring has line markers for second and minute indexes and there are large, well lumed rectangular and round marker for hour markers. At 3 o’clock is a date window instead of an index. The plongeur watch hands, not surprising on a diver, are quite prominent and have a large grain brush finish. There is a large space on the watch hands for a clear lume coating. The writing on the dial seems to take up a lot of space because of the size of the other accents on the dial but is something I am sure you will become easily accustomed to.
Hidden underneath the SBDX001 dial is the ever-reliable 8L35 automatic movement that beats at 28,800 bph, has 26 jewels and an impressive 50 hour power reserve. This timepiece keeps to a largely unmatched 10 – 15 second loss a day which is close to what you would expect from the calibers right at the top of the spectrum. It is compared loosely to the 9S55 movement by some experts which is saying a lot.
Stainless Steel Bracelet
The ratcheting system on the stainless steel bracelet makes the adjustment simple and concern over wrist size less important. That said it would probably fit better with a strong rubber band. The stainless steel bracelet is in keeping with the overall polished style of the piece and adds to the balance of weight to the case but I lean more towards the rubber strap option on this diver. It is just an easier fit and is far less admin which is exactly what a diver should be.
The movement in the Marinemaster SBDX001, although a bit aged, is top notch. It will keep time reliably for years to come. Even though the modern divers brag about the incredible depths they can achieve the 300m rating of this piece is more than sufficient. The Monobloc case is reassuring and has the potential to last for a long, long time if cared for. You will struggle to keep the polished materials and hardlex crystal unblemished but those can always be touched up at a later stage.
I also don’t want to get you so excited about this piece that you go and buy the first one that you see. They are not necessarily as pricey as the new divers but they are still expensive and because they are not in production anymore it would be important for you to look until you find one that has been cared for as well as this one.