Following closely in the footstep of Swiss manufacturers and their introduction of watches to satisfy the demands of recreational and commercial divers, Seiko launched its first dedicated reference in 1965, the 6217, designed with 150 meters of water-resistance. But it was the designs that would emerge later that have acquired cult status among fans of the brand.
Lovingly referred to as the “turtle”, due to its rounded cushion-form case, the reference 6105 was in production from 1968 to 1977, and offered in two versions: the 8000/8009 with 41mm case, and the 8110/8119 with 44mm case. Both variations had their crown at the 4’clock position (with the 8110/8119 having the most distinctive profile to its protector), and featured classic black dials marked either ‘water proof’ for the 8000/8009, and ‘water resist’ for the 8110/8119 due to the different case constructions. Large hour markers were filled with tritium, and the sweep centre seconds featured a well-known ‘traffic light’ at the top, to aid visibility underwater.
Often referred to as the “Willard” by enthusiasts due to the fact that Martin Sheen’s character of the same name wore the model in the 1979 Epic Apocalypse Now, the 6105 had real battle worn credentials, with man soldiers relying on the reference for timekeeping during the Vietnam War. The lesser known claim to fame for the reference, is that the Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura, who was the first from his country to summit Everest in 1970, wore a ‘turtle’ on his eighteen month, 12,000 kilometers dog-sled run from Greenland to Alaska in the mid-1970s.
Earlier this year, Seiko launched the reference SLA033 that pays tribute to the reference 6105, capturing the essence of the turtle while making a few keep upgrades for the modern era. In place of the calibre 6105B with 32 hours power reserve, the SLA033 contains the calibre 8L35 that runs for 50 hours, which is housed in a case that retains the overall shape of the 6105, but is 1 mm larger than the original (now 45mm), and is super-hard coated as well as featuring a Zaratsu-polished bezel. This revised case design, in addition to a the screw down crown, allows the new reference to be waterproof to 200 meters.
Rather than using the now virtually obsolete tritium, the dial and hands of the SLA033 are applied with LumiBrite and retains the signature second hand, which all sits behind a dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, rather than the original Hardlex.
Hand assembled in Seiko Shizukuishi Watch Studio, which also handles production for Credor and Grand Seiko, the SLA033 is limited to 2,500 pieces and is priced at USD 4,250, which might seem rather high to some, but given the high-quality construction and well-regarded mechanical calibre, the model will no doubt be a success with collectors, and inevitably a future-classic.