Same same but different: The Comeback of the Alpinist.

By Montredo in Lifestyle
January 25, 2020
Same same but different: The Comeback of the Alpinist.
Seiko Prospex Alpinist 1
SEIKO SPB119 ©wornandwound

It is rarely easy to understand why watch manufacturers remove very successful models from their portfolios, and even less so if they have already achieved cult status in the watchmaking community. Seiko’s discontinuation of the beloved SKX series met with such a lack of understanding, and the models of the Seiko 5 Sports series from 2019, which were regarded as successors, seemed only partially able to follow in the footsteps of the classic Diver. The Seiko SARB017, dubbed the “Alpinist,” suffered a similar fate in 2018. Even if the mixture of green dial and golden indices was somewhat polarizing, it has been, nonetheless, one of the absolute classics in the Seiko range for many years. Later came a limited version with a blue dial, which was only intended for the American market and was distributed by Hodinkee. This was only a small consolation, and at the same time somewhat frustrating as well, since visually this version surpassed the original Alpinist. Naturally it was completely sold out after a short time, and Hodinkee claimed that they had never before seen such a long waiting list.

Seiko Prospex Alpinist 4
SEIKO SPB121 ©wornandwound

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Seiko caused a sensation by announcing, at the end of 2019, that the Alpinist would be reissued the following year,. It looked like the prayers of the Japanese brand’s fans had been answered, and that Seiko had perhaps come back to its senses.

Seiko Prospex Alpinist 3
SEIKO SPB123 ©wornandwound

The new Alpinist will now be available in three dial variants: green (SPB121J1), black (SPB117J1), and gray (SPB119J1), as well as a limited edition champagne dial (SPB123J1). The variant with the black dial is particularly appealing. The “Japanese Explorer,” as the Alpinist is sometimes called, successfully embodies a mix of tool watch and dress watch, and can be worn for almost any occasion. In addition, fans of steel bracelets will get their money’s worth for the first time, rather than having to search the aftermarket to replace the not exactly high-quality leather strap as they did with the predecessor. The new steel bracelet, with its massive clasp, seems to be of appealing quality, which is unfortunately not a matter of course with Seiko models. It is also a pleasure to upgrade to a 6R35 movement with a 70-hour power reserve, which does its work in the well-proportioned 39.5 mm case.

Seiko Prospex Alpinist 2
SEIKO SPB117 ©wornandwound

The dial – its finely set indices on a matt black background so nicely contrasting with the polished steel bezel – and the handy date magnifier result in exactly the mix of sportiness and elegance that has always been the strength of the Alpinist. Those who could never make friends with the combination of green and gold elements offered by the old Alpinist now have attractive alternatives. Yes, the Alpinist could have used a slightly more luminous material, and an additional version with a blue dial would also have been welcome, but this is surely the whinging of the well-served, and overall the new line-up of the Seiko Alpinist knows how to convince. In addition, the history of the Alpinist gives fans of the classic SKX hope that it too may not have been completely banished by Seiko.