The demise of the popular Seiko SARB017, better known as the Alpinist, was bitterly felt by many. The JDM (Japan Domestic Model) watch, as is usual with Seiko’s JDM models, offered an astonishingly large amount of watch for astonishingly little money (see here). Despite the rock-hard croco-print bracelet, which was quickly replaced by many proud new owners, the watch was (and remains) a perfect introduction to the world of high-quality mechanical watches.
So Seiko’s announcement of a new edition was all the more appreciated. From a purely visual point of view little has happened, at least from the front: from the minute track, hands and indices to the bracelet, the two watches could pass as twins. However, there is now a exhibition caseback on the new SPB121.
The new date magnifier and the text reduction on the dial are worth mentioning as well – a very successful modification which results in a cleaner looking dial. In addition, the case diameter has increased from 38mm to 39.5mm and the case height from 12mm to 13.2mm. These changes make the watch appear slightly more substantial on the wrist.
Something has also changed inside, as the new Alpinist has received a small technical update. The movement now installed is Seiko’s in-house caliber 6R35, while the SARB017 utilized the 6R15. The main advantage is an extended power reserve of 70 hours at the same vibration frequency.
These small upgrades naturally come at a cost. While the SARBB017, new and unworn, is still available at the time of publication (January 2020) for just under € 550.00, its successor has a recommended retail price of € 719.00.
Is the upgrade to a new Seiko Alpinist worth it if you already have a SARB017? Of course not. Nonetheless, with the new reference you get a rock solid and attractive watch, in the manner so typical of Seiko. And although there is an increasing sentiment that the watches in the Prospex collection are moving into ever more expensive waters, the price is still acceptable. Overall, you can’t really go wrong with the new Alpinist.