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- Joined: September 17th 2011, 10:00pm
After what seems like decades of begging from Japwatch-geeks, Seiko has finally relented and announced the release of a remastered 6309 – the snappily titled SRPE05K1 - upgraded with all the good stuff a modern Japwatch-geek prizes. I was lucky enough to score one of the first pieces from my local jeweler and at a great discount, which is surprising for such an in-demand and hyped watch (disclaimer: I’ve been out of the Japwatch scene for a few years). The SRPE05K1 has even been given a quirky nickname, as is traditional now for collectible Japanese watches: King Turtle. This implies, correctly, that there is a lower spec 6309-remake, which I understand has been nicknamed the Nōmin no kame (Nipponese for ‘Peasant Turtle’), in deference to the feudal system of the Shogun era.
Seiko took their goddam time getting the King Turtle out but it was worth it. This watch is an absolute cracker, pretty close to faultless, and represents truly amazing value in the bauble bubble. There’s a lot I like about it and very little I don’t.
The Turtle case is a classic, if a bit divisive, for good reason. I never fully understood the appeal, having had a SKX007 and 6105, both of which I preferred as they appeared to more thoughtfully designed, with more contours and more complex forms. Turns out the super-basic Turtle case, pared back to the point of Bauhaus absolute minimism, is a big part of what makes this watch so successful. This is a watch that isn’t styled but designed. The design brief may well have been “largest possible bezel and dial with the smallest possible lug-to-lug distance, robust enough for professional diving, able to mass-produce efficiently and cost-effectively”. I’m not sure if they stamp these out or cast them, so simple is the form and basic the finish. The brushing on top could have been done with steel wool, or maybe it’s just beat up from sitting in a shipping container with 800,000 other Turtle cases. Almost all of the polished planes are curved, mostly ambiguating consideration of the surface refinement (is this why Seiko polishes the underside of their dive watches?).
It’s between the lugs that gives the game away. The case was probably polished with rags and a bit of Brasso in the sweatshop workshop of some South-East Asian sub-sub-sub-sub-contractor. Forget about razor sharp delineation between brushed and polished sections. It’s hard sometimes to even work out what is going on around the lugs, so amorphous are the contours. The polishing is hilariously wavy. None of this matters.
This case is so appealing because it makes a huge watch wear more comfortably than most other large watches achieve. It works. While it makes a huge watch wear like a much smaller watch, however, it doesn’t make a huge watch look like a smaller watch. This thing looks HUGE! You know that cliched geeky boardroom to beach thing? Not the King Turtle! I’ve been wearing it to the office for a few days and it is big enough and the design is hardcore enough that it looks a bit silly with a shirt. It wasn’t suitable to wear with a shirt at a good restaurant on the weekend, either.
Camilo Pardo, head stylist of the 2004 Ford GT, said that while the original GT40 is regarded as being incredibly beautiful, it did not follow any contemporary design philosophy, stating "Nothing is really in the foundation and basics of design of flow, rhythm, and harmony. It was complicated, it was a mess of stuff. If we would've done a car like that in college, you would've gotten a D because you have nothing consistent. I think you would've gotten in trouble even at a contemporary design studio." The same applies to the 6309, and Seiko has updated their old design just as Ford updated the GT40 for the 21st century. While the 4r36 OG Turtle (OGT) is a very faithful reissue of the 6309, the King Turtle (KT) is a retro but heavily revised and updated remake of the 6309, as per OG GT40 vs 2004 GT (or 2016 GT40). It seems about the only thing the King Turtle shares with the entry-level model is the case – everything else has been pimped, modded, amped, ramped, and sexed-up. It’s a wild-looking thing as far as watches go.
The bezel, to me, is the biggest single differentiator between the appearance of the KT and the OGT. Heavily grooved square blocks provide far better grip than the typical smooth 6309/7002/SKX007/OGT bezels. They also push the look towards something more technical and mechanical than organic. A little bit Monsterish in aesthetic philosophy if not actual aesthetic, if you will.
A ceramic insert lends contrast and pop that aluminium can’t match.
Closer inspection reveals the best engraving and painting of any affordable ceramic bezel I have seen. Certainly puts Steinhart to shame, for example. The engraving is very shallow, such that bezel looks more or less smooth to the naked eye and feels smooth to the touch. It’s superb.
Seiko’s quality seems to have improved a bit from 5 or years ago, based on the examples I see in shops, but it still isn’t perfect. They still can’t align a bezel! I could probably take it back to the AD but it doesn’t bother me – in fact, it’s not really noticeable unless looking very closely.
The indices and dial text look like they are applied, but in fact are printed on sections finely molded in relief. Lume application is spot on. It’s an incredibly convincing effect, furthered by the use of a silver paint that appears to have tiny metallic flecks, and looks like brushed metal lume pots and appliques, continuing the look of the brushed hour and minute hands. It’s economical, efficient, effective, clever, and shows Seiko leveraging their in-house design and manufacturing capabilities to the full. It’s superb.
The waffle dial and elongated cyclops are random features that don’t really have any relationship with Seiko’s dive watch heritage. They fit the general theme, however, of Seiko throwing as much stuff as possible at a Turtle and seeing what sticks. I wouldn’t normally seek either feature on a dive watch but they work here, IMO. It’s a bluff, functional ugliness, the cyclops often spraying weird flares and distortions over the already too-busy dial. The cyclops has the same appeal as a FLIR pod attached on a military aircraft, the waffle is weird and a bit ugly but cool. Again, the vibe is a little bit Monsterish, overall. It’s different, probably Marmite.
Seiko’s ditched the typical wave strap for ‘standard’ venting. It’s drab-green-grey (as is the dial, although both look grey under most lights in my life), silicon, bulbous and bulky, textured inside to reduce sweatiness a little, and massively comfortable. I have forgotten I’m wearing this huge heavy automatic dive watch, and that’s largely down to the strap. It’s a lint and dust magnet, being silicone, but I don’t care as I intend to wear this watch a lot more than photograph it. The massive, signed buckle and embossed tsunami are nice, the tsunami caseback has become a classic, and the metal keeper looks MONEY. It’s just SO nice, I have no idea how Seiko can do it, and why every dive strap doesn’t come with a keeper this horny. It’s superb.
Any other highlights? The Lumibrite is incredibly bright and just beautiful. The kanji day wheel is just too cool. Drilled lugs - remember those? The giant weirdo-hands are incomparably legible under all conditions and could only come from Nippon. Having an indexed chapter ring definitely mkes it easier to time to the minute or second, if that's your thing.
I’m not a fan of the 4R36 movement. It’s a bit rough-sounding, when winding and when the rotor is swinging. A high beat rate would be nice. You know it’s a Seiko because it still winds up as you screw down the (very nicely formed but slightly graunchy) crown! Some things never change! This watch would be epic with a solar quartz, maybe even hi-beat. A truly worthy evolutionary 7548 progeny. As it stands, such little faults and slightly imperfect quality are laughably irrelevant because I’ve saved the best bit until last. This watch is currently AUD$550 from an AD! Unbelievable, and I’d be happy at 2-3x the price. Not something I feel very often in the bauble bubble. The SRPE05K1 ‘King Turtle’ is a deadset BANGER, a worthy descendant of the 6105/6306/6309/7002/7S26-0020 (SKX-007) lineage. It is absolutely superb.
If it thinks, it stinks