In 2017 Seiko launched a series of dive watches that they referred to as a blackout series. These watches went viral in the watch community and Seiko aficionado’s drove demand to the point that getting one was near impossible. This year Seiko have tested the demand again and have released three watches with black coating to see if the demand can be driven again. The three watches unveiled were Limited editions releases, Seiko Prospex Marinemaster (Ref SLA035J1), Seiko Prospex Black Solar Chronograph (SSC761J1) and the Seiko Prospex Black Series Sumo (SPB125J1). Limited editions of 600, 3500 and 7000 respectively.
All three are thoroughbreds of the Seiko dive range in their own right, they all have amazing quality for a timepiece in each of their prices ranges. The key difference for this series is the blackened cases, with beautiful highlights that tweak the watch. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however this range is simply stunning in all senses.
The timepiece we have on our hands today is the Seiko Sumo SPB125J1.
The case of the Sumo black has a very unique design. It has chamfers along each side leading to the lugs. The difference with the black out Sumo is that Seiko has enhanced the aesthetics a little with the shades of black, making lines and bevels contrast in different lights across a predominantly matt finishing. Although it’s not an all ceramic casing, it is very similar in end product. The only difference would be is if you have dropped the Sumo, it would only scratch, rather than crack like a ceramic one would. This can be both good and have some drawbacks in a sense, as it keeps the price point down, however, does make the Sumo a little heavier than normal ceramics. The Sumo is a typical Seiko with crown at 4 o’clock and three positions for adjustments; one- for manual wind, two – to adjust the date set, and three – to set the time.
The Sumo’s case is not a small one as it is 45mm with a height of 12.9mm. The case features drilled lug holes coming back for easy change of straps. The Sumo is fitted with the standard Seiko ribbed dive strap as the only option offered with this watch. This Seiko ribbed dive strap is a very tough versatile silicone band and with thicker pins give the wearer confidence in any conditions. It’s soft and I would say from previous Seiko’s almost bullet proof. The only downside to the Seiko bracelet is that it does not offer micro adjustments. It can either be either too tight or too loose depending on wrist size, which can affect the comfortability of wearing this watch. A quick and easy fix to this is if the bracelet Is not a good fit, a third party or different Seiko bracelet can be changed over thanks to drilled lug holes and easy access.
The Sumo Black has several gloss highlights on the screw down crown which also contribute to the aesthetic of the overall exterior. This crown controls Seiko’s new 6R35 movement, introduced in 2019, it is a lot of movement for the price point by any means. The 6R35 is a slower beater, 21600 beats per hour with an automatic movement and a 70 hour power reserve. This watch is designed to stay accurate at a depth of 200 metres and accuracy of +25 to -15 seconds per day. A typical understated Seiko, it is basically a workhorse of a movement irrelevant of the actual stats. Watching the second hand you can see the slower movement in action, it is a simple design, blackened to hide against the dial and then hints of white at the ends and also lumed modestly.
The Sumo is fitted with a sapphire crystal and anti reflective (AR), it has a beautiful directional bezel with enough contrast of grey on the insert to not take away from the depth of darkness the Sumo has. There is a date window at 3 o’clock and all of the markers are fitted with Seiko’s Lumibrite both on the hands and index’s, along with second hand and the bezel pip. The watch also uses Faux lume, which works against the black dial and it perfectly highlights the watch. The orange minute hand just lets you sit back and say “wow”. Seiko did a mighty fine job with the design. The Seiko branding is clean, with Seiko stamped at the 12 o’clock and logo and text neatly stacked at 6, in white. The dial is a work of art.
The watch wears well, with the 20mm lugs and bigger case, the Sumo can be described as close to an Omega’s Planet Ocean. In fact it almost feels the same. For its size the Sumo is forgotten in daily wear, it is hardly noticeable on the Seiko silicone strap. The Sumo seemed to slide nicely under your cuff just and you can disappear into the ether without people noticing it like a more known brand on your wrist. The harden black is probably not everyone’s style but I think with this watch it works.
Seiko has done a great job with this release, with limited numbers of 7000 they don’t appear to be in demand like some of the blackened ones were and no wait list. This is a very understated watch which has a great movement, looks very smart and is very affordable. There are suppliers still with these and at RRP for the timepiece you get it’s hard to make a mistake, as the Sumo will sit comfortably in any collection. Quite frankly the Sumo Black is quite a unique timepiece and if you haven’t got a blackout watch in your collection, this may be the first one for you to consider. At a price tag of $1400 AUD Seiko should not be referred to as cheap, as this timepiece if far from that. The Sumo Black raises the bar not only for style and value but because you could wear it on any occasion, including using it for its intended use of diving and have every confidence in only 6999 other people would have it.