Seiko Prospex Reveals 50th Anniversary 'Panda' Tribute
Monday - 09 December 2019
The Prospex Panda 50th Anniversary watch represents an array of landmark moments in Seiko’s rich history. Steve Ashby takes a closer look at this incredible tribute timepiece.
Working around watches five days a week, you can’t help but notice trends that course through the veins of nearly every brand within a space of time as short as a year or less. While some see it as a negative, I myself enjoy seeing how each brand puts its signature stamp on whatever the ‘in thing’ might be. That being said, it’s also wonderful to see a brand completely buck the trend and release something different.
The house of Seiko has never been one to fear doing something out of the ordinary; to throw the trend aside and design something of its own. At a time when bronze watches with colourful dials are overwhelming the market, Seiko’s new limited edition watch stands out with a monochrome aesthetic.
Let me introduce the Seiko Prospex Panda 50th Anniversary limited edition - or as Seiko refers to it, the SRQ029J1.
This incredible new watch draws inspiration from the brand’s history, with the design being based on a 1969 timepiece which introduced a silver dial with a hairline finish, complemented by black subdials. Seiko fans around the world would later nickname it the ‘Panda Dial’, and the look has been embodied by a number of competing brands ever since.
The 1969 original was also famous for being retrofitted with Seiko’s in-house movement, the Caliber 6139. The movement was one of the world’s first automatic chronograph movements, setting itself apart from others by incorporating both a vertical clutch and a column wheel, giving it immense levels of precision.
It will come at no surprise that 50 years later, the new watch embodies all of these landmark advances in Seiko’s history, but that’s not to say that the firm hasn’t put a whole new spin on their latest creation.
The watch takes on the iconic Panda dial, only this time around, the two black subdials have been arranged diagonally at the 6 and 9 o’clock positions, rather than at 12 and 6 like the original. A third subdial offering a small seconds hand is placed at 3 o’clock, though this is finished in silver, setting itself aside from the other two which are used to operate a chronograph. Seiko has also added a black tachymeter to the chapter ring and a small circular date window, located between 4 and 5 o’clock.
Stainless steel hands and baton-style hour markers adorn the main dial, with a double baton at the 12 o’clock position. Each has been accentuated with Lumibrite for improved evening readability. The only fleck of colour is a splash of red which lays at the tip of the main second hand, which is used only to operate the Chronograph. It’s a minor detail, but when set against an otherwise monochromatic dial, it’s more than enough to stand out, finishing the overall look perfectly.
The dial is housed inside a stainless steel case with brushed and polished sections that complement each other well. A fixed bezel and steel bracelet continue the theme featuring the different finishes of the steel. What’s particularly beautiful is how the brushed sections appear to seamlessly lead from the bracelet up onto the dial itself, thanks to the hairline finish on the face of the watch, and the end result is simply remarkable.
Seiko has spared no expense inside the watch either, arming the release with their 34 jewel Caliber 8R48, which offers a power reserve of up to 45 hours. First created in 2014, the movement pays a fitting tribute to its 1969 predecessor as it also features a vertical clutch and column wheel. The incredible movement can be viewed by the owner thanks to Seiko having made the decision to display it proudly via a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback, below which, each limited edition watch is individually numbered from 1 to 1,000.
There is literally nothing about this watch that I don’t like. The Panda dial is a seldom seen attribute in modern-day designs, but Seiko has managed to bring it back in an almost avant-guard way. The piece embodies a great visual aesthetic but I will admit that I’m also a sucker for a timepiece that has a good story behind it too, and this definitely ticks that box.
Being a limited edition will of course also score the watch a few extra points in any collector’s eye, but it really doesn’t matter because the watch speaks for itself simply due to it’s stunning visual appeal. There is no doubt in my mind that it has already been added to my ever-growing wishlist.
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 41mm; height 16mm; water resistance 10 bar; sapphire crystal; open caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph
Movement: Seiko Caliber 8R48; automatic movement; 34 jewels; power reserve 45 hours.
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with deployment buckle
Price: £3,290 (RRP as at 09.12.2019)
Limited Edition: 1,000 pieces