Whenever we think of Seiko, our mind is almost automatically drawn to the world of diving. Even more so when the word “prospecs” comes into the equation. But that simple term, referring to a watch with professional specifications, means much more than a simple dive watch. Prospex has also been applied to land-linked watches such as the Alpinist, another popular tool watch by the Japanese juggernaut. And in recent years, it’s been getting a lot of love and attention from the alpinist range, collectors and enthusiasts, and Seiko. With faithful recreations from the first alpinist instructions to a more modern take on the concept dedicated to mountaineering, there is so much to discover! And now, the brand may have released the best looking modern Alpinist to date with the Seiko Prospex Alpinist “Rock Face” SPB355J1.
Alpinist Seiko launched a watch built for Japanese mountaineers in the late 1950s. Called the Yama-Otoko, it was Seiko’s crack at a purpose-built sports or tool watch long before the brand’s first dive watch appeared. This iconic watch features a very clear dial, a shock-protected movement and a simple yet strong steel case. It served as the inspiration for the Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist re-creation SJE085, with others such as the SPB249J1 and SPB251J1 based on the same style.
This modern Prospex Alpinist SPB335J1, however, falls under a different class of Alpinist-branded Seiko watches. This particular style of Seiko Alpinist was first introduced in 1995, 30 or so years after the original. Trademark features are the second crown and inner compass bezel. This series of watches is commonly known as the “Red Alpinist” because of the red line of text on the dial. It serves as a precursor to one of the most iconic modern-day non-divers by Seiko: the SARB-series. The green dial SARB017, initially launched as a Japan-only model but later made available worldwide, has become a very popular reference. Discontinued in 2018, it didn’t take long for Seiko to replace this “rock face” with the current generation of Prospex Alpinist models that now feature the SPB335J1.
The Seiko Prospex Alpinist “Rock Face” SPB335J1 comes in at a modest size of 39.5mm wide and 13.2mm tall. The height is mainly due to the dome sapphire crystal with cyclops lens rather than the date. The case sports a mix of brushed and polished finishes and comes with not one but two crowns. Hardcore fans will immediately know that the second crown is used to rotate the inner compass bezel (but more on that in a bit). A basic screw-down crown is used to set the winding (if needed or desired) and the watch. Flipping the watch over reveals a see-through caseback that grants a view of the automatic movement inside. Water-resistant to 200 meters, the Alpinist SPB335J1 feels just as at home in water as it does on land or in the mountains.
The name “Rock Face” is a direct reference to the SPB335J1’s dial, and it’s not hard to see why with its pattern resembling the face of a rugged granite mountain. Professional climber Stefano Ghisolfi, for example, wore this watch while scaling the dangerous Granite Silence sport climbing route in Flatger, Norway. The textured grey-silver dial is another testament to Seiko’s expertise in dial making. It is finished with blue applied hour markers and markers and signature Prospex Alpinist hands (also in blue). The perimeter has a minute track with luminous dots every five minutes and a slanted inner rotating compass bezel in dark grey, light gray and blue.
Powering the SPB335J1 is the automatic Seiko caliber 6R35. A movement we are all familiar with, it is used in countless other Seiko models such as the recently updated Sumo Prospecs Divers and the aforementioned Alpinist SPB249J1 & SPB251J1. This distinctive Seiko workhorse has a running time of 70 hours, more than enough to see you through the weekend. Beating at a frequency of 21,600vph, it is regulated to run within -15/+25 seconds per day. In all honesty, it’s not the best looking movement as the finish is somewhat industrial, but it does what it’s supposed to do brilliantly.
The Seiko Prospex Alpinist “Rock Face” SPB335J1 comes in a sand-grey color on an attractive cloth strap with a folding clasp. An additional blue calfskin leather strap with the same folding buckle comes with the watch in a separate box. It will be presented as a European-exclusive edition, limited to 3,000 pieces and will be available from November 2022. EUR 930, For the combination of dial, hands and strap it seems like a very reasonable price. Oh, and the case isn’t half bad either, though!
For more information, please visit SeikoWatches.com.