A First Look At The New Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Chronograph Series
The five new timepieces take inspiration from Speedtimers of the past to create chronographs for the future.
Part of the enduring allure of the chronograph is its history. Louis Moinet first conceived the complication in 1816. But it came of age in the mid-20th Century when airline pilots and race car drivers made wearing chronographs glamorous and thrilling by association. As we know it today, the chronograph has come a long way from its origins as a combination clock and stopwatch.
Pilots, drivers, and all humans need to keep moving forward. What Seiko has done with its new Prospex Speedtimer Series is to capture the spirit of classic chronographs while adapting the technology for what a watch needs to do now.
While Seiko first introduced the Presage collection to the world outside of Japan in 2016, it emphasized the brand’s long history of mechanical skills. For example, Seiko’s first chronograph movement — 1964’s ref. 5717 — served as inspiration for the Presage Style60s family.
Also, in the ‘60s, the brand introduced a range of stopwatches that incorporated Seiko’s innovative “heart-shaped cam” mechanism. This feature delivered a level of precision previously thought unachievable by manually-wound sports watches.
And then, in 1969, when Zenith was battling with a consortium of Swiss watch companies including Heuer, Hamilton-Buren, Breitling, and Dubois-Dépraz to develop an automatic chronograph, Seiko was quietly creating the 6139 Speedtimer. While the Swiss could claim first on producing prototypes, the Speedtimer hit the market before the others.
The Speedtimer was powered by the legendary Caliber 6139 — the world’s first automatic chronograph with a column wheel and vertical clutch. These innovations radically improved the measurement of elapsed time in a wrist-mounted chronograph.
While treasured by the cognoscenti, the Speedtimer is one of the most underappreciated timepieces in the pantheon of chronographs. But today, Seiko is hoping to right that wrong with a new series of five watches inspired by the original Speedtimer and the company’s ongoing ties to precision sports timing, all under the high-end Presage umbrella.
First up is a limited edition Speedtimer SRQ035, which is equipped with a new automatic chronograph movement that honors the rugged architecture of the 1964 stopwatch. This caliber — the 8R46 — shares the same performance attributes as Seiko’s most advanced 8R series but incorporates two sub-dials instead of three and has a date window at the six o’clock position.
The vertical clutch and column wheel system features the signature precision and durability of the 8R Caliber series. In addition, the use of Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology in the manufacture of the escapement helps the stability of the watch’s components. With a push of the reset button, the hands snap back to zero instantly and in perfect synchronization.
The hardened stainless steel case is a substantial 42.5mm in diameter and 15.1mm thick. The bracelet also has a super-hard coating (it also comes with a calfskin strap). The dual-curved sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating is also meant to be hard-wearing.
The rest of the watch is also designed for maximum legibility and ease of use. Details such as having the numerals and other markings in black stand out against a clean white dial. The chronograph second-hand turns gently down towards the dial so that the tip of the points is as close as possible to the markers.
This hand also reaches out to the tachymeter markings at the edge of the dial to ensure that elapsed time can be read accurately at a glance. And the oversized chronograph pushers promise that the wearer can efficiently operate them under any conditions (although we haven’t tested them out on a track or in a cockpit, we can say that even with their outsized nature, the concave shape of the pushers prevents the wearer from accidentally engaging the chronograph).
This Speedtimer will also be available in a second, non-limited version (ref. SRQ037) with the same caliber but with a charcoal grey dial, beveled hour markers, and sharp hour and minute hands coated with colored Lumibrite.
While the main thrust of Presage is to showcase mechanical excellence, the new Speedtimer series also introduces three new solar-powered chronographs, each driven by the quartz Caliber V192 —a Seiko stalwart with 1/5 second accuracy that was most recently seen in 2020’s Prospex Solar Chronograph Ref. SSC761 Black Series. This movement features functions that include a 24-hour indicator, a date display, and a power reserve indicator. It also allows the watches to be sold at a very accessible price point.
At 39mm in diameter, these three stainless steel watches are not as beefy as their Automatic kin, they still have plenty of wrist presence thanks to the curved sapphire glass and combination of hairline and smooth polishing on the bracelet and case.
These new solar chronographs are offered in three different dial colors; white, navy, and black. This trio will become part of the main Prospex collection and will retail for $675.