Seiko’s New Prospex LX Watches Now Feature Spring Drive Movements For All-Terrain Adventures
The new Seiko Prospex LX collection continues the trend of bringing high-end finishes and Spring Drive movements from its Grand Seiko watches to the more approachable house of Seiko.
At the 2018 awards ceremony for the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (the unofficial Oscars of watches), the Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver's Re-Creation Limited Edition SLA025 took the top prize in the sports category. Now with a boost of confidence, the Prospex line reemerges with the Seiko Prospex LX series featuring models for adventures on land, sea, and air - and picks up a 2019 nomination along the way.
The new line of Prospex LX watches feature upgrades usually seen in their Grand Seiko counterparts, including titanium cases, Zaratsu polishing, and Spring Drive movements. We saw a similar set of upgrades applied recently to Seiko’s dress watches with the Presage Prestige Collection featuring enamel dials and Spring Drive calibers. Now, it’s the brand’s sports models that are getting special attention across six new pieces, including dive watches and GMTs for pilots and on-the-ground explorers.
Light or Lack Thereof
According to Seiko, the LX in Seiko Prospex LX hints at the Latin word “Lux,” meaning light. Just like the new iPhone software, the new Seikos come in standard and dark modes with each model available in Zaratsu-polished titanium with or without a black PVD coating. With the blacked-out models, many of the dial and bezel markings that display prominently on the standard versions have been dimmed for a stealth effect.
If you thought that the LX in Seiko Prospex LX signaled “luxury,” you wouldn’t be too far off as even these sports models feature luxurious and lustrous Zaratsu-polishing on the 44.8mm cases. This polishing technique, a common feature on Grand Seiko pieces, is only done by veteran workers using what’s known as a GEBR.SALLAZ polishing machine. When done right, the technique allows the wearer to see his own reflection in the watch without distortion. This mirror finish might not last long if these watches are used as intended, but it does make for a more impressive impression in the metal.
Spring Drives For Higher Sports Precision
The biggest upgrade of note comes with the addition of the 5R65 Spring Drive movement. These movements, known for being exceptionally quiet and for their smooth-gliding seconds hand. They have been a signature feature in Grand Seiko watches and recently made a cameo in Seiko’s Presage Prestige Enamel Dial line. In Seiko's sports watches, the Spring Drive movements provide greater accuracy ( ±1 second per day / ±15 seconds per month) through the high-impact and temperature fluctuations of outdoor sporting.
These are thankfully more than just marketing promises as Spring Drive technology has been worn successfully both in space when it traveled to the International Space Station and on a spacewalk and at the top of the world when Yuichiro Miura wore a Spring Drive watch on his third successful ascent of Mount Everest.
Ken Okuyama Design
When developing this new line of watches, Seiko recruited Japanese design legend, Ken Okuyama, to serve as a special adviser. Okuyama is the head of his eponymous design firm and made a name for himself primarily through his work on automobile design.
His career highlights include work on numerous Ferraris including the California, 599 GTB Fiorano, and the Enzo Ferrari. Okuyama also contributed to the design of Maserati’s Quattroporte V and Birdcage 75th concept car. The lessons learned from a career in sports car design only increase the agency of the Prospex LX line.
One of Okuyama’s key contributions for these watches was the case shape. By keeping the center of gravity lower, the watches are more grounded on the wrist and avoid the top-heavy feel of other hefty sports watches.
More Money, More Problems
Many people are familiar with the Spiderman quote: “with great power comes great responsibility. ” We could well adapt this for Seiko by saying “with great specs come greater price points.” After all, Spring Drive movements and polished titanium don’t come cheap. These watches start around $5,500 USD and only go up from there.
This likely presents two questions in the minds of watch enthusiasts. The first is, where does Seiko end and Grand Seiko begin? The prices for these Prospex LX pieces and the Presage Prestige line are higher than the lower end of Grand Seiko pieces. Until recently, the two houses have been neatly divided between affordable and aspirational, and this overlap in prices only blurs the lines between the two brands.
The second question is, how will these watches stack up against the competition? The world of sports watches is more in-demand but more crowded than ever. At these prices, Seiko is in the midst of brands like Tudor, Omega, Panerai, Montblanc, and TAG Heuer to name a few. Even though the Prospex LX watches come with high-end materials, finishes, and movements, the name on the dial does not have as much gravitas as its immediate competitors. Seiko has made a reputation for itself with affordably priced sports watches and it will be interesting to see if any loyal Seiko fans fall off as prices climb ever higher.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)