Watch of the Week: Seiko’s Prospex SLA055 Is Tough Enough for Antarctica

Seiko Prospex SLA055 watch against an iceberg
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If you’re looking to really put a watch to the test, send it to Antarctica: If it can survive the continent’s frigid temps, howling winds, snow, and ice, then it can survive anywhere. The strategy worked well enough for Seiko, at least. Members of the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition wore Seiko divers for the first time in 1966. Now, the brand has released the limited-edition Seiko Prospex SLA055, a new dive watch that builds on its predecessors’ impressive pedigree.

Seiko released its first dive watch in 1965, and it featured water resistance down to 150 meters and an automatic movement. In 1966, members of the 8th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition wore this rugged watch on their journey to Antarctica, and it set the standard for Seiko divers to follow. The Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition was so impressed with the watch, it chose Seiko divers for its subsequent missions in 1967, ’68, and ’69. In 1968, Seiko set the bar even higher with the release of a new diver that offered 300 meters of water resistance and a more robust automatic movement. The new Prospex SLA055 is based on that iconic timepiece.

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The new watch combines a tough design with handsome accents that reference Seiko’s long history in Antarctica. The 42.6mm case, bezel, and crown of the SLA055 are made from Seiko’s proprietary Ever-Brilliant steel, a type of stainless steel that offers improved corrosion resistance over the types of steel commonly used in other watches. It also includes unique design elements to make it easier to use in the cold—and more durable: The bezel has large notched edges to make it easier to grip with gloves, and the crown screws into a separate component (not the case itself), which makes it simpler to replace.

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Seiko SLA055 watch
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But it’s not all function over form: The watch has some unique design accents that highlight its history and keep it from looking too utilitarian. The dial is a particular standout. It features a subtle pattern that transitions from deep to light blue, a color scheme that evokes the ice sheets of Antarctica. That icy blue is echoed in the numerals and markers on the bezel as well. All twelve of the watch’s hour markers, as well as the hands, are coated in Lumibrite for excellent legibility above and below the waves.

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Even the strap is special. It features a chunky block texture that recalls the strap found on the 1968 original, although this modern one is crafted from silicone for excellent durability and comfort on the wrist.

On the inside, the Seiko Prospex SLA055 is powered by an 8L35 automatic movement (developed specifically for dive watches) that’s hand-assembled in northern Japan. Once put together, the watch offers 200 meters of water resistance for underwater adventures, plus a generous 50-hour power reserve for accurate timekeeping. And just like its forebears, it’s heading to Antarctica: It’ll be worn by members of the 63rd Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition, where it’ll surely take a beating and keep right on ticking.

[$4,600; seikowatches.com]

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