Even though a luxury dive watch has one main specific purpose – to suffice underwater whilst accurately keeping track of time – the style and design of a dive tool can vary significantly from one model to another. Vintage dive watches by Seiko offer much more than just a legible dial and an impressive water-resistant capability. They tell an interesting story of the brand’s heritage.
Many models from Seiko’s historical catalogue are hugely sought-after on the preowned market today, some of which come with a price tag that reflects a collectable watch whose value has appreciated in time. The Seiko dive watch genre covers a huge range of models from Professional dive watches, to ISO-rated models, to recreational models for amateur use. In that same vein, those growing their personal collection of vintage Seiko dive watches may be doing so for very different reasons. Some enthusiasts have a passion for Seiko’s interesting heritage in manufacturing these robust tool watches, others intend to restore them and wear them for underwater use, some enthusiasts just love the look of a dive watch on the wrist, whilst others collect Seiko dive watches purely for investment purposes. Here is a guide to some of the most popular vintage Seiko dive watches of all time.
It would be unfair to list some of Seiko’s most popular vintage dive watches and not mention the Seiko SilverWaves watches. These vintage dive watches mark the prestigious Japanese brand’s first attempt at creating a water-ready watch incorporating a rotating bezel into its design. Between the years 1961 and 1964, Seiko produced the J12082 model, closely followed by its successor - the 697990. Both measure a manageable 36mm, whilst the latter featured the Tsunami-engraved caseback to represent its ISO-certified standards.
These early dive watches offered a 50-meter water-resistant and 30-meter water-resistant capability respectively and featured distinctive dauphine-shaped hands. The inner rotating bezel with treated luminous material was both innovative and practical for the time of its release.
It was in 1965 when the 62MAS dive watch by Seiko was released. For many collectors, this watch is considered Seiko’s true entry into the dive watch category, with its slab-style lugs and its luminous baton hour markers that feature the famous Seiko “Wabi” green that comes with age. Its larger, thicker case measuring a 37mm diameter was integrated with an improved 150-meter water resistance, echoing a “Sport Diver” or “Aquastar” style
The strong, powerful font on the surface of the dial, together with a dark-coloured bezel would come to be features that Seiko held onto for its future dive watch designs to come. The Seiko 62MAS watch is still considered a very popular collectable to this day and is characterised by its lack of a screw-down crown.
With considerable modifications implemented into its design, the Seiko 6215-7000/1 marked the beginnings of the Seiko Professional dive watch line. To start, Seiko equipped this vintage dive watch with a screw-down crown, along with a monobloc case construction to enhance its water-resistant capability. In addition to this, the watch was also equipped with a mineral glass front and a quickset date feature, enabling the wearer to independently set the date from the timekeeping hands.
Interestingly, Seiko began positioning the screw-down crown at 4 o’clock on these cases for convenience and comfort. This design code became a recurring feature in Seiko Professional dive watches that followed. The Seiko 300M 6215-7000/1 dive watch also features a “stoplight” sweep second hand that later became a hallmark design. It was 1968 when the 6159-7000 replaced the 6215-7000/1 model. One of the key differences here is the implementation of the Hi-Beat movement, which features in the 6159-7000 dive watch. It performed at a rate of 36,600 oscillations per hour. Its design also differed slightly, featuring a different crown, case and glass. After the 6159-7000, Seiko’s production of the Professional dive watch range ceased until 1974. To this day, these two models are still considered hugely collectable vintage Seiko dive watches.
During this dormant time for the Seiko Professional dive watch, the Japanese brand released a C-shaped case in the form of the 6105-8000/9 model – a follow-up of the 62MAS dive watch. The model was released in 1968 and was tailored towards the needs of recreational divers as opposed to professional ones.
. This vintage Seiko dive watch features a Hardlex glass front, along with a spotlight second hand and a push-in crown adorned with the brand logo. This model measures a 41mm diameter and remained in production for a few years only. During the time of its production, Seiko was focussing on changing its dial details from those that featured the water “proof” lettering to water “resistant”.
The Seiko 6106-8100/9 model was classified as a Sport Diver watch and was produced in 1968. This was still an important era for the dive watch industry. Seiko was working on ground-breaking timekeeping technology and had already implemented one of its popular watches with a Hi-Beat movement at this point. The vintage Seiko dive watch ref 6106-8100/9 was more affordably priced compared to some of the brand’s former Professional dive watches.
It also offered a 70-meter water resistance, a slimmer profile and a more vibrant colourway. This Sport Diver watch, despite its inferior water resistance, still promised all the popular dive watch DNA of a Seiko watch and was produced up until 1970. It measured a 38mm diameter and came in several different dial colours including green, silver, grey, blue and yellow.
In 1968, Seiko released its Captain Willard watch – a model that is now discontinued but was initially designed by Martin Sheen for the “Apocalypse Now” film. The Seiko 6306-7000/1and 6309-7040/9 watches replaced this model with a Turtle-esque shape. They were first introduced in the 1970s and were produced up until 1988. Considered one of the most popular vintage Seiko dive watches today, many of these models from the 7000 series were only made available to the Japanese market, resulting in a premium price tag on the preowned market today.
The 6306-7000/1 watch in particular features a black dial with luminous hour markers, a day date at 3 o’clock dressed in white, and an arrow-shaped central minute hand. A robust rubber strap enabled the strap to dry quickly whilst in and out of the water, and the back of the case featured a special wave engraved decoration.
In 1978, Seiko marked a new milestone with the release of its first quartz-powered movement. It featured in the 7549 Tuna Can watch and the earlier Golden Tuna watch crafted from titanium nitride. During the time of their release, the Golden Tuna and 7549 Tuna Can watch were priced considerably high. This was not uncommon during the quartz crisis, where watches were priced on their capability to keep accurate time.
This vintage Seiko dive watch was integrated with 300-meter water resistance and crafted from stainless steel with a screwed-down caseback and a diameter of 47.3mm. Its dominating size created a huge wrist presence but was made incredibly wearable thanks to a curved Hardlex crystal glass front and a legible black and white dial design that would sit effortlessly alongside all styles of attire.
During the end of the 1970s, some Seiko dive watches came onto the market that are still considered highly sought-after designs today. The Seiko 7548-7000/10/700x watches featured a new case design. The 700X watch in particular was both affordably priced and powered by a reliable movement from Seiko’s 7S series. These models make great daily beaters whether used intentionally for their diving capacity or not. At a 42mm diameter, these watches certainly get noticed on the arm without swamping the wrist. Made available in several different dial colours, many collectors managed to bag themselves a Seiko 7548 model before the line became discontinued in the mid-1980s.
Vintage Seiko dive watches will always remain a popular talking point amongst avid Seiko watch fans and dive watch collectors alike. These ruggedly handsome tool watches are solidly built and incorporate some of the most innovative timekeeping technology into their designs. Whether you’re an experienced vintage Seiko dive watch collector or share an interest in the brand’s heritage in dive watch craftsmanship, you’ll be more than familiar with some of these popular dive watches from the past 60 years. Of course, the styles, designs, movement and materials of Seiko dive watches have evolved over the years, but what cannot be denied is the Japanese brand’s unwavering dedication to producing leading, innovative and influential watches for diving - and long may that continue
To find out more about Seiko you can read our guides where we cover the legendary SeikoSKX007 or the guide to the Marine Master collection.
We have also covered the Grand Seiko Spring Drive in our latest watch releases.