I recently took delivery of an SBDX011 1000m MarineMaster Automatic Tuna from Katsu-san. EMS Delivery from Tokyo to Sydney, Australia, took 4 days. Packaging and presentation were as superb as Higuchi’s service always is.
My motivation for buying this watch was that while I love my MM300 there are times I want to wear something tougher than an MM300 that’s not a G-Shock. I wanted the big Tuna to handle life's sporty knocks while still reflecting my Seiko coolness. And, of course, you’ve got to buy yourself something nice every so often.
I can be a little hard on watches - my MM’s bezel is a bit battered despite the fact I often wear it with a bezel guard. I both dislike wearing the bezel guard and at the same time enjoy the tougher look the black rubber imparts on the MM. This SBDX011 gives me the hard-man look I like without the 5-dollar guard.
Being silly about the accuracy of mechanicals I did not want to compromise on movement quality and stability. My experience with the 8L35 movement has been very pleasing and when I heard about the SBDX011 Automatic with this high end movement aboard I was immediately interested. No one can wear an 8L35 in rotation with lesser movements without developing a keen regard for its predictable and accurate time keeping.
Nevertheless, I have to admit I was a bit worried about this watch as it's such a big puppy. It’s taken me a long time to decide to buy it. At least one other owner had admitted to flipping because of flopping. And a couple of owners in Asia had posted images of the big tuna dominating their wrists like a tortoise doing tightrope.
I smugly thought that at 6 foot 3 and 97kg I was lots bigger than my Chinese and Vietnamese mates and my wing would not be daunted by this Tuna. I was wrong. My wrists are a bit over 7 and 3 quarters but the SBDX011 fills the available space almost completely. It’s a big watch – big and tall and heavy.
With the watch on the wrist the large diameter is a good thing. The lug width keeps the watch from riding too high given the acute angle at which the straps must duck under the full ends of the shroud. This is not a watch that will sit flat on its back.
So - does the SBDX flop? Depending on strap tightness, yes, it can do when you’re up and activated. Worn firmly, the watch is quite stable but the ribbed Seiko strap design when pulled firmly against my wrist can be a little painful at times. It’s the first rib and the way the strap exits under the shroud that forces this rib down into my wrist, especially at the top lug where that wrist bone sticks out. There was some hair pulling up there I’ve never had from vented rubber before that must relate to the weight and resulting movement of the watch head. I wear similar vented straps on much lighter 007, 7002 and 6309 heads with no drama.
The watch’s movement on the wrist may relate to its curvaceous bottom. The actual flat central part of the caseback is only between a third and a half of the total caseback area, the remainder being angled upwards from this base and not making consistent contact with the wearer’s wrist. This allows the watch to work against your wrist if the strap is not worn firmly.
As part of working on the fit I swapped the ribbed strap out for a flat Seiko strap and it was worse – the grip of the ribbing on the stock strap helps keep the watch head steady, I guess. Now after a couple of days worn firmly the stock strap is beginning to conform to my wrist and is much more comfortable. I went for an 11km run yesterday and completely forgot I was wearing it – a good sign.
So – aside from wrist feel what’s the SBDX011 like? It’s heavy. Heavier than an MM on rubber. It’s big. This is my biggest watch. The reaction from friends and family is that it’s a very masculine look. And the stealthy black PVD far from turning the Tuna into a sleeper actually makes it stand out as something special. People notice this watch in a way I was not expecting.
Functionally the bezel action is a little tinklier and finer than the MM. It’s very precise and there’s no looseness. The bezel pip falls on each division perfectly. Bezel grip is good, wet or dry. The flat sapphire crystal is well recessed under the matt bezel and the bezel insert itself is recessed ever so slightly into the bezel face. As a bezel scraper of international repute I am very pleased with this feature and I hope it helps.
The drilled lugs are the pleasure they always are when removing a strap and the watch’s overall finish is superb – the signed crown, the hex screws, the rear case design and the encompassing shroud are all singularly sweet. Even the smooth feel of the PVD finish is lush.
The curved underbody and the watch’s high ride make crown accessibility and grip excellent with the SBDX011 on the wrist – much better than any other watch I own. You can freely use the big crown when wearing the SBDX011 with no dramas or skin pinching at all. This ease of access would be a boon when wearing gloves and/or wearing the watch over a wetsuit.
The crown wind is smooth and interestingly, there’s none of the fiddle sometimes required to get the crown screwed in that you can get with the MM300. There should be no difference – it’s the same movement – but I feel there’s a difference anyway. With the SBDX011 you just push the crown in and turn it a couple of times and there you are. I’ve compared this directly with the MM first one then the other and it’s not the same – or at least I think it’s not.
The lume is great – better than the MM because there’s more of it. You can charge this watch in front of a light and it will last the night. By that I mean actually last the entire night. The face of the watch is deep black and the big, plain hour markers are reminiscent of the 6309 – all business. This was a particular attraction for me. I also like the hands with their metal spines more than I thought I would. The lume would be better without these metal elements but it’s a design that’s true to the original and it’s aesthetically most agreeable.
After 5 days of wear and bedside table time (crown up) accuracy is far better than my expectations. I was hoping for a predictable sub-10 second variation a day. Expecting regular daily gain I set the watch 15 behind atomic and it’s still 14 behind atomic 5 days later. That’s far better than my MM which started at 6.6 up a day and is now about 5.5 secs up daily after 18 months of pretty regular wear.
I’ve always been pleased with the predictable accuracy of my MM’s 8L35 while being mindful that its regular timekeeping meant a tightly regulated 8L35 would be capable of 9S55 Grand Seiko accuracy. By a stroke of luck this particular SBDX011 delivers that awesome accuracy out of the box. I am 5 days in and the watch has gained 1 second against the atomic clock. Best of all there’s no discernable daily variation – I have worn it to bed and I have sat it crown up on the bedside table with no variation beyond this slight creep forward. I’m sure you’ll all agree that’s perfection.
Am I happy? Yes – I am. But the SBDX is as big as I want things to get in a Seiko diver and you should only buy one if you want something with a serious wrist presence. As SpringDiver has said a couple of times on this forum – ‘this is one badass tuna’. Well Shannon, I second that observation with interest.
One final comment. The forum has collectively wondered whether the SBDX011 Automatic Tuna is a real tool watch or an auspicious wank. Now I have held the beast in my hand I assure you it’s the former. I agree that using a hi-torque quartz movement is more in keeping with the concept of a modern tool watch. And I agree that slotting in the new Hi-Beat Grand Seiko movement would be more in keeping with a direct homage to the original Grand Seiko shrouded diver despite the fact most of us could not then afford to buy it.
But regardless of these points, there are certain fundamentals that can’t be discounted from a discussion about this watch. Quite simply, the SBDX011 is one tough mother, with sterling build quality and excellent specifications. It has unrivaled legibility day and night, a turret like an Abrams M1, a scratch-resistant PVD coating, 1000m saturation capability, a sapphire crystal and a rugged monocoque construction.
Backing all this up is a proven movement of high accuracy and outstanding stability offering hand winding, hacking and 50 hours reserve off the wrist. As the experts tell us, this 8L35 movement is simply an undecorated and less thoroughly adjusted 9S55 – the best and most accurate automatic movement Seiko made until the release of the Hi-Beat 9S85 earlier this year.
Taken together with the non-Grand Seiko price, it’s a combination of features that makes the SBDX011 1000m MarineMaster THE tool watch for lovers of high end Seiko mechanicals.
(Image is PeteW's)