Rushed home from work today to get my hands on the blue Alpinist. Thought I'd share some photos as well as my personal take on it now that it's on wrist.
TL;DR - it's fire, get it if you like blue, you like Seiko, and you like watches.
I've had a rocky relationship with the Alpinist. Over the years I must have bought and resold it and its variants a dozen times. Thing is: I just love the case design. It may be my most favorite case design in all of watch-dom. It's sporty, but elegant. Classy, but rugged. Perfectly sized at 39-ish millimeters. Screw down crown, legitimate water resistance, and that compass bezel give it some real honest-to-goodness usefulness in Earthly adventures (as it was made for), and yet you could still wear it to a ball and not be out of place at all. It's perfection in my book. You know what other watch holds all of these same attributes? The Rolex Explorer. In my opinion, the Seiko Alpinist and the Rolex Explorer share all of the same traits besides the name and the price. Historical and horological significance, timeless design, rugged good looks, in house movements and that x-factor that causes them to be instantly recognizable when you see them. The fact that the Alpinist sold for a mere few hundred dollars for so long is a travesty; I've owned watches costing 10x as much that damn near held its own (the fact that I've sold those watches and kept my 017 is proof).
And yet, I bought and sold the thing a dozen times. Two reasons for this:
1. The dial colors. Green and gold is a touch and go - some days I love it, some days I hate it. The cream dial of the 013 is handsome, but I'm just not a fan of that shade of cream. Especially when it's paired with a pure white date window. And the 015 black dial? It's nice, but all too often, the polished indices get washed out in certain angles.
2. The strap color coordination options. Green is not an easy color to pair straps with. The solution should be simple: just throw it on a bracelet! But me, being the picky person that I am, loathe every bracelet option for the Alpinist. The factory bracelet feels cheap to me and lacks a proper 20-16 taper. StrapCode makes monster truck, Invicta-level hulking masses of metal. 3rd party generics are a joke. The saving grace came recently when I found that the Ginault Ocean Rover bracelet fits perfectly on the Alpinist (check my other thread on that), and is the sole reason I still own the 017. It's an amazingly constructed and conceived bracelet that was a match made in watch-heaven for the Alpinist. And it should be, since it's a direct ripoff of the Rolex oyster bracelet with glide-lock. Do I care? Damnit, not at all, because it has made the Alpinist a watch worth wearing. The strap is literally half a watch and can be the deal-breaker or the deal-maker, regardless of how great the watch itself is.
So when sudden news of a blue Alpinist came my way the other day, there was no hesitation. It was bought and purchased without a single iota of thought. I love blue dials, and this is exactly what everyone has been wanting for so long. Seiko parted the heavens and bestowed unto us mere peasants a sublime gift of blue, of mountaineering goodness.
So what did I think of it?
Hodinkee's photos are actually spot on accurate. The blue dial has a VERY muted sunray finish that really only goes nuts in direct sunlight (today is another overcast day, so no photos of that yet). In most situations, the blue presents itself more as a rich matte finish, almost satin-metallic like in sheen. The tone ranges from a rich deep navy to almost a powdery dark blue. This is a very dynamic blue, and really needs to be seen in person to judge and appreciate. The silver indices are well done, and suit the blue well. I think gold would have been a poor match for this shade of blue. It's not my favorite blue dial ever (that honor goes to the work of art that is the Tudor BB36 blue), but it is very, very well done. Subtle enough to wear every day, and pairs well with a green sweater and a bracelet, or other earthy tones.
It's ok. Nothing to write home about. I'll never wear it, it lacks a good taper and I'm just not a fan of blue on black. I'll probably put it on a tan leather if I tire of the Ginault bracelet.
What can I say, it's an Alpinist with a blue dial. It's what I've wanted for a long time, and now I have it. Same amazingly finished case, same great size, same excellent movement.
The Value Proposition
This watch is worth $1k, in my opinion. With Tudor BB36 Blue prices hovering at under $2000, I think $1k is fair. You get a solid in-house movement, a finely executed case, a lovely dial, and the horological significance of the Alpinist line. Seiko has been on a shift in marketing, trying to change the perception of their brand as being "budget", and move whole watch lines upmarket. I think they're taking the right steps, but honestly, if I were Seiko, I would have charged more for this. It is worth more than $600, but I suppose that is in line with what the Alpinist always has been: undervalued.
This thing is a keeper in my collection. The only question for me now is: DO I KEEP BOTH!? I thought I would sell the 017, but after taking these photos, I just don't know. Maybe I'll feel differently tomorrow, as has been the case with that frustratingly colored 017.