It took a long time to add the Seiko Scubamaster “Stingray” to my collection of divers. I don’t remember where I first came across this watch, but since the moment I saw it, I was smitten. After over a month of frantic and persistent searching, I finally came across someone who was willing to part with the exact watch I was looking for. That was about a year ago, and despite all the other watches I’ve gotten since, it continues to see more than its fair share of wrist time.
The Seiko Kinetic Scubamaster is not the most expensive watch I own, but it is probably the rarest and most unique. In fact, I think it comes pretty close to being the ultimate diver watch. It is feature rich, extremely tough, very accurate, and has a bold, distinguished look. Here’s a feature-by-feature breakdown:
- Lots of titanium. First of all, most of the watch is a titanium alloy. Titanium isn’t particularly scratch-resistant, but it is very tough and very light. The case is a single solid piece of titanium (which can only be opened from the front), and has its signature stingray engraved in the back. The bracelet is titanium, as well, and is extremely solid and strong.
- Sapphire crystal. The Scubamaster’s crystal is highly scratch-resistant synthetic sapphire which is set down below the bezel for extra protection.
- 24-hour hand. The Scubamaster has four hands: hour, minute, second, and a 24-hour hand. The watch is designed to be able to easily track the time in two different time zones, and to be able to switch time zones quickly and easily. When in you home time zone, you keep the hour hand and the 24-hour hand in sync. When you travel outside your home time zone, the movement is designed in such a way that you can easily adjust the hour hand forward or backward, depending on whether you are traveling east or west. That way, the hour hand indicates the time where you currently are while the 24-hour hand retains your home time.
- Self-charging. The Scubamaster is part of Seiko’s Kinetic line. Kinetic watches have quartz movements which are powered by rechargeable batteries. The batteries are recharged by the action of a rotor which moves as you move your arm. The concept is similar to that of an automatic watch, but rather than the rotor winding a spring, it generates electricity that is used to power a standard quartz movement. I’ve heard that one of the problems with Kinetic watches is that their capacitors tend to degrade over time which results in smaller power reserves. I haven’t found that to be the case at all with this watch. It’s only supposed to hold a charge for 14 days, however even after seven years (yes, the watch is that old), it seems to stay sufficiently charged for about three weeks. The movement is also accurate to between 1 and 3 seconds per month.
- Power reserve indicator. The button on the right side of the case above the crown activates a power reserve indicator (which can actually be activated underwater). The watch’s second hand moves ahead to indicate how long the watch will remain operational, then stops there and waits for time to catch up before moving again. As long as I remember to wear the watch a day or two every couple of weeks, power is never an issue.
- Double locking clasp. The clasp on the Scubamaster is very robust. It uses a spring loaded, dual button locking mechanism in addition to a fold-down clasp lock. This is probably the strongest and best engineered clasp I’ve ever seen on a watch.
- Diver extension. Many watches have diver extensions which allow you to increase the size of the bracelet so that it will fit over a wetsuit. The Seiko Scubamaster’s extension has a very unique design, however. It is released by pushing back on the fold-down clasp lock, then it slides out from the clasp to a length of 2.5 cm, or about 1 inch. That means the size of the bracelet can be increased by 1 inch without ever even having to take the watch off. You then slide the extension back into the clasp to adjust it down to precisely the right size. The most amazing part of the diver extension is that it doesn’t seem to add any bulk to the clasp at all. In fact, if you didn’t know where to look, you’d never even know it was there.
- Unidirectional rotating bezel. The bezel on the Scubamaster is also probably the best I’ve ever seen. First of all, it is anodized blue with the numbers and minute markers actually engraved and inlaid in white. They are very easy to read, and very well protected. There are also raised titanium bumps at the 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55 minute positions. The movement of the bezel is remarkably solid. It’s tight, but in a good and solid way, and it clicks and secures its position as you rotate it every 30 seconds. I can’t imagine how hard you’d have to bump the bezel to move it inadvertently.
- Luminescent hour markers and hands. Even after 7 years, Seiko’s LumiBrite paint is extremely bright, making the watch very legible in any conditions.
- Water-resistant to 200 meters, or about 650 feet. Or at least it was at one time. This watch is old enough that it really needs to be serviced (in Japan) to ensure that it is still watertight.
The Seiko Scubamaster Kinetic Stingray is no longer available, and hasn’t been for some time. And when it was available, it was only available in Japan. No wonder it was so difficult to find. Mine was originally purchased on October 10, 1999, somewhere in Japan, as indicated by the warranty card, though I can’t tell where. I have all the original paperwork, booklets, packaging, and bracelet links. Although the watch has clearly seen quite a bit of service, it’s still in relatively good cosmetic condition, and in terms of style, is still one of the best looking divers I know of.
By Christian Cantrell