Seiko King Turtle – Massive Upgrade?

Seiko King Turtle

Behold the Seiko King Turtle – three additions to their popular line of vintage-inspired “Turtle” dive watches. The new references – SRPE03, SRPE05 and SRPE07 – add features beloved by tool watch aficionados. As expected, bought-and-paid internet watch gazers at wornandwound.com are wetting themselves over these new models. gearpatrol.com proclaimed them a “massive upgrade.” But for whom?

What did Seiko change? The Seiko King Turtle boasts bezels upgraded with ceramic inserts with better texturing on the perimeter. The crystals are swapped for sapphire with a magnifier over the day/date window. New, textured dials are installed.

These changes makes the watches look and feel a more like serious dive tools, which of course they are not. The heavy-handed ad man at Worn & Wound says “the 03 and 05 feature a dial pattern that reminds me of the ‘Mega Tapisserie’ dial of the Royal Oak Offshore.” Why make such a bougie comparison? Turtles are modestly priced watches. I see a similarity to Japanese waffle weave linen towels. Being pedestrian is not a crime.

The real effect of these changes is to ruin the Turtle’s vintage good looks. This watch was cool specifically because it faithfully recalled Seiko’s beloved ref. 6309 cushion case diver from 1976. Adding these unnecessary features takes it further away from that heritage. If you already have a Turtle, these “Kings” are a downgrade.

Seiko King Turtle

From a manufacturing standpoint, none of these changes are new or innovative for Seiko. The Seiko King Turtle parts are decidedly off the shelf for a massive, vertically integrated watchmaking machine like the shonen shojo from Ginza. In fact, there’s maybe five bucks worth of upgrades here at volume. Yet…

…the MSRPs increased by $100 across the board. That means a clean extra Benjamin of gross margin in Seiko’s pocket for each watch sold. So in the end, as with the Alpinist, the real upgrade here is for Seiko. Or for the guys in Tokyo selling them new money machines to account for all the manufactured hype.

5 comments

  1. Mild counterpoint:
    Top-end mods on the turtle are the immediate go-to things. Bezels and inserts plus sapphire is basically the default. So that money going to Seiko where’s OEM instead of whichever aftermarket parts store it would be going to anyway… It’s a bit of a wash, isn’t it?

    1. Ah, interesting point! I lack awareness of the Seiko modding community.

      I think your point reinforces mine. Why have your customers spend money with modders when you can capture that revenue yourself? Give them what they want! Those money machines go “beep beep”!

  2. I’ve got a 6309 and a king turtle (03), and was very happy to shell out the additional $100 for the better bezel, insert and sapphire. Hell, this is what I’ve wanted. Sure, I can mod my 6309 (I save all modding for my sxk), but I prefer to buy this factory spec turtle. The dial is icing on the cake.

  3. I find this opinion to be refreshing. Is it pessimistic? Is it a traditionalists viewpoint? Both to be sure, but I can appreciate it being one who doesn’t always take kindly to change on the well established.
    My opinion? The original turtle reinterpretation has had a good run and there is no shortage of those yet. For the most part it is untouched by the silly collectors value greedy fools on the second hand and grey markets play at. So the turtle range has had an upgrade, and not a bad one at that. Bezel and bezel insert completely redone, a nice new selection of dials and a sapphire crystal (opinions will take or leave the magnifier) all in all I was impressed with this watch especially at the grey market price I got it for, same price I could have the previous model at.
    My only point of criticism to this article is that these upgrades are not a mere $5, and if we are to argue that they do not justify the $100 price hike then we should also attack the very system that is the watch market itself as every timepiece is quite overpriced, including the previous iteration of this so called “turtle”.
    If you want a traditional style turtle, it’s available. If you want a turtle with all of the bells and whistles that people demand as the current standard, there is one and it pulls it off quite well, it’s just not the turtle to remind us of the 6309.

  4. Bezel + bezel insert + sapphire with ar coating + dial change is worth more than mere $5 or even more than $100 in the am market. Dont calculate it with their raw material price, if so then rolexes should be priced around $200 at best

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