Seiko Alpinist – Robust, Precise, Distinct
Seiko's Alpinist line is steeped in tradition. Originally developed for mountain climbers in 1959, this robust watch has become a favorite among Seiko fans. It's known for its distinctive design and inner compass bezel.
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Developed for Mountaineers, Popular with Seiko Fans
The story of the Seiko Alpinist starts back in 1959, when the Japanese manufacturer introduced the Laurel Alpinist. The wristwatch was designed with mountaineers in mind: It had easily legible luminous hands, a case protected from water and dust, and a strap with a cuff. The watch was powered by robust manual calibers like the Seiko 850.
Seiko produced the first Alpinist in various different versions until around 1965. Then, 30 years went by until the SCVF model known as the "Red Alpinist" appeared on the market. This watch boasted a completely new design, which most Seiko fans now associate with the Alpinist: cathedral hands, a date display with a magnifying lens, and an internal bezel operated by an additional crown at 4 o'clock. It also switched to the automatic caliber 4S15. However, Seiko stopped production of the "Red Alpinist" after just two years, which makes it particularly interesting for collectors.
In 2006, Seiko relaunched the Alpinist as part of the SARB line. The design largely follows that of the "Red Alpinist," with one exception: The watch no longer has a lens for the date display. As part of the Prospex collection, the SARB Alpinists use the high-quality caliber 6R15 with a 50-hour power reserve. Seiko produced the watch in a number of different versions, though many appeared exclusively on the Asian market.
In 2020, Seiko came out with a reworked version of the Alpinist. Thanks to its use of the caliber 6R35, the new watch boasted a power reserve of 70 hours and bore the Prospex logo on the dial for the first time. The date magnifier also made a comeback. In the same year, Seiko launched the so-called "Baby Alpinist." The dial design and hands of this watch match its sister model, but it doesn't have an internal bezel or a second crown.
On the occasion of the company's 140th anniversary in 2021, Seiko introduced a modernized remake of the 1959 Alpinist. It's limited to 1,959 pieces and is powered by the caliber 6L35. They also released a series of reinterpretations of the watch, with designs based on the original model.
Reasons to Buy a Seiko Alpinist
- A unique design
- Robust in-house movement
- Large selection of model variations
- Numerous rare collector's pieces
Prices at a Glance: Seiko Alpinist
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Size, caliber, dial|
|Prospex 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation, SJE085J1||2,600 USD||36.6 mm, 6L35, black|
|Seiko Laurel Alpinist, 14041||1,800 USD||35 mm, Seikosha 17J, silver-white|
|Prospex Alpinist Blue, SPB199J1||1,100 USD||39.5 mm, 6R35, glacier blue|
|Champion Alpinist 850, J13079||1,100 USD||35 mm, 850, silver-white|
|Red Alpinist, SCVF005||1,100 USD||38 mm, 4S15, black|
|Alpinist, SARB017||1,000 USD||38 mm, 6R35, green|
|Prospex Alpinist Re-Interpretation, SPB241J1||740 USD||38 mm, 6R35, silver-white|
|Alpinist Champion 850, 85899||650 USD||35 mm, 851, silver-white|
How much does a Seiko Alpinist cost?
Prices for a Seiko Alpinist range from around 580 USD to 2,700 USD. On the lower end of that price range, you'll find the "Baby Alpinist" models. For around 650-850 USD, you'll find current Prospex models like the SPB121J1 and reinterpretation models like the SPB243J1. With a bit of luck, you might also come across vintage watches from the late 1960s or an Alpinist Champion J13043 in this price range.
If you want a "Red Alpinist" from the 1990s, you should be prepared to spend around 1,100 USD. Rare special editions like the SPB089 with a glacier-blue dial go for as high as 1,900 USD. If you have your eye on an early Alpinist model with the reference number 14041, you should plan on spending just as much.
The most expensive Alpinist is the 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation SJE085J1, introduced in 2021. The watch was limited to just 1,959 pieces and sells for 2,700 USD.
Vintage Alpinist Models
The first generation of the Seiko Alpinist came to the market in 1959 and has the reference number 14041. The diameter of its stainless steel case is 35 mm, which might seem small by today's standards, but was typical for the time. It's powered by a Seikosha manual movement with Diashock shock protection and 17 jewels.
Since the watch was developed with mountain climbing and the outdoors in mind, its construction is very robust. It has a screw-down case back, and the display is protected by domed acrylic glass. The dial comes in black or silver. The indices and hands are luminous, meaning they're easy to read in low light. Triangles mark 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. Add in the dauphine hands and the other bar indices, and the watch takes on a subtle Art Deco aesthetic.
The Seiko Laurel Alpinist 14041 is hard to come by on Chrono24. If you are lucky enough to find one, prices will fall between 1,600 USD and 1,900 USD, depending on the model and its condition.
In 1963, Seiko gave the Alpinist a redesign and made it a part of the Champion collection. The watch's diameter remained 35 mm. The Alpinist Champion 850 is powered by the caliber 850, as reflected in its name.
The dial design also got a makeover. In the J130xx series, the dials have a light-colored center surrounded by a dark ring and square-shaped, applied hour markers. Thin lines divide the face into five-minute segments. On the other hand, watches with the reference number 85899 sport a classic, understated dial design with applied bar indices. You can buy the watch in black or white and choose from a chrome-plated or gold-plated stainless steel case.
Prices for an Alpinist Champion in good condition range from 650 USD to 1,100 USD, depending on the model.
Red Alpinist – A Classic
In 1995, Seiko introduced a redesigned version of the Alpinist intended for the Japanese and Southeast Asian markets. Since "Alpinist" is written in red above 6 o'clock, Seiko fans call the watch the "Red Alpinist." Seiko's long-time in-house designer Shigeo Sakai is behind the design. He fitted the watch with luminous cathedral hands, a new dial design, and an interior rotatable bezel that's operated with an additional crown at 4 o'clock. The bezel has compass markings and is meant to help with orientation in open terrain. The date display, located under a magnifying lens at 3 o'clock, is also new.
The stainless steel case measures in at 38 mm and is water-resistant up to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft). The display is covered with Sapphlex, a mineral glass with a layer of sapphire. At the heart of the watch is the caliber 4S15, which ticks at 28,800 vibrations per hour (A/h), features a stop-seconds mechanism, and can be wound by hand if necessary.
The Red Alpinist comes with either a black, white, or green dial. The green version, with the reference SCVF009, is particularly sought after by fans and collectors. In this version and the white version (SCVF007), the hour markers alternate between Arabic numerals and pointed indices. In the black variant (SCVF005), small triangles serve as indices.
Prices for the Red Alpinist depend on the exact model and range from 1,000 USD to 1,400 USD.
The Alpinist in the SARB Series
The SARB Alpinist came to the market in 2006. It closely resembles the Red Alpinist, but the red name has been replaced with the white word "Automatic" and the date is no longer magnified. In addition, the crystal is now made of sapphire and the movement has been replaced with the caliber 6R15 with a 50-hour power reserve.
The selection of dial colors is the same as those for the Red Alpinist. The model with the green dial has the reference SARB017, the white version is SARB013, and the black variant is SARB015. The design of the black SARB Alpinist departs slightly from its sister models. It has narrow dauphine hands and tapered indices, and the date display is located at 4 o'clock.
You can buy a SARB Alpinist on Chrono24 for prices between 970 USD and 1,200 USD.
The Current Prospex Alpinist
Ever since the introduction of the Red Alpinist, the Alpinist has been sold as part of the Prospex collection. The watches in the SPB series from 2020 make this more apparent as they feature the Prospex logo on their dials. The design of these watches remains largely the same as previous models. What's new is the 39.5 mm diameter and the caliber 6R35, which has a power reserve of 70 hours. The cyclops lens also makes a comeback.
In addition to the colors available in previous generations, the 2020 SPB Alpinist also comes in a version with a brown sunburst dial (SPB209J1). There's also the limited edition Alpinist Blue SPB199J1 with a glacier-blue dial.
Prices for standard models like the SPB121J1 with a green sunburst dial fall around 700 USD. For limited models, expect prices from 1,100 USD.
The year 2020 also marked the debut of the "Baby Alpinist," another SPB model. In contrast to its sister models, this watch doesn't have an internal bezel, meaning that it also does without the additional crown at 4 o'clock. Coming in at 38 mm, the Baby Alpinist is also a bit smaller than its siblings. The dial design, on the other hand, closely resembles the larger Alpinist models. Dials are available in blue, green, black, and brown and boast a delicate texture and an elegant gradient.
Expect to spend around 650 USD on a "Baby Alpinist."
Remakes and Reinterpretations
Seiko celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2021 and marked the occasion with numerous special editions. One of these models is the 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation SJE085J1, a modernized remake of the original Alpinist from 1959. The design takes its cues from the Seiko Laurel Alpinist. However, the newer model has a slightly larger diameter of 36.6 mm, a date display at 4 o'clock, and boasts a domed sapphire crystal. The ultramodern automatic caliber 6L35 ensures top precision. A brown leather strap with an additional cuff keeps the watch securely on the wrist.
Seiko only produced 1,959 pieces of the 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation, making it a sought-after collector's item. It goes for around 2,700 USD on Chrono24.
Simultaneous with the release of the Re-Creation, Seiko also introduced a series of modern reinterpretations under the name 1959 Alpinist Re-Interpretation. These watches have a diameter of 38 mm, a flat sapphire crystal, and are powered by the caliber 6R35.
The dial borrows heavily from the Re-Creation. However, on the Re-Interpretation, the minute ring has a subtle sunburst that sets it apart from the rest of the dial. In addition, the date display is located at 3 o'clock.
You can purchase the 1959 Alpinist Re-Interpretation with a creme (SPB241J1), green (SPB245J1), or gray (SPB243J1) dial for around 710 USD.
Alpinist with GMT and the SKX Case
There are also a number of lesser-known models in the Alpinist line. The Alpinist GMT, for example, was released in 2003 and is also known as the Alpinist 8F56, in reference to its quartz movement. This 38-mm titanium watch boasts a GMT function, a perpetual calendar, and the typical Alpinist compass bezel. The two crowns are located at 2 and 4 o'clock. Sword hands, which are often found on pilot's watches, indicate the time.
An Alpinist GMT like the SBCJ019 with a black dial costs between 860 USD and 1,100 USD, depending on its condition.
Alpinist in SKX Style
In 2009, Seiko launched an Alpinist variation for the Japanese market that differs significantly from other Alpinist watches. It uses the 42-mm case from the SKX diving watches, meaning that it has a crown complete with crown guard at 4 o'clock and a rotating bezel. The bezel has a 60-minute scale as well as compass markings. The hands on this watch are also sword hands.
The watch is available with a green dial and stainless steel bezel under the reference SARB059 and with a black dial and bezel under SARB061. Expect to pay around 750 USD for either version.