The first Alpinist watch has been introduced in 1961 and targeted to Japanese mountain climbers and other sports enthusiasts. The famous "Laurel" was the first of seven Alpinist watch generations so far.
Seiko Alpinist timeline at 1961
Seiko Alpinist timeline at 1963
Seiko Alpinist timeline at 1964
Seiko Alpinist timeline at 1995
Seiko Alpinist timeline at 2003
Seiko Alpinist timeline at 2006
Source: The Spring Bar
Fast forward to 6th Alpinist generation and so called SARB series introduced in 2006, that gave birth to watches equipped with automatic caliber 6R15: the popular SARB017, alongside models SARB013 and SARB017. All three models have been running on 23 jewels, had 20 bar resistance and gold plated numbers and hands. The main difference among the three of them was that Seiko's SARB013 had the cream dial, SARB015 had the black one and SARB017 had the famous green sunburst dial, a favorite among watch collectors. Another difference were cathedral hour hands on SARB013 and SARB017, while SARB015 had the "shark tooth" hour hand and is known by the same nickname.
Seiko Alpinist 2006 version : SARB013, SARB015 and SARB017
Although 2009 brought the introduction of seventh generations having models SARB059, SARB061 and SARB063 (all-black Seiko Alpinist Takeshi Mizukoshi 500 limited model), the SARB017 outlived their fame. Even The Blue Alpinist SPB089 released in 2019, as U.S. Limited Edition, with a sunburst dark blue dial, produced in 1,959 pieces only, couldn't do much about it, and this one counts as one of the most expensive Alpinist pieces. So let's see what so especial about SARB017.
Seiko Blue Alpinist SPB089, image from Instagram @fenil_tp
Seiko Alpinist 2009 version : SARB059, SARB061 and SARB063
Often called just Alpinist Green, SARB017 has the 6R15 calibre inside, operating on 21,600 bph and is equipped with hacking and hand winding options. With 23 jewels and a Spron 510 inside, it has a power reserve of over 50 hours. A bonus is Diaschock system for added protection, as well as 200 m water resistance.
Its rotating bezel has a built in compass that is operated by the second crown at 4 o'clock. To use Seiko Alpinist compass, one should be in places where the sun is visible and the watch is set to the current time in the area. The dial should be kept in level and the hour hand pointed in the direction of the sun. Simply setting “S (South)” on the rotating compass bezel to the middle point of the arc between the 12 o’clock marker and the time scale indicated by the hour hand does the job, with one small trick: In the AM period, the rotating compass bezel should be set to the middle point of the arc to the left of the 12 o’clock marker. However, in the PM period, the bezel should be set to the middle point of the arc to the right of the 12 o’clock marker.N (North),” “S (South),” “E (East),” and “W (West)” on the rotating compass bezel (ring) will then indicate the corresponding directions.
Seiko Green Alpinist SARB017 on MiLTAT Bracelets
Although it was marketed as a sports watch, this piece became so much more. Maybe it's because its original bracelet is a crocodile leather strap (20 mm lug) and implies elegance or because its case was just right regarding size (plus neither too thick nor too thin), but it surely had something to do with its magnificent dial. The peculiar green color of the sunburst dial combined with the gold touches turn this watch into a charming chameleon that can adapt to any style, even without changing its strap. It screams character, style and manliness whether you're climbing the mountain, having an important business meeting or chat over a dinner with a beautiful woman in some casual restaurant. That being said, if you can only take one watch with you on your travels, SARB017 is surely a good pick.
So SARB017 is not only a cool watch that can handle all changes of styles during the day and night, but also makes a good ally in your adventures. Add it's dial's eye-catching ability and it's clear why the original Green Alpinist is still a favorite among watch collectors.
Its price currently goes from $350 up to over $500, depending on the watch condition.
The new Alpinist release will have three different watches: with green (SBDC091), white (SBDC089) and black dial (SBDC087) and one of these fellas may just be the new Green Alpinist.
From what we can see from the first glance, SBDC091 looks almost the same as SARB017, but the Prospex badge catches our eye. Does this means a seed of new Seiko hybrid line in the future?
More focus on SBDC091 reveals more differences from its predecessor. The date background is changed from green to white, which wasn't received well among the fans of original Green Alpinist. Will a see-through background and Cyclops lens on the date be enough to compensate?
Seiko Prospex "X" Badge
Cyclops lens on the date
The "S" letter was removed from the crown of the latest Seiko Prospex Alpinist models.
2020 New Seiko Prospex Alpinist movement - 6R35 Caliber
On the other side, original 6R15 movement is replaced with caliber 6R35, which upgrades its power reserves up to 70 hours. That means almost 20 hours more than SARB017, but mind the fact that the original Green Alpinist isn't particularly favored because of its abilities, but rather its look, so it's hard to predict who will win this race at the very end. If you can recall, the same transition happened with Sumo watches SZSC004 and SPB103J1 and yet the opinions are divided among the fans.
The price of a new contestant for the new Green Alpinist (SBDC091) is estimated at 75,000 Yen, which is around $680. The other two watches are somewhat more expensive. It is still less than the SARB089 whose price doesn't go down because it is a limited edition but it is almost double the cost of SARB017. Does this mean the new watch will beat the favorite SARB017 among the watch lovers or they just won't find it worth the bucks?
In the end, you cannot judge a watch by its picture. Even the original Green Alpinist is far more beautiful live than on the picture, as sunburst dial plays with the light. Let's wait for the new Alpinist release in January 2020 and see.
Written by M.H. , Photo by Toni or others as noted