Review Glashütte Original SeaQ [live photos, price]
To offer something interesting in the category of diving watches is a feat in itself, especially when you’re about to compete with the best in the luxury-watch segment. Glashütte Original takes up this challenge in a typical German way – reliably, conservatively and at the right price.
Glashütte Original is a brand of such a rich and complex history that one should devote a few large paragraphs just to describe it. For the purposes of this review, it is enough to mention that today this German manufacturer (part of the Swatch Group) can boast of an independent production of parts at the level of nearly 95% and has its own watchmaking school. As a brand, it is associated with elegant watches, which are stylistically closer to A. Lange & Söhne than to sports models from Rolex or Omega – only recently has GO decided to expand its portfolio with the “Spezialist” line, in which various variants of the SeaQ model are at the fore, including the reviewed reference 1-39-11-06-80-70.
Different, yet strangely familiar
In a world of diver’s watches, dominated by the iconic Rolex Submariner or James Bond’s Omega Seamaster, it is not easy to come up with something interesting enough to gain the recognition of enthusiasts. There are basically two paths to choose from: either to build upon a proven pattern (most often using the aforementioned Submariner’s design); or to take a risk, creating something completely new and original – which, however, may not appeal to a wider audience. Fortunately, when it comes to SeaQ, we certainly cannot speak of another boring Submariner clone. On the other hand, only someone who has never seen Seiko 62MAS and its current re-releases could say, that SeaQ is a completely innovative project.
Sounds controversial? Maybe. It is true that the similarities between those two desings are clearly visible, ranging from the characteristic shape of the case, to a narrow bezel and a large, easy-to-grip crown – but, as always, the devil is in the detail. As it turns out, the roots of the SeaQ model go back to the watch that was produced at Glashütte in the late 1960s, namely the Spezimatic Type RP TS 200. Looking at the pictures of the original watch, the modern incarnation undeniably tries to be a faithful copy. The problem is… the Spezimatic RP TS 200 had its premiere in 1969, and the Seiko 62Mas debuted in 1965. So the question about “what inspired what” remains open.
Different, but it doesn’t mean worse
Regardless of the historical truth, Glashütte Original SeaQ offers something that none of the potential prototypes can boast of – namely the quality of workmanship at the highest, in-house level. The attention to detail is what’s GO is known for, so when you hold their watch in your hand, you get the impression of a truly luxurious product (not just another half-baked piece that has come off the line, without proper quality control).
The level of metal processing, in particular the execution of the case itself, deserves the highest recognition. The sides are brushed vertically, lugs are decorated with a distinct chamfer, the top is covered with a circular finish. Also, both the case and the bracelet were made of the highest quality steel, so you cannot see any difference in color (and such mishaps, surprisingly, also happen at this price point).
Although GO decided to go with vintage styling and a conservative, compact size – the watch is 39.5mm in diameter and just over 12mm thick – some solutions tailored to the needs of today’s customers have also been added, namely a unidirectional 120-click bezel with a ceramic insert, slightly domed sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating and a modern in-house movement.
The 39-11 movement is characterized by its smooth performance (accurate, pleasant to wind and surprisingly quiet), as well as appropriate durability (SeaQ meets DIN and ISO standards for diving watches with a water resistance of 200m), from the visual side it is also a piece of decent watchmaking. As you would expect from GO, the movement is based on a 3/4 plate, and is finished with decorative Glashütte stripes (i.e. the German response to the Geneva stripes). Some other characteristic elements are also: skeletonised, partially gilded rotor and a “swan neck” fine adjustment. The only thing that is not impressive is the average power reserve (about 40 hours) and the fact that we cannot admire the caliber through a see through caseback. The manufacturer decided on full steel, decorated with deep engraving, depicting a trident against the background of sea waves.
Interesting solutions can also be found on the bracelet. Since its links are blinded on the sides, at first glance they seem to be devoid of removable connectors (either screws or pins). In fact, the sockets are located atypically, because on the inside of the bracelet. Another hidden feature is in the clasp. The polished logo in its center is actually a button that gives us access to the eight-step length adjustment. Thanks to this, we can add or subtract a few millimeters on the fly, which is an extremely useful option, e.g. on hot days. The only drawback to this solution is the occasional and unintentional pressing of the adjustment button when closing the clasp (you just have to get used to it being there).
The bracelet itself is a work of art. There is no slack, unpleasant grinding or any sharp edges. Personally, I am surprised by the decision to finish the middle part of the links in a high polish (only the first link is fully satinised). It surely adds some elegant feel to the watch, at the same time all kinds of scratches and imperfections on surfaces like that are highly visible and not aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, the rest of the watch is just as eager to attract fingerprints and dust particles. On the sapphire glass, against the background of the black dial, you can see all the specks and imperfections, as well as on the shiny ceramic bezel.
Speaking of bezel, as all new types of bezels out there, it is not as smooth to operate as older aluminum ones. It is narrow, has a shallowly serrated edge, is not easy to grip and turns quite stiffly. It is also a pity that it is not fully illuminated. As for the luminous mass itself, it is richly applied on the dial and hands. During the day, its color is a pleasant cream-yellow, neatly imitating old tritium. In the dark, SuperLuminova is doing quite well, but it is not the intensity of light that can be boasted by even the most ordinary Seiko divers.
The dial in SeaQ in particular stands out above the average – it is perfectly finished at the level of details. Both in photos, as well as in many live situations, the dial appears to be simply black. In fact, it is decorated with a delicate sunburst, which in the right lighting turns from deep black into graphite and lighter shades of gray. The date display, surrounded by a white frame, and immaculately white inscriptions give a nice contrast. The print is flawless and the font itself is kept in a slender, vintage style. Another nice detail is the finishing on the hands. They have an eye-catching “3D effect”, are slightly convex and are thoroughly polished.
Different, but it doesn’t mean cheaper
Glashütte Original SeaQ is undoubtedly a successful project. However, it is not a proposition for everyone – and here’s why. SeaQ on the bracelet costs around 9 700 EURO which is in the same ballpark as the new Rolex Submariner (optimistically assuming that we will be able to buy the latter directly from the AD). So one may be tempted to say that the purchase of SeaQ is the so-called “connoisseur’s choice”, a conscious decision indicating that we are dealing with a real watch enthusiast – and I am writing this without a mockery, because the watch defends itself in all fields.
The reviewed version of SeaQ is a successful fusion of classic and modern. A watch with a sporty purpose, elegant enough to work well in more formal situations. Design-wise, thoughtful and solid, but by no means clunky. After all, it was made with the attention to the smallest details, which we stereotypically associate with the Germans – and perhaps this is its main strength. It is a genuine “Made in Germany” watch, produced by a real manufactory with rich traditions, from start to finish. It’s not another mass-produced “Swiss Made”, and for this sole reason it is probably worth paying a little extra.