Battle of the M.M. Moniker
Now, before I go ahead and compare the second generation of the Seiko Baby Marinemaster 200 with the current iteration of the uber MM300, I want you guys to know that this is a relative comparison, with the sole purpose of showcasing its differential in aesthetic quality and execution. The results might once again surprise all of us.
That said, I would like to point out what Seiko has done to alleviate their higher tier dive watches, so much so that tangibly, the MM200 might just come real close to its Goliath brethren at the high-table – and not the other way around where quality is reduced in the MM300. As a matter of fact, the latest SBDX023 has shown Seiko has upped-the-ante in what already represents a peak of their obsessive efforts in engineering their single-piece case, professional dive watch. So, let’s begin our head to head, bumper to bumper comparison between the new SBDC12X and the SBDX023. And hey, both even got the “X” on them, don’t they?
Same Bezel and Crystal But Different Execution
First announced at the end of 2020, the SBDC125 and 127 are now a sized-down version of the SBDC061 and 63. They are even more so when we placed it right beside the SBDX023. Yet we can see the new Baby MM200 built more classically, sticking with the classic elements -stayed true to the vintage diver while still packed with modern craftsmanship. Suppose the SBDC061 and 63 are seen as the first step towards an ultramodern interpretation of the MM300, with more of its own “PROSPEX” perks. In that case, the 125 and 127 are considered true-to-original-form with the anachronistic appeal of MM300, arguably with even more original aesthetics than the previous generation.
How so? Let’s begin from the top. The bezel executions on the MM200 Reduced are on point with the SBDX023. While the current MM300 has converted to a detachable ceramic insert now, both the steel bezel (125) and the black lacquered one (127) stuck back to the OG 6215/6159 roots. Yes, the MM300 gets better durability as ceramic is virtually impossible to be scratched. Still, we can’t fault Seiko for placing certain old-school charm on the new MM200s. It is just so nostalgically pleasing to see and handle, especially for Seiko enthusiasts. That aside, when up close upon the MM200’s bezel grooves, the execution is on par with that on the MM300, sans the trim in height for proportion purposes. The grooves on both models get the same indentations as the sixties originals – finished off with byzantine satin-brushed surfaces, and mirror-polishing on the recessed ones. All that resulted in a seamless balance between functional and elegant aspects, showcasing Seiko’s consistency in their finishing prowess.
Within the SBDC12X the bezel sits a relatively flat sapphire crystal that transit towards the slightly sloping bezel. This anti-reflective coated crystal gets a little small facet right at the periphery, resulting in slight distortion when looking through it at an angle. However, the MM300’s flat crystal exudes an almost totally seamless transition towards its equally flat bezel surface, providing the perfect legibility at any angle.
The Two-tone Story
Moving into each dial, I will start off with the obvious. The dials on both the SBDC12X are fitted quite near its sapphire crystal, amplifying the watch’s overall slimness and compactness elegantly. Seiko was able to do so with an ingenious step that was only realized in recent times, which is the dismissal of the slanted minute rehaut. Instead, the inner rehaut was done cleanly with the superior Zaratsu polishing and then satin-brushed over. The minute track is now placed on the main dial, flanging neatly around the hour markers without causing a cluster as compared to MM300, keeping the original minute track at the sides allows much depth for the diver. The dial rests even further away from the sapphire crystal.
Paradoxically, the SBDC dials sans the rehaut appear to be more “retro-looking” than the original MM300 and all of the predecessors. That said, the dial markers toned back the SBDC12X with a more contemporary feel. Due to its “reduced” size, the MM200 now gets smaller hour lume plots than the “maxi” ones on the 44mm MM300 diver. Furthermore, the MM200’s fan-shaped markers at 12, trapezoid ones 6 and 9 o’clock, are noticeably edged on their corners – reviewing a crispier look that feels like a modern touch to things. And let’s not forget the unbounded Lumibrite applied within each frame that seems to be oozing out at any point in time.
The modernizing area with a vintage touch notably more apparent than the predecessors is the handset. Seiko referenced back the exact same handset found 6159-7001, especially the “traffic light” second hand with the red dot paint right before the Lumibrite. The iconic sword hands are distinguished with the additional facet on both, compared to the almost always-flat yet edgy ones found on the MM300. That said, despite the fact that SBDX023 feels like it’s built with modernity, Seiko threw in an easter egg for enthusiasts on its second hand, which was done with a golden hue. The golden second hand corresponds neatly with the “300m” water-resistant text at the bottom, too – a nice little throwback of the gold elements found within the gilt dial 6215-7000 and 6159-7000, but I digress.
Not stopping there, each facet was given different polishing finished touch – where on one side, we have vertical brushings while finishing the other with high-polishing. Now, that’s an effort on getting small details right, all exemplified by Seiko on these new MM200 duos.
While the MM300 felt like a no-nonsense diver, both the SBDC125 and 127 were produced in a two-tone fashion. It is like Seiko wanted to inject a little more exciting elements into what might be boring for those dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts. For the SBDC127, an additional sunburst blue dial varies in shades as it dances elusively in different lightings. This is then paired with the glossy black bezel for a more sober vibe, which balances things out a little. Although this particular two-tone fanfare was first initiated by its actual elder sibling – the special ref. SBDC065 (although a different textured one) – the combination of black and blue has become exceptionally aesthetically pleasing and desirable.
And if the SBDC127 is the fanciful one, its counterpart is the direct opposite. We rarely see past Seiko models carrying full steel bezel. I could only call to mind the first official one in the PROSPEX line would be the newer LX line and its Landmaster Ref. SBDB029, with a unidirectional compass bezel. Bearing a satin steel bezel and paired with the matte black dial that’s synonymous with the MM300, Seiko placed the SBDC125 within the context of a viciously modern representation of its 6159 ethos. After spending some time with it, I strongly felt that this variant was twice as “toolish” as the MM300.
Ideal Proportion With Superior Treatment
The efficacy doesn’t just stop at the dial and bezel. The primary impression is felt substantially when we take their casework into consideration – where the SBDC MM200 excels. Intriguingly, when I handled both the SBDC and SBDX side by side, the cases’ construction to the finishing touches is quite close. No small feat considering the MM200 Reduced’s price point is almost a quarter of the uber MM300.
A case-style first seen in the sixties and then restarted with the uber Marinemaster 300 in 2000, the iconic “professional” dive watch has been iterated in many different formats with improvision, all without one not bearing certain traits. Save for the first-gen MM200, in which I firmly put it as its own way with less derivative; the following SBDC12X embodies the actual lineage’s de-facto. In fact, when you sit next to an MM300, the design codes that the SBDC12X inherits are apparent. The quality of the SBDC12X actually sits marginally right below its elder 300m brethren. For instance, after placing both MM200 Reduced next to the SBDX023, we can quickly draw each of the baby brethren elements – even up to the number of sides on mid-case and their identical polishings. Both models are painstakingly built, encapsulating those brutal, sharp lines only to be met with a mix of textures and levels, done through Seiko’s in-house meticulous polishing.
Upon scrutinizing each up close, the SBDX023 admittedly has many distinctively sharper lines than the SBDC12X. The latter is a tad “softer” on the lines between each surface. I would still say the new 2020 Baby MM200 gets approximately 85% to 90% of the MM300 execution. The case build of the MM200s has almost the same level of care as its on-the-throne Marinemaster counterpart. All that can be said for both the screw-down crown at 4 o’clock – with the SBDC12X feeling more “correct” as it does not bear any “PROSPEX” logo.
I managed to place the SBDC12X and the SBDX023 beside their premium Spring Drive GS counterpart for the fun of things. We could definitely tell from the fit to finish tighter and more elaborated in the SBGA029. This tells us that Seiko continues to keep their best work only for their “luxury” line, even when the sports category falls within the Lion group. But both the Seiko Prospex divers are no slouches at all. This insightful comparison has illustrated the close affection in terms of quality, which might entice potential buyers or watch enthusiasts sitting on the fence waiting for a real comparison like this.
Another distinct element between both the MM cases is that on the SBDC12X, satin-brushed sides are wider on the side as compared to the Slimmer ones on the SBDX023, all that before they taper neatly towards the drilled lug holes. I believe Seiko deliberately did it this way to balance off the whole mid-case of the “svelte” MM200s. In contrast, the SBDX023 highlights the sporty monocoque-case by showing more of its polished sides.
Even Up to the Bracelets
But that’s not all there is to the story. Both the MM200 Reduced and MM300 welcome a matching stainless steel bracelet, which feels more of a complete package than, say, just paired on a rubber strap. The bracelets’ finishing on both can be seen thoroughly as congruent on M10L111H0 (MM200) and the MOMR221H0 (MM300) – even up to the clasps. When putting them both side by side, we could see for ourselves that in terms of polishing and execution, both bracelets felt reliable and neatly done.
Its been a widely known concern of many enthusiasts regarding the bracelet. Specifically, the clasp found on those entry models from Seiko, even for their PROSPEX line except the Marinemaster and LX series (those are truly exceptional). Not just for the Japanese watchmaker, this bothersome issue can broadly be seen on several watches from the West. But I want to argue that things have significantly changed in 2020. Seiko has up-the-ante for its newer re-issues models and their original metal bracelets.
Demonstrated on the current M10L111H0 bracelet found on the SBDC125 and 127, the satin-brushed finished on the top and even bottom surfaces with precision is enhanced further by the crisp, sharp corners that transition to contrasting polished sides. Seiko placed extra effort in reconstructing the bad-repo stamped clasp with a whole new one. Gone are the flimsy double-locking clasps that were seen on many previous entry models. The M10L111H0 gets a nice solid clasp with a sturdier folding system that’s fully satin-finished nicely to match the whole bracelet. The folded buckle now imbues a prominent “Seiko” engraving, solidifying the entire buckle in aesthetic and fit.(The difference between a usually stamped clasp (left) and the latest re-vamped one (right) found on the MM200s)
By placing it next to the already delicate metal bracelet of the SBDX023, we can conclude that the finishings are almost indistinguishable. The SBDC12X’s buckle fortuitously seems to be executed parallel to its premium counterpart, sans the embossed “Seiko” clasp. Putting both on, they felt substantive with their tight links and their reliable clasp system.
Some Things Are Left Only For the Elites
However, we quickly derived from the execution of the MOMR221H0 that it is undeniably more flourished than the one found on the Baby MM200. The SBSX023 gets more elaborate end-links and its extended solid links. Each individual link gets additional mirror-polished sides, well defined on the middle section – and the SBDC12X lacks these details. Taking a closer inspection of the MM300’s bracelet, I noticed each link even gets a nice soft polished side that allows the solid bracelet to feel more luxurious than what would just seem like another three-links sports bracelet.
Apart from this aesthetic workmanship, another obvious distinction that sets the bar higher for the MM300 is the clasp’s indelible diver’s extension system. While the Baby MM200 gets a nicely concealed bi-folding extension at the top of its logo flap, the MM300 has an ingenious ratcheting extension. Once the watch is on the wrist, the adjustment can be made by merely lifting its logo flap, allowing the extension to be released. Once done, all one has to do is close back the logo flap and contract back the extended section to the ideal size. All these hassle-free steps can be done in seconds and on the fly. Notwithstanding a two-decade-old extension system, it has dramatically shown that the uber Marinemaster is not only a meretricious proper dive watch but with functionality like this serves an absolute peak in engineering and a simple reminder for Seiko dive watch fans.
That punctilious effort can also be seen in Seiko’s firmness in keeping the original single-piece case construction for every MM300 that surfaced. The MM300 delineates the actual functionality of their ingenious “lesser penetration points means lesser prone to water ingestion” mentality with a livery as alive as ever in the current SBDX023. Also, a reminder for us, the watchmakers over at Seiko didn’t mind pursuing the painstaking route whenever they needed to assemble dial and movement in and out of the MM300 through the front, all with great finesse. Kudos to this group of people. We can still enjoy the single most symbolical dive marvel from the brand. Name me another monobloc dive watch that enjoys a cult following like this until today. Let me warn you, it’s going to be hard.
One thing that I’d take note of, which I felt Seiko had emanated in detailed execution on the SBDX023, was the date display. It seems to be expected with Seiko to apply a matching, metallic date frame, with elaborated numerical fonts for their top of the line Grand Seiko models, or even the Presage Automatics, but is almost non-existent for their current mechanical dive watches. Most of the time, there is a more generic-looking black and white date-disk and just a cut-out window. However, the MM300 acquired a white painted square frame, acting as an aperture for its customized metallic background with prominent numerals painted in deep black. Just another nice touch to an already superior-built overall.
Of course, another watch whose movement is mutually intertwined with that of the Grand Seiko caliber is the MM300. And unsurprisingly, the younger baby brother was not replete with the ritzy-grade movement. I did not have the side by side movements comparing the 6R and 8L calibers in this article due to their irrelevancy. Both the movements are born from different roots and handled by various departments. One is delivered as a proven workhorse for decades. The other is straight out as a state-of-the-art mechanical work from the premium Grand Seiko line.
The 8L35 found within the SBDX023 derived directly from the Grand Seiko’s 9S55 caliber. Simultaneously, being assembled and adjusted by the same master watchmakers in Morioka’s Shizukuishi Watch Studio – and as the Marinemaster, it has clad itself this revered “GS” caliber within. Whereas the SBDC12X’s 6R35 caliber instead derived from the legendary 7000 family in 1973, which later became the basis for the genteel 7S26 family in 1996. And yes, I would even consider the whole 6R35’s provenance to the Toyota’s renown “2JZ-GTE” inline-6 engine, considering them proven, reputable workhorses in each of their fields.
It’s Definitely Up There
…from the construction of the cases to the finishing touches are quite close. No small feat considering the MM200 Reduced’s price point is almost a quarter of the uber MM300.
Although I have just pointed out several differences and similarities of both the MM300 and the second generation Baby MM200, both models are a correct interpretation of Seiko’s classical dive watch from the sixties, all that but with different motives. I felt that the Baby MM200 collection was never intended to resemble exactly an old-school piece in Seiko’s dive-watchmaking, very much unlike the SBDC101 and 105 that I’d reviewed previously. I also believe Seiko’s intention with the SBDC125 and 127 was indeed not to reinterpret exactly the uber MM300. Seemingly, they are ones that not only withheld a solidly classical aesthetic of the legendary 6215/6159 dive watches that were continued with the MM300 but constructed with practicality in mind. That said, all these were done in a manner that still held very much in Seiko’s enthusiasts’ minds, and they successfully did it successfully from what I could see.
Visually, the 2020’s Baby MM200 Reduced is sensibly balanced in terms of the casework with several contemporary aesthetics and is expansively executed. From the direct comparison with the SBDX023, I’d say there’s just something more delicate about the SBDC125 and 127 compared to any of the past PROSPEX dive watches at the same price point. They exemplified two ways that I find particularly appealing: the execution of their two-tone manners and smaller sizing. Yes, some might agree it lacks some charm and acquired cult status of the SBDX023, but that defeats the purpose of this Baby MM200 Reduced from the start.
As mentioned earlier, the new SBDC125 and 127 were made with more practicality in mind. The primary objective for their release is to fill the gap between Seiko’s entry dive watches that float below the price range of $1000 and the elite Marinemasters and LX collections that now carry a more premium price tag. Secondly, it was to shrink the large and stubby sized Marinemaster 300 to one that can be more inviting to a broader range of wrist sizes, which also befits a better daily-wearer. This was seen initially on the first generation SBEC061 and 63. Still, their aesthetics are a departure to the spirit of the MM300 that harkens the 6215/6159 ethos. At the same time, that might not be a bad thing either. And therefore, the raison d’être of the SBDC125 and 127 are the answers to these underlying issues.
With a clearly-defined style and set of functionalities, the SBDC125 and 127 primary onus were around the brand’s re-issues done-right with several upgrades in terms of materials and luster finishings. And of course, don’t forget the newest in-house manufactured 6R35 caliber, delivering an impressive 70 hours power reserve, a bump from 20 hours from its 50 hours delivery by the previous 6R15 caliber. However, this might not be seen as a big thing to watch consumers on the surface, but how many manufacturers have produced one on an industrial scale with proven reliability and can be solely called in-house too? Yes, it seems there aren’t many around, given this industry has existed for centuries.
Pleasingly, the unconventional combination of different colored dials, with accouterment of contrasting aesthetics like the different colored/material bezel, displayed Seiko’s new effort to contrive and coalesce altogether in recent times. Albeit dabbling with traditional looks and with modernity with the release of several other timepieces along the way, we clearly see the esurient of fervid enthusiasts nowadays demands something that’s out of the box without dereliction. And with the release of these new re-issues like the SBDC12X, or even the appreciative PROSPEX Alpinists tool watch san the compass bezel, we can conclude that the brand has successfully met the arduous demand with fastidious care.
The new Baby MM200 Reduced development carries the serious, tangible weight of colors. From the stretch of cheerful sunburst blue visage reaching its conventional black bezel with an excellent balance of ebullient to the symphony of a sober matte black dial and satin-finished steel bezel that is unquestionably alacrity. The unique contrasting aesthetics are unequivocally the star of these two pieces. It is as if Seiko introduced us to a charismatic nephew of the MM300, which was their axiomatic intentions.
The recent rolled-out array of creativity, bounded within classic ethos, alongside upgraded materials and finishings, and with the upgraded 6R35 movement, can all be found around the $1000USD price bracket. The refinement comes at an excellent price point, which adheres yet another value proposition. Both SBDC125 and 127 and their other re-issue comrades are considered the first mover of this, rivaling well with their more expensive iterations like the example in this article. This gives Seiko their earning plaudits in creating genuine dive watches without any pretense and being compellingly priced – all that while adding an ethereal touch that takes us by surprise. The adage of “yes, I finally understand Seiko makes watches that always punch above their own price point” couldn’t get any more valid with the Baby MM200 Reduced.
One of the Most Desirable Designs
Then, there is the style of the case design that needs to be emphasized. The resulting structure of the SBDC12X is something that I could only describe as enchanting. For me, the crisp lines, with many different facets along the mid-case, are endlessly rewarding. It’s simply unlike any others out there, resulting in both 6215 and 6159 divers, as among the most iconic dive watches of all time. The SBDC12X and even the SBDX023 adhere to these nigh-sixty year-old case form strictly. Still, both variants look as contemporary as ever, appealing in their modern, dense complexity. They capture the very exact essence of those classic vintage models – gracefully exhibiting what might be considered a work of art that withstood time – all within their modern specifications. All of which are important in the lineage for Seiko.
Speaking of which, upon spending much time with the MM300 and MM200 watches, I can’t help being reminded of them confessing the “Grammer of Design” label that usually shines through their premium Grand Seiko siblings. Introduced by the legendary Taro Tanaka from Seiko in 1959, the foundational tenets of GoD are:
- All surfaces and angles of the watch from the case, dial, hands, and indices had to be flat and geometrically perfect to best reflect light.
- Bezels on top of these watches were to be simple two-dimensional faceted curves.
- There is to be no visual distortion from any angle on the cases and dials, and should be mirror-finished.
- Lastly, all case designs must be unique, without generic round case shapes.
Now, if we leave out rule number two (which does apply only to those dress watches at that time), Seiko’s first 300m professional dive watch, in fact, possessed these attributes clearly. Both the SBDX023 and the younger SBDC12X are diametrically opposed to a traditional dive watch with round form or surfaces. Instead, the GoD conspicuously comprises through each of the angled surfaces and edges of the MM divers, with literal flat Zaratsu polishing throughout them that catch the light effortlessly. Speaking of which, the 6215-7000 resembles the same sixties period Grand Seiko 6249-9001, sans the dive watch bezel and dial.
Adding to the fact that this level of fit and finishing are kept on the higher price range in both Seiko and Grand Seiko, it is now attainable in the SBDC125 and 127 – a remarkable achievement in Seiko’s prowess of modern watchmaking. Furthermore, these watches incorporate functional purposes compared to those that we usually associate with watches that bear the GoD, making them even more alluring.
But all in all, the significance of this unique case form reaches far beyond its impeccable finishings – the realization of the “Grammar of Design” elements found behind many Grand Seikos. It scores highly on the original beauty of the case’s sharp lines that flow seamlessly throughout and a real novelty since its birth. Pulling off something like this is no easy feat. Even from a design perspective during the sixties, where a watch made for professionals held a 300m water-resistance, in being both refined and stylish, yet still incorporating the purpose for which it was designed. Also, both SBDC125 and 127 are as strong an identity as the “Marinemaster” ever had, leave markedly more impression, and are wearable after many years of iterative executions.
As such, Seiko has introduced these newer versions with much dexterity. A triumph of practical design welcomes more wrists to enjoy, all while paying homage to their vintage ancestors’ traditions to the SBDX023. Prominently, the embodiment of a straightforward screw-down case-back, trimming to a more refined slim profile, and no overhang lugs anymore, the SBDC12X series are just as good looking dive watches as the original was. And wearers are sure to appreciate the well-done sizing, allowing us of this particular Marinemaster clan exceptional comfort.
It’s interesting to note the SBDC125 gets a totally different vibe than the SBDC127, which was Seiko’s intention in the first place. I have seen several collectors of both models switch the dials over of each, resulting in a super fancy steel bezel with the alluring blue dial and the sobriety of a proper black bezel and black dial combo. But what I think Seiko did here is more than apt for enthusiasts to enjoy in the right way. With the host of aesthetic flourishes – the classic tool watches the expression of the SBDC125 and the sport-chic black and blue theme of the SBDC127 – both of which I would love and enjoy as they are.
All told, the newly updated Seiko Prospex Automatic Baby MM200 Reduced Ref. SBDC125 and 127 are executed well in almost all aspects to suit today’s taste for more wearable and refined dive watches that are unlike any other. The iconic 6215/6159 design language can be seen through the new iterations, with more precise finishing that comes quite near compared to the elite one SBDX023, as I have demonstrated here in this article. Although they are not quite re-issued in an exact manner like the uber MM300 with a Hi-beat movement or the monocoque case and a mere 100m more water resistance, they still manage to be derivatives. They retain the retro charm of the original Marinemasters of the sixties with the traditional shape and “professional” timing instruments for today’s divers, both the ones behind desks or deep-down in the ocean. The Japanese brand hasn’t messed up with any crucial part of the core formula of their beloved Professional dive watch.
Before I end this exhaustive take on the new SBDC125 and 127, I would like to inform every reader that this second-generation MM200 will be replacing the first-gen SBDC063 and other iterations, except the SBDC061 (at the time of writing). But on the brighter side of things, dive-watch enthusiasts can still enjoy both the well-valued and robust Baby “Marinemaster” 200m dive watches, alongside the established Marinemaster Professional SBDX023, along with all of their other flavourful iterations. These are all quintessential dive watches made with Seiko’s efforts in preserving one of their most iconic dive watch legacies. These different tier re-issues successfully shower each timepiece with a palatial aura by fusing various historical elements with modern sophistication. Therefore, with persistence in encapsulating Seiko’s own patrimonial horology, we as watch lovers can have an on-going excitement in our hearts – about how Seiko will be defining their timeless designs with fresh new ingredients in the coming future.