The last of its kind: SBDX009 Seiko Landmaster 10th Anniversary 8L35 Automatic Limited Edition

I always had an interest in the Landmaster series of watches, having owned 1 Kinetic variant myself, as can be seen here and here.  I have never written about my own Kinetic Landmaster, and do not plan to do so today. Rather I wanted to share some background and history about the Landmaster series, various Landmaster models and end with a photo review of a rarely seen but very desirable automatic Landmaster the SBDX009, which was released to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Landmaster series. The SBDX009 is not only important because it was a 10th anniversary model, but also because it is 1 of 2 automatic models, containing the legendary 8L35 movement and it is also the last of its kind.

Although the Landmaster series survives today, its looks has radically changed from how it was first conceived by Seiko Designer Mr. Tokunaga.

Watches designed by Mr. Tokunaga can still be seen here, while the folks over the Seiko Citizen Watch Forum (SCWF) has an archive of Q&As posed to Mr. Tokunaga found here.

Seiko Designer Ikuo Tokunaga wearing a Landmaster (image from book A Journey in Time)

Seiko Designer Ikuo Tokunaga wearing what appears to be a SBCN003 Landmaster (image from book A Journey in Time)

History

A good history of the Landmaster and related Fieldmaster watches can be found in this Timezone classic post although the pictures are sadly gone. Nevertheless, the Landmaster’s predecessor is known as the Fieldmaster which started in 1984 using the hybrid digital analogue movement H558.

Supposedly it had to cover 20 characteristics, of which some are:

1. Water resistance it was capable of a 10 atmospheric-pressure depth.

2. Shock resistance from a height of 3ft. either by dropping a rock from that height onto it or by dropping the watch from that height.

3. Magnetic resistance it could handle 16,000A/m when specs only called for 4,800Am

4. Abrasion resistant crystal Hardlex was used. Sapphire probably would have been better but, wouldn’t have stood up to decompression

5. Heat resistance +60 degrees C which is higher than the worlds maximum temperature

6. Cold resistance 2mm thick crystal with AR coating to prevent fogging and glare. It was tested to -40 degrees C without a problem

7. Corrosion resistance it’s made of Titanium and will resist corrosion if left in salt water for more than 24 hours.

8. Chemical resistance it can’t deteriorate from alcohols, cosmetic oils,

9. Dust resistant sealed against natural environment penetration ( dirt, dust .etc)

10. Gas resistant ammonia gas, carbon monoxide..etc.

11. Luminescence it’s able to be read from distance of 25cm in complete darkness

12. Weight made from titanium it only had a total weight of 56grams

13. The case was to have characteristics built in for safety and reliability rounded edges, emergency signal code, compass, shroud for protection.

The Fieldmaster’s position was gradually replaced by the newly launched Landmaster models in 1993, equipped with the early generation of Kinetic movements, known as Auto Generating System (“ÄGS”). Do note that the Fieldmaster watches still exists today.

Fieldmaster SBDC011

Fieldmaster SBDC011 (picture from Yeoman)

Fieldmaster SBDC011 (picture from Yeoman)

Fieldmaster SBDC011 (picture from Yeoman)

The Landmaster watches were also mentioned in the Seiko book “A Journey in Time”, and belonged to the “Master” series of watches including the Scubamaster, Flightmaster and Landmaster. These days, the Scubamaster line no longer exists, but we have the Marinemaster series. Mr. Tokunaga calls the Landmaster “a watch worth entrusting your life to”.

Movements used in Seiko Landmaster watches from 1993 to 2014 and beyond

Throughout the release of the landmaster range, they were powered by a variety of movements showcasing the evolution of Seiko’s Kinetic movements and also the variety of movements offered by Seiko, namely quartz, kinetic, spring drive and automatic mechanical movements.

Please click on the picture below to see the full sized table.

Movements used in Seiko Landmaster watches

Movements used in Seiko Landmaster watches

The very first movement to power a Landmaster was the 5M23 with a 3 day power reserve and day date only.

5M23

5M23

Shortly after this, the Kinetic movement had their capacitor and rechargeable battery upgraded to increase the power reserve from 3 days to 7 days then finally to 6 months, which is also the maximum capacity for current Kinetic watches from Seiko.

2 of the most interest movements to power a Seiko Landmaster watch are the 5M47 and 7K32 movements.

The 5M47 movement was developed at the request of Japanese Explorer Mitsurou Ohba during his attempt to cross the South Pole in 1998.

Text from

Text from “A Journey in Time”

Text from

Text from “A Journey in Time”

Navigation with a 24 hour hand is different on the South Pole than it is on the North Pole. As such, Seiko reversed the movement of the GMT hand and the markings on the bezel to allow Mitsuro Ohba to navigate the South Pole using the same methodology used on his North Pole expedition.

This was probably the only movement with the GMT hand that rotates counter-clockwise!

Landmaster South Pole with counter clockwise rotating GMT hand

Landmaster South Pole with counter clockwise rotating GMT hand (picture taken from A Journey in Time)

The other movement that fascinates me is the 7K32 which is found on the Landmaster Summiter. It comes with a barometer, which acts as an altitude gauge and was used by Japanese alpinist Ken Noguchi during his assault on Everest.

Seiko 7K32

Seiko 7K32

Text from

Text from “A Journey in Time”

Text from

Text from “A Journey in Time”

Landmaster watches past to 2003 (all pictures obtained from the web)

I attempt to list down with pictures and some commentary on most of the Landmaster watches from the very first released in 1993 all the way to 2003. Bulk of the information was obtained from the commemorative booklet that accompanied the SBDX009 10th Anniversary model, with the rest of the information scoured from the net. I am not certain if all the models from 1993 to 2003 were covered in the commemorative booklet, but it should be pretty extensive.

All mistakes are mine but I do appreciate if readers can correct my errors by leaving me comments.

1993 SBBW005 (5M23)

1993 SBBW005 (5M23) (pix from internet)

1993 SBBW005 (5M23) 

First Landmaster with 3 days power reserve AGS system and Day/Date functionality. It also has the emergency signal codes printed on the flange ring.

1994 SBCW001 (5M45)

1994 SBCW001 (5M45)

1994 SBCW001 (5M45)

With upgraded Kinetic movement, increased up to 7 days reserve, and with GMT hand. The emergency codes are now replaced with 24 hour markings. It also loses the Day wheel for a cleaner look. Note the change in the baton markers to the dot markers. The text is now expressed in 4 lines, up from the previous 3. This model was the direct predecessor of the final Kinetic Landmaster produced SBDW005, which was finally discontinued I believe in 2014.

1997 SBCN003 (7K32)

1997 SBCN003 (7K32)

1997 SBCN003 (7K32)

As I know it, the bad-ass in the family being powered by a simple quartz movement. But what a movement! Able to sense atmospheric pressure changes, it even comes with an alarm function and a 24 hour sub-dial. This model is also the most complicated of all the Landmaster watches ever produced! This watch was worn by Ken Noguchi during his Everest assault.

1997 SBCW009 (5M45) Transpolar

1997 SBCW009 (5M45)

1997 SBCW009 (5M45)

This was a special edition released by Seiko to celebrate the successful crossing of the North Pole by Japanese explorer Mitsurou Ohba in 1997. This was released in 1877 pieces and the dial is a unusual blue color with a map of the Arctic region subtly printed on it. This model has baton markers and has silver (not the usual white) hour and minute hands and yellow (not the usual red) GMT hand. The text on the dial is also different.

1997 SBCW009 (5M45)

1997 SBCW009 (5M45)

1998 SBCW019 (5M43)

1998 SBCW019 (5M43)

1998 SBCW019 (5M43)

This appears to be a fairly rare landmaster, at least when I tried to google for it. It is very similar to the first Landmaster, with baton markers,day/date function and emergency codes on its flange ring. The power reserve has now been upped to 7 days. This model was the direct predecessor of a later Kinetic Landmaster produced SBDW007.

1998 SBCW021 (5M45) (1st Sagarmatha)

1998 SBCW021 (5M45)

1998 SBCW021 (5M45)

This model was worn by Ken Noguchi during his Everest attempt. This model was unique because it does not have any minute markers! The bezel was also made from a ceramic metal alloy which made it harder. In addition, the bezel markers are also in relief rather than engraved like the usual Landmasters. I personally find the engravings much nicer than this design, but I guess functionality trumped over aesthetics here.

Text from "A Journey in Time"

Text from “A Journey in Time”

Text from "A Journey in Time"

Text from “A Journey in Time”

1999 SBCW023 (5M47) – South Pole

1999 SBCW023 (5M47) - South Pole

1999 SBCW023 (5M47) – South Pole

Very shortly after Mitsurou Ohba crossed the North Pole, he crossed the South Pole. As mentioned above, Seiko developed a unique GMT movement for him, a counter clockwise rotating GMT hand. If you observe carefully you can also see that the 24 hour markers in the flange ring are printed in the “wrong way” to match the counter clockwise rotating GMT hand. Also another interesting thing to note is the reversed direction markers on the external bezel for use with the unique GMT hand.

1999 SBCW023 (5M47) - South Pole watch

1999 SBCW023 (5M47) – South Pole watch

A map of the south pole is printed on the dial.  This watch is encased in full ceramic (including the band), and is proudly noted as such on the dial as well. Ceramics might be in vogue with watch makers today, but Seiko was way ahead of its time as evidenced by this full ceramic watch released way back in 1999. This model was limited to 800 pieces.

1999 SBCW027 (5M45)

This appeared in the commemorative booklet with a very similar picture of the SBCW021.

I believe the SBCW027 is a LE edition of 300, while the SBCW021 was not an officially numbered released. Also the back of the SBCW027 has the heights of the 7 summits printed.

1999 SBCW027 (5M45)

1999 SBCW027 (5M45)

1999 SBDW003 (5M65) – 2nd Sagarmatha

1999 SBDW003 (5M65) - Sagarmatha 2

1999 SBDW003 (5M65) – Sagarmatha 2

This was essentially the same watch as the SBCW021 (1st Sagarmatha) but with the newer 5M65 movement, which gave it a 6 month power reserve. There appears to be some subtle difference between the finishing/material of the dials. This was also an unnumbered release.

2000 SBDW002 (5M65) – Naomi Uemera

2000 SBDW002 (5M65) - Naomi Uemera

2000 SBDW002 (5M65) – Naomi Uemura

This was a limited edition of 700 pieces. I believe this was released to commemorate Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura who went missing and is presumed dead in 1984, way before any Landmaster was released. I was unable to find more information on this piece, but I believe the entire watch might be made in ceramics, if not at least the bezel, similar to the Sagarmatha SBCW021. This is probably the dressiest landmaster with the gold accents on the hour markers, crown, and underneath the bezel. This one had the more modern kinetic movement, with a 6 months reserve.

2000 SBDW005 (5M65)

2000 SBDW005 (5M65)

2000 SBDW005 (5M65)

This one is probably the longest lived landmaster being discontinued only in 2014. This is also the direct descendant from the earlier SBCW001, sharing almost exactly the same design, sans the AGS branding logo. This was powered by the modern 5M65 movement with a 6 months reserve. This is also the same Landmaster that I owned.

2000 SBDW007 (5M63)

2000 SBDW007 (5M63)

2000 SBDW007 (5M63)

Similar to the previous Landmaster, this was a direct descendant of an earlier AGS Landmaster SBCW019. The main difference being the improved movement with a 6 months reserve. This movement also lacks the GMT functionality similar to its predecessor.

2002 SBDX007 (8L35)

2002 SBDX007 (8L35)

2002 SBDX007 (8L35)

This was the first and second last Landmaster to be equipped with an automatic movement, the reliable 8L35 movement which is also found in the MM300.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35) (pictures are my own)

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

IMG_0010

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

This brings us to the subject of this blog post, which is the 10th anniversary Landmaster SBDX009. Released in 2003, in 500 pieces, to commemorate the past glorious 10 years of the Landmaster watches, I am surprised it was not powered by a Kinetic movement like many of its brethren, but rather by an automatic movement. However it kept very close to the overall design philosophy of the Landmaster watches that came before it, which cannot be said of the Spring Drive driven Landmasters of today.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Similar to most Landmasters, the Anniversary edition is encased in Titanium. The bezel is coated with DLC which aids in scratch resistance. I cannot tell if the bezel is made of ceramic, but this is unlikely, as it is not hinted anywhere on the watch case, as is the norm for the earlier special edition Landmasters which will put “Ceramics/Titanium” or “Ceramics”.

IMG_0012

Angled and drilled through lugs

The sides of the Landmaster is very similar to that of the MM300 with the gorgeous sloping sides, with alternating polished and brushed sides. As fitting its sporty nature, the lugs are drilled through for easy strap replacement.

IMG_0013

Unsigned crown

The crown is unsigned with is similar to that of my own Landmaster, however I find this a pity as it is a 10th Anniversary edition, and I would have thought Seiko would do something special for this.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Gold hands 

The hands are dressy, being in gold, with matching hour markers, date window, dial text and Seiko logo. The dial itself also has a map relief printed on it subtly.

The hands are beveled on the sides which helps it to catch the light.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Applied Seiko Logo. 

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Dial text 

As is with most special edition Landmaster watches, the dial text reflects what the particular model is celebrating, which in this case is the 10th Anniversary of the Landmaster series.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Exquisite detailing on the external bezel

I have always been very impressed with the Landmaster bezels, even with my own, as the combination of relief and engraving are very sharp and crisp with alternating portions of polished and blasted finishing.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Engraving on the external bezel filled with white paint to increase legibility

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Framed hour markers and exquisite detailing on external bezel. Notice the fully framed date window also in gold.

2003 SBDX009 (8L35)

Lume shot

Framed hour markers and

Lume shot

As always with Seiko Prospex watches, the lume is strong and within expectations even for a 12 year old watch.

1997 SBCN003 (7K32)

Caseback

As is with Landmasters, the watch is a 1 piece case of titanium (or ceramic) which helps in its water resistance. However do note that this would make maintenance harder as the watch maker would have to remove the movement from the front, via the dial. For the 8L35 powered watches, I imagine this has to be done soon or later, whereas for the Kinetic models, I expect that this may not be an issue given that quartz movements generally have longer maintenance cycles.

Conclusion

The Seiko Landmaster watches have a storied and envious history of being the bedrock of the equipment used by renowned Japanese explorers during the first 10 years of their existence. Landmaster also exemplifies the extent to which Seiko listens to the demands of its customers and modifies their watches accordingly. Take for example the unique 5M47 movement with a GMT hand that rotates counterclockwise for crossing the South Pole or the Summiter which has an altitude gauge for aspiring alpinists.

Looking forward, Seiko has decided to equip their Landmaster with Spring Drive movements, which I personally feel changes the target market of their clientele. Firstly, the watches are now much more expensive than their older Kinetic counterparts, and I find that for rough use, nothing beats a plain old quartz movement with a 6 month reserve!

Nevertheless, the Landmaster series of watches is a mainstay of the Prospex range of watches by Seiko. Given the continued international expansion of the Prospex series, I have no doubt that many more aspiring explorers will discover the Landmaster series of watches and entrust their lives to them just like Ken Noguchi, Mitsurou Ohba and numerous other  explorers have before them.

References:

A Journey in Time (Free PDF download)

Tokunaga Museum (via Wayback Machine as the original site has been down since 2012)

The Tokunaga Archives

TZ Classic post – Seiko Fieldmaster / Landmaster origins………: 

Yeoman FieldMaster SBDC011 review

The transpolar landmaster SBCW009

Seiko Landmaster South Pole SBCW023 –

Seiko 5M23 Manual

Seiko 5M47 Manual

Seiko 7K32 Manual

Higuchi Landmaster page

Naomi Uemura Wikipage

Yeoman’s review of the SBDX009

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