The Samurai Blue Lagoon

Review: Seiko Brings Back a Cult Favorite, in Blue

Watches By Photo by Kayla Ramsey

There are two watch brands with a fanbase enthusiastic enough to nickname their watches: Rolex and Seiko. Rolex’s few nicknames mostly come from colorways (Pepsi, Root Beer, Kermit) and celebrity associations (Steve McQueen, Paul Newman). Seiko, on the other hand, leans on idiosyncrasies. The SHC057 “Buzzsaw” (for the saw-like bezel); the SKX781 “Orange Monster” (it’s massive and orange); the SKXA53 “Black Bullet” (black dial, bullet-shaped hour markers); SARB065 “Cocktail Time” (for its decadent guilloche dial); the SARD001 “Sumo” (for its rotund case shape). Et cetera. When it comes to nicknames, Rolex ain’t got shit on Seiko.

That is in part because Seiko names have historically been an alphanumeric soup, and the nicknames help enthusiasts distinguish models. It’s also because the brand’s wide range of affordable, interesting watches has built a massive fanbase of watch enthusiasts who love them enough to give them pet names. And this solid fanbase, in turn, means Seiko always succeeds when it does a reissue — or two. Which it did earlier this year when it launched a duo of new Prospex dive watches, dubbed the Blue Lagoon in honor of the 1980 teen drama starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins because they’re blue. (Apparently Seiko itself is getting into nicknaming its own watches.) One is based on the Seiko “Turtle” reissue launched a year ago but the other was a revamp of an obscure, cult favorite driver from not very long ago — the “Samurai.”

The Samurai debuted in March 2004 and was discontinued a few years later. Even though it retailed for just a few hundred dollars, its short lifespan caused secondhand prices that have surpassed $2,000. The watch came in a handful of dial colors and in two different case materials, steel and titanium. It earned its name for potentially two reasons — its hands shaped vaguely like samurai swords or the fact that the earliest images of the watch juxtaposed it in front of an ancient Japanese castle. Never doubt Seikoholics and their propensity to nickname.

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Most notable, though, of both the original Samurai and this new reissue is the case shape. It’s a big, chunky thing, with sharp edges and drastic angles — think any edgier version of a Panerai Radiomir. The new Blue Lagoon version gets a bump in size (from 42mm to 43.8mm), new hands that don’t look very much like Samurai swords, and of course that brilliant blue dial and bezel. The dial’s metallic finish lets the royal blue shade sheen in the light. In contrast to many other blue-dialed watches, it’s a bolder take, especially in conjunction with its yellow accents and the teal(!) count-up scale on the bezel.

This new colorway doesn’t seem to nod to any particular watch or era in watches. For all we know a windbreaker from the early ’90s served as inspiration. That’s always been the hallmark of Seikos and precisely the Samurai (both new and old) is so special. It’s different and it doesn’t take itself seriously and it doesn’t need any justification to look the way it does. And yet deep down it’s also a solid watch for the money — after all, it has a 200-meter depth rating and runs Seiko’s caliber 4R35, a reliable automatic with both hand winding and hacking seconds.

It also retails for only $550 (though knowing the online market you’ll likely find it for less). This is also a limited edition with only 6,000 being made. So snatch it up for your collection like it’s a Beanie Baby, or simply wear it as your summer beater. Don’t be surprised if, just like the original Samurai, it becomes a sought-after cult favorite in the future years down the road. Maybe it’ll have a new nickname by then.

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