Let me just put it out there: I love Uncle Seiko. I often wish he was my real uncle.
Allow me to start that again. I love Uncle Seiko. I’m not sure when or how I found out about Uncle Seiko straps but I was immediately intrigued. There are a number of companies (Watch Gecko comes to mind as one) that make aftermarket versions of popular dive straps (tropic and waffle style, e.g.) and bracelets (oysters, jubilees, etc.).
Then there are a few that make aftermarket products specifically for Seiko and other brands. Strapcode is one such brand that makes bracelets especially for Seiko divers (including a few new ones specifically for the new Seiko 5 “5KX” watches that came out recently).
Admittedly, I haven’t handled anything by Watch Gecko or Strapcode but I’ve heard varying things about both brands. Strapcode, for the most part, seems to be a lot of people’s go-to for aftermarket SKX and SRP Turtle bracelets. But then I came across Uncle Seiko, a brand that has Seiko right in its name.
I thought, “Man, if this guy is going to call himself Uncle Seiko he better be bringing it.” Especially considering such aftermarket Seiko heavyweights as Yobokies and, previously, William Jean (known by many as “wjean” [side note: what happened to wjean?]), stepping into this arena seemed like a bold move.
Well, my friends, bring it he did.
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After purchasing his version of the Seiko GL831, the strap that would have originally come on my 6309-7040 Turtle, I was hooked. Up to that point, the only experience I had with genuine Seiko dive straps was that more-plastic-than-rubber, un-wielding, un-bending, stubborn, stiff, frustrating turd that comes standard on many SKX’s. My SKX007 came with one, I tried it on, and immediately swapped it out for a wjean super oyster. The Uncle Seiko strap was a different beast altogether.
Vintage Seiko dive straps (and all vintage dive straps for that matter) naturally dry out over time (especially those that have seen heavy use) which leads to extreme stiffness and brittleness which leads to cracking. I’ve never handled an original GL831 strap and finding one in like new condition seems to be nearly impossible. The original strap came on the Seiko 6306/6309 Turtle diver, the H558 “Arnie” ani-digi diver, and even some references of the famed 7c43 and 7548 quartz divers (among others). In short, these watches were rugged and meant to be used which is likely why most of the surviving original straps are prone to such deterioration.
The Uncle Seiko GL831 is a dead ringer for the original in the looks department and, if what I’ve read about the characteristics of the original is true, it hits the mark on feel as well. Regardless, I don’t think I’d ever want to source an original strap after wearing the Uncle Seiko version. It’s everything the stock SKX strap I own is not: it’s comfortable on the wrist, pliable and soft, and feels like something I could actually wear for a prolonged period of time.
The great impression I got of Uncle Seiko with the GL831 (as well as my experience dealing with Larry, the owner) led me to this article.
I had to see and handle more of Uncle Seiko’s straps so I reached out to Larry who graciously sent some samples for me to review. While I haven’t handled the original versions of any of these in person, I’ll do my best to offer a fair take on these reproductions, especially since a visual comparison can easily be made from photos online. Here are my two cents.
Uncle Seiko Rubber Strap Models and Quality
The XGL-731 “Tire Tread” (Originally paired with the 6105-8110 only)
The original XGL-731 only came with one reference of the 6105 diver and finding one at all, let alone in decent condition, is nearly impossible. This is one of the main reasons why I’m a fan of Uncle Seiko. A lot of other strap makers create very decent and capable aftermarket pieces for vintage Seiko watches, but Larry seems to be my kind of watch nerd and he never fails to dig deep into Seiko’s history for interesting references to recreate.
I have to admit that before knowing the history of this strap the “tire tread” style was aesthetically unappealing to me. After I learned more about the history… still aesthetically unappealing.
I asked Larry for some samples to review, dealer’s choice, and when he suggested the XGL-731 as one of them I wasn’t that excited (but couldn’t say so because of the social contract a.k.a. not-coming-off-like-an-ingrate-when-someone-sends-you-free-shit). When I got the package from Uncle Seiko, I figured I’d give this one the first test drive and get it out of the way.
Why, oh why, did I question Uncle Seiko’s taste? Having the 731 in hand dispelled many, if not all, of my qualms and judgements made after only seeing pictures online. As with the GL831, this strap is soft, pliable, and well made (though, I have to say, the GL831 still wears the crown). I didn’t really know what to do with it so I thought it would look cool on my gunmetal 5KX. Yes, yes it did.
Overall, this strap is surprisingly comfortable and has won me over in the looks department (what my wife would call “ugly sexy”).
The “Chocolate Bar” (Originally paired with the 6159 and 6105 “Captain Willard”)
I’m a fan of the original waffle strap that came with some of the 6105 references. I think either because it reminds of punk rock pyramid spikes I would have rocked on a cuff or a belt in high school or maybe just waffles, which are delicious. Also delicious (apologies to the #AllergyFam), are chocolate bars.
Yet another uncommon strap variant that Seiko offered with the 6105 (and, in this case, the 6159) diver was what folks have come to refer to as the “Chocolate Bar” (just FYI, on his site, Uncle Seiko mentions that this strap was released without a name or model number but Anthony Kable on Plus9Time.com wrote an article about the strap and says that this is actually the GL721. Can’t confirm who’s right. Just wanted you to have all the information).
I have to say that I thought I would like this one more than I do. As with the other straps, I think Uncle Seiko nailed the look. It’s a spitting image of the original Chocolate Bar strap. However, compared to the Tire Tread (and held up to the impossible high standard of the GL831 IMHO), I felt kind of meh about the feel of this one. It’s a little stiffer, a little thinner, and a little more plastic-than-rubber feeling. This could be completely faithful to the original (since, as I mentioned previously, I have not handled an original “Chocolate Bar”).
However, for my own taste, I thought this strap one did not live up to the feeling of durability and comfort of the other two.
Uncle Seiko Bracelet Models and Quality
The Z199 (Originally paired with the 7548)
My lack of firsthand experience with original Seiko straps continues into bracelets. When Larry said he’d also send me a few bracelets I was stoked. I love a good bracelet for a Seiko and already have a few aftermarket Super Oysters (a WJean for my SKX007 and Miltat Super Oyster for my 6309 respectively). I was wondering if he’d send his own oyster version, or a jubilee, or even one of his “razor wire” creations.
Instead, I was delighted to find that he chose the Z199, a bracelet that originally came with Seiko’s 7548 quartz divers and which has a reputation among Seikonauts as perhaps the most beloved bracelet they ever made.
While I do wish that I had been able to get up close and personal with original versions of the rubber dive straps discussed above, my feelings on the Uncle Seiko Z199 are completely the opposite. So smitten am I with his bracelet that I have no need for an original. Maybe the original is better. Maybe it has the official Seiko clasp. Makes no difference to me. This bracelet is all I need. It’s a big deal.
The design is somewhere between a Jubilee and a President but very hefty and sturdy. Perhaps my favorite part (and a reason so many love the original Z199) is the serious taper. I have one Super Oyster that tapers and one that doesn’t and I definitely prefer the former. But this bad boy moves from 22mm at the end links down to an insane 16mm at the clasp! I love it!
The U.S.-Mexico “Holzer” (Originally paired with the Omega Speedmaster)
Finally, Larry sent me a wild card. Uncle Seiko has started making gear for other watch brands. So far, there are offerings for Omega and Longines (not a bad place to start). As part of the review package, he sent me a very interesting piece. Very interesting indeed.
The “Holzer” bracelet was originally sold with Speedmasters that were imported, without original Omega bracelets, for the Mexican market in the 1980’s. Since the watches came with no bracelets (and, according to Robert Jan-Broer at Fratello Magazine, head only and without even leather straps) they were fitted with bracelets made by the Mexican company Holzer y Cia. As with Uncle Seiko’s picks for rare and unusual Seiko bracelets, the Holzer is a true delightful weirdo in the world of Omega collecting (i.e. rare as balls and expensive as balls).
What people love about this bracelet and, I assume, original JB Champions and the newly re-issued/recreated Forstner bracelets (ahem, Mr. Peñate, your thoughts?) is that they are soft, comfortable, jangly, and kind of crappy. A lot of old Rolexes came with really jangly, bendy, for lack of a better term, poor quality bracelets. And guess what? They’re charming!
A lot of Omega fans think that the company got it all wrong when they started making heftier, more substantial bracelets for the Speedy. The Speedy is a fast watch and needs a light, zippy bracelet to go with it! No wonder those crazy astro-nuts slapped this on the JB Champion bracelets (ok, that was also a safety thing, but you get my drift).
I am not a Speedy owner but, luckily, my father-in-law just pulled the trigger on one and, after some gentle coaxing, he allowed me to swap out his bracelet for the Holzer. While I think he’s still in the camp of the bracelet that came with his watch, I don’t think either of us could deny the vintage charm and general pleasing aesthetic of the Omega on this jingly-jangly haphazard piece of metal.
Well, perhaps it was haphazard to have a Speedy on the original version, but Uncle Seiko’s Holzer is well made, comfortable, and has all the qualities I’ve already mentioned about his products ad nauseum.
Overall, I’m pleased as punch with what I’ve seen/touched/worn from Uncle Seiko’s collection of faithful but improved-upon straps and bracelets. If you haven’t tried one out, you should check out the Uncle Seiko site. I’m not here to twist arms or anything, but can you hear it’s name being whispered on the wind? GL831… GL831…
Henry is a scholarly watch nerd based out of northern New Jersey. He works as a professor of composition and creative writing by day and a fiction writer by night. Both his academic and creative work have given him insight on design and rhetoric and his fiction writing background influences his humorous, narrative take on watch reviews. His watch collecting habits tend to lean toward vintage, but he never shies away from unique and interesting new pieces. Henry is also an avid musician, record collector, whiskey aficionado, serial hobbyist, and all-around enthusiast.