Having a watch associated with a famous film character is a sure way to concrete its place in history. Obviously the most famous example being James Bond and his Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamasters and a plethora of others that rode the character’s coat tails to higher sales. Well, in the history of cult classics there is perhaps no watch that is more interesting, or associated with a cooler character than the Seiko x Giugiaro watch worn by Ripley in James Cameron’s amazing horror/action film from 1986, Aliens.
But to backtrack, it’s not just the Ripley association that interests me at this point; it’s also the designer. Giorgetto Giugiaro is an Italian automotive designer who created many extremely iconic cars, such as various Alfa Romeos, the 1977 BMW M1 (which was a legit race car let out on the street) and, perhaps most famously for us film fans, the DeLorean. In 1983, Seiko Swiss watch brand for sale released a handful of motoring watches, labeled the Speedmaster line (hmmm), designed by Giugiaro. Their aesthetics were unlike anything before or after, and perfectly exemplified a sort of harsh-futuristic design aesthetic from the era. There were a few powered by Seiko’s venerable 7a28 movement, and a few with digital designs.
It was then a happy accident that the watch ended up on Sigourney Weaver’s wrist, as these weren’t designed for the film. That said, I don’t think anything more perfect could have been created for the film. It suits a bleak future where giant space mining companies and grunt workers and soldiers have to risk their lives on missions into unknown space. The blocky design is at once futuristic and utilitarian. Made by a society with advanced technology, but a brutal, almost fascist aesthetic. Ripley was not a weak character; she was tough, brave and aggressive. It’s the watch she would have worn.
Fastforward to 2016, and now the watch is available again. No longer under the Speedmaster name, but rather under their Spirit Smart line, as the SCED035. There are several other colorways as well, but it’s the 035 that earns the title of the Ripley. These are a Japanese domestic market release, and a limited edition of 3,000 pieces, but obviously they can be obtained here. The going rate is in the $350 range, though the actual price is a bit less. With that said, it’s not a lot for an awesome and unique watch, especially if you’re a fan of the films.
The signature case design of the Ripley is love it or leave, but by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re in the love camp. Closely replicating the case of the ’83 original, the watch is of modest proportions though it looks large due to the eccentric housing on the right side. At 40 x 42.25 x 11mm, dimensioned without the housing, it’s a nice medium sized watch, certainly smaller than many modern Seiko sport watches. The housing then adds another 3mm in width, and is 36mm long itself. It definitely gives the watch a large appearance, and looks unwieldy, but it wears surprisingly well, and the housing isn’t uncomfortable.
Looking at the design, it’s complexity is a bit of an illusion, as it really is a few simple geometric shapes combined together. The main case is a monoblock construction with a snap-on case back. It’s basically a cylinder with a rectangle passing through it, which creates the short hooded lugs. At a glance it might appear as though there is a bezel, but it’s an illusion created by a tiered trench that runs around the case. This creates a strong circular element to the design, which pulls the eye to the dial.
The pusher housing is then bolted on to the right side, which is obvious through the use of two large hex screws on either side of the crown. I quite like the look of the exposed screws, as they add an industrial detail to the already machine-like watch. The crown is nestled within the housing, fully protected from bumps or snags. The crown is fairly small, measuring about 4.5mm across, and is a bit tricky to use, though it’s not something you’ll deal with often, as it is a quartz watch. To aid in use and pulling the crown out, the underside of the housing is scooped away.
Of course, the point of the housing is really to create a mechanism for putting the pushers vertical. Rather than the typical 2 and 4 arrangement, the pushers are now above and below the case. They also aren’t your typical metal, round pushers, rather they are black, plastic cubes with a slight taper. I like how they look, and they provide a nice wide area to press on, though the construction here is a bit disappointing. It’s not so much the use of plastic, which on other colorways of the watch is more important, it’s that the pushers have a lot of wiggle room. So, they are rarely in straight and can turn side to side. Better tolerances would have made a big difference.
The case is matte finished all over, and has an interesting grey color. I’m not sure if it’s coated or just bead blasted, but it has a cool, dull tone. Sort of like titanium, perhaps a bit brighter. It gives the watch a very industrial feel, which, when pictured against the gloomy backdrop of Aliens makes a lot of sense. I do think there is some risk of scratching it however, as the back of the lug, where the bracelet rubs against the case, is showing some wear. This does leave me some concern when battery replacement is needed, as getting off the case back runs a risk of scratching as well.