Having a replica 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 replica watch that is more interesting, or associated with a cooler character than the Seiko x Giugiaro replica watch worn by Ripley in James Cameron’s amazing horror/action film from 1986, Aliens.
Now, I could probably write a few thousand words on that film as well as the other in the Aliens series, as I am a huge fan and have seen them all several times to dozens of time. Yes, I even am a fan of Alien: Resurrection, which was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (and written by Joss Whedon), who is better known for films like Amelie. I also love H.R. Giger, and have had books of his work on my shelf since I was in high school. His Xenomorph designs and bio-architecture concepts have never been equalled in the horror genre. And as for Aliens, perhaps the most fun of the Alien films, I’ve seen it too many times to count. Game over man.
But I will admit, in my years of luxury replica watch collecting, I never sought out the Seiko x Giugiaro 7a28-7000 replica watch worn by Ripley in the film. They are rare, often in poor condition, and simply quite odd. Not something that I felt I had to have. But, when Seiko announced they would be reissuing a limited edition of the replica watch, my interests changed. Now, it would be easy to have one, and for a fairly reasonable price too. This was a replica watch I needed to at least try on.
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 and, perhaps most famously for us film fans, the DeLorean. In 1983, Seiko released a handful of motoring replica watches, labeled the Speedmaster line, 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 replica 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 replica watch she would have worn.
Fastforward to 2016, and now the replica 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 replica 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 replica 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 replica watch, certainly smaller than many modern sport replica watches. The housing then adds another 3mm in width, and is 36mm long itself. It definitely gives the replica 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 replica 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 replica 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 replica 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 replica 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.
The dial of the Ripley also stays very true to the original, and is a simple, attractive design. At a glance, there is almost a sense that the Ripley is very complex, because it’s so strange and unlike other replica watches you’ve seen. But the elements are all straightforward and the dial itself isn’t very strange at all. In fact, it’s use of a reduced palette that still has some color would be welcome in more modern replica watches, which tend to either stay away from color or go too far with it.
The dials consists of two surfaces and a chapter ring. The top surface is matte black and features a mustard yellow index. The index features large rectangles at the hour, smaller lines per minute/second and very small lines per 1/5th second. It always annoys me when quartz replica watches have 1/5th seconds marks, but chronographs that tick at one second intervals. Luckily, the Ripley features a quartz movement that does tick at 1/5th second intervals, which is very uncommon.
The lower surface is seen through a large partial-circle cutout in the upper black surface. Some people say this looks like a smile, which I suppose I can see in a sort of deadmau5 way, though when I look at the replica watch that’s not what comes to mind. Anyway, the lower surface is also matte, but has a slight metallic sheen. It’s a warm, dark gray that plays off of the black above it, the lighter gray of the case while picking up some color from the index and hands. It’s very subtle color that contrasts with the black ever so slightly.
On this surface at 3, 6 and 9 are sub-dials for 24-hr, 60-minute counter and active seconds, respectively. This is the biggest departure from the original 1983 model, as the 7a28 movement featured 1/10th second, active seconds and a 30-minute counter at 3, 6 and 9. Sticking to the original would have been nice, though I do like having a 60-minute counter instead of a 30. That said, a 24-hr hand just feels kind of pointless here as a normal chrono hour-counter would been more useful. Lastly, cut through the lower dial at 3 is a date window with a white on black date. It’s not the end of the world as it’s fairly easy to forget about, but it wasn’t on the original, and it doesn’t need to be here.
The hour and minute hands are fence posts in burnt orange with black lines running down their middle. No lume, oddly, but the design is striking. Speaking to the original design intent of the Giugiaro replica watches as for motorists, the orange hands certainly have a racing feel. The chrono-seconds hand is then a thin stick that matches the mustard yellow of the index below. One cool detail of the seconds hand is that it looks like it stays very thin as it passes through the center of the replica watch, but it actually connects to a black disk, with the hand painted on it. This gives the hand the illusion of being almost impossibly thin.
All together, the dial is very cohesive, legible and attractive. It does have a sort of dark, retro-future feel to it, but that is largely in conjunction with the case. This dial in another setting could feel very normal.
The Ripley comes mounted to a unique steel bracelet that is close if not identical to that of the original. Not only does it look the same, it actually is made in the same idiosyncratic way. It’s a gorgeous bracelet that is as much a part of the overall aesthetic as the case and dial. The lugs are 18mm, and there is a tiny piece that holds a springbar in the lug. The bracelet then starts wider than the lug at 20mm, quickly tapering back down to 18mm. The links are thin rectangles, each with 3 windows, creating an interesting texture all around. The whole thing is then finished in the same matte gray as the case. It looks amazing and is very comfortable too.
The complexity of the design is hidden in each link, which consist of an outer folded shell, an inner sheet and a separate hinge piece. From the side, you can see how the outer shell is folded, giving it the look a vintage bracelet. This design allows for the three squares on the outside to be very sharp, as they are actually cut through the outer shell rather than being molded into something solid. Since they are hinged at the back, it also gives each link a very clean look, and almost seems like they are attached through some alternate means, like magnets.
The downside is that they are a nightmare to remove, making resizing the bracelet quite the chore. It’s doable, and not something a jeweler would necessarily have an easier time with, as it’s unlike other bracelets. Basically, in order to remove a link, you have to push out the inner sheet (on the removable links) with sheer force, which allows you to remove the separate hinge piece. But to remove one link, you also have to remove the hinge of one link around it, so you effectively have to go through the process a couple of times per side. It takes elbow grease, patience and a stiff drink, but you can do it. You also don’t need special tools, just a pusher (which you can use a small screwdriver for) and a pair of needle nose pliers.
In all likelihood, my description didn’t really help, so we did our best to make a video showing how it’s done.
On the wrist, the Ripley wears very well. Surprisingly so in fact, as I think everyone’s immediate reaction to the design is to say, wow that big thing on the side looks uncomfortable. Thanks to the relatively small diameter and smart proportioning, the housing doesn’t bother you at all. The corners don’t dig in, nor does it put pressure on your wrist when it’s flexed. Frankly, I notice crowns on many replica watches a lot more than this whole contraption.
And it just fits well. The short lug-to-lug and flexible bracelet make it sit comfortably and securely on the wrist. It doesn’t look too big or small on my 7″ wrist, and is easy to wear throughout the day thanks to its relatively thin profile and light weight. And it looks awesome. It’s a striking design, but it’s not a flashy design. It will definitely draw attention, but it doesn’t look like you’re wearing something weird for the sake of weird. Nor does it look to “80s” in a cheesy way. It’s definitely not of our era, but it works in it. And once you’re past the housing on the side, it’s just a cool, dark, masculine sport replica watch. As someone who wears fairly dark colors all the time, I found it fit right in.
Now, I see there error of my ways of having never picked up an original Seiko x Giugiaro 7a28-7000. Having worn the Seiko x Giugiaro SCED035 Ripley for a few weeks, I honestly can say I like to wear it because I simply like the replica watch. It’s great regardless of the Aliens or the Giugiaro associations. It wears well, looks good and is far more unique than most replica watches. Sure, there are a couple of things I would change or improve… like I don’t get why they’d add a date but not make the pusher buttons fit better… but I’ll let those slide because in the end of the day, they don’t affect my enjoyment of the replica watch.
For $350ish, it’s pretty fair for something so unique and limited. Yes, you are paying a tax because it’s not an American release, so it’s about $75-100 more than it should be, but it’s still pretty affordable. At this point, I’d pay $1000 for one of the originals now that I know it’s not just an odd replica watch, but an excellent design. There are also so few replica watches out there whose designer you can name. Knowing who they are, a bit about their history and work, makes the aesthetic and functional decisions made in the replica watch more interesting. Giugiaro was primarily a car designer, so he approached this replica watch from a different perspective, one that makes it the striking replica watch it is. Things like the bracelet and the pushers probably would never have come from a replica watch designer.