Hands-On: The New 38mm Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style — A Closer Look At The SRPK29, SRPK31, SRPK33, And SRPK35
Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie famously wrote, “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.” By his logic, it would seem that many a watch enthusiast wished hard enough for a sweet-spot-sized successor to Seiko’s famous SKX dive watch. Two weeks ago today, Seiko introduced the new 38mm Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style references SRPK29, SRPK31, SRPK33, and SRPK35. And judging by your reactions so far, this was indeed a wish come true. My wish of seeing these in the metal was also granted mere days after the watches were announced. So now I can share my impressions of these 38mm spiritual successors to one of the most ubiquitous divers of recent times. But other than their case shape, brand name, and one or two other aesthetic qualities, do these new watches truly measure up to the SKX?
As you all know, Seiko discontinued the SKX line of watches after 23 years of service back in 2019. The Seiko 5 Sports then replaced them in December of that same year. The SRPD references then became Seiko’s new entry-level dive watches. Or did they? In truth, the Seiko 5 models did away with the “diver’s” denomination on the dial, screw-down crowns, and closed case backs. This new generation compromised the original dive functionality of the SKX in favor of value. As much as I hate to admit this, I do think this was ultimately a wise decision. Most people purchasing these entry-level watches would likely focus more on value than functionality. Now the Seiko 5 Sports line is trending towards reduced dimensions. And though you might recognize that opening quote from Peter Pan, the new SRPK references are anything but a fictional band of lost boys.
The new 38mm Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style
Setting aside the conversation I alluded to for a future article (perhaps a Sunday Morning Showdown), let’s take a look at the new Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style watches. The first thing to note is, of course, the new case dimensions. All four of these introductory models use the same 38.0mm (diameter) × 44.2mm (lug-to-lug) × 12.1mm (thickness) × 20mm (lug spacing) stainless steel case. Its profile is reminiscent of a classic dive-watch case that Seiko has used since the 1980s.
The three-link (Oyster-style) bracelet tapers from 20mm hollow end links to 18mm at the pressed fold-over clasp. Sized on the wrist, it has the more qualitative feel of Seiko’s contemporary entry-level bracelets. Though the five-link (Jubilee-style) bracelet found on other models (like the SSK005) has also been improved, there’s something inherently more solid about this three-link design.
Off the wrist, to my eye, the watches looked slightly smaller than I’d like. However, much like the Black Bay 54 or the 36mm Rolex Explorer, on the wrist, everything changes. You can see the orange-dialed SRPK35 on my 17cm (6.7″ wrist) in the picture above. I think it’s safe to say that, proportionally speaking, the 38mm Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style is spot-on. I’d still gravitate toward the larger 42.5mm version, but that’s just because the case shape remains wearable thanks to its short lugs. And my preference for a dive-style sports watch would be for it to wear a bit bigger. But since I already own a 42mm Seiko 7002, perhaps this smaller version in one of the brightly colored variants (you really can’t go wrong) could be a justifiable addition to my collection. But for those looking for a carefree summer watch, this is undoubtedly one of the best options available today.
Inspecting the specs
I already ran through some technical specs in my introduction article for these new Seikos. As I said then, all four feature the same unidirectional rotating bezel, Hardlex crystal, Lumibrite on their hands and indexes, display case back, and Seiko 4R36 movement. This means they’ll hack, hand-wind, and run for about 41 hours, displaying both the day and date on the dial. The bezel has a familiar feel to those who have owned or handled an SKX. It turns in a smoothly ratcheting fashion, stops securely, and is not likely to move on its own. You’ll notice a lack of lume pip at 12 o’clock as well as besides the 3 o’clock marker. This is likely because these watches are not ISO-certified diver’s watches. So Seiko doesn’t feel the need for these watches to meet these requirements, nor do they have to.
However, the bezel’s count-up elapsed timing ability remains. Not as much cost has been spared when it comes to the dials. An applied Seiko logo sits at 12 o’clock, and lume-filled applied markers line the dial. Especially in the case of the SRPK35, which has a subtly sunray-brushed orange dial, this creates a lot of depth. Personally, I’d love to see the scrolling “Automatic” text at 6 o’clock replaced by a depth rating. For these models, as for their larger Seiko Sports 5 counterparts, that’s 100m. This is plenty, but a cautious approach is always best without a screw-down crown. Swimming and snorkeling should be fine, but diving could be risky. That said, if you’ve had the water resistance tested by a watchmaker before your dive, it should be safe enough.
An exemplary gateway watch
The price is among the most appealing things about the new 38mm Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style watches. For €350, you get a lot of bang for your buck. In the world of mechanical watches where prices do nothing but rise, a sub-€500 watch from a reputable brand based on one of its most iconic models is nothing to take for granted. Sure, those of us who knew the glory days of the SKX007 and 009 will have to overcome a certain feeling of compromise. But if I think back to my early collecting days, these would have been a brilliant first step into the world of mechanical watches. Size-wise, the SRPK watches would also make an outstanding first watch for those looking to gift someone just that. I know my teenage self would have been over the moon to have one!
In terms of quality, you truly get a lot (for about €100 more than a MoonSwatch). Seiko certainly doesn’t compromise anything other than water resistance in these watches. Besides a lack of screw-down crown, these watches stand up to even some of Seiko’s offerings two or three notches up the pecking order. The lume is powerful, the movements are serviceable and reliable, and the bracelet is solid and comfortable. Plus, with 20mm lugs, you’ll quickly explore the nearly infinite strap options as you fall deeper down the horological rabbit hole. These SRPKs are gateway watches if there ever were such a thing.
And that’s a wrap on the new Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style watches. After a four-year wait, a mid-sized SKX013 alternative has officially hit the market. And whether, like me, you remain a steadfast fan of the larger option or you prefer the 38mm sweet spot, Seiko releasing sporty new models can only be a good thing. Even seasoned collectors can think back to their Peter Pan days, back when youthful innocence made acquiring even the most affordable watches give you that magical feeling of giddy excitement. If you find yourself feeling nostalgic, perhaps putting one of these new SRPK models on your wrist will be enough to take you back to those days.
These new models will be available from May 1st, retailing for €350 in Seiko boutiques, retailers, and online. For more information, please visit the Seiko website.
Even as a beginner, you could do much worse than going with one of these as your first (or even second or third) watch!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Were you one of the many wishing upon a star for Seiko to bring back something in this size/price point? Do you prefer the larger models introduced in 2019? Is this newest series a pleasant surprise regardless? Let me know in the comments section below.
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