There’s no doubt that we love Seiko here on Fratello Watches and judging by the numbers, you seem to feel the same. It’s the beginning of November and that means exactly nothing, but if we squint a bit, we can go ahead and call this article an early Holiday gift guide. Today, in a battle of Seiko Divers, we’ll line up three watches for three different budgets that fit under the undersea category, but, yet, they’re everyday wearable. Best of all, pricing comes in under the magic $500 mark. I’ve been waiting for a long time to write this article, so let’s begin!
3 Seiko Divers under $500
When I say that I’ve been waiting a long time for a comparison of three Seiko Divers, it stems back to Basel this year when I was finally able to hold the Seiko “PADI” edition of the so-called “Turtle” (reference SRPA21 for good measure). Mind you, I don’t normally go for co-branded special edition type watches as I find them faddish and garish (and I rarely have any affiliation with the co-sponsor), but this watch was a real stunner in person and I knew I had to have one. So, I ordered one via Seiko Netherlands and waited. While awaiting the arrival of the PADI, though, my attention turned to a future showdown between some serious Seiko contenders: the inexpensive but eminently mighty SKX007 and the grassroots cult favorite “Monster”.
Seiko SKX007 – the Popular Choice
The lightweight of the bunch, or the “David” in the Goliath battle of Seiko Divers, is the SKX007. This isn’t the first Fratello fight for the old stalwart as it was featured in a head-to-head against the equally impressive Citizen NY0040. The SKX007 has been around for a startling 20 years (since 1996) which makes it absolutely ancient in watch terms, but it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity or sales figures.
The only non-Prospex model in our Seiko Divers showdown, the Seiko SKX007 keeps things incredibly simple with its non hand-winding and non hacking automatic movement, the 7S26, but the watch still keeps remarkably good time. It brings in 200m of water resistance; a day/date window, a screw down crown and a uni-directional click bezel. Hardlex, as is the case for all of our watches today, is the Seiko-created mineral glass used for the crystal. 22mm defines the lug width and the case diameter comes in at 42mm. The price on amazon.com comes in just below $200 ($197 overall) on rubber strap. Adding an admittedly flimsy jubilee style bracelet usually adds $20 or so to the price tag.
More than a year after the SKX007 article referenced above, I continue to marvel at the Seiko SKX007. This is a purely elemental watch that contains exactly what one needs in an everyday watch and nothing extra. It’s tough, cheap enough to go anywhere without concern, and contains classic looks. I don’t find myself wearing this watch terribly often, but I always bring it on vacation – especially when the ocean or a pool is involved – and I never feel as though I’m wearing a cheap watch. As the lightweight in our Seiko Divers face-off, the SKX007 is decidedly punching above its weight class.
The Seiko SKX007 wears smaller than its size due to Seiko characteristic short lugs and a bezel that tapers inwards to fool the eye a bit. It looks great on a variety of straps but I find a nice gray NATO to work well. If I had to complain a little, I find the hand lume to come in at a different shade versus that used on the dial. Plus, I do enjoy spinning the crown a bit to wind my watch, so the lack of hand winding does speak to the affordability of this Seiko. Is the SKX007 the “economy class” choice of Seiko Divers? Sure, but it’s far more Singapore Airlines than no frills hauler.
The Seiko SKX007 Does It All
Still, the Seiko SKX007 presents amazing value, great capability and good looks for the cost of a decent hotel room. Want a real life testimonial? I always look at the wrists of my colleagues and I recently spotted an SKX009 (same as the 007 but sporting a Pepsi bezel) on the wrist at work. Now, the wearer is an executive and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him wearing a far more prestigious watch. So, I asked him about the watch – one that he nonchalantly wears on a jubilee with a very light dangle (think Datejust style and you’re close) – and he was clear. He stated that he wanted something bulletproof, mechanical and good-looking. He simply saw no need to spend more on something that achieves the same function. I’d say that my colleagues reasoning for purchasing one of these Seiko Divers is as good as any and probably pretty typical – the SKX007 “just works”.
Seiko Monster – The Cult Favorite
The next watch in our comparison is the Seiko Monster. The version I own is a 2nd generation model called the SRP313 and often referred to as the “Vampire Monster”. The name comes from the red outlines around the fang-like hour indices. Seiko’s and their nicknames! This model has been around since roughly 2012 and appears to either be discontinued now or on the way out. Still, stocks of these Seiko Divers are plentiful on places like Amazon and eBay.
When this Seiko Monster was released, it replaced an extremely successful 1st generation of watches. The 1st generation of watches had a simpler design and contained the same basic 7S26 movement as found in the SKX007. When the watch you see here debuted, it ushered in the use of a far more feature-rich movement, the 4R36. It’s a 24-jewel automatic that can be hand wound, hacked, and features a day/date display. 200m of water resistance comes in again, as well as a screw-down crown and a large uni-directional diver’s bezel. Interestingly, the lug width employed is only 20mm and the case is roughly 43mm.
I’m going to be very direct on my assessment of the Seiko Monster – I’ve never loved it – and it wouldn’t be my first choice of Seiko Divers. I bought it in Hong Kong not long after it came out for a great price and it was also during a period where I simply could not get enough Seiko. I remember playing with it a bit during the long flight home and truly being able to tell that this was a higher class of watch than the SKX007. Everything from the case finishing, the small sweep seconds hand, and the dial quality just feel like a notch up on the 007.
So what don’t I love about the Seiko Monster? I find the bezel and its numbers to be a bit too cartoonish and loud along with the “loudly” knurled crown. Second, the semi-shroud at the top and bottom makes for an amazing collection point for all sorts of detritus. With barely any wear, one can find dirt, grit, and hair (that sealed this watch’s fate in my eyes) in this gap. Perhaps the major issue is that the space between shroud and bezel is fairly large. That being said, I’ve become a bit more reserved in my judgment as I now look upon the Monster as junior gateway drug to the world of the Seiko Tuna. The Monster clearly has a place in the world of Seiko Divers, just likely not on my wrist.
The Seiko Monster, like the SKX007, wears rather small. It contains small, drilled, lugs and the narrower strap size brings down the visual weight. At 13mm, it’s also not as thick as you’d think, so it behaves well under a shirtsleeve. As mentioned, the movement is certainly an upgrade over the previous contestant. I took a look at Amazon for pricing and the SRP313 comes in at $207(!!), which either reflects its discontinuation or an amazing buy. Spend a little more and a plate-like bracelet is available. If you love the looks of a 2nd generation Monster (more subdued versions do exist), the extra $10 delivers a more polished piece than the SKX007 and a real step up movement wise. For reference, a 3rd generation Monster, the SBDC025 is an example reference, now runs around $500. It boasts yet another movement upgrade to the 6R15 (more accuracy apparently) and a dial that falls somewhere between the more staid 1st gen and the louder 2nd gen. But, that’s big money and it makes the 2nd generation Monster Seiko Divers seem like a real bargain.
Seiko “Turtle” – 2016’s “It” Watch
Our final contestant in the Seiko Divers battle royale is the watch, or at least a version of it anyhow, that has rocked the watch world since its debut in 2016. How a $400 watch could grab so much limelight is a recipe that countless other brands would like to copy, but the new Seiko Turtle certainly has the “it” factor. Sure, you could pawn it off as a straight-up reissue of one the most famous dive watches of all time, the 6306/6309, but the fact that Seiko changed so little and, yet, added so much is key to the model’s success. Gone is the flawed integrated crown tube found on the 1970’s/80’s model that renders so many to the scrap bin. Also, in now is the same great 4R36 movement we just reviewed on the Monster. Oh, and Seiko added some serious color variants aside from black.
The true heavyweight of low-cost Seiko Divers, the Seiko Turtle comes in at a deceptively whopping 45mm in diameter and features 22mm lugs. Like all the contenders, 200m of water resistance, a screw down crown and a unidirectional bezel are included. As you can see, I opted for the bracelet – yes, the one that Robert-Jan maligns on a daily basis – and, wait for it, I like it!
Looking closely at the Seiko Turtle, the dial quality is really far more in line with the Seiko Monster. Its applied indices are very similar in execution. The dial quality, however, is even more sublime. Yes, I chose the blue PADI dial and that means that a stunning sunburst quality exists. It’s beautifully done and reeks of something far more expensive. Other details against and I’m enjoying them: such as the red outlined minute hand and how it plays against the red on the Pepsi bezel.
On the wrist, the Seiko Turtle wears smaller than 45mm due to its C-case, but it is a big watch. With the bracelet included, it’s also incredibly heavy – as in, desk diver forearm workout heavy. I haven’t found it annoying, but it’s one huge collective hunk of metal. I’d consider dropping the bracelet to slim things down a bit – and fan friendly cross-drilled lugs make swapping a breeze. Back to the bracelet…I chose it because it’s the best of the standard equipment amongst our three Seiko Divers. Plus, I wanted to try one. Solid end links, heavy links, and a decent push-button clasp with a flip-lock style of extension make for a really nice piece. Is it Rolex grade? No, but you weren’t expecting that either.
Price-wise, I found the Seiko Turtle available on Amazon for $390. This makes it roughly double the price of the other watches tested. Seiko’s pricing scheme is all over the map, or at least retailers seem to take their own liberties. The Turtle has the same movement and depth qualities as the Monster but the pricing is far different. Still, for the money, this is a great watch no matter the hierarchy of cost. It’s substantial, classically styled and I’ve already seen several in the wild on the wrist of those who seem to be pairing the watch with all manners of work garb. So, like the SKX007, the Turtle is already one of those Seiko Divers that appeals to more than just the collector.
Who wins the Seiko Divers Battle?
So, is there a clear winner in the battle of Seiko Divers? For some, the answer is likely “no”. For others, owning all three plus additional Seiko’s is a likely path. For me, if I were starting anew and looking for one true “all-arounder”, I’d initially be torn between the SKX007 and the Turtle. The SKX007 is a classic diver that does it all, but can also go anywhere subtly; it makes choosing a watch for travel or any sporting activity a non-event. But…knowing my penchant for things vintage, I’d ultimately be drawn to the Turtle. Its higher-grade movement, better finishing and overall design appeal to my tastes more so than the SKX007. Plus, I’m still not over the fact that Seiko actually introduced this watch and did such an amazing job in its reissue. Like I said, though, it would at least be a horse race until the final furlong.
Stepping back, there’s no wrong answer in whatever you choose from the entrants in this Seiko Divers contest. What it really shows is how damn impressive the Japanese company has become in delivering such a wide array of massively capable, attractive and cost effective products. For a brand that is often chided for being a bit aloof or detached from its Western fan base, I hope that this article shows that nothing could be further from the truth. No matter which Seiko you choose, do know that you’re getting one heck of a watch for an amazing price.