Seiko World Cup: Group 1 Semifinal — Daan’s SPB317 Vs. Thomas’s SKX009
Welcome to the first semifinal of Fratello’s Seiko World Cup. Four Seiko divers have already been kicked out of the competition. The other four are still very much alive and ready to take on their next opponents. Today, Daan’s SPB317 and Thomas’s SKX009 will compete against each other. It’s promising to be a very close battle, and that’s not just based on our intuition. It’s actually based on an earlier encounter between these two editors and their Seiko divers.
That previous confrontation took place this past February during one of our famous Sunday Morning Showdowns. As it stands now, Daan’s SPB317 took the win there with 51% of the votes. Let’s see if either Thomas or Daan can come up with a strategy to conquer more souls and make the difference in votes a bit bigger than last time. In any case, get ready for another heated debate. Also, cast your vote at the end of it, and defend your pick in the comments below. But before all of you Fratelli do that, Daan and Thomas, the floor is all yours.
Daan: Seiko SPB317 “Turtle Origin”
In my first-round battle, I beat Mike’s vintage Seiko 6215-7000. That watch is a proper icon in Seiko’s history books. Up front, I wasn’t so sure that I was going to win that confrontation, but I did. It was another close call, though, with only 52% of the votes. Today, my opponent, the SKX009, is another one of those Seiko icons. But this one might even be a little more famous than that 6215-7000. It sure is a more recent reference, which tends to help here with the Fratello audience. That worries me a bit, but I’m also very confident in the SPB317’s excellent capabilities.
I won’t go over the specs here in too much detail since that’s largely what I did during the first round. In this second round, it’s probably going to come down more to personal preference. I will, of course, try to (heavily) influence that personal preference of yours. All right, let’s do this.
Why I love it
The Seiko SPB317 is based on the 6105-8000 from 1968. That vintage reference is a lot less famous than Seiko’s preceding 62MAS and the “Captain Willard” that came after it. Seiko has made re-editions of all these watches. However, I’d be willing to argue that the SPB317 is the best-wearing one by far. The 62MAS and some of its re-editions might be a bit smaller, but they certainly don’t hug your wrist as the C-shaped case of the SPB317 does. And yes, the Willard’s cushion case might have a very characteristic shape. But does that watch actually sit nicely on anyone’s wrist?
The great thing about the SPB317 is that it combines that typically practical Seiko diver design with a very ergonomic case shape. You really do get the best of both worlds here. The matte black dial and (what seem to be) applied indices make for a very legible timepiece, and the red dot on the seconds hand adds just the right amount of color. The aluminum bezel insert gives the watch that vintage cachet. Finally, the C-shaped case and the crown at 4 o’clock are the cherries on the cake here. The combination is a bit different from many other Seiko divers, but it still makes for a very consistent design package.
The SPB317 is more refined
The problem is, though, that the SKX’s design isn’t exactly bad either. I own the SKX007, and I like the proper tool-watch character it has. In his first round, Thomas described the SKX as being the Citroën 2CV of watches:
“It was made to function everywhere and always while being extremely easy and cheap to repair. […] Everything about the SKX is affordable and simple.”
I certainly appreciate the practical approach that Seiko took with the design of the SKX. And its affordability has made it the perfect watch to recommend to people who are looking to get their first mechanical watch. Heck, even for Thomas and me, it was our first fully mechanical watch. However, as someone rightfully mentioned in the comments below that Sunday Morning Showdown earlier this year, “We all love our first real watch, but that doesn’t make them good.” Of course, I enjoy wearing my SKX because of its cult-classic status, but the SPB317 is most definitely more refined.
When Thomas bought his SKX009, he chose to buy a modified one with a sapphire crystal. It does make the watch look a bit better, and it helps keep those scratches at bay. The SPB317 comes standard with a sapphire crystal, and overall, I’d argue its finishing is superior to that of the SKX. The bezel action also feels a bit better, and the dial execution is far better than that of the SKX. I’m not sure if all those improvements justify the ~€700 difference in price, but they certainly are things that I enjoy about the watch and qualities for which I am willing to pay more.
The SPB317 is a 2CV when it comes to comfort
Allow me to go back to that 2CV metaphor that Thomas used in his first-round battle. That car was often referred to as one of the most comfortable cars to drive because of its pillowy suspension. I remember that my dad got a 2CV once as a loaner car while his own Citroën XM was in the shop for repairs. He wanted to show me how much fun that suspension was, so he took me for a tour of the many bridges on the canals around the center of Amsterdam. I will never forget that lightheaded feeling I got every time we hit the top of each bridge and softly landed back into the 2CV’s comfortable suspension shortly after.
However, I wouldn’t exactly call the SKX one of the most comfortable watches to wear. Yes, its 42.5mm rounded case with a fairly short lug-to-lug span does indeed work well on a large variety of wrist sizes. But its 13.4mm thickness and weight of 80 grams (watch head only) do make it feel a bit top-heavy on the wrist. When I wear my SKX, it shifts around quite a lot, and that’s not something I experience when wearing the SPB. It’s only five grams lighter, but it feels like it sits more flush to the wrist. So if the SKX009 is the 2CV in terms of construction, the SPB317 is the 2CV in terms of comfort. That’s it from my side, Thomas. Over to you.
Thomas: Seiko SKX009
Okay, Daan, those were a lot of words, but I haven’t felt any truly heavy blows to the SKX. Allow me to summarize: you think your SPB317 is more comfortable, and it has a sapphire crystal and a little more refinement. That is about it, right? And you think that should be enough to beat a watch with an absolutely legendary status and that has initiated thousands of enthusiasts into our beloved watch world?
Let me address that comfort thing first. Yes, your SPB317 hugs the wrist a little more and has a lower center of gravity. But we have to compare apples to apples here. A lot of the top-heavy flailing that the SKX does is down to its characteristic jangly bracelet. If, like your SPB317, it is worn on a good rubber strap, it stays put just as well.
Now onto the refinement. Your watch won the Sunday Morning Showdown by a hair based on that. And I agree; objectively speaking, it is the better watch. But today, we aren’t discussing which is technically the better watch. Today, we are trying to identify which is the greatest Seiko diver. The SPB is a reissue of an obscure vintage reference. The SKX is the zenith of truly affordable Seiko divers. In a just world, yours wins the Sunday Morning Showdown, mine the Seiko World Cup.
In SPB317 versus SKX009, significance is key
The humble SKX009 holds a unique significance in the watch world. It somehow became “the chosen one.” I have seen so many watch boxes full of exotic, expensive stuff but with one slot reserved for the SKX. And that inspired newcomers to take it as the first step into the hobby. Very few watches democratize watch collecting that way. I think only certain G-Shocks may serve a similar role, but those don’t initiate their owners into learning about mechanical timekeeping.
Just imagine how people will look back on the SKX in 20 or 30 years. Those who got into watches via the SKX will be the most experienced, senior generation of watch lovers by then. The Seiko SKX will be an icon with great sentimental value.
Lex declared war on car analogies, and my 2CV comparison triggered completely the wrong association in you. Let me use another parallel instead. The SKX is, for many, the first girlfriend or boyfriend. Your SPB317 is the logical second. Which do you look back upon with warm, fuzzy feelings when you are married to someone way better suited to you years later? Of course, that awkward first love. The SKX009 (or another SKX variant) is the first love of an astounding number of watch fans. That makes it infinitely more significant as a watch than the SPB317.
Let me broaden my scope of arguments a bit. Maybe you’re not so sensitive to the whole significance story. That still leaves just one argument for the SPB317 — refinement. Yes, it is a better-made and more mature-feeling product. Honestly, almost any watch — except for the SKX’s successor — does.
The question that matters is: does it justify costing three times as much? I would argue that it does not. You may pay three times the price, but that doesn’t get you a truly refined dive watch. The SPB317 still feels like an entry-level diver. It doesn’t have the refinement in design and execution that makes it significantly more versatile, pretty, or durable.
That refinement is present in competitors like the Doxa Sub 200 or Squale 1521. Both feel more special, better made, and certainly better finished. So, is the SPB317 a step up from the SKX009? Well…sure. But not in any way that makes for a truly appealing proposition.
Cast your vote: SPB317 or SKX009?
It’s time to cast your votes, dear Fratelli! In today’s battle of specs and refinement versus affordability and significance, which is your pick? This is your chance to send your favorite to the finals, where it will take on the winner of the other upcoming semifinal, the Marinemaster versus the Darth Tuna!