A review of nine Seiko dive watches

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Over the years I have accumulated a couple Seiko watches, ranging from the upper end to the entry level stuff. A few of them are dive watches, mainly the orange dial divers but also a few others I found interesting. Here I briefly review the SKX011J, SKX781K and SKX779K Monster, SKZ281K, SBDA005 Samurai, SKZ205K Seiko 5 40th Anniversary, SBDC005 Sumo, H601-5480 Arnie and SBDX011 Emperor Tuna.

All the nine watch collectively cost less than a Rolex Submariner. They are tremendous value for money.

There are a couple I don’t own but hope to eventually, including the Marinemaster, the original 600 m as well as the Citizen 1000 m. And also the SKX423 titanium diver because it has an orange dial – if anyone has this for sale drop me a line. 

– SJX

Seiko SKX011J with cal. 7S26

This is the simplest of the lot in many ways – the classic Seiko 200 m scuba design but the gold bezel and hands are an unusual choice. The case is reasonably well finished for a watch of this price.

Seiko SKX781K and SKX779K Modded Monsters with cal. 7S26

Arguably the most popular Seiko dive watch, at least on the internet. I’ve swap the chapter rings on the black and orange as has been done elsewhere; I really like the modded look.

The design is distinctive, with an aggressively shaped case and hands. I find the case finish not quite as good as the SKX011J; the brushing is a bit rougher and less tidy at the corners. I have one of them on the original bracelet which is simply constructed but massive and comfortable.

Seiko SKZ281K with cal. 7S26

This watch is all about the oversized and almost exaggerated bezel. The black minute track is a nice touch. The quality is similar to the Monster; essentially it’s a Monster in a different guise.

Seiko SBDA005 Samurai with cal. 7S25

One of the few cushion case Seiko divers and also one of the first Prospex watches in titanium if I recall right. I like this design a lot, it is more subtle than most of the rest but has some interesting details like the sloped minute track and applied markers. But I never understood the red 15 minute segment on the bezel instead of another colour.

Seiko SKZ205K Seiko 5 40th Anniversary in titanium with cal. 7S36

Visually this is one of the most interesting because of the carbon fibre dial, tungsten bezel and titanium case – this is fusion on the cheap. Notably the dial is two level, a carbon fibre centre with the hour and minute indices on a raised outer ring. This also has the sliding divers extension clasp found on the Marinemaster.

While I like the shape and feel of the case, I dislike the laser engraved caseback; the engraving is not as well done as other Seiko watches of the same price range in my opinion.

Seiko SBDC005 Sumo with cal. 6R15

When I first saw this I found the font used on the bezel comical, and still do. But I really like the size of this watch, mainly due to its long lugs, and the case finishing which is superb for a watch of this price.

The brushed and polished finishes are applied carefully with clean transitions from one finish to another. The shape and curves of the lugs also indicate a high quality case. Though this costs more than most of the other divers here, I think it is better bang for the buck, because the quality of the case is disproportionately better than the others relative to the price difference.

Another reason for its steeper price is the 6R15 inside, which is evolved from the 7S26 family but is superior to the 7S26 used in the lower priced divers. Amongst other things the 6R15 has a longer power reserve and hack seconds.

Seiko H601-5480 Arnie

Though pretty small by modern standards this watch has presence on the wrist. The digital functions are small and the buttons are fiddly so it’s not actually that functional. I also swapped the rather fragile original plastic shroud for a powder coated aluminium one which actually improves the look and lets me wear it less carefully.

Seiko SBDX011 1000 m with cal. 8L35

When I first saw news of this I knew I had to get one. I remember I was in Tokyo in April 2009 and there were posters of this all over the watch departments in the electronics stores like Yodobashi and Bic Camera, but it was scheduled for delivery on April 30 and I left on 22 or 23. Eventually I got my hands on one and do not regret it one bit.

The tuna models are one of Seiko’s most distinctive products and it’s a shame Seiko doesn’t exploit them more. Perhaps a ceramic Tuna chronograph for example?

Though this is one of the most expensive Seiko divers, I think it remains excellent value for money. The case is titanium with a ceramic shroud, while the movement is a simplified version of the 9S55 movement in the Grand Seiko. I have visited the Shizukuishi Watch Studio where this is assembled, along with Grand Seiko, and the level of craft for the price is terrific value.

My only gripe with this is the material of the bezel insert which feels inexpensive and plasticky. Update 16 April 2011: This just arrived – the Citizen 1000 m automatic diver.

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