Hello, 007. Today we’re going to take a look at what I’ve always assumed is another one of the worst-kept secrets in modern watchmaking: the Seiko Diver, model number SKX007. It’s probably the single best value at any price point, in an automatic watch that fits all the criteria of the infamous ISO 6425, which specifies the criteria for a watch to be able to call itself a diver’s watch (at least, in ISO member nations). Yes, it fits both the letter and the spirit of the law, but as with another worst-kept secret from Seiko – the incredible Seiko 5, which we looked at not long ago in our story “A $75 Watch That Looks Like A Million Bucks” – it ultimately manages to be so appealing on its own merits that the almost incredulity-inducing price is the least important aspect of the watch.
The SKX007 may have a humble price but it is part of a proud lineage of diver’s watches that goes all the way back to 1965, when Seiko introduced the 150-meter-water-resistant reference 6217. Since then, Seiko has introduced a huge range of diver’s watches, ranging from the iconic ref. 6105, which was produced until 1977 (and is famous among movie watch enthusiasts for having been on Martin Sheen’s wrist inApocalypse Now) to its professional models, intended for use under very challenging conditions, including saturation diving. The latter category includes the very first watch to use titanium in its case – the 1975 600 meter Pro Diver. (The 1980 Porsche Design Titan Chronograph was the first wristwatch to offer a titanium case, and an integrated titanium bracelet.) Seiko’s dive watch offerings today include perhaps the most purely practical mechanical dive watch in existence, at least considered from a technical perspective. This is the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Diver, whose self-winding Spring Drive movement and power reserve indication ensure both a very high degree of accuracy (within one second per day) as well as the ability to check and make sure there’s enough power reserve to prevent the watch from running down in the middle of a dive. (For a more detailed history, check out this great story over on Monochrome.)
SKX007’s immediate ancestor is the Seiko 7002, which it closely resembles, and it shares with SKX007 a water resistance rating of 200 m. It was produced until 1996, when it was finally replaced by the model you see here. SKX007 is also no longer in production but can be found on the secondary market, which is unfortunate as it represents the entry price point into the world of Seiko diver’s watches – as a matter of fact, it probably represents the entry price point into the world of genuine, ISO-compliant mechanical diver’s watches, period. (Rather amazingly, Seiko still hosts the PDF user’s manual for the 7002 on its website.)
SKX007 is an exercise in functional minimalism; there is absolutely nothing extraneous about any aspect of the watch. The case is a solid, heavy mass of stainless steel, though as with all Seikos, even at the entry level, it is exceedingly well made, with the rounded flanks rising gracefully to form the crown guards. The crown (for setting only, like the Seiko 5, the SKX007 can’t be hand-wound, but must be gently swung in the hand to wind the mainspring) is set at 4 o'clock, the better to keep it from pressing uncomfortably into the back of your wrist.
The bezel rotates in half-minute increments, and this is one of the many places that this watch shows its quality despite its very low cost. The tip of the triangle (with its inset luminous pearl) always lines up exactly on the index mark (or exactly halfway between) and it’s quite fantastic to see that cost notwithstanding, Seiko has ensured the watch offers irreproachable functional precision where it counts. The dial is also unadorned, but functionally excellent, with large and very bright lume plots (Seiko dive watches are famously torch-bright in the dark) and the seconds hand has both an application of white paint on its body, and a dot of lume on its tail, the better to allow you to use it as a function check in low light situations. There are some who will take exception to the white date/day disks, but the use of white actually makes the dial more symmetrical, and enhances low light legibility to boot.
The jubilee-style bracelet is, like the rest of the watch, functionally more than adequate. It rattles a bit, as is the case with the OEM bracelet for the Seiko 5 and quite a few owners like to experiment with different straps. Despite the occasional jingle-jangle, however, it’s actually quite comfortable, though it does not have a diver’s wetsuit extension (and you can hardly fault it for that, at the asking price, though if you dive with the watch a lot, you’ll probably want to put it on a long NATO or rubber strap).
Inside is the caliber 7S26, and as we did with the Seiko 5, we refer you, if you’re interested, to a full technical analysis of the movement from John Davis, whose article on the 7S26 has never been bettered for accuracy or, well, depth. We’ll confine ourselves here to noting that the movement is notoriously bullet-proof, and that the Magic Lever winding system is both a very clever piece of engineering, and extremely efficient (the watch, when taken in the hand, begins to run almost immediately at the slightest movement).
So here’s a true dive watch with wonderful functional excellence, and a connection to a great history – and the price? Pretty much any day of the week, you can find one for sale on Amazon for less than $170, which seems unbelievable, but it’s true. I can’t think of very many things horologically related, period, that are that inexpensive (okay, NATO straps and... I don’t know, spring bars, maybe) and absolutely nothing at this price point that is even remotely competitive. To get the same functional excellence, you would probably have to look at a G-Shock, and the latter, while a fantastic tool watch in its own right, is not ISO 6452-compliant. SKX007 has been for many years, and remains today, a rebuke to over-priced, over-decorated “luxury” dive watches everywhere – and a perennially fantastic Value Proposition.
I bought mine on qoo10 at a great price. :)http://les-revues.blogspot.sg/2015/08/my-latest-diver-watch-seiko-automatic.html