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Diving & Snorkeling Featured Watches

Seiko Dive Watches From A to Z — A Buyer’s Guide for Divers

The Swiss watch industry was forever known as the definitive place for world class watches. When you thought of quality you thought of Switzerland, their brands are synonymous with watches themselves; Rolex, Omega, or Breitling and their pedigree amongst divers is unrivaled. However, as Yoda once said, “there is another.” Another nation, and a lower price range entirely, you have a choice of dive watches that rival the Swiss, handle the pressure, and look every bit as good on the wrist.

It’s Time to Talk About Seiko

Seiko is one of the oldest continuously operating watch companies in the world. Founded in 1881 in Tokyo Japan, Seiko was operating for more than 20 years before Rolex opened their doors in London. They are, without a doubt, one the most important dive watch companies, having introduced their first diver in 1965, not long after Rolex debuted the Submariner in 1953. They have made some of the most popular and important mechanical dive watches in the decades that have followed.

The best part is, for their relatively low cost, what you get is an ISO certified diver that’s professionally proven, classic in its design, and looks great on your wrist. For a bit of history – Seiko led the quartz watch revolution in the late 1960s. The oscillating quartz crystal that keeps the beat when charged with electrical current made watches very inexpensive and extremely accurate. Bad news for the swiss mechanical watch industry. Good news for Seiko.

They introduced a myriad of quartz watch styles (and still do) including dive watches. In fact, a friend of mine wore a Seiko quartz diver the entire time he was a saturation diver in the 1980s — a watch he still wears to this day. Here it is (on the left) next to my SKX007, it’s all beat up but looking great.

Seiko's quartz diver's watch from the 1980s next to a current SKX007.
Seiko’s quartz diver’s watch from the 1980s next to a current SKX007. Photo by Brad Baldwin.

That watch survived saturation tanks at 200 meters below the surface for weeks at a time. He wore that while his mates wore more expensive Swiss counterparts and he never had a problem with it, even in the harshest environments 200m below the ocean’s surface offshore welding. Imagine what you’ll be able to do while wearing yours.

The reason I mention Seiko’s pioneering quartz technology is that it gave them extremely deep pockets from its quartz-watch profits that allowed them to continue developing their mechanical watch technology from a very safe place.  

I’m a mechanical watch guy, I don’t hate quartz watches, and they certainly have their place, but as a watch enthusiast I enjoy the tiny city of motion created by an impressively engineered mechanical movement. And Seiko makes a good number of  ISO 6425 certified mechanical dive watches, watches that pass rigorous testing and have specifications required for diving. They come in almost every price range and I’m going to recommend some of these that are sure to completely satisfy your dive watch needs.

SKX Series

One of the most iconic dive watches of all time, the Seiko SKX007 is first. You can pick these up for about 200 bucks in black. With the red and blue “Pepsi bezel,” it’s the SKX009 model. Both come on the perfectly supple and perfectly cheap feeling jubilee bracelet, or, for a few bucks less on the rubber strap.

It’s a beast, the perfect watch for a young man, this watch will outlast your next 10 watch purchases and sit majestically next to watches 15 times it’s price as your collection grows and matures.

The SKX uses the rock solid 7S26 automatic movement. It’s nothing special, it doesn’t have handwinding capabilities and doesn’t hack seconds. Its accuracy is officially -20 to +40 seconds per day (though they usually perform much better).

Oh and one other thing, it’s a super proven, indestructible piece of industrial art. There are no superlatives great enough to describe this movement, and paired with the rest of the SKX, it all comes together to create a true classic. This is a kick through the dirt and wear with no problems watch that every watch guy should own, period.

Pro tip: Made In Japan is not made in Japan.

If you want to be extra cool, get the SKX007J version for a bit more money. It has “MADE IN JAPAN” written on the dial and an extra line of text that reads, “21 JEWELS.” What does it mean? Not really anything special, except that the market it’s made for has regulations that state the ‘Made In’ language has to coincide with where the manufacturer is owned. In the case of Seiko, that is Japan.

In the U.S. the regs state, if you want to print ‘Made In’ then print it where it’s actually made. In the case of the SKX they are made in Malaysia. Mine is the extra cool model J, because I’m extra cool.

Seiko SKX007. Courtesy Brad Baldwin.
Seiko SKX007. Photo by Brad Baldwin.
Specs
Make / Model: Seiko SKX007
Case Width: 42.5mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Lug to Lug: 46mm
Case Thickness 13.25mm
Movement: 7S26 Automatic
Crystal: Hardlex
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Day, Date

If you want to spend a bit more and get superior finishing to the SKX then Seiko has you covered with models as cheap as $250 and upwards from there. They all have nicknames from Monsters, to Samurais, to Turtles, to Sumos, etc. so let’s get started with these divers all suited, and ISO certified, for air diving.

The Turtle

The Seiko SRP77X series, affectionately called the “Turtle,” was released in 2017 to celebrate one of their more popular divers from the 1970s, the 6309-7040.

Seiko 6309
A 1970s-era Seiko 6309. Photo Credit: Hallsy01 Flickr via Compfight cc.

This watch is mighty, comes in a few different color varieties and wears so perfectly on the wrist you would have thought they made it just for you, and who knows, maybe they did.

The Turtle comes in three main styles, the standard black SRP777 at $265, the blue PADI branded SRPA21 for $330 (also with a Pepsi bezel), celebrating the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, and the soon to be classic SRP775 for $295, sporting gold markers, hands, dial printing, and bezel numbering.

At just over 44mm, these are a bit bigger than the 42mm SKX, but they’re so comfortable. A watch with a large diameter can feel bigger or smaller depending on how the rest of the measurements go.

The most important measurement being the lug to lug distance, which is the distance between the two bracelet spring bars (not to be confused with lug width, which is the strap width, or length of the spring bar). If the lug to lug is short then the watch will wear smaller. Following this if the lugs themselves are shorter then it will appear smaller on your wrist.

The turtle has a lug to lug measurement of 48mm keeping it in line with much smaller diameter watches and the lugs themselves stop almost immediately after in order to keep the turtle shell roundness of the case design.

The Turtle comes with the 4R36 automatic movement, which runs at 21,600 beats per hour, equal to six ticks per second, giving it that smooth sweep associated with mechanical movements. This movement allows for hand winding as well as hacking seconds. When the crown is pulled, the second hand stops to allow you to set the watch precisely. The 4R36 movement is a workhorse Seiko movement and found in many of their automatics under $600.

I personally love the Turtle. It has a feeling of quality well above the $300 price tag, and it simply looks great on the wrist.   

Golden Turtle SRP775
The author’s favorite variant, the Golden Turtle SRP775. Photo by Brad Baldwin.
Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Turtle – SRP77X
Case Width: 44.3mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Lug to Lug: 47mm
Case Thickness 13mm
Movement: 4R36 Automatic
Crystal: Hardlex with date magnifier
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Day, Date

The Samurai

Seiko Samurai.
Seiko Samurai. Photo Credit: stavros_ch Flickr via Compfight cc.

The Seiko Samurai SRPB51 has become popular recently due to its patterned dial, angled case, and rugged crown.The bracelet on the Samurai follows the sharp angle of the lugs and gives it a cool industrial vibe. This model is just under 44mm and sports the 4R35 automatic movement. It’s ISO certified to 200 meters and features a diving extension for use with a wetsuit.

The list price on the Seiko Samurai is $525 but Amazon has it for much less.

Seiko introduced a new variant to the Samurai (SRPC93) this year at the annual watch trade show Baselworld called the Save the Ocean with a “blue whale/wave” patterned dial as part of Seiko’s campaign to help the oceans. It’s admittedly gorgeous and at Amazon for $458 right now.

Save The Ocean Samurai.
Save The Ocean Samurai. Courtesy Seiko.
Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Samurai – SRPB51
Case Width: 43.8mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Lug to Lug: 48mm
Case Thickness 13mm
Movement: 4R35 Automatic
Crystal: Hardlex with date magnifier
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Day, Date

The Mini-Turtle

Seiko Mini Turtle.
Seiko Mini Turtle. Photo by rainmaker7112 on Flickr.

There is a mini-Turtle, four actually. They were released this year to the Japanese market only, but don’t let that stop you from ordering one online, since Amazon has the SRPC37 (Black), SRPC35 (Black on Bracelet) right now for  $350, the SRPC39 (Blue) for $400, and the SRPC41 (Blue PADI Pepsi bezel) for $420.

It’s quite cute, if you can call a still-kinda-large dive watch cute, but compared to the big Turtles, the Seiko SRPC3X is downright adorable. It features the same water resistance and 4R movement of the Turtle, but has a smaller 42mm case with a super short lug-to-lug distance of only 42mm.

It features a magnified date, different markers, 3 o’clock crown placement, and a different bezel edge than it’s big brother. It’s a really fun watch that Seiko had no real reason to produce other than the fact that they simply can.

Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Mini-Turtle – SRPC3X
Case Width: 42.3mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Lug to Lug: 42.5mm
Case Thickness 13mm
Movement: 4R35 Automatic
Crystal: Hardlex with date magnifier
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Date

The Tuna

Seiko Tuna
One of the encased Seiko Tuna models. Photo Credit: muchacho86 Flickr via Compfight cc.

Seiko has produced their most hardcore professional divers with 600 to 1000m depth ratings through what is known as the Tuna line. It gets its name due to the two piece case design that makes the watch very round resembling a tuna can. The professional versions use a ceramic coated titanium outer case screwed into the steel inner case.

However, the more down to Earth versions don’t go to these extremes, but they do share the two-piece case. They are huge, by far the biggest on this list, the one pictured is 52mm. That’s Schwarzenegger wrist-size territory you’re headed into with one of these. I’m not a big fan of them except for their history and the fact that most Seiko diver firsts were done with the pro line.

But hey, if you like that design then here’s a swell PADI version, the SRPA83, that’s good to 200m for $438 on Amazon.

Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Tuna – SRPA83
Case Width: 52mm
Lug Width: 26mm
Lug to Lug: 52mm
Case Thickness 13mm
Movement: 4r36 Automatic
Crystal: Domed sapphire
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Day, Date

The Sumo

Seiko Sumo
Seiko Sumo. Photo Credit: Marcus Mars Flickr via Compfight cc.

The Seiko Prospex SCUBA SBDC031 “Sumo” steps up the quality a bit and features a titanium case and a higher level of finishing. The Sumo uses the 6R15 automatic movement, which has better accuracy and a higher power reserve than 4R35/6

It’s the biggest watch we’ve discussed so far, at close to 45mm wide and 13.5mm thick. It’s large, no doubt. And rare to see in the wild, or even in online watch forums. The case covers the bezel a bit on the sides and comes with a colossal lume pearl that dwarfs the other Seikos we’ve seen, giving off a more expensive feel. This is also the first time we’re seeing the stop light second hand as opposed to the counter weighted dot second hand on most of the other watches, both are Seiko trademarks. It’s available through Amazon right now for $437.

Fun Fact: The blue dial version (SBDC033) is called the Blumo.

Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Sumo – SBDC031
Case Width: 45mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Lug to Lug: 46mm
Case Thickness 13.5mm
Movement: 6R15 Automatic
Crystal: Domed Hardlex
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Day, Date

The Shogun

Seiko Shogun
Seiko Shogun. Photo Credit: t_voigt Flickr via Compfight cc.

Another fabulous diver, this model also in titanium, runs about $870 on Amazon. Rare for a Seiko diver, this watch has the crown at the three o’clock with crown guards. This watch has a pretty normal dive watch look to it, perhaps the most reminiscent to other brands. But it is a badass working a higher end 6R15 movement and a domed crystal. It’s worth mentioning this watch, though it is not one that I see very much, since it’s such a high quality piece.

Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Shogun – SBDC029
Case Width: 44mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Lug to Lug: 50mm
Case Thickness 13mm
Movement: 6R15 Automatic
Crystal: Domed Hardlex
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Date

The Prospex Diver SPBC053

Seiko Prospex.
Seiko Prospex Diver, made for the Japanese domestic market but available on Amazon. Courtesy Seiko.

Still begging for a nickname, the Prospex Diver SPBC053 is one of the best looking watches Seiko has come out with in years. It’s a modern reinterpretation of the their 1960s diver, putting all the latest technology in a mid-size case. At just under 42.5mm wide and 14mm thick, it makes for a very wearable watch day in and day out.

It’s comes on either a rubber strap or stainless steel bracelet, but I always recommend buying the bracelet. You can always get a cheaper strap, but a replacement bracelet is almost always more expensive than if you bought it on the bracelet to begin with.

This is a Japanese domestic market watch and the bracelet version is hard to find, but this beautiful blue sunburst watch is available on its rubber strap at Amazon for $650.

Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Prospex – SBDC053
Case Width: 42.5mm
Lug Width: 20mm – drilled
Lug to Lug: 50mm
Case Thickness 14mm
Movement: 6r15 Automatic
Crystal: Domed sapphire
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Date

The Marinemaster 300

Seiko Marinemaster.
Top of the line Seiko Marinemaster. Photo Credit: fazdu13 Flickr via Compfight cc.

The Seiko flagship diver is the Marinemaster, a gorgeous watch that runs about $4,500. It’s tailor made for the Seiko dive watch fanboy. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.  

But why is this watch $4,300 more than the SKX007? These are the basic questions people always ask about expensive items. What makes your Aston Martin better than my Honda, they both go from point A to point B? Sure they do, but is that really the point? When you’re getting into luxury pricing you’re not buying based on monetary value, you’re buying based on product value. So why does the Seiko Marinemaster SBDX017 have a value that makes it worth the money? First, the 8L35 movement is a top tier Seiko movement found in their Grand Seiko Line.

This watch is finished like no other watch on this list. Seiko has polished this watch watch using their famed Zaratsu polishing method, adding a degree of finish, again, on the Grand Seiko level. Every detail is inspected to a whole other level than they do on their less expensive models. Seiko has very few watches that cost more than $2,000, they have the ability to manufacture some incredible watches at the best prices due to their volume of production. When they do do make a product like this you can guarantee it’s worth it.

Specs
Make / Model: Seiko Marinemaster – SBDX017
Case Width: 44.3mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Lug to Lug: 46mm
Case Thickness 14.6mm
Movement: 8L35 Automatic
Crystal: Domed Hardlex
Water resistance: 200m
Complication: Date

Check out more dive watch recommendations in Part 3 of Twisted Bezel’s Ultimate Dive Watch Guide.

 

Banner Photo Credit: Kohe321 Flickr via Compfight cc.

 

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