Tuesday Morning Showdown: A Battle Of Seiko Divers — The Old-School SKX009 Vs. The Current SPB317
It is safe to say that Seiko has made a push upmarket in recent times. While many of the brand’s watches certainly justify their new price point, for some enthusiasts, the higher RRPs take some getting used to. Daan has no such issues. He recently purchased a Seiko SPB317 for himself. Thomas, on the other hand, clings to his trusty old SKX009, a watch that cost about a third of the price of Daan’s. In today’s Sunday Morning Showdown, we pit an old, cheap, and cheerful Seiko diver against a new, fancy one.
The watches may be technically incomparable, but the philosophy behind them is not. They represent different faces of our beloved Seiko. And that, we feel, is worth exploring in a Sunday Morning Showdown. So let’s get stuck in!
But first: the Grand Seiko GMT battle
Last week, Jorg and Nacho took two Grand Seiko GMTs into the ring. Jorg’s Spring Drive SBGE283 took on Nacho’s quartz SBGN027. Jorg had a bit of an advantage as Spring Drive calibers seem to be met with great applause. Quartz calibers, on the other hand, take some defending among a part of the watch community, even if they are as awe-inspiring as Grand Seiko’s.
So yes, Jorg took the win with the SBGE283. But Nacho went down swinging, still grabbing a sizable 46% of the votes. Who would have thought? It makes me happy to see proper quartz calibers getting their due respect. Still, that SBGE283 is an absolute powerhouse. You can read the GS GMT showdown and comments here.
But now, let’s proceed to today’s brawl. Yesteryear’s Seiko diver versus today’s Seiko diver. Let’s go!
Thomas: Seiko SKX009
Talking about the Seiko SKX009 gets me a bit weak in the knees. It was my first mechanical watch, and I know I am not the only one. The SKX has been the gateway drug for so many budding aficionados, and rightfully so. It offers so much of what we love about watches at such an affordable price — at least it did back when it was available. Nowadays, you will have to make do with the more fashion-forward 5KX. In my eyes, those models have lost all the original SKX charm. It was precisely the originals’ unfashionable nature that made them cool.
I bought mine for €300, including a swap from the Hardlex crystal to a domed sapphire one and an alignment of the chapter ring and bezel. Yes, alignment issues. If you know, you know. The result is a watch that still gets a ton of my wrist time. It already triggers some of those sentimental moods you get from childhood movies or toys.
I love the originality of the SKX. Even though mine has a Pepsi color scheme and a Jubilee-style bracelet, it looks like nothing but a Seiko SKX. The tall bezel, quirky case, crown at four, and archetypal Seiko diver dial combine to make a charming look. Oh, and it lights up like a torch when you turn off the lights.
A Seiko Deux Chevaux
I would put the Seiko SKX in line with the Citroën 2CV in terms of philosophy. It has the same no-nonsense functional cheapness to it. That does not sound very positive, but it is a compliment. Everything about the SKX is simple, functional, no-frills, and cheap to repair/replace. Zero effort has been made to make it luxurious or “nice.” The case finishing barely counts as such. Yes, the lugs have been kissed by a brushing wheel, but that is about it. Why? Because you don’t need it.
But it does meet ISO standards for a “true” dive watch, and that is what counts, just as the 2CV was built to survive harsh, unpaved country roads. There weren’t any wooden dashboards or seats made from cows that only ate marshmallows and were massaged twice daily. It was just the simplest-possible vehicle to reliably get the job done. That is the SKX.
But then we got wealthier and more demanding. We wanted comfort, gadgets, and all sorts of safety systems. Cars got bigger and bigger, heavier and heavier. And more expensive. A lot more expensive. Sure, your fully specced C3 is better than the 2CV in any measurable sense. It certainly has a lot “more Chevaux.” But the romance was lost in the process. I would have a 2CV any day of the week.
Seiko’s new positioning
So Daan has now spent triple the amount I did on his new Seiko diver. Granted, it is a very handsome watch. And yes, you get the much more mature 6R35 caliber. That means no more “Seiko shuffle” to wind your watch. Still, you can certainly find more accurate watches at the €1K price point. Although the 7S26 caliber in my SKX is perfect in a rudimentary way, it is too cheap to service. Mine received a full heart transplant recently when I brought it in. Admittedly, that is a bit of a shame.
Yes, the finishing on Daan’s SPB317 is a lot better than on old, cheap, and cheerful Seikos. Let me just come out and say that it is a much better watch in a technical sense. But it still has that typical Seiko tool-watch quality to it, a certain lack of refinement in the positive sense, as described above. And I am not sure that’s what I am looking for at €1K. I absolutely love that rough-around-the-edges Seiko vibe. However, I do not think it is charming anymore when it is on such an expensive watch. We can get a little jaded when talking watches, but €1K is a lot of money.
I have one more down-to-earth argument if you prefer: there is a big “X” on the dial. And it is ugly. Over to you, Daan! Please do not mention the SPB077 and King Seiko in my collection. It would hurt my credibility somewhat.
Daan: Seiko SPB317
Now that you mentioned that the SKX009 was your first mechanical watch, I realized that the SKX007 was my first mechanical watch. I bought it as a replacement for my stolen SNP005 Seiko Kinetic Perpetual Calendar. The SKX was quite a bit bulkier and heavier on the wrist. I wore it day in and day out for over a year, I think, but then it started to annoy me. I guess it felt a bit too tough-looking for my style, and that’s when I bought a more refined Oris Art Blakey. But the fact that I bought the SKX007 and wore it for quite some time shows you that I certainly don’t hate this watch.
The price of the SKX has gone up a little since Thomas and I bought one. But for around €300, it is indeed a great and very capable watch to pick up. Besides, it’s a true icon within the watch world, and it’s great that it’s so attainable in a hobby where everything just seems to become more expensive by the minute. And yes, I also really like that characteristic, boldly shaped SKX case. The bezel on top with the two rows of teeth has a great feel to it. And I remember that the first things I fell in love with were those flat, oversized flat markers. But…
Out with the SKX, in with the SPB
As I said, it was just a bit much on my wrist. And I must say, the fact that I couldn’t wind it by hand was pretty annoying as well. As a result, since I took it off of my wrist after that first year, I haven’t really worn it again. I haven’t sold it either because I still think it’s a nice piece of Seiko history, but since I feel there should always be a Seiko diver in my collection that I do want to wear, I continued to look around for the right one for me. When Seiko came out with the SPB143, I was immediately intrigued. You’re right, the SPB series might be a bit more expensive, but it’s still quite affordable.
And I feel the price is quite fair for what you get. The finishing is indeed a bit better than on the SKX. I also like the added details like a brushed bezel insert, and I prefer the raised hour markers over the SKX’s flat ones. It’s also very convenient to have a 70-hour power reserve and the ability to wind it by hand if it runs down. There’s no need for the Seiko shuffle here ever again. Admittedly, because I was wearing my SKX almost every day, I didn’t have to do the shuffle that often. But I did have to reset the time every once in a while because its accuracy went pretty much down the drain.
The 6105-8000 re-edition
You’re right, Thomas, when you say that there are probably more accurate watches to get for around €1,000. But with an accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day for the 6R35 movement that is inside many SPB watches, I still find it quite acceptable. But just like the SKX007, I thought the SPB143 was a bit too bulky. So I sold it without having a perfect replacement for it yet. And then, last year, Seiko presented the SPB317, a re-edition of the 6105-8000 diver. And well, Seiko certainly caught my attention with that one, especially because it looked a lot slimmer and more streamlined than many of the brand’s other dive watches.
When we got one in for review, I quickly tried it on and almost immediately placed my order. I know it measures 41mm across, but it wears a lot smaller than that. The bezel action is smooth and clicky at the same time, and it’s almost perfectly aligned. The sapphire crystal gives me peace of mind, and the markers and hands are still filled with a good amount of lume. I also appreciate that I don’t have to set the day and that the date is hidden between the hour markers. I just feel that this is a more refined watch than the SKX in every respect, and that’s something I’m willing to pay a little more for.