This article was first published on Scottish Watches on February 26, 2020
My grandad led an interesting life. He worked for Shell and did a couple of long stints working overseas. In the early 80s he lived in Japan with my grandma and uncle. My grandparents really enjoyed their time in Japan, the culture, the art, the food, riding around Tokyo on their mopeds. They brought their love of Japan back to the U.K. Visiting their house as a child it was always fascinating, it was filled with paintings, lamps, delicate paper ornaments, hand painted dishes and cups. I can remember looking through books about sumo wrestling and origami, having Japanese meals with sticky rice and learning to use chopsticks. It was like a little glimpse of Japan. My grandad was also an accomplished recreational diver and a lover of gadgets and technology. Every Christmas he would give me little electronics kits or tools. Thinking about it now his influence and encouragement has ultimately contributed to me pursuing a career in engineering. He also appreciated quality and value. Whether it was cars, TVs or holidays he would do his research, read extensively and make an informed decision. In recent years his daily watch was a steel, blue dialed, quartz Seiko on a bracelet. I don’t know the size or the model number, but I think it was the perfect watch for him. It was smart, robust, reliable, and functional. A watch that he could wear with anything, anywhere, any day without thinking about it, but at the same time it hinted at his love of Japan, his love of technology, his personality. I know that watches are antiquated in this digital age but they can still tell a story.
In early 2019 my grandad was diagnosed with cancer and sadly he passed away. He led a life that I think most people aspire to, filled with family, friends, travel and adventure. When I think about him there’s a strange mix of happy memories and grief. It was while he was ill that I decided to buy my first Seiko, the SKX007. The fact that it was the same brand that he wore, a Japanese brand, a dive watch, a sensible choice and according to Jack Forster “probably the single best value at any price point”, made it the right watch for me. I appreciate that it is only a watch and that it isn’t his watch, or even the same model that he wore, but every time I look at it or wear it, it reminds me of him.
The SKX007 is a modern classic with a big fan following in the watch community. Jack Forster’s article “The Value Proposition The Seiko SKX007 Diver’s Watch” gives a better summary of the watch and its appeal than I ever will.
I like the jingle jangle bracelet, it is embarrassingly comfortable when compared with the bracelets on much more expensive watches. I also like the fact that the dial, chapter ring and bezel don’t quite line up perfectly, it’s a known quirk of the SKX007 and, if I’m honest, I would have been disappointed if they lined up perfectly on mine. The watch meets the ISO 6425 criteria for a dive watch so you know it is going to be robust, hard wearing and more water-resistant than most people will ever need. It is also watch that has been very popular with moders over the years. People have done everything from changing the bezel and hands to forcing patina or PVD coating them. There’s a remarkable variety of modification out there.
As an engineer I work with a lot of people that are into tools and toys. I would say that in my office there’s a wide range of watch ownership groups represented. There are a lot of people with Apple watches, smart watches or fitness trackers. Probably an equal number of people with their one good watch, mostly TAG or Omega with the odd Breitling or Rolex thrown in. One guy that double wrists a Datejust and a Fitbit every day. And there are a handful of collectors. Some of them are at the more fashion watch end of the spectrum, which I totally understand and respect, matching your watch to your outfit and having a selection of pieces to choose from is fun regardless of the cost. Then there are the guys that are into mechanical watches and micro brands, the people whose watch fascination is closer to my own. I have probably over simplified things while trying to categorise the kinds of watch wearers in my office, but it is fair to say there is a sliding scale and a wide range of appreciation. I guess the same is true of every hobby.
A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my colleagues, who’s at the mechanical watches and micro brands end of the spectrum, was wearing a new Seiko 5 and that he very quickly put it on a bond NATO. When an appropriate moment arose I asked him about his new watch, when he got it and what he thought about it. I then offered to bring in my SKX007, currently on a Barton BandsFlatwater silicone strap, so that we could do a comparison.
I think that it’s interesting that despite the fact that both our watches are unmodified we have both currently chosen to put them on third party straps. I guess changing straps is all part of the watch geek fun.
So how do the watches compare? I posted a couple of photos on my Instagram and it is like a game of spot the difference. Beyond the case shape, almost every feature is different yet at a glance they look virtually the same. The Seiko 5 has a push-in crown and 100m water resistance whereas the SKX007 has a screw down crown and 200m water resistance, both of which are more than adequate for what daily life throws at them.
The Seiko 5 has applied indices, an exhibition case back, fewer bezel markings, a much smoother bezel action, a different font size, other than the shape everything is subtly different. You could easily justify both watches in your collection, although if you’ve read this far you probably don’t need any further encouragement!
A big part of the appeal of the new Seiko 5 is the broad range of standard colours and styles that are available. It is almost like Seiko have seen how people like to modify the SKX007 and they have created a pre-modified range. If you want a dark coated case, as per my colleagues watch, or a green dial or a Milanese style bracelet then they have an off the shelf option for you. For the moders, this might be less appealing but for the watch fans looking for something with a little more personality, beyond a stainless steel dive watch with a black dial, there are some great options. My colleague has actually said that he’s considering getting another Seiko 5, which I can understand, there’s a lot of variety within the range. I think the range is an interesting move when you think about the variety of micro (and not so micro) brand options available at a similar price point. Brands like Spinnaker appear to have a constantly expanding range of colour and finish options, in some ways the Seiko 5 range seems to be like one of the big players trying to keep up.
So would I wear a Seiko 5? Absolutely, Seiko has a special appeal for me, but beyond that, I think they have created a good value watch with lots of appealing elements. In fact I would go as far as saying that the applied indices, the bezel and the exhibition case back are all better features than those on the SKX007. I could definitely imagine wearing one on a bracelet as my daily watch. A good dive watch can easily be worn with a suit or shorts and works seamlessly in most scenarios. This watch definitely fits the bill.