Just a couple of years ago, you couldn’t browse an online watch forum without the Seiko SKX coming up as the most recommended watch for beginners looking for an affordable automatic watch to start their collection.
Once upon a time, I was one of those beginners. Marveled by the mechanical aspect of watches, but overwhelmed with the sheer variety of options out on the market. That is… Until I discovered the Seiko SKX.
The Seiko SKX009 is a reliable dive watch with 200 meters of water resistance and an impressive ISO 6425 certification (more about that later). Its in-house 7S26 movement is an impressive manufacturing feat, however, rather basic, and inacurate. While it’s not the most refined-looking watch, the SKX is absolutely iconic in its history and design.
In this review, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the SKX after wearing it for years, a few strap recommendations, and similarly priced dive watch alternatives you may want to consider if the SKX009 just doesn’t do it for you.
- Diameter: 42mm
- Thickness: 13.5mm
- Lug to lug: 46mm
- Lug width: 22mm
- Weight: 109g
- Water Resistance Rating: 200 meters
- Movement: Seiko 7S26 (21 jewels, 21,600 bph, 40+ hours power reserve)
- Crystal: Hardlex
- Check price on Amazon
The dial on the SKX is designed for one thing, and one thing only: legibility, making it possibly one of the most polarizing things about the watch. The 009 has a matte navy blue that almost looks black in low-light situations. However, the dial reveals itself to be a textured blue when under direct sunlight.
The hour markers, Seiko logo, and 200-meter water resistance rating, written in orange, are all painted on instead of applied, cementing the SKX as a true tool watch that makes no effort to try and display itself as anything but a tool watch.
There are absolutely no applied indices, markers, or otherwise raised surfaces on this dial. This creates a bit of a flat look, and the watch does lack a sense of depth or dimension.
Because of this, many have compared the Seiko SKX to the pre-luxury Rolex Submariners when they were built primarily for function, and not as luxury pieces of jewelry. Some hate this about the SXX, and some love it.
Personally, it’s one of my favorite things about the watch. There are so many modern wristwatches that strive to go above and beyond with extra levels of attention to detail to every little aspect of the watch, the dial, the complications. Sometimes you just want a watch that does its job and does it well. That’s exactly what the dial of the SKX does.
The hour markers are painted with luminescent paint which allows them to glow in the dark. It has some of the best lume I’ve seen on any watch, which is surprising, considering it’s so affordable.
The arrow hands are embossed so they do add a bit of extra light reflection, and they are also painted with the same lume as the hour markers, for extra visibility at night. On the dial, at 3:00, is a white day and date wheel that doesn’t detract from the symmetry of the dial, and adds a bit of extra functionality to an otherwise relatively simple watch.
Overall, the dial is about as subtle as it gets. Its simplicity makes it very easy to read, and the bright lumed hour markers even make it viable to tell the time in the darkest of lighting settings, when charged with just a bit of sunlight.
While the SKX’s dial is subdued, the SKX case, on the other hand, is absolutely brilliant.
The top of the case is brushed, not amazingly well, but definitely above average for this price range. But what really wows me about the case is the well-machined transitions between the top and sides.
Sandwiched between them is a thin, polished bevel that can, ever so slightly, be seen from the top of the case. This creates an additional point for light to reflect off of, which adds a bit of extra dimension and depth. making the watch appear that much more interesting to look at. This is one of the subtle design features that most, including myself, don’t notice until wearing the watch for a while.
The chamfer graduates to the smooth polished sides of the case which are rounded and curved nicely. The sides flare out initially, but taper down a bit toward the case back, which allows you a bit more freedom of motion and comfort when moving your wrist around.
Again, another design feature that goes unnoticed, since it works so well. But if the case wasn’t designed this way, the watch would dig into your wrist more, and believe it or not, this is something that many watch brands overlook.
The coin edge bezel at the top is all polished, which further contrasts with the top of the brushed case, and again adds visual interest. As you can see, Seiko put a lot of thought and effort into designing this case to be appealing visually as well as comfortable.
Finally, the case transitions to the crown guards which protect the crown at the 4:00 position. This crown positioning, compared to crowns traditionally at 3:00, is much more comfortable to wear, though may look a bit visually offputting to some, due to its asymmetrical position.
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of any dive watch is the dive bezel. The bezel on the SKX is a 120-click unidirectional bezel with a coin edge.
Along with its thickness, it’s very easy to grip and turn and clicks into place with a reassuring and satisfying click. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always line up perfectly with the minute markers on the dial and has a bit of back play – two of the most common complaints of the SKX.
The bezel insert is a red and blue Pepsi bezel that is very reminiscent of vintage divers. The aluminum material accentuates this and is a bit more matte than more modern ceramic bezel inserts.
Aluminum bezels will also scratch and fade easier than modern ceramic bezels, creating a patina over time that will show a “worn” look. I’ve actually gone ahead and modded one of my Pepsi bezel inserts with bleach, speeding up the fading process to make it look a bit worn in the process. I also have a regular stock Pepsi bezel insert that I keep as-is, to swap in, depending on how I’m feeling.
Dimensions and Comfort
The Seiko SKX is a perfectly sized mid-sized diver. Coming in at 42mm in diameter, it’s not too big, not too small. Its relatively compact lug to lug length of only 46mm makes it wear well on most wrist sizes without haning over the wrist. It wears near perfectly on my 7″ wrists, and even though I tend to prefer watches closer to the 40mm mark, the SKX doesn’t wear as a large watch.
Its thickness of 13.5mm, however, can make the watch sit tall, and feel a bit chunky on the wrist, which is punctuated when wearing the watch on a NATO strap, as I often do. The NATO strap lifts the watch off the wrist an extra couple of millimeters. While this makes the watch sit taller, it has the added benefit of offering a bit of extra freedom for your wrist to rotate without bumping into the watch case itself. The tapered case of the SKX also helps with this, as the watch gets thinner the closer to the wrist it gets, giving your wrist more freedom to move.
It’s not the lightest watch, coming in at over 100g with just a rubber strap, and is even heavier when you throw it on a steel bracelet. It’s a rather substantial feeling watch that you likely won’t forget you’re wearing, which can be a pro or con for some. I personally prefer the feel of a heftier and more substantial watch such as the SKX over a lighter option. It makes me feel like I’m wearing something of substance and quality, even though weight and quality are not correlated. Just a personal preference.
The stock Jubilee Bracelet is relatively lightweight thanks to its hollow links and conforms around the wrists comfortably. Some complain that it’s a bit of an arm-hair tugger, but I haven’t quite had that issue.
Finally, the large crown at the 3:00 position is moved out of the way of your wrist, and helps making th watch wear comfortably as well.
Water Resistance and ISO 6425 Certification
What’s better than a dive watch than you can actually dive in? Well, how about a professionally rated dive watch that even professionals can dive in?
That’s right. The Seiko SKX features a 200 meters water resistance rating which will allow you to safely swim, shower, or even dive in, without having to fear water damage (as long as your watch is regularly maintained and gaskets are properly sealing the watch. Check with your local watchmaker to confirm).
Further, the Seiko SKX boasts an impressive ISO 6425 Certification rating, which is measured by a series of criteria making the watch suitable for even professional divers. These criteria include water resistance, legibility, functional dive bezel, and more.
Now, if you’re like me, a desk diver who doesn’t do too much actual diving, you might never actually push the limits of the SKX as a pro dive watch. With that said, even just knowing that the SKX is capable of such, if need be, gives a certain sense of confidence and reassurance on my wrist. It’s definitely more of a cool talking point for me whenever my watch comes up in discussion.
Seiko 7S26 Movement and Accuracy
The Seiko 7S26 Movement is a highly regarded low-end in-house Seiko movement. It’s made by Seiko themselves, which is rare for an affordable watch. Many other watch brands will simply outsource the movement for their watch. It boasts a standard 21,600bph and 41+ hour power reserve but unfortunately falls short in the accuracy department.
The 7S26 has a rated accuracy ranging from -20 to +49 seconds per day, which isn’t the most accurate timekeeping. While this accuracy rating from Seiko is a bit generous and safe on their part, I’ve found that my 7S26 movements aren’t that accurate. My SKX loses around 10 seconds per day, which adds up quickly. In just a week of running, the time can be off by a few minutes. This can be partially fixed by opening the watch and regulating it, with a bit of patience and know-how, but that’s for a different article
The movement is pretty basic, in that it doesn’t even have features like hacking and hand winding that we almost come to expect in modern wristwatches. What the 7S26 does deliver, however, its durability and reliability. The 7S26 is known to be very shock-resistant and is sometimes said to live for upwards of 10+ years without ever needing to be serviced.
On the upside, replacement parts for the 7S26 are so affordable and regularly available, that a service, or even a complete movement swap, shouldn’t cost you all that much. Huge benefit of owning and wearing an affordable movement over a more expensive luxury watch with a higher end movement.
- Note: You should still have your watch serviced regularly at least every 4-5 years, even if it doesn’t need one.
Hardlex Crystal – Good and Bad
The Hardlex crystal on the Seiko SKX is a bit of a blessing and a curse. It’s certainly much more scratch resistant than your basic mineral crystal, but not nearly as scratchproof as a stronger, more durable, sapphire crystal.
When the SKX was made in the 90’s, this wasn’t much of a problem. In fact, sapphire crystals weren’t as common on entry-level divers as they are today. But in today’s day and age, with affordable dive watches like the Orient Kamasu and Neptune, and other affordable dive watch alternatives coming out with sapphire crystals, it makes it hard for the SKX to compete.
With that said, the hardlex crystal does have one distinct advantage over sapphire crystals, and that is shatterproofing. A sapphire crystal is essentially glass, so if it were to break, it could potentially shatter and disperse, which could be dangerous and sharp. A hardlex crystal is closer to plastic, so it doesn’t shatter nearly as easily. This was important when dive watches were primarily used for their tool watch functions – diving, when you might actually risk shattering your crystal.
If you’re a desk diver like me, there’s an unlikely chance that you’ll ever actually shatter your crystal, and a watch with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal like the Orient Kamasu might be even more appealing.
Seiko SKX Modding Community
One of the things that made the SKX such a cult classic was the modding community that eventually grew surrounding it. With a few key shortcomings of the SKX, like the lack of hacking and handwinding, and a hardlex crystal instead of sapphire, many third party companies have been producing mods to upgrade the SKX in many ways.
Some of the best mods are the addition of a sapphire crystal and a ceramic bezel insert for added scratch resistance, a more substantial metal bracelet, and you can even swap out the hands, or dial if you so choose.
Of course, a movement swap is also possible, and many modders swap the 7S26 movement for a 4R36 Movement which allows the addition of hacking and hand winding.
Performing the mods can be a task in itself, but can be done with a bit of patience, practice, the right modding tools, and of course, YouTube Tutorials.
Included Rubber Strap & Jubilee Bracelet
The included rubber dive strap and jubilee bracelet that come on the SKX are consistent with many bracelets and straps on affordable watches. They are good, but not great. While I’ve owned an SKX009 with a rubber strap, I’ve quickly replaced it with a third party rubber strap that’s much higher quality. But I have worn the stock jubilee bracelet extensively, so here are my thoughts:
The Jubilee bracelet included with the SKX is very lightweight. This was unexpected and almost concerning, the first few times I wore it on the wrist. Is it going to hold up? Is it going to break on me? It feels so flimsy, should I just get rid of it? Well, after wearing it for a couple of years, on and off, I have decided that it’s actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a much better bracelet than its feel would suggest. Sure, the links are lightweight and hollow, as are the end links. The clasp isn’t machined well, and the entire bracelet feels a bit unsubstantial. But it is extremely comfortable and conforms around the wrist nicely.
Eventually, I’ve gone on to replace it with a much heftier and more substantial jubilee bracelet by Strapcode. Overall, with its solid links and end links, screws instead of push-pins, and a much better finish, it feels much more quality and makes the SKX feel like a much more expensive watch than it really is. But it’s absolutely not a necessity, and I enjoyed the stock bracelet while I wore it.
Bracelet and Strap Suggestions
So let’s say the basic Jubilee or rubber dive strap that comes with the SKX just doesn’t cut it for you. Here are a few different straps I enjoy wearing on my SKX instead.
Strapcode Super-J Louis and Super-O Boyer Bracelets
The Strapcode Super-J Jubilee and Super-O Oyster bracelets are much heftier and more substantial than the stock SKX bracelet. They are better machined with solid links, end-links, and screws instead of pushpins. They also come with a much more premium-feeling machined divers clasp.
Overall, they are a significant upgrade to the stock SKX bracelet or strap. It won’t change the look of the watch all that much and aesthetically looks rather similar to the stock Jubilee. But if you are someone, like myself, who cares about the way a watch bracelet feels and wears on the wrist, the Strapcode upgrade is a no brainer. This is my daily wear for everyday use, and for when I want to dress up the SKX just a bit, as the jubilee adds a bit of bling.
Crafter Blue Rubber Fitted Strap
Nothing makes a watch feel more luxurious and complete than having a strap that’s fitted and curved precisely to the specifications of its case. The Crafter Blue Rubber straps are fitted perfectly to fit the SKX with no gap in between. It’s also relatively thick and substantial, water-resistant, breathable, and incredibly comfortable. This is my go-to for the warmer months when I plan on doing lots of swimming at the beach or pool.
A NATO strap is the best of both worlds between comfort and function. It’s extremely comfortable, lightweight, and breathable on the wrist. It’s also highly adjustable to fit any wrist size. It’s great for swimming since it’s waterproof, and best of all, you can even machine wash it.
They’re relatively affordable, so you can try out a ton of different color combinations. My personal favorite on the SKX009 is a steel grey or navy blue, depending on my mood. Just make sure you get a properly sized 22mm strap to fit the lug width of the SKX.
Leather Straps… On A Diver!
Uh-oh, here come the haters. I know wearing a leather watch strap is typically frowned upon on a dive watch, since the dive watch is made for wearing in the water, and a leather strap is not water-resistant. However, I am a desk diver. When I go swimming, I’ll wear a diver on a rubber or nato strap. But when I’m just keeping it casual, a cool brown leather strap helps make the SKX feel a bit less sporty and a bit more classic. To each their own, of course. I suggest trying a brown distressed leather strap to compliment the vintage nature of the SKX009, or even a navy blue crocodile strap if you want something a little more contemporary and daring.
Alternatives to the Seiko SKX
The SKX is a fantastic watch, but it does have a few shortcomings. Luckily, there are plenty of alternative dive watches you might want to consider, depending on your needs and budget. Here are a few:
Orient Kamasu (Best Overall Value Alternative)
The SKX used to be considered the best affordable dive watch on the market. I’d argue the Orient Kamasu has since replaced the SKX for that title. Its new and updated specifications – such as the additions of hacking and hand-winding and a sapphire crystal, make it a serious contender for the new best affordable dive watch.
It also has 200 meters of water resistance and a screw-down crown, like the SKX. I picked up a red-dial Kamasu not too long ago, and it has been getting a ton of wrist time ever since.
Seiko SKX vs Seiko 5 Sports Divers
Rumored to be the new upgrade to the SKX, the new Seiko 5 Sports Divers are a modern interpretation of the SKX design. The new Seiko 5s add hacking and hand winding, and a wide variety of color schemes, but the water resistance is downgraded to 100 meters, and the watch lacks a screw-down crown. This is a great choice for those who want a more refined-looking SKX, but also doesn’t necessarily need all of the pro dive watch specs that the SKX provided.
If you’re looking for an even more significant modern upgrade to the Seiko SKX, look no further than the Orient Neptune. This is a diver that comes in under $500. While it’s a bit more expensive, it comes packed full of features like a premium movement, sapphire crystal, and even a power reserve complication – rare to see in such affordable divers. In my opinion, the Orient Neptune is the cream of the crop of modern entry-level divers. While the cheaper Orient Kamasu is a bit more affordable, and a great entry-level watch, it lacks a few key upgrades compared to the full-featured Neptune.
Marc from Long Island Watches recently released his own lineup of watches branded “The Islander” that are essentially modded upgrades to the Seiko SKX. They upgrade almost every shortcoming that the SKX had, including:
- Replacing the hardlex crystal with a sapphire crystal.
- Replacing the aluminum bezel with a ceramic bezel.
- Including a solid bracelet with solid endlinks.
- Replacing the movement to the 4R36 with hacking and handwinding.
With that said, the overall design aesthetic and dimensions stay true to the original SKX in many ways. In fact, I even believe Long Island Watches uses real SKX cases, with idential dimensions to the original, for their Islander mods.
It’s also competitively priced. I’ve priced out how much it costs to really mod a Seiko SKX, and the final price of all the parts individually tends to cost even more than just buying an Islander.
Seiko PADI Turtle and Mini Turtle
The Seiko Turtle and Mini Turtle are both ISO certified dive watches by Seiko, with 200 meters of water resistance and screw-down crowns. As such, they’re sometimes described as the true modern upgrade to the SKX. They have all of the functions of the SKX, and come in a variety of different color variations, including a pepsi variation for each.
There are a few distinctions between the full-sized Turtle and its little brother, the Mini Turtle, but the main distinction is size. The Seiko Turtle is the better choice for those with a larger wrist, while the Mini Turtle for those with a smaller wrist. Like the SKX, they’re both great dive watches in their own right and dare I say, even a bit more refined looking.
Seiko SKX Variations
Seiko SKX009J vs SKX009K
The difference between the SKX009J and SKX009K versions are simply:
- Where it’s manufactured. The SKX009J is manufactured in Japan, and the SKX009K is manufactured most often in Malaysia.
- Text on the dial. The SKX009J model will read “Made in Japan” in very small text, just above the chapter ring at the 6:30 position. The SKX009K version simply reads 7S26 – the name of the movement inside.
- Price. Typically, the japanese made SKX009J model is a bit more coveted, and thus, rarer, and more expensive. The SKX009K is more easily found, and thus, more affordable. Whether or not this minor variation is worth the added cost is up to you.
SKX009 vs SKX007
Another alternative to the SKX009 is the SKX007. The only difference between them is the color. The SKX009 has a navy blue dial with a Pepsi bezel, while the SKX007 has a black dial and black bezel.
The SKX175 is simply the North American only variation of the SKX009. There’s no functional difference between the two, aside from a small difference in text, with the SKX175 reading “Made in MALAYSIA” at the bottom of the dial.
SKX013 vs SKX011
The SKX013 is an even smaller variation of the SKX, coming in at 38mm, with a black dial and bezel insert, visually similar to the SKX007.
The SKX011 has the same dimensions as the SKX013, but with an orange dial and a black bezel insert with yellow markings instead.
Quality Control Issues
One of the major complaints of the Seiko SKX is quality control issues. This can range from a misaligned bezel insert to a misaligned chapter ring. I’ve even seen a few complain that their date wheel isn’t quite centered.
I wish I could tell you that Seiko has improved their quality control of the Seiko SKX over time and that the newer models are better than the old ones, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Just be cautious and ask lots of questions to your seller that everything aligns if you do plan on picking an SKX up.
Alignment issues like on this bezel insert aren’t all that uncommon in the SKX. If you’re buying one, it’s always good to ask the seller if the particular model they’re going to sell you has any alignment issues you should be aware of.
Of course, buying in person is always the best way to ensure you’re getting a model with good quality control, but that’s not always a possibility.
Is the Seiko SKX Discontinued?
Yes, since 2019, the Seiko SKX has been discontinued.
The Final Verdict
Its unpretentious tool-watch design and pure functionality made the Seiko SKX one of the most highly recognized and well regarded dive watches of all time.
You’ll find one in the collection of many watch enthusiasts, belonging equally in a watch box full of affordable or next to a luxury timepiece, and for good reason. With 200 meters of water resistance, a screw-down crown, ISO 6425 certification, and a simple design, the Seiko SKX simply offered a value proposition that made it one of the best entry-level watches for quite a while.
While the SKX isn’t without flaws, like its lack of hacking and hand-winding and a hardlex crystal instead of a scratch resistant sapphire, the SKX009 is a watch that I’m very happy to have in my collection, and continue to wear.
The Seiko SKX have had their production discontinued in 2019, however, they can still be found for purchase on many online retailers such as Amazon.
I hope this review was helpful! Let me know if you have any thoughts on the SKX in the comments down below.
Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API