In the same way we adore supercars from Ferrari and Lamborghini, we love discussing the latest perpetual calendar from Patek Philippe or the merits of an A. Lange & Söhne moonphase. Daydreaming about wearing seven figures of mechanized luxury on your wrist is nice, but sooner or later something needs to fill the void. Instead of thinking about the high-dollar stuff, let’s look at a reasonable, respected, and well-known watch you can buy without calling your broker: the Seiko SKX Diver.
Seiko is a budget’s best friend. The scale of the brand’s product lineup is staggering, ranging from the sub-$100 Seiko 5 family all the way to Rolex-fighting Grand Seikos. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got $60 or $6,000 to spend, there’s a Seiko for you.
In fact, it’s difficult to think of another brand that consistently provides such good value. More specifically, Seiko’s SKX diver watches offer some of the best bang for your buck imaginable, provided you don’t mind joining the legions of fans who have already picked them up.
The SKX family includes a sizable portfolio of affordable divers, but we’re going to focus on the classic black SKX007 and two-tone “Pepsi” SKX009 (pictured here). It is a series of excellent do-anything, go-anywhere mechanical watches that combine classic design with reliable durability in an affordable package.
This watch family’s history is traced back to the 1965 ref. 6217 (known affectionately as the 62MAS), an iconic dive watch rated for a then-impressive 150 meters. As divers grew in popularity, so did Seiko’s product portfolio. In 1975, the lineup began to split into two distinctly different tiers: the professional, career-focused diving watches and the less-capable, much more affordable recreational models. The latter line evolved into the landmark Seiko 7002, which was released in 1988. It lasted in production through 1996, when it was replaced by the aesthetically similar SKX.
Just because the SKX is affordable doesn’t mean it’s the least bit of a compromise on performance. It’s very much a watch suitable for accomplished divers, having received the vaunted ISO 6425 standard. To obtain this ISO certification, diving watches must meet a list of requirements that include 100-meter water resistance, the use of a unidirectional rotating bezel, and readability, magnetic resistance, and physical shock resistance standards. The 42mm steel case is beefy, sits high on the wrist, and feels every bit as tough as advertised. Seiko’s SKX carries the Diver’s 200m rating, which is way beyond the needs of someone who only swims, fishes, or surfs. In fact, a Diver’s 200m resistance is suitable for essentially any aquatic activity outside of hardcore saturation diving.
Thanks to the ISO compliance requirements, the SKX is just plain overbuilt. If you do manage to crack the mineral crystal or dislodge the bezel, parts are cheap, plentiful, and easily replaceable. This extends to the movement as well. That unit is Seiko’s trusty 7S26 movement, an automatic, day-date, 21-jewel workhorse that’s found in the majority of the watchmaker’s entry-level offerings. Unfortunately it is only wound by the rotor, meaning the SKX’s screw-down crown is only used for setting the time and the date. Regardless, we’ll put up with that very slight inconvenience as a trade-off for SKX’s trusty reliability and low replacement costs.
Don’t like what you see? No problem. The SKX is one of the most popular watch platforms to modify. New dials, bezels, hands, and crystals are all available in the thriving Seiko mod community.
Surprisingly, the SKX doesn’t suffer many competitors. As far as mechanical divers go, it’s difficult for small start-up brands to offer the level of finishing Seiko achieves due to the brand’s massive resources. In fact, the only other mainstream sub-$300 mechanical diver worth its salt is the Orient Mako, a watch from one of Seiko’s many sub-brands. Outside of mechanical, the Casio MDV106 is a battery-powered diver that’s available for substantially less than the SKX.
Prices for the SKX begin in the region of $175, best purchased through the many sellers on Amazon. Trust us: For the money, you won’t find a better, more capable mechanical diver than the SKX.