By Jeffrey the Barak.
An appreciative look at the Seiko SKX007
It is common for men who collect affordable watches to have between one and several Seiko SKX007 diver’s watches in their collection. It has become a standard classic watch against which others are measured. Perhaps only the Rolex Submariner shares this role in being such a universal standard to which other watches are compared.
The 007 is a big watch, with a diameter of 42.5 mm excluding the crown. (The Rolex above has a case diameter of 40mm but the photos are not to scale). Even with the oversize trend bringing us wrist clocks of 50 mm and beyond, no one would ever say that 42.5 mm was not a big watch by any standard.
The Seiko SKX007 uses the most common movement found in many different Seiko and Seiko 5 watches in this price range, the 7S26. It is a reasonably accurate automatic self-winder with quick set day and date and no hacking feature. But this article is not about the movement. There are already several online reviews to be found that take a more detailed and technical look at this icon. Rather I am writing about the SKX007 as the staple of any collection, and hopefully about its general style.
Men’s watches today have settled into a few pigeonholes, with the largest category being that of the diver’s watch. Depth ratings vary but the 200 meter rating of the 007 places it in the most common group.
Most owners of this widely owned watch would never be caught scuba diving to the rated limit of 200 meters below the surface of the sea, or even snorkeling at half a meter, or in some cases they would never be seen wet, but the solid, strong weight and feel of a diver and the undeniable usefulness of the time elapsed rotation bezel make the divers watch the ideal tool for life on dry land also. After all, you can time all your cooking and parking and then clean your watch with water.
The 007 is a reasonably big, but not too big, plain vanilla, middle of the road diver that has evolved from older popular Seikos like the cushion cased 6309. It tells you the date and the day, although if it happens to be around midnight you never be too sure of the wheels have jumped to the next day or date yet, or you may see them not quite reaching the dials window. The time displayed is usually pretty close to accurate, or more often a tiny bit fast than a little slow. But this is no quartz and such things are to be expected from a real watchmakers movement.
My first Seiko was a different diver. No date, no steel (well maybe inside the movement, but the case and bracelet were Titanium). That was an SKX403 and one day in 2003 a burglar dropped by the house and took it away.
Not long after that day I was in downtown L.A. with a small clip of twenties and a shopping list that read “watch” Two watches caught my eye and made it to the short list that day. The SKX007 and the SKX781 Orange Monster. I bought the Monster and wore it for five years. But by the end of that five year Monster period, I was buying and selling other watches with enough frequency that I came to the realization that I was a flipping crazy collector.
So after some delay, in 2008 I finally and belatedly got myself an SKX007. I chose a Jubilee bracelet as it’s mount because I liked the way the small shiny center links complimented the bezel grip. I really admired the watch and imagined it was all I needed. I considered making it my one and only. But for the 007, the timing was bad, because it came into my life during one of those mood swings that occasionally confounds collectors. I am constantly torn between wanting to own every watch I like, and being a one watch minimalist.
Shortly after receiving my new 007 I also acquired my favorite watch, a Japan market Seiko Prospex SBCB009 Solar Titanium Scuba. Visually, a direct descendant of my SKX403 that was stolen in 2003. This watch sent me to eBay to sell everything else, including my 007 which was really in 99% new condition at the time. There was one thing about the 007 that I didn’t like. The minute hand. Something about that shiny edged arrow shape just bugged me and when it was time to cull, the 007 was gone, along with all my others save for the Solar.
But over time as the collection started to pull itself back together after a brief one-watch Nirvana, I felt the need to consider another 007. At a Poor Mans Watch Forum Get-Together (PMWG GTG) in Orange County California, I saw a few nicely modified watches based on either the 007 or the 6309 or 7002.
By this time I had become an enthusiast of modified watches, and was enjoying a great SNK809 mod, so after much back and forth, I commissioned a 007 with a yellow dial. But I made an error of judgement with that one. The hands should have been blacker. Alas I could not easily see the time, mainly due to the wrong choice of hands, so within a few days, I had it for sale. Without pausing to breathe I then commissioned another one. This time with the standard, unmodified dial, but with a red plongeur hand set.
The 007 is a very common platform for the watch modifiers. The widely used 7S26 movement will take a wide variety of modified dials and hands, and with replacement bezel inserts and various case finishes, you can have thousands of varieties of this watch, which comes only one way from the factory.
Of course this means the modifiers have piles of 007 dials sitting around that have been removed from 007s during the modification process. Having come across a picture of a 007 dial shoehorned into a non-diver, I unexpectedly realized something. The original dial is great! It does not have steel edged applied dot markers like the Seiko SKX031 (Submariner style), but rather just delicious blobs of luminous white on a flat black background. Paired with the cartoonish red and white of the custom plongeur hand set, this dial makes the 007 a visual riot of clear precise time comprehension. A blend of Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse and Jacques Cousteau.
In fact Ill say that the original hands of the 007 do not do its intensely dotty dial justice. The shiny edges of the original hands distract the eye from those crazy white dots floating on their sea of inky black.
So my new 007 mod, a riotous conglomeration of brushed steel, matte black, luminous white, and red paint, would be quite at home in a cartoon and it is certainly at home on my wrist.
I have experienced the oversize craze, enjoyed it and moved through it. I now know my ideal case diameter is somewhere around 39 mm, but for a good design exceptions are made. And its worth going back up to 42.5 mm again in order to enjoy the standard classic diver that is the 007.
Jeffrey the Barak spends too much time thinking about watches and is the publisher of the-vu