There’s wisdom in the old adages that tell us to be wary of first impressions, to not judge books by their covers, and to give things time, because only time will tell. Second Looks are opportunities to revisit watches that have been available for a while – many years, even – and give them fresh consideration after the novelty and marketing hype have passed.
Legend Has It
The SKX007 may be the most frequently recommended mechanical tool watch in recent history. Over the past ten years or so, we journalists touted the SKX007 to the point where the phrase “just get an SKX007” became a default position for those of us asked to recommend a starter tool watch. At some point recommending the SKX007 pretty much became a cliché.
Costing just under $200 and providing the full suite of mechanical dive watch specs as set out in the ISO 6425 standard, it was impossible to beat the SKX007. It also helped that Seiko dive watches had been dubbed legends of the 20th Century – especially the venerable 62MAS and the Turtle that Martin Sheen wore in Apocalypse Now. Seiko divers had always been cool, but influencers made them hip.
Rejecting The Legend
I’ve written extensively about Seiko SKX007s. I’ve gone SCUBA diving, skiing, motorcycling, wood chopping, chicken chasing, and egg scrambling with an SKX007 on my wrist. I’ve bought and sold these affordable mechanical divers over and over again, and I’ve spread the gospel of the venerable SKX007 to many horologically curious folks.
Yet, despite all my fawning over the thing, I never really liked the SKX007 very much. I thought the SKX007 offered good value (it does), but I didn’t think it was a good dive watch – or a particularly good watch at all. As an owner, I found myself avoiding my SKX007s. I would spontaneously give them away, thinking I might turn a friend or family member on to cool mechanical watches – despite never having actually seen the SKX007 turn anyone on to anything.
What blinded me to the SKX007’s shortcomings was that I didn’t take it seriously enough to evaluate it closely. I never isolated its various parts and examined how they fit into the whole. In effect, I skipped the design perspective entirely. I just regurgitated praise for its good value into the echo chamber of influencer-style watch journalism.
But now it’s time for a proper reckoning of the SKX007. It’s time to put some meaningful thought into my distaste for the thing. To do that, I’m going to scrutinize the SKX007, piece by piece using the good old design perspective.
Crown Location & Guards
If we’re aiming to show newcomers how subtle elements impact the overall design of a watch, the asymmetry of the SKX007’s crown (though somewhat functional) may be seen as a negative. But my issue has more to do with how huge and overly guarded that crown is at 4:30. Look at what it does to the lower right-hand lug – we get a goober of steel where sharp sleek edges could have been. Consider that the 62MAS had no crown guards and that most agree the 62MAS is Seikos’ greatest diver, and the SKX007’s crown situation seems inelegant, and even a bit absurd.
Uninspiring Case Edges
Seiko is famous for making some of the sharpest, most beautifully executed watch cases in the world. The SKX007’s case edges are often soft and buttery. My colleague David Flett disagrees, citing Japanese market examples with very clean case edges, but in my experience the edges of SKX007s and their cousins are best left unmentioned when trying to show a newbie what great craftsmanship looks like.
I’ve used the SKX007 while SCUBA diving, and the bezel has no grip. The “knurling” is rounded from polishing (why?), and the edges slope inward as they go up. That combo makes the SKX007’s bezel hard to turn. Add in cold wet fingers, and it’s useless.
Week-date complications are for Presidents, not SCUBA Divers. The most desirable dive watches like Rolex Subs, Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms, Oris Diver 65s, and various Panerai models often forego a date complication all together. Plus it’s a pain to set a weekdater, so newbies will get the impression that mechanical watches are inconvenient and fussy things. That’s especially bad for a tool watch.
Weird, Disjointed Handset
Other than the inelegant, unlumed needles sticking out the ends, not much ties the hour and minute hand together. Typically a broad-arrow goes on the hour hand, but on the SKX007 it is on the minute hand. And we really don’t need the lolly-pop on the wrong end of the seconds-hand cluttering the dial and confusing time-telling. Put the lolly-pop on the right end, or just skip it all together and throw some lume on the tip of the seconds hand.
The strap is hard and uncomfortable, and your newbie friend may find it odd to have to replace a major part of the watch right away. If they don’t replace the strap, they may find wearing the watch uncomfortable. Come on, Seiko, enough with the crappy rubber bands.
Light and cheap feeling, and there’s no diver’s extension, so it’s useless for anything but diving without a wet suit.
Who wore an SKX007 when doing something amazing? No one I can think of. And where does the SKX007 live in the Seiko lineage? It was the replacement for the entry-level 7002 in 1996. The SKX007 commemorates nothing.
The Usefulness of The Design Perspective
While I tend to eschew a detailed analysis in favor of a more experiential report as of late, perhaps I need to return to the Design Perspective more often, for it too can reveal quite a bit about how a watch hits us more generally. I feel I have let myself down by allowing a watch that I was clearly unexcited about stay so dominant in my rotation – and in my work writing about watches.
To all those folks who have bought an SKX007 on my recommendation, I apologize for not, at the very least, offering up some options. I was being lazy in my analysis of the watch, and thus lazy in my recommendations.