I am going to attempt something different here and write a series of reviews on watches. Being that this is the first watch review in the series, I figured that I might as well start at the beginning – at least in terms of my personal journey with watches. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. You likely wont find much technical detail here, or mention of the word “horology”… who knows, maybe I will get there eventually.
So lets begin at the beginning: My dad has owned a Rolex Submariner for as long as I can remember. He told me his one big regret about the watch was not buying it sooner. With that kind of paternal influence it wasn’t long before I began pining for a dive watch of my own. The problem was that I was starting grad school at the time. To say I didn’t have much money was an understatement. I financed my graduate education on student loans and summer jobs, so I don’t know what the hell I was thinking wanting to buy a watch. I certainly didn’t have the money for a Submariner.
But I was still drawn to dive watches, and I wanted something that had an automatic movement and some history to it. In doing my homework I stumbled across the humble Seiko SKX173. Most are more familiar with it’s brother, the SKX007. At any rate, much like Rolex, Seiko has its own rich history of making dive watches. Plus, the SXK173 could be acquired for around $200. It was still $200 that I didn’t have at the time, but before I knew it the watch was at my doorstep.
Intended Use and Background Info
This is supposed to be about the watch and not about me, but I also think it’s important to caveat the review and provide some perspective to the reader. I’m not a diver and don’t play one on the internet. I just happen to like dive watches. They have a lot of versatility. If you wear a sleek diver on a bracelet it looks good whether you are wearing jeans or a suit. On a rubber strap, the watch takes on a more casual look. Theoretically you could have a nice diver be your one watch.
I wore my SKX173 religiously for 2 years. That is, until, I broke it. I was digging a ditch in my back yard. It was hot, and I don’t remember what exactly was going on, but when I looked down at my wrist I recall the time being off – completely off. All the shock must have broken the movement. Years later I sent the 173 in to Seiko and they fixed it for around $100.
I still have the watch and wear it occasionally. It is pretty beaten up. I lifted weights with it, swam with it, drank unhealthy quantities of beer with it, and generally thrashed around with it for a couple years. At this point the watch has been scuffed, scratched, dented, and dinged. Although I never explored a shipwreck with it, I certainly did not baby my SKX173.
Case and Movement
The SKX173 has 41mm case, is 13.5mm thick, has a lug to lung length of 46mm, weighs about 2.8 ounces (just the head – no bracelet), and is made in Malaysia. It is on the larger side, even for a diver. I think it looks good on my ~7″ wrist. It’s not comically large, although it certainly has some presence. The case is stainless steel. The sides and back of the case are polished, while the face has a brushed satin finish. The edges are beveled, providing a neat transition between the finishes.
The the screw down crown sits at 4 o’clock, and is protected by a molded crown guard. The 4 o’clock crown is a signature Seiko look, and also serves the function of not poking the back of your hand as easily as a 3 o’clock crown. The screw in case back is solid steel, and has a wave logo on it. Some have remarked that this is a homage to Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” woodblock print, but who really knows for sure. All I know is that between the screw down crown and the screw in case back, this watch is rated for 200M of water resistance. I haven’t taken mine below 10 feet.
Seiko selected a Caliber 7S26 movement for the 173. This is a popular automatic Japanese movement found on many Seiko divers. I am not going to sit here and pretend that I know much about the 7S26, or watch movements in general for that matter. All I know is that my 173 kept decent time. I usually had to adjust it every month or so. Here is a link to a great article on the 7S26 movement for those who want to learn more about it.
Dial and Bezel
The dial of the SKX173 features rectangular raised hour markers, and a triangle at 12 o’clock. I greatly prefer this look over the round markers on the 007. I also like the way the dial is laid out. It’s simple, but there are still details to enjoy. I also like how there is not a lot of writing on the dial. “SEIKO AUTOMATIC” and “DIVER’S 200M” in red is all that adorns the face.
The 173 includes a day/date feature (or a day/date “complication” in watch parlance). For me, the date is a must have on a watch, and is something I rely on all the time. I could live without having the day of the week on the dial as it’s one more thing to deal with, and as a working stiff I am already finely attuned to what day of the week it is.
The hands are angular and luminous, and suit the look of the dial. The tip of the second hand is also given some luminous paint (or “lume”). Speaking of lume, the stuff Seiko puts on their divers is the stuff of legend, and this 173 is no different. It is very bright, and holds a charge long into the night.
Rounding things out is a Hardlex crystal. Hardlex is not as scratch resistant as sapphire, but is better than a mineral crystal. Mine has held up pretty well over the years. It has picked up a few fine scratches (the kind you can only see if you look for them in the right light). No chips or cracks, although I am sure if you drop the watch on concrete bad things will happen.
Since this is a purpose built diver, the 173 comes equipped with a 120 click unidirectional bezel. The bezel takes some effort to manipulate, and is not something that will easily be brushed aside. I like the action of this bezel. Many an hour was spent absentmindedly manipulating it. The bezel is also functional. I end up using the bezels on my divers for timing everything from steaks on the grill, to billable hours at the office.
Bracelet and On the Wrist
My SKX173 came with a jubilee style stainless steel bracelet. It had hollow end links, a feature I quickly discovered that I did not like. The hollow links felt cheap in comparison to the rest of the watch, and did not follow the lines of the case. I quickly swapped the bracelet out for a Seiko rubber strap, and haven’t looked back (I don’t even know where the bracelet is at this point – hence pics of the strap only). The SKX accepts a 22mm strap or bracelet, and there is a ton of OEM and aftermarket options out there. I found that my strap fell apart after a year or so, but for $20 they are easy enough to replace (although I scratched the hell out of the back of the case in the process – if you aren’t patient, this is best left to the experts).
I like the way the 173 wears, but wish it was a little thinner. At 13.5mm, it doesn’t hide underneath a shirt cuff easily, and the prominent bezel catches your cuff easily. As a student it was a fun and distinctive watch, and a nice casual look with shorts and a polo shirt. Now that I am working in an office, it is less appropriate. But the 173 is still great for evenings and weekends, and with a bracelet you could wear it with a dress shirt if you want to. It has some weight to it, but nothing out of the ordinary for a thick chunk of stainless steel.
Seiko SKX173 – Final Thoughts
Looking back, I am glad I bought my SKX173 – even if I really couldn’t afford it at the time. It scratched my itch for a fancy automatic diver for quite a few years, and I made some good memories wearing that watch. I have put the 173 through its paces, and it has more or less stood the test of time. Just don’t dig any ditches with it and you should be fine.
What I like about the SKX173 is that you get an attractive automatic watch with a real dive pedigree to it, and you can get it for around $200. I wasn’t ready to buy a Rolex, but I didn’t want something that was trying to be a Rolex either (there are a ton of cheap Submariner “homages” out there for those wanting that look). I wanted something that could stand on its own, with its own history and it’s own traditions. There aren’t a lot of sub $1000 watches that can do that, let alone a sub $250 watch. I think I made a great choice with the SKX173.
If your budget is especially tight, you can find a SKX007 for around $150. At that price I think you will be hard pressed to find a more serviceable automatic dive watch.
If you would like to buy a Seiko SKX173, I recommend purchasing it at Amazon.com. Please consider that buying anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.