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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.
My Seiko SKX173 paired with a Cold Steel American Lawman and Foursevens AA2 flashlight.
Seiko SKX173 Review – 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.
- Quality Japanese Automatic movement; Functions without a battery; Powers automatically with the movement of your arm
- Hardlex crystal
- Case diameter: 42 mm
- Stainless-steel case; Black dial; Date-and-day functions
- Water resistant to 660 feet (200 M): suitable for recreational scuba diving
I recommend purchasing the Seiko SKX173 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.
Awesome! Any other watch reviews or other kinds of gear reviews planned in the works?
Thanks, Andrew! Just the kind of feedback I was hoping for. I am working on some flashlight reviews (so are Ben and Grayson), and I have a few more watches that I am planning on reviewing in the near future. I think I have been bitten by the watch bug, so who knows where it will go.
Beyond that, I may review a few multi-tools, but no immediate plans for stuff outside flashlights/watches/knives. Suggestions are always welcome. It has been fun reviewing something different (although I still have plenty of knives to review).
Excellent review Dan. I actually really enjoyed you talking about the watch from a regular joe, non enthusiast point of view. I can also tell you gave it quite a beating, which is great. We share many similarities– I also want a Submariner eventually but know that now is not the time, so I’m looking to get the 007J. Perhaps the Omega Seamaster can be up next for review? Take care.
Thanks for the kind words and feedback. I am glad you enjoyed this POV, because it’s the only one I can muster at present! I am still very much a novice when it comes to watches, and they are far more complicated than knives.
I will be reviewing the Seamaster Planet Ocean soon. I have one more watch ahead of it (to stick to chronological order), but I am looking forward to writing that review soon. Thanks again.
Hey, great watch review!
I have been wearing an skx007 every day for a little over a year now. I can back you up on its toughness – it has been kicked by my toddlers, I have dropped it into a garbage disposal (not running, obviously…), I have played soccer and tennis with it, swam laps in it, swam in the ocean with it, and it keeps time better than when I bought it. None of those activities scratched the hardlex – but I did manage to scratch it while installing a carseat.
My biggest criticism is something you mentioned – it is quite thick. I will also suggest to anyone considering buying one that you buy it from a reputable seller with a good exchange policy. My first one was a lemon (it was +5min/day). After doing some research I found that this isn’t too uncommon. Occasional warp-speed 7s26’s all slip through QC at the factory. The one I got when I exchanged it quickly settled in at around +10sec and has been reliably in that range ever since.
Looking forward to more watch reviews!
Thank you, Ameer! That is cool that you have a 007. Sounds like yours has been through the wringer as well. There is something really liberating about a mechanical watch like this that you can enjoy on that kind of level. Yes, the thickness is definitely something to consider if you plan on wearing it with dress shirts. Thanks again, Ameer. I appreciate your stopping by to check out the review.
So was this watch originally sold with a stainless steel bracelet? The 173 only seems to be offered with the plastic strap now which coincidentally seems to be your preferred setup?
Hey Andrew, I bought this watch 6 years ago. Mine came with a bracelet, which I ended up not using.
Mike D says
Great review on one of Seiko’s iconic divers. I have the 173 and have also worn 007s and 009s in very harsh environments for many years. They not only look great but are close to bullet-proof in my experience. Compared to diver watches of significantly higher price and allegedly higher quality – it holds its own in my view alongside many of the “greats” in the diver class. Not quite as elegant in the looks department as Omega’s Seamaster series, but equally as resilient (I own 4 Seamasters of various styles – but I also own 4 Seiko divers; 173, 007, 009 and an “Orange Monster”). Although I like the stock jubiliee style bracelet the Seikos come with, some of the higher quality aftermarket versions are quite nice and really improve the overall look and feel of these watches. The Seiko SKX series of divers are, in my opinion, among the “greats” of the genre on the market today, irrespective of price point.
Thank you for stopping by and commenting. The SKX series is tough to ignore with its price and dive pedigree, which is exactly what drew me to the 173 in the first place. I also own a Seamaster and see what you are saying. The Seamasters are definitely more refined (and can be that “one” watch that can be worn for any occasion), but the SKX is a ton of bang for the buck. I have not experimented with an aftermarket bracelet, but I have been curious to try one. It looks like there is a lot to choose from.
Mike D says
For aftermarket bracelets, look at what Strapcode has to offer. Their Oyster, President and Super Jubilee are of the highest quality and a perfect fit to the SKX series in 22mm. I have the President on my 173; solid end links and superior clasp to stock.
Thanks, Mike. I’ll check Strapcode out.
Dan, i have a similar store re. my Seiko Diver ownership. However, I opened the back to adjust its accuracy, damage the rubber seal, allowing water in, and, now it’s not working. Local shops want $150+ to open it up. Any ideas on a good repair person? I’d hate to throw it away and buy a new one, but with new ones going for $225 +/- it’s hard to justify repair.
Thanks in advancey
My parents ended up sending my watch back to Seiko. Apparently they spent over $100 repairing the watch, which is probably more than I would have spent for a $225 piece. I don’t know anyone who works on these who I can recommend. My guess is any efforts to repair the watch are going to cost you a good portion of the replacement value, unless you happen to have a friend who works on automatic watches.
Don Bryant says
Thanks Dan. I think I’ll try Seiko.
I stumbled upon your review of the SKX173 as I was researching mine. I see the original review is a couple years old, but I thought I’d chime in! I’ve had my 173 for close to 15 years, and couldn’t be happier. I probably couldn’t afford it at the time, either, but I’ve never, ever regretted it. I bought it originally as a bicycle courier and needed something outdoor-proof (rain, sleet, snow) and durable (sweat, constant vibration of bad city streets) and the rotating bezel was used to keep track of my critical rush jobs as well as wait time. Over the years I’ve used the bezel multiple times a day for timing pasta, laundry, commute times, you name it. I started out with the rubber band on the recommendation of the salesperson, and with a small wrist (about 6″) I have to wear it at the last (tightest) hole. I cut off the looong extra end of the strap, but sadly lose the embossed wave logo at the end. I’ve had to replace the strap I think 3 times, including just last month. The genuine Seiko bands have a more flexible, rubbery feel than a cheaper, stiffer replacement I’ve used. I haven’t looked into anything else, but there are lots of options for the 22mm size, woven nylon in colors, etc. Today I sent my watch into Seiko for repair because the bezel froze up on me. It has sometimes felt sticky to rotate, but is usually fine after I turn it a few times. Not this time. I’ve had it serviced on one other occasion, and the local jeweler sent it in to Seiko… He mentioned the water-proof gasket. My watch has always been a little fast, maybe picking up 1 minute every week, but it hasn’t been a bother, and by the end of the month I’m a few minutes early for appointments. I also find the day-of-the-month “complication” invaluable, and occasionally set the day-of-the-week to Spanish just for fun. I hope you’ve been continuing to enjoy your 173: an attractive, fantastic value for a durable, automatic divers’ watch!
Thanks so much for the kind comment. Wow, 15 years – I’d say you have a good 7 or so years on me. That is pretty awesome. I’d say 2 services and 3 straps over 15 years is not bad at all! It’s just a testament to how tough and functional this watch is.
Thanks again for stopping by and I hope your 173 gives you many more years of use and enjoyment.
I bought a Rolex Date 30 years ago and as watch styles and I grew in size, my daughter now wears it daily. I purchased a 1999 dateless submariner three weeks ago. Two weeks later I bought the SKX173 to keep the miles off the sub. I have not worn the sub since. The 173 to my eyes, is an absolute classic in terms of style and competes with the sub even though it looks less submariner like that the 007. I love it !