There is no shortage of diver watches in the market. Arguably the most popular watch of all time is a diver’s watch, and yet, it’s not like you can buy a Rolex Submariner every other Wednesday. What is the everyman to do when looking for the best price/quality ratio? Why, let’s take a look at the undisputed king of the sub-$200 range, the mighty SKX007 I mean, SKX013.
Make no mistake. SKX007 reviews abound on the web while its smaller sibling is often forgotten. A glaring mistake, in my opinion, given the prevalence of small wrist folks (like yours truly) with burning holes in their pockets. Also, I am thoroughly convinced that the 013 is prettier than its larger brother. Before finding out why, let’s get the basic specifications out of the way:
- Full reference: SKX013K2
- Case material: Stainless Steel
- Case diameter: 37 mm
- Lug width: 20 mm
- Lug-to-lug length: 43 mm
- Thickness: 13 mm
- Movement: 7s26 (non-hackable)
- Power reserve: 41 h
- Frequency: 21,600 bph
- Manual wind: None
SKX013 Case Style
Built out of stainless steel, I was immediately drawn to the alternate brushed and polished surfaces. This level of quality really punches above its price range (a recurring theme throughout this review). In my opinion, the overall proportion of the case is more beautiful than the one on the 007. The proportionally longer lugs versus the size of the dial work together to imbue the 013 with a rather charming vintage look. The only downside of the 013 is that, due to the fact it uses the same movement as the 007, it results on a slightly awkward thickness. Small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.
For this price offering I would forgive Seiko for making the back of the case plain and boring. Seiko thought otherwise and decided to gift us with a marvelous Japanese treasure. A simplified rendition of “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” graces the back of the case, along with technical information about the case model number and serial number. Truly an absolute joy to gaze at before and after wearing the watch.
The unidirectional bezel is a delight to use. I find myself looking for excuses to operate every time I can. The action is incredible and has no play whatsoever. The ridged edge is easier to grasp than many watches above this price category. It is readily evident that Seiko values functionality above everything else, without sacrificing the looks of its watches.
Screw Down Crown
The crown at 4 o’clock is a welcomed rarity. Perfectly guarded against accidental knocks, it screws down to prevent water damage to a rating of 200 meters. Not too shabby for a $200 watch. I just wish it was signed with a beautiful ‘S’ or something. It has three positions, out of which only two are of any use. The normal unscrewed position won’t wind the watch. Pulling it out one position enables the owner to change the day and date, which in this particular model alternates between English and Arabic for the days of the week (I’m told some variants display English and Spanish). Sadly, the third position does not hack the movement, it only serves to set the time. I’ll get into the details of the movement later.
Classic Diver Dial
A very contrasty matte black dominates the dial. This choice of color enhances legibility in all conditions. At 3 o’ clock we can see the day and date window in white. At 6 o’clock, the text “Diver’s 200m” is etched on orange/red. Unlike the SKX007, no “21 jewels” text is to be found here, as there is no evidence that the mythical SKX013J has ever existed. All in all, a very spartan look here, with no applied logos or fancy stuff. Pure, unadulterated Japanese efficiency.
How about taking an actual dive with this watch? Sadly, I can only report from my desk-diving experience, but the lume in the SKX013 is absolutely fantastic. Its brightness matches that of my Omega Seamaster Professional, and easily lasts throughout the night hours.
Lastly, those hands. Online pictures don’t do them justice, and I know that much because I use to hate them based only in pictures. Man, was I proven wrong. The metallic edges of the hour and minute hands perfectly match the polished surfaces of the case, while the seconds hand has a delicate arrow shape, which again, in my opinion, is far more beautiful than the lollipop hand of the 007. Even better: unlike in the 007, the lumed portion of the seconds hand is actually on the correct side, making it easier to tell the exact time in the dark (not that it really matters with the 7s26, as I will talk about later on).
The Hardlex crystal on the SKX line is a definite improvement over the classic acrylic crystals of yesteryear, while not being as expensive as sapphire. My favorite thing about it is the fascinating distortions achieved at the edge of the dial, which play with the shape of the markers and accentuate the vintage look of the watch.
Bracelet & Clasp
This being a SKX013K2 variant, a Jubilee bracelet was fitted on to the case. The K1 variant has a rubber strap, which to be honest I’m not too fond of. Much has been said about the Seiko Jubilee, good and bad, but I will tell you this much: I absolutely love it. It is light and supple, with an almost elastic quality.
It is fairly comfortable and there is no hair pinching whatsoever. Granted, I haven’t handled a Rolex Jubilee, and I’m certain those are a whole other level of quality, but I do know the most comfortable bracelet in the business (Bond Seamaster) and I can tell you I’m fine with either the Jubilee and the Bond, and that is saying something.
Even the clasp is awesome. First of all, it enables micro-adjustments, which is nice to have on summer and winter. Second, it has two different securing points. This watch isn’t coming out of your wrist, no matter what.
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room. The 7s26 has been simultaneously praised and reviled all over the forums of the watch community on the web. Yes, it is non-hackable. Yes, your manual wind powers won’t work here. And yes, it is only 21,600 bph. Truth be told, I’ve found out I don’t really care. My watch only loses about 5 seconds a day, it’s easily repairable by any watchmaker, and if online reports are anything to go by, this workhorse movement can last 20 years without any maintenance (not that you should let that much time pass without servicing your watch, mind you). Of course, sometimes I wish I could cram a 6R15 or a NH36 inside the case, but then I remember: $200? I’ll take two, thank you very much.
There’s something to be said about a watch that can compete with much more expensive watches while looking this good. Only Citizen divers and Orient Makos can come this close. I urge any newcomers into the watch world to try this little Seiko wonder before spending thousands on a diver, and I recommend would-be buyers to measure their wrists first before getting the 007.