In 1964, DOXA Watches sent divers into Switzerland’s Lake Neuchatel armed with a rainbow of brightly colored watches. Their goal: find the best hue for underwater visibility. Three years later, the watchmaker released the legendary orange SUB. If horological heritage is your bag, buy a latter day DOXA. If not, consider the Seiko Diver Automatic Orange Dial Men’s Watch. Now why would anyone want to do that?
Money, of course. DOXA’s cheapest SUB – the 300T above – runs $1890. Their top-of-the-line SUB 200 T.GRAPH sets buyers back $4900. Jomashop sells the Seiko Diver SKX011J1 for $289 (no commission on links).
Yes, you give up hacking seconds (the ability to stop the second hand to set the time), manual windability, two hours of power reserve, 1mm in case size, 1000 meters of diving depth, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, and 316L stainless steel (for case and bracelet). But look what you get! An orange dive watch!
Actually, it’s tangerine. You gotta problem with that? In a watch market prone to white flight, where the popular palette has been beaten black and blue, Seiko’s tangerine dream stands apart. Encased in mirror-polished stainless steel, encircled by black-and-gold bezel markings, it’s a sunny side-up piece of horological heaven. But don’t take my word for it.
“Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation,” color-wheel-pro.com opines. “To the human eye, orange is a very hot color, so it gives the sensation of heat.” As a Seiko Diver-wearing Paris Hilton might say, that’s hot!
Thanks to ye olde Caliber 7S26, the Diver isn’t bothered by temperature extremes. Should the thermometer ascend to a Tusconian 140 degrees – or sink to a Fairbanksean -14 – the Japanese-engineered timepiece will keep on ticking. And while some might not see the orange watch as drop dead gorgeous, Seiko’s spring-loaded Diashock system prevents the Diver from dying, should you drop it.
Tough yes, but a Rolex it ain’t.
The Seiko Diver’s accuracy varies between -20 to +49 seconds per day. On the plus side, the 7S26 is a legacy caliber. Plenty of watchmakers can tweak the timekeeping or repair the internals with easily available parts. Don’t forget: we’re talking about a robust mechanical watch that beats six times a second. The self-winding Seiko Diver is easily the best automatic movement $300 can buy.
Aesthetically, the Seiko Diver has issues. The Hokusai-inspired wave design stamped onto the way-too-shiny steel caseback looks less like a wave than a Samurai attack on yakisoba noodles. And while I appreciate the winder’s 4 o’clock positioning and metallic guards, is it too much to ask Seiko to stamp an S on the crown? Apparently so.
The Seiko Diver’s legibility gets my stamp of approval. Whereas the DOXA SUB uses rectangular indices and hands to tell the time, the Diver goes all Jerry Lee Lewis. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! I’m not saying you can use the Diver’s luminous hands and markers to read a newspaper in a blacked-out room, but you can sure as hell read the time.
Even at first glance you can tell it’s time to replace the Seiko Diver’s hideous – and hideously uncomfortable – rubber strap. The band’s stiffer than a porn actor and uglier than the industry that employs them. I have an easier time believing that aliens built the pyramids than I do accepting the fact that people shell out $20 to replace Seiko’s wrist wrecker with the exact same plastic torture device.
Barton Watch Bands sells a comfortable Diver-compatible rubber strap in a bewitching shade of pumpkin orange. ZULUDIVER’s 328 Italian Rubber NATO Watch Strap is an equally pliable, equally orange alternative, and there are plenty of less colorful options. Bottom line: if you buy a Seiko Diver, add the cost of a replacement strap to your purchase.
Maybe something less waterproof? While the Seiko’s fine for surfing, snorkeling and playing Marco Polo in a pool, this is not the dive watch you’re looking for – as you might have guessed after clocking the day/date window and a bezel edge that’s only slightly grippier than a greased eel.
Never mind. The Seiko Diver is a “fun” mechanical watch that’s not afraid of a bit of rough and tumble, priced to go. It’s kinda like a creamsicle that tells the time and doesn’t melt. Orange you glad I reviewed it?
Seiko Diver Automatic Orange Dial Mens Watch (SKX011J1)
Price: $177 (Click here to buy no commission)
Movement: Automatic, Seiko Caliber 7S26
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Case Material: Stainless steel
Case Size: 41mm
Case Thickness: 13mm
Weight: 3.7 ounces
Dial Color: Orange
Luminiscence: All three hands and markers
Bezel: Ion-plated stainless steel
Band: Black rubber strap w/tang clasp, 22mm
Water Resistance: Screw-down crown, good to 200 meters / 660 feet
Functions: Date, day, hour, minute, seconds
RATINGS (out of five stars)
Design * * * *
The Seiko Diver is a retro-sized DOXA SUB rip-off – and none the worse for it. Aside from the shiny AF stainless steel case and bezel edge, hideous hair-shirt of a strap and dopey “Great Wave” logo embossed on the caseback.
Legibility * * * * *
The Diver’s carefully considered color combination and blobtasic hour markers create a watch that’s easier to read than Fun with Dick and Jane. Like some recreational activities, the Diver’s even better in the dark.
Tactility * *
The Diver’s reassuringly hefty, and both the crown and the bezel move with admirable (if not ultimate) precision. Too bad the bezel’s edge is about aggressive as a garden snail.
I’d like to meet the person who chose the design and materials for the Diver’s strap – and beat him with it until he confesses his allegiance to the JLSW (Japanese League of Sadistic Watchmakers).
Overall * * * *
Legibility, durability, luminosity, price and orange-ness make the self-winding Seiko Diver a fun, eye-catching addition to a cash-constrained collection — assuming you’re OK with the caliber’s lack of hacking seconds or manual windability. The final star withheld for a rubber strap stiff enough to butter toast.