Ready to up your wrist game? In our series The Upgrade, we recommend more premium alternatives to popular watch models to help you navigate your next purchase. Today’s starting place: the beloved Seiko SKX007.
It’s that basic but versatile dive watch that’s so unassuming you’re surprised one day to find it’s stolen your heart. The Seiko SKX007 is a mass-produced but functional and well made tool, a perfect product to imbue with character over a long life of rough wear, like a great pair of jeans or leather boots. Famously reliable and affordable, many average Joes and military veterans alike have happily relied solely on an SKX for many years, just as collectors with much higher-end watches continue to own and appreciate them.
Though there are several variants of the SKX watch, the reference SKX007 is the perhaps the most popular model, with its conservative black bezel and dial (it doesn’t hurt that the “007” seems to associate it with James Bond, though there’s no actual connection) — but really, any watch in the SKX collection has the same basic appeal. The 009’s bezel, for instance, demarcates the first 20 minutes in red, and the SKX0013 is smaller, at 38mm wide. With a 42.5mm wide case and the Seiko 7S26 automatic movement, this is a robust and simple diver with great lume, a solid 200m of water-resistance, and zero pretense. One used to be able to find SKX watches for under $200, but ever since the model was recently discontinued, they’re more often found for around $300 these days.
One might not even feel the need to upgrade, but the SKX is a watch that has been known to kickstart many a watch collection. Seiko itself offers many of the best options close to the SKX’s price point (and well above it), especially if you like the no-fuss, daily-wear diver experience. The Seiko Prospex collection is full of great dive watches (Turtle, Samurai, Sumo, and others) that feel like modern descendants of the SKX, but a bit more premium.
Even jumping from the SKX right up to a Rolex Submariner would also seem totally reasonable. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: if you love the SKX007, the three options below will help you ease into an upgrade that’ll feel accessible and appropriate.
Like the SKX’s Purposeful Diver Feel? Try the Obris Morgan Seastar 60S
The Seastar 60S from microbrand Obris Morgan doesn’t have the name recognition of Seiko, nor its traditional appeal. Rather, it offers a more modern, technical feel — and, most importantly, a remarkably strong value. Well conceived and executed with a handsome design, the Seastar has premium features like sapphire crystal, and the same 200m of water-resistance as the SKX.
While dive watches can tend toward the bold end of the spectrum in terms of size and design, the Seastar measures a restrained 40mm. Its movement is from Seiko’s Japanese competitor Miyota, but the 9015 is a more premium automatic movement option often considered comparable in quality and price to common Swiss movements like those from ETA. Though barely more money than the SKX, the Obris Morgan will feel like a significant upgrade.
Like the SKX but Want a Bolder Look? Try the Bulova “Devil Diver”
The Bulova “Devil Diver” got its cool nickname for the 666-foot depth rating printed on the dial, though it’s properly known as the Oceanographer. Its story begins back in the 1960s, but the brand brought the Oceanographer back as a 21st-century dive watch with features like sapphire crystal and a 44mm case (there’s also a limited-edition version with the same 40mm diameter as the vintage model). And 666 feet is roughly equivalent to the SKX’s 200m of water resistance.
The Devil Diver has a retro charm, but its size and relatively colorful dial (with several even more vibrant versions available) offer a bolder look and a more involved design than the SKX. The Miyota 281D automatic movement inside is inexpensive and comparable to that used by Seiko. Best of all, it can often be found for well below its retail price.
Like the SKX but Ready for a Swiss Watch? Try the Doxa Sub 200
The Doxa Sub 200 is one of the better recent examples of an affordable, retro-styled dive watch from a established Swiss brand. It’s got all the basic goodies expected of a luxury watch, such as sapphire crystal (provided here in a vintage-inspired, raised box style), an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, and 200m of water-resistance. On a beads-of-rice steel bracelet, it’ll offer a significantly upgraded feel from that of the SKX without abandoning that pragmatic charm.
With beige-colored lume to evoke patinated vintage watches, the Sub 200 is slightly more style-conscious but remains understated — at least in its black- or silver-dialed versions. It’s also available in Doxa’s signature range of bright dial colors such as orange, yellow, and blue. At just under $1k, it offers Swiss quality, a respected dive watch name, and a welcome dose of character right out of the box.