Posted on February 18 2021
But that 200m water resistance has a price. You’ll pay extra for a waterproof watch. What if you won’t be taking your watch diving? What if you only need it to keep the rain out rather than the sea?
How about a very similar watch, but without the diving credentials?
You'll need a sports watch.
Let me show you how you can get the same style and ruggedness of a dive watch but at a more affordable price.
The Best Affordable Sports Watch
I’m going to skip the plastic sports watches and inexpensive quartz models. Let’s assume that you’re a little more discerning and have an automatic in mind. Prices can creep up when you start shopping for well-made mechanical dive watches.
If you wanted something more affordable, there used to be an easy answer.
Ask the question, “what’s the best value for money dive watch?” and legions of watch geeks would shout back, “The Seiko SKX007!”.
It ticks all the boxes of a reliable and rugged dive watch. Although it was only released in Japan, we all bought them on the grey market. Mine cost a little over £200 and is a lot of watch for the money.
In 2019 Seiko ceased production.
So what is the answer to that question now?
I’d suggest that the newly launched Seiko 5 Sports series is the answer. They look and feel like the legendary SKX007. They just have less water resistance.
Here is the best affordable automatic sports watch. This time, released for US and European watch fans.
Seiko 5 Sports SRPD73K2
There are several variations of this watch - the simple black and off-white model is my favourite. This colour palette gives the watch a versatility missing from some of the more colourful models.
This watch looks like a tool.
With a sports watch you need a substantial piece - it has to be able to take knocks. And this watch is reasonably wide and thick.
There are some features designed for tough environments. The crown, for example, is protected by hefty crown guards and has been repositioned at 4 o’clock. This stops it from digging into your hand. It also minimizes the knocks the crown takes.
But if a watch is too big, or too sporty it can’t be your everyday wear. That is where the Seiko 5 wins. This watch is adaptable.
It can take all the mud that you can throw at it and wipe clean - the silicone strap is ideal for those conditions. But the simple colour scheme and plain dial and case mean that it can also be worn with smart casual or even formal dress.
If value for money is king, then having a watch that works in a range of settings is a must.
Although the SRPD73 looks like a diver - a real homage to the cult SKX007 - it is still a simple piece. The Seiko in-house movement is an upgrade from the previous watch. It can be viewed through the exhibition back.
The dial is protected by a Hardlex crystal, and what a dial it is. Plain and functional and with large lumed markers. The addition of prominent hands means that the watch is clear and legible.
The only real compromise that you’re making is the water resistance. But if you’re not swimming or diving? 100M will be fine.
More Information About Seiko 5 Watches
The Seiko 5 line of watches were designed with value for money in mind.
The ethos of the collection is straightforward. They should be well made and affordable mechanical watches. Designed to appeal to a young demographic.
What this means in practical terms, is a series of watches built with Japanese automatic movements. They often take design cues from other, more expensive, Seiko designs.
In this case, it’s the SRPD73 working from the SKX007 template.
First launched in 1963, the Seiko 5 line had a very clear DNA. The features that each watch must have. They are still in use today for the SPRD models. The five compulsory attributes are:
- An Automatic Movement
- Day/date displayed in a single window
- Water resistance
- Crown at the 4 o’clock position
- Durable case and bracelet
Bear in mind that this was the standard required in the 1960s and it needed to be at an affordable price.
Sporty and functional mechanical watches built for a youthful market. It’s a great mission and still meets the basic demands of today’s watch buyers. Particularly if you want a rugged watch that is more versatile than a diver.
The only snag I’ve encountered is that they’re often aimed at Japanese and Asian buyers. They’re not available for UK and US customers.
The new Seiko 5 line has fixed this and is now distributed to Western dealers.
Why was the SKX007 so popular?
The SKX007 was popular for many reasons. But one stands out. It provided a lot of watch for the money. I bought mine for just over £200 a few years back. For that I got a stylish, well-made divers watch with a Seiko automatic movement.
Let me repeat that. A legitimate 200M dive watch with an in-house mechanical movement for £200.
The watch, when launched in 1996, was the latest in a series of affordable Seiko divers - so it has some history. Interestingly, it was never meant to be a model for Western watch fans so it has always been a grey market import.
The important point though is the place that it held in the market. The specs and price meant, for many, that this was their first real diver. Or their first mechanical diver.
It was a great entry-level watch.
It also had a great appearance. The crown at four o’clock was a nice, practical feature and the simple black dial with the red text was distinctive. There is also a lively scene for the hobbyists who like to modify their watch.
There are a couple of reasons that led to the model being discontinued.
Its movement is out-dated and Seiko had a new range - the Seiko 5 Sports - that would be competing in the same space. If you want to see my suggested alternatives, have a look here.
The term sports watch is vague. I take it to mean a rugged watch that isn’t a diver or field watch.
It’s a busy space for watch brands, but I’m confident that of the mechanical models, Seiko provides the best value for money. The Seiko 5 Sports line is the place to shop.
Of these, the versatile SRPD73 is my pick. It’s a very affordable automatic watch. It’s not a dive watch - we know that. But it is a tough timepiece with a chunky case and reliable silicon strap.
It’s inexpensive and provides real bang-for-buck.