SHARP Guide: How To Pick Your First Seiko Dive Watch

There are plenty of good options for your first dive watch, but if your search has led you to Seiko, you could probably use a little help narrowing down your choices from here. As Japan’s most widely known mechanical watchmaker, Seiko has an expansive offering of waterproof sports watches that range from suit-ready options that can dunk into the ocean, to professional wristwear built for extended saturation dives. While you can’t really go wrong with any of them, we’ve opted to build out a more comprehensive guide to help you find the one that fits your taste and budget. We start things off at the more affordable end of the spectrum, and slowly climb our way through to the brand’s range-topping options.

Seiko Dive Watches Under $2,000

In the grand scheme of things, the majority of the Seiko catalog lives in this bracket. It’s an area they’ve excelled in for years, and the now-discontinued Seiko SKX 007 and SKX 009 were long known as the one Seiko diver that every enthusiast must own at one point or another in their collecting journey. That’s not to say that the SKX is (or was) the only viable option — quite the opposite, really. We’re just scratching the surface here, but the three options below provide a range of personalities and prices to suit just about anyone.

The “Starter” — Seiko 5 Sports

Seiko 5 Sports - Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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The Seiko 5 Sports is one of the few things in the watch world that pretty much everyone can agree on. Classic design, a solid automatic movement, and lots of colour choices — all for the low price of $450. It only has two real stumbling blocks. Hardcore dive watch fans will note that the crown on the Seiko 5 Sports doesn’t screw down, which is typically a key feature that every true dive watch should have. That said, the 42mm reference still has 100m of water resistance, which is plenty to hit the beach or the pool without risking damaging the watch in any way.

Like That, but More Dive Watch Cred — Seiko Prospex SPB181

Seiko Prospex SPB181 - Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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If you’re looking for something to take on your next reef dive, you’ll want to check out the Seiko Prospex SPB181. It’s got all the right features — actual certification as a dive watch, which means luminous indices at every hour, on its hands, and on its unidirectional rotating bezel, as well as the screw-down crown that’s lacking on the Seiko 5 above — plus the endorsement of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). That said, the SPB181 is also a rather chunky watch, measuring 45mm in diameter and 12.9mm thick. If you have smaller wrists, this watch will be a bit overbearing, unless you’re strapping it over a wetsuit. ($1,095)

A Bit More “Office Friendly”? — Seiko Alpinist SPB241

Seiko Alpinist SPB241 - Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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The new retro-inspired Alpinist SPB241 is what we would call a bit of middle ground. For one, it’s not really a dive watch at all, but its specs can handle a good amount of use and abuse both above and below the surface. 20 bar of water resistance is roughly 200m, and its crown does screw down to provide added protection for its mechanical inner workings. It’s also a lot more compact, at 38mm in diameter. The Alpinist is more of a “I need a watch that can do everything, and look good do anything. A Go anywhere/Do anything watch, so to speak. ($950)

Somewhere In Between — Seiko Prospex SPB143

 Seiko Prospex SPB143 - Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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Seiko’s new Prospex SPB143 might be Seiko’s biggest hit of recent years, and it’s easy to see why: its 40 mm case, curved sapphire crystal, and screw-down crown hit all the right notes. ($1,595)

Seiko Dive Watches Under $6,000

Stepping up another level opens doors to a higher bracket of watches with tangibly improved build quality and finishing. Sticking with more “purist” dive watches in this bracket there are only a couple of options, but both are built to a level that we expect in a price range that competes with the likes of many bigger Swiss names.

A High Level Reissue — Seiko Prospex “Willard” Reissue SLA049J1

seiko willard reissue dive watch
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Two key Seiko nicknames apply here, both of which have plenty of historical significance. The “Turtle” case, known for its shell-like case shape, is an icon of Seiko’s long dive watch history, and one that’s constantly coveted by fans of the brand. The Willard, on the other hand, is a reference to Martin Sheen’s role as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now. As you’ve likely guessed, Sheen wore a particular Seiko Turtle in the film — the reference 6105-8110. While this new Prospex SLA049J1 is not an exact recreation of the aforementioned watch, it’s easily the highest quality execution with this case, dial, and hand configuration. It’s powered by the caliber 8L35 self-winding movement, good for a 50-hour power reserve. ($4,025)

Like That, but With a Bit More Heft — Seiko Prospex 1975 Diver SLA042

Seiko Prospex 1975 Diver SLA042 -  Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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When it comes to Seiko dive watches for larger wrists, there’s nothing that can rival the Seiko Prospex 1975 Diver’s Reinterpretation SLA042. Nicknamed “Tuna” for its flat, can-shaped case, this watch was one of Seiko’s biggest breakthroughs of the 1970s. There are smaller versions out there, but for this beast with a 1,000 metre water resistance, you’re looking at a massive 52.4mm case diameter. Its hidden lugs do assist in making it a touch more wearable, but even then this watch will look quite large on anyone with a more slender build. ($5,195)

Close, but Maybe a Bit More Subtle? — Seiko Prospex 1965 Diver’s Re-Creation SLA043

Seiko Prospex 1965 Diver’s Re-Creation SLA043 - Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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If we need to dial it back a notch or three, then you’re going to love the Seiko Prospex 1965 Diver’s Re-Creation SLA043, which is modelled after Seiko’s first-ever dive watch. In addition to its retro looks, it’s equipped with the high-end 8L35 calibre movement built by hand in the Shizukuishi Watch Studio where Grand Seiko is made. Seiko opted to make this reference a limited edition, producing a total of 1,700 pieces. ($5,995)

But What Is the Ultimate Seiko Dive Watch?

Seiko Prospex SNR029 - Seiko Dive Watch guide (Dec) in post
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At this level, shy of moving up to references from Grand Seiko — which are even more impressive at a technical level — the Seiko Prospex LX SNR029 is as good as it gets. The LX line brings out the very best in Seiko’s materials, movements, and features. In recent years we’ve seen Seiko start to integrate their Spring Drive movements into this collection, which were previously reserved for use in grand Seiko Watches. Consider these LX models a “Grand Seiko Light” offering, with all of the tool-like utility of Seiko, but loaded with advanced tech. Among the best of these is the SNR029, which boasts a titanium case, 300 m water-resistance, and added hardening treatment to the case and bracelet to make it more resistant to scratching. ($7,800)