A Winter Surf Session With The Seiko SNE573 Solar Diver

I soaked up the last bit of heat, listened to the final chords of the Khruangbin track softly playing through the speakers and cut the engine off. I stepped out and looked at the overcast sky. It was a rare gloomy day in SoCal. The morning air was brisk, cool and judging by the lack of surfers bobbing in the line up, I was most certain the water was even cooler. The tide was high and waves were coming in steadily. The combination of quiet winds and a recent swell made for glassy conditions. The surf report said to expect 3-4 foot waves but it seemed more like 2-3. Here at La Jolla Shores beach, that’s pretty much the norm. The conditions are usually small and more than manageable at this surf break. After a few more seconds of watching the ocean and the other surfers paddling out, I took one last deep breath and glanced down at the Seiko diver on wrist. It read a quarter to seven; time to suit up and get out there.

Before we go further, let me provide a bit of backstory. My connection between a Seiko diver and surfing runs deep. My Seiko SKX013 has always been my go to choice when I decide to get a surf session in. That watch holds a special place in my heart for multiple reasons. It fit my need for a compact diver as my first watch purchase, sparked my interest to go deeper into the watch hobby and inspired me to get outdoors, and more specifically, to try out surfing. Now let’s be clear, I’m an average surfer at best and it took a month’s worth of trips to the beach just to wipe out time after time, before catching my first unbroken wave. Bringing it back to watches; when I got my hands on a review unit of the Seiko SNE573, it was a complete no-brainer (after asking for permission of course) that I was going to take this watch out to my local break and to give it a proper once over.


While unpacking before a surf session, there’s always a good chance that I knock around the watch on wrist. It could be from catching it on the roof rack while unstrapping and taking down my 8’10’’ Guptill surfboard or randomly banging it against an open door while getting the rest of my gear situated. I associate Seiko divers with being durable watches and the Seiko SNE573 is no different. The stainless steel case of the Seiko SNE573 was up for a few dings as I prepped for the surf session and came out none the worse for wear. The angled crown guards provided some additional protection, making sure that nothing unexpectedly got snagged on the crown. The sapphire crystal is leveled with the rotating bezel and manages to stay out of the way as well. There’s not a lot of ‘extra-ness’ with this watch. Everything is located neatly and exactly where it needs to be without getting in the way. I rummaged through my bag for the half bar of surf wax to give my board a quick coating before I headed out. The last and most difficult thing I had to do before I made a run for the beach was to find a sneaky spot to hide my key. I like to think I’m savvy with this, but I always proceed with caution.

The surf report said that the water temperature was a cool 50 degrees but it definitely felt colder. While walking out, I dragged my feet under the water to scare off any stingrays that lurked in the shallows. Standing at about waist deep, I waited patiently until the last wave of the set approached. As that last wave broke and the white water crashed in front of me, I lunged my body forward and simultaneously positioned myself, stomach flat on the board, and started to paddle towards the line up. My right arm dug deep into the water and in one motion swiped backward to propel myself forward, followed by my left arm piercing the water and doing the same. I popped myself up and sat atop my board, the nose of my board slightly peeking out at the surface. I cupped my hand to grab some water to splash my face and to run through my hair. This was just another one of my routine things that I do, mainly to fully wake me up as I waited for the first wave.

I glanced down at the Seiko SNE573 strapped above my wetsuit and rotated the bezel counter clockwise so the triangle marker lined up with the minute hand. Using the count up bezel display was my way of keeping track of how long I’ve been out. The bezel requires an initial effort to rotate but once it gets going, it’s smooth with a nice tactile click. The outer bezel grooves are a tad bit chunky making the bezel grippable and more maneuverable, even when my hands and the watch itself are wet. Once the bezel is set, there is no additional play and stays locked in position.

In order to catch a wave, you have to see it before it even appears. Once I had set eyes on a particular wave, I moved myself back to prone on the board, and paddled towards where the wave would start to break. Immediately I scooted myself back, churned my legs, each leg rotating in the opposite direction as the other and pulled my board to turn 180 degrees to face the beach. It’s at this point where gaining momentum is your friend. I paddled hard, and just when I thought it was enough, I took two more deep paddles. With my chest up, back arched and arms nearly extended, the board starts to come to life, and all that wave energy that has traveled thousands of miles across the ocean is to thank for that. I popped up, stayed low, shifted my weight and turned, going backside to the wave. There’s a certain thrill I get when catching a wave. It’s almost akin to flying in a way, and it never gets old. I hopped down back to my board and turned towards the break to paddle back out to the lineup, occasionally having to log roll (flipping the board over and staying under as the wave crashes over) to get past some of the white water obstacles. The session continued on like this for almost an hour.

Much like mechanical watches, in surfing, your board (and you of course) go only as far as you’re willing to take yourself. You can’t expect your mechanical watch to work if you don’t move, and you also can’t expect to catch some good waves if you stay in one spot all the time. Granted the Seiko SNE573 uses a solar movement, but you can make an argument that this watch still has to be on your wrist to get some sun, or you could also make an argument that you could just place the watch on the window sill. But hey, you get the idea.

The marine life out at the break was sparse that day and when I got tired of gazing towards the never ending horizon, I glanced down at the Seiko SNE573 for a time check. Like many great Seiko divers, this dial is minimal and straightforward. The off-white hour markers and hands contrast well against the matte black dial making it an easy to read display, in and out of the water. The Seiko SNE573 uses the entire dial as the solar panel to store energy for the movement and in the light, that panel/dial does come off as a faded black, giving the SNE573 a bit of a ‘well worn’ personality straight out of the box. The arrow minute hand showed a couple of minutes past the triangle bezel marker. I decided to call it a session for the day.

There’s no better feeling than an after-surf feeling. My body felt tired, but a ‘good’ tired. With my wet suit hang-drying on my passenger side mirror, my board laid flat on the ground and some dry clothes on, I hung out and still had the Seiko still strapped onto the wrist by its rubber strap. It’s one of the comfier Seiko rubber straps I’ve come across. That, and paired with the case proportions of the Seiko SNE573 makes for a super wearable watch. I gravitate towards sub 40 mm divers because the rotating bezel visually shrinks the dial and when on the wrist, I think it’s just spot on, especially for my 6.25” wrist. The Seiko SNE573 proportions exactly hit this sweet spot for me, with its 38.5 mm case width and 46.5 mm lug to lug. Thanks to the V147 Solar movement, the case thickness measures a svelte 10.6 mm. Packaging all of this together into the Seiko SNE573, it gives a nice balance between skin-diver feel, modern aesthetic and day to day durability.

I think it’s safe to say that the connection between a Seiko diver and surfing not only lives on, but has been heightened by my time with the Seiko SNE573. I like to get my watches out there and in their element. There’s no better feeling than using a piece of gear for its intended purpose. For me, that’s how I connect with watches. I’m curious as to how watches will intersect my future adventures, and how they will inspire me to try new things, and in turn be a representation of the things I’ve done.

With all the gear packed and my surfboard stowed away, I put the key in and turned the ignition. The Forrester’s engine came to life and the next Khruangbin tune queued up. With one last glance, I looked at the break and then the Seiko SNE573. It was time to get the day started.

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Thomas is a budding writer and an avid photographer by way of San Diego, California. From his local surf break to mountain peaks and occasionally traveling to destinations off the beaten path, he is always searching for his next adventure, with a watch on wrist, and a camera in hand. Thomas is a watch enthusiast through and through; having a strong passion for their breadth of design, historical connection, and the stories that lie within each timepiece.