Review: Seiko 5 Sports SRPD Dive Watches

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Popping the SRPD on your wrist is a bit like catching up with an old friend after a few years of not seeing each other. Some things have changed and some things have stayed the same, but at their core, the personality remains largely the same. That’s a bit what my experience with the new line of SRPDs is like. I’m a long-time owner (and huge fan) of an SKX173, and after hearing that the legendary SKX line has been discontinued, I scrambled to see what was released in its place. While most of the serious dive watches in Seiko’s lineup now reside in the PROSPEX line, the overall design of the SKX is now part of the “Seiko 5 Sports” lineup. 

The decreased water resistance and lack of screw-down crown immediately jumped out to me as potential problems with what used to be a rock-solid, ISO certified diver. However, the Seiko 5 line is no slouch. These watches have a history dating back to the early 1960s and were created to be durable and versatile everyday watches that had 5 key features. They needed an automatic movement, a day/date display at 3 o’clock, some degree of water resistance, a recessed crown at 4 o’clock, and a case and bracelet built for durability. The new SPRDs earned the 5 badge on their dial by meeting each of these key elements of design.

The SRPD71, part of the “Suit Style” family, on the wrist.

Can this new take on the Seiko SKX hold its own? Let’s take an in-depth look at a few watches from the extensive SRPD lineup (appropriately nicknamed the “5KX”) and see if they do justice to the long history of the Seiko 5 and the iconic divers that they’re so closely based on.

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$295

Review: Seiko 5 Sports SRPD Dive Watches

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
4R36
Dial
Many textured and plain options
Lume
LumiBrite on hands and indices
Lens
Hardlex mineral crystal
Strap
Various nylon and steel
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
42.5 x 46mm
Thickness
13.4mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Push down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$295

Here’s a quick run down on the three models that we’re looking at today:

SRPD71 “Suit Style” – This model features a matte metallic blue dial with cream-colored indices. The effect is subtle, and the cream looks way more pronounced in Seiko’s renderings than it does in person. On the seconds hand, you’ll find some bright red paint at the tip which makes it easier to see at a glance. The dial looks great in bright light and I really enjoyed the matte effect over the metallic dial. It’s subtle, yet interesting without being blingy or distracting. The case is standard stainless steel and it ships on a sharp looking mesh steel bracelet. Surrounding the dial, there’s a vibrant blue bezel insert with silver printing.

SPRD77 “Sense Style” – The only thing I’m sensing about this dial is that someone had an avocado on their desk when designing it. The blasted gun metal case and textured green dial just remind me of an avocado, and not in a bad way. It’s got a uniquely organic look to it. I like how Seiko opted for green metal hour and minute hands and added an orange seconds hand for a needed pop of color. It’s an interesting design that I could see being a sleeper hit of the lineup. The included nylon strap matches the dial in color, while the bezel insert is rendered in a deeper teal with a little bit of shine to it.

SRPD91 “Sports Style” – Out of the three models on hand, this one is the most straightforward. The slightly grainy black dial looks great with the silver applied indices and stark white lume. It’s used on several different models, but looks different depending on the case and strap. The SRPD91 is housed in a gun metal case with both brushed and finished surfaces and has a black bezel insert. It comes on a Seiko branded olive green nylon strap that gives it a tactical military look. I found myself gravitating towards this one the most.

Case

A quick look at the case dimensions and shape, and you should recognize this design pretty quickly. The SRPD line rocks the same case size and design of the last generation SKXs. The 42.5mm diameter sounds big, but it’s more than made up for by the very reasonable 46mm lug-to-lug distance. From the top down, you’ll notice the crown and guards sitting in the signature 4 o’clock position. A unidirectional 0-60 timing bezel surrounds the dial. The action is stiff and a little “mushy” with a muted click sound as it turns. There’s very little (if any) play once you’ve set the bezel to where you want it. It feels a lot like the bezel on my Turtle. Across the lineup, there are a bunch of different color bezel inserts, dial colors, and textures, and even a few different case colors. I’ve got a sample of the gun metal, a bead blasted gun metal, and a standard stainless steel. There’s also a unique brown option with matching dial that stands out from the pack. Each model features Seiko’s own Hardlex mineral crystal lens that boasts better shatter resistance than sapphire, but is more susceptible to scratches.

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The finishing on the cases is nothing crazy. There are brushed and polished surfaces on the stainless example, and the transitions between the two are decent at best. The SRPD isn’t going to be winning any awards in the finishing department, but it’s more than passable for something in the price range. Out of the three models on hand, I like the gunmetal case on the SPRD91 with both polished and brushed surfaces. The bead blasting on the SRPD77 “Sense” is something I haven’t seen from Seiko before and looks and feels great. In profile, the case is rather curvy, featuring gently rounded sides that nestle into your wrist. It’s comfortable to wear, and the case shape is a contributing factor. The 13.5mm height is divided evenly between bezel, mid case, and case-back. Since the case-back bubbles out beneath the watch, it will settle into most wrists, giving the feeling of a thinner watch than the measurement suggests.

Flip the watch over, and you’ll see something a bit different. Instead of a solid steel case-back, there’s a display window so you can see the 4R35 doing its thing inside. Previous “5” watches have all had the transparent case back, which I think is a really cool thing on an entry-level watch. For those newcomers to the world of mechanical horology, it’s fascinating to see the inner workings ticking away. Even though the movement might not be decked out with intricate hand finishing, it’s still fun to look at.

The 4R36 movement, visible through a display case back.

On the right side of the case at 4 o’clock, you’ll notice a guarded push down crown. For me, it was hard to get past at first, but the more I wore the watch, the more it made sense. While there are some serious dive enthusiasts out there, the vast majority of us just aren’t going to use the divers in their intended environments. The SRPD has 100m of water resistance, which is still plenty for swimming, washing your hands, splashes of water, and more. I wore the watch on my inaugural fly fishing trip and the occasional dunk under the surface of the river was totally fine. If you’re looking for a more professional dive watch, the PROSPEX line has no shortage of them. Would I prefer a screw down crown for extra peace of mind? Yes. But, the SRPDs are meant to be a fashionable, everyday wear watch, and they definitely fit the bill.

Dial + Hands

The dial on the SRPD series has to be the most impressive part of the watch. Throughout the lineup, there are TONS of different colors, finishes, and textures to choose from. Clearly, Seiko has taken some inspiration from the modding community with their 27 different launch options. There’s something for everyone — whether you choose the all black everything (including lume) model, or the bright orange with gold accents. All of the models share the same features, but done in a slightly different way. The base dial features applied indices that are filled with Seiko’s own Lumibrite luminous material, a welcomed upgrade over the printed indices on the SKX line, although they’re shaped similarly to the printed indices on the SKX007. At 12, there’s a large triangle with a thin point at the end. Six and Nine are made up of elongated ovals, while the rest of the hours are marked by a circle. At 3 o’clock, you’ll find a day/date display which is rendered in black on white printing on all models, except for the “Street Style” which feature the opposite. I’m also happy to report that the chapter ring and bezel alignment is spot-on. On past Seiko dive models, this was hit-or-miss, and a cause of plenty of frustration in the watch community. It’s a small detail that has the potential to throw off the whole look of the watch.

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One watch in three very different flavors
APPLIED MARKERS, AND GENEROUS LUME
Bright blue is great for summer
The texture of this dial sets it apart

One of my favorite parts about the dial is the new, retro-Seiko inspired “5” logo at 12 o’clock. Seiko has a very unique design language for their logos, and the new 5 fits right in. It’s highly stylized and blocky, and at first glance it doesn’t really look like a “5”. I get heavy vintage Seiko Quartz logo vibes from it (in a good way). The new logo is balanced out by the word “Automatic” in a stylized script just above the 6 o’clock marker.

If you were a fan of the SKX, you’ll notice the same hand set is used on the SRPDs. There’s a blocky, syringe style hand for the hours and a longer minutes hand that terminates in an arrow-shaped tip. They’re very easy to read in all conditions (thanks to a healthy hit of lume) and work well with the dive-inspired design of the watch. For the seconds, there’s a long, thin hand with a circular counterbalance that’s also filled with lume. I prefer the luminous material to be at the tip of a seconds hand so you can see the tip of the hand in the dark, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Movement

Another area that’s a definite improvement over the SKX is the movement. While the 7S26 was reliable, it left much to be desired. The newer 4R36 inside is a mechanical automatic movement with a 40 hour power reserve. It features a day/date display at 3 o’clock and 24 jewels placed throughout. On the 4R36, you get two convenient features that were not on the 7S26, which are the ability to hand wind the movement and to hack the seconds hand for precise time setting. While the accuracy rating of +45/-35 seconds per day is not going to break any Swiss Observatory records, it’s well within the parameters of what to expect from an entry-level mechanical watch. There’s some brushing present on the movement plates and a few bevels here and there, but the appearance is overall utilitarian. Again, it’s still fun to watch the balance wheel pulsing away inside and the rotor spinning back and forth.

Straps + Wearability

Of the three review samples, two of them ship on a nylon nato style strap. They hit the perfect balance between pliable and stiff. The result is a strap that feels solid, while remaining comfortable to wear. The dark olive strap on the SRPD91 and 77 both have hardware that matches the case and features Seiko-signed buckles. A stainless steel mesh strap adorns the “Suit Style” SRPD71. It’s easy to adjust and the clasp locks with an authoritative snap. I’m not so sure I’d go wearing this watch with a suit, but it looks and feels great with the watch.

Even though the case of the SRPD measures in at 42.5mm, those with small wrists should still try it on. It works with a ton of wrist sizes, big or small thanks to the rather reasonable 46mm lug-to-lug measurement. The offset 4 o’clock crown also keeps it wearing slim. This has to be the best example of how much lug-to-lug measurements really do matter. On the wrist, the SRPD is comfortable and easy to wear all day long, and the curved case design helps with that too. Bending your wrist and moving around is not hindered by the watch, making it an excellent option for casual or active wear.

Conclusion

Although they’re not a direct replacement for the now discontinued SKX line, the SRPD’s come damn close. Many will lament the drop in water resistance, lack of screw down crown, and missing lume pip in the bezel, but the PROSPEX line has plenty of serious tool watches that will get the job done for those who need it. The SRPD’s 100m of water resistance is nothing to scoff at, and is still as much or more than many of the watches from the golden years of recreational diving in the 60s and 70s. For a fun, everyday wear watch, the SRPD series more than holds its own. They’re reasonably priced, look great, and wear really well on the wrist. Between all of the different models and options, there’s something for everyone. With a starting MSRP of $295 (and already popping up for less at retail), they represent an attractive entry into the world of mechanical watches without breaking the bank from a trusted brand.

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.
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