Review: Seiko SKX173, and the Small Mods That Made It My Own

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It’s not surprising that the SKX007 gets a ton of attention. In fact, it’s well-deserved. The 007 is an affordable, ISO-rated dive watch with some serious pedigree, and it comes from a brand that’s been around for ages and knows how to make a proper diver’s watch. If you’re anything like me — and most collectors, frankly — adding a watch from the SKX lineup to the collection was a no-brainer. 

However, instead of opting for the SKX007, I took a slightly different route with the SKX173, and eight years later and now more knowledgable than ever I have yet to regret my decision.

With this week’s relaunch of the Seiko 5 Sports line, which came out of the gate swinging with 27 SKX-inspired watches, we thought it’d be fun to take a closer look at the SKX173, my personal ownership experience with the watch, and the small mods I’ve made over the years to truly make the watch my own.

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$250

Review: Seiko SKX173, and the Small Mods That Made It My Own

Case
Stainless steel in Black DLC or SS (high polish)
Movement
Seiko 7S26
Dial
Black
Lume
Lumibrite
Lens
Hardlex
Strap
Rubber
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
42.5mm x 46mm
Thickness
13.25mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screw-down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$250

Why the SKX173?

The SKX173 is, more or less, structurally the same watch as the SKX007, but it was made specifically for the North American market. I don’t know for sure what made me pick one over the other, but if I were to venture a guess it was likely the overall look of the watch, and more specifically the dial. I’d also bet that glowing reviews from forums were part of my decision to hit the checkout button back in 2011.

The main difference between the two watches is in the dial. Instead of circular hour markers, the 173 features rectangles and a slightly sharper triangular index at 12:00. The watch also features a different seconds hand, which I happen to prefer over the one on the 007. On the 173, the lumed circle is located at the head of the seconds hand instead of the tail, which makes it much easier to track seconds in the dark. Just above the 6:00 marker, the “DIVERS 200M” text leans closer to red than the darker burnt-orange of the 007. Although the differences sound minimal on paper, in the metal they give the watch a drastically different appearance.

Even on a smaller wrist, the SKX case works incredibly well.

The 173 pulls inspiration from some popular Seiko divers from the 1980s (see Ref.  4205), but features an updated set of specs. The case is slightly larger at 42.5mm, it has an additional 50 meters of water resistance (200 vs 150), and a slightly different bezel insert. The 173 is also an ISO-certified diver that meets that organization’s very specific standards for what a dive watch should be and should be able to do. At the time of purchase, I recall wanting a mechanical watch that could take a beating while looking cool in the process — all without costing me an arm and a leg. The SKX173 fit the bill perfectly, and I credit this watch with sparking my overall interest and obsession with watches.

My wrist measures in around 6.75”, and on paper a chunky 42.5mm diver would generally be a no-go. Fortunately for me, the SKX173 fits really well. Part of the reason it wears so well is the relatively short lug-to-lug distance of 46mm. The case also measures 22mm at the lugs, which, strangely enough, helps temper the perception of size because it makes the case appear more squat. A 4:00 crown and guards also diminish the watch’s size on the wrist by bringing the guards off the case’s horizontal axis.

“At the time of purchase, I recall wanting a mechanical watch that could take a beating while looking cool in the process — all without costing me an arm and a leg.”

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Making It My Own

The 22mm lug width allows for a broad range of straps and bracelets (both OEM and aftermarket) to be fitted to the watch.

One of the easiest things you can do to change up the look of your watch is swap out the strap. The rubber dive strap that ships with the 173 definitely leaves something to be desired. It’s very long, super stiff, and not the most comfortable thing right out of the box. The first strap I bought was a Maratac Zulu in dark grey with black hardware. It completely changed up the look and feel of the watch, giving it a slightly more aggressive military vibe. I still have the strap today, and wear it frequently with the watch.

That floated me for about six months when again I wanted something different. The next addition to my 173 setup was a WJean Super Oyster bracelet I picked up off eBay. I wasn’t too keen on the OEM bracelet, which has folded end links, and I wanted something more robust feeling with solid links. I came across the WJean on one of the forums and immediately thought it was the right fit. By putting the watch on a bracelet, the look and feel was again completely renewed.

Yep, that’s not the original bezel insert, but more on that below.

“There’s a large aftermarket ecosystem for Seiko SKX mods, with numerous sources for parts.”

At this point, I had started to dive deeper into watches. I added a few Timex quartz watches to my collection, then a Helson Skindiver, and an Orient Bambino (for which I 100% blame Zach’s review). My limited budget at the time yielded a solid little collection that kept me happy. Fast forward a few years, I picked up an Omega Speedmaster Professional as a reward for a personal milestone and the birth of my son, which was followed very shortly by a gently-used Sinn 856 non-UTC, and eventually a Tudor Black Bay 36 in blue. With these three in my collection, the 173 was seeing less and less time on the wrist. I wanted to change that.

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Fortunately, there’s a large aftermarket ecosystem for Seiko SKX mods, with numerous sources for parts. Should you want to, you can replace everything from the dial and hand set, to the bezel and bezel insert with relative ease.

Personally, I didn’t want to do anything too drastic with my SKX173. After all, I was a huge fan of the core design, so I saw no need to change the look of the dial or hands. What I did want to do, however, was make the watch more practical for my needs. I picked up a stainless steel 12-hour bezel insert and a coin edge bezel from Hong Kong-based Yobokies (that’s Seiko Boy backwards, something that took me five years to figure out). To order, you have to send Yobokies an email referencing one of the photos in his Photobucket account. Without a formal storefront, the ordering process was a little convoluted and even felt a bit sketchy, but it’s all totally legitimate and it went off without a hitch. I got my parts in no time.

The process of swapping out the insert was relatively simple. I popped the bezel off with a taped up Swiss Army knife. Then I ran the blade gently between the insert and the bezel itself to remove it. There was more than enough sticky tape in there to hold down the new insert, so I popped the insert-free bezel back on the case to ensure alignment first, and then put in the new 12-hour insert. A small job overall, but one with huge impact on the watch. Oh yeah, what about the aftermarket coin-edge bezel? Well, I tried that one out, but I really didn’t like the look of it so I kept it off.

So Long, SKX173

“At the end of the day, the Seiko SKX173 will always hold a special place in my collection as my first mechanical watch.”

Production on the SKX173 has concluded, and it seems like stock of the SKX173 is finally starting to dry up, so now would be the time to pick one up should you still be interested (the street price seems to be around $250). Earlier this week, we saw the relaunch of the Seiko 5 Sports line with a watch that very much pulls from the SKX line. There are some noticeable differences, however, chief among them lowered water resistance, a push/pull crown in place of a screw-down one, and it not being an ISO-rated diver. If those are deal breakers, then the SKX line is still the way to go.

At the end of the day, the Seiko SKX173 will always hold a special place in my collection as my first mechanical watch. But sentimentality aside, its rock-solid specs have yet to let me down, and the ease of switching up the watch’s appearance keeps it exciting. I’m now thinking about swapping out the crystal for something a little more hard-wearing. The fun continues.

What are your thoughts on the SKX lineup? Let us know in the comments below what you’ve done to make a watch “your own.”

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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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