In watches, like all things in life, everything comes back full circle. My watch collecting journey has meandered through different types of watches, spanning all shapes and sizes. There was a time where my collection had ballooned to a number that my watch box couldn’t accommodate. More recently, it has shrunk to a number that I can count on one hand. Very manageable, even by watch enthusiast’s standards. But despite the watches of past and present, there will always be that one watch that started it all – the Seiko SKX.
I’m not talking about the ubiquitous Seiko SKX 007. No, not at all. The watch that kicked off this wild journey within this hobby, and ultimately led me to typing these actual words for you to read at your leisure, was the Seiko SKX013. The Seiko SKX diver format, in a more compact wearing case, suited my preferences at the time. It’s the watch that opened Pandora’s box to all sorts of things in, and out of horology. From figuring out how to change out straps (from that rattley jubilee) and learning about the history of the dive watch, to actually getting me into the sport of surfing. Through thick and thin, the SKX013 has always taken up a spot in the quiver.
[VIDEO] Owner’s Review: The Seiko SSK001 is the Best Affordable GMT Out There, But Will it Stand the Test of Time?
Stainless Steel Bracelet
Push / Pull
Yes, I know, the title says Seiko SSK001 … but I really can’t start talking about the new kid on the block without talking about the beloved SKX diver. They do look pretty similar after all, right? They share the same style of markers and that wabi-sabi Seiko handset. Both also share the same case form, showing off a curvy polished midcase, and a crown at 4 o’clock outlining the asymmetrical silhouette from above. All are a part of the reason why the SSK001 GMT has made its way into the collection. But that’s just touching the surface here. The Seiko SSK001 GMT is everything I’ve said about the SKX diver thus far, and much more. And when I say “much more,” it’s not a half-hearted way to set the table for this review of the SSK. Throw in the travel friendly features, and the fact that Seiko answered the call for what many of us enthusiasts have been asking for a very long time, and that’s an affordable GMT. So, we finally made it. I did mention that we were bringing things full circle. So without further ado, here’s my owner’s review of the Seiko SSK001 GMT.
The only way to compare my entire experience with the Seiko SSK001 GMT is that it’s like catching up with an old friend. Sure, we’ll always have the same good ol’ memories in common, but there’s always something new to chat about. The SSK case brings back those fond memories of the SKX diver. The top of the case, from lug to lug, is entirely brushed and at the crown, the case body extends into a set of crown guards. Like the SKX, the crown guards slope downwards at a sharp angle, exposing the top half of the crown for easy access and management. The case sides however, are polished and bow out ever so slightly past the bezel, as if the watch itself was flexing and showing off its utilitarian muscle.
For someone like myself that has a smaller than average wrist size (6.25”), you’re going to feel every millimeter of this larger than average sized diver. At the bezel, the SSK measures 40.4mm from one side to the other. With the midsection of the case bowing outwards, the SSK comes in a tad wider at 42.5mm. It doesn’t get any slimmer in case thickness either. From the caseback to the top of the hardlex crystal, the case totals at 14.5mm. This is approaching dive chronograph territory, and for a watch that has 100 meters of water resistance, you would think the SSK would sit a tad lower on the wrist. In certain dive watch designs, the protruding caseback is concealed by a lug design that angles downwards and past the caseback, thus giving the impression of a thinner watch while on the wrist. That’s not the case here (see what I did there?), as the lugs pretty much start and end right above the caseback, hence the lofty case height. Worth noting that the SKX007, whose case width matches up with the SSK001, sports a water resistance up to 200 meters, double that of the SSK, and is actually a full millimeter thinner with a 13.5mm case thickness.
I don’t want to make the SSK001 GMT out as an unwieldy watch, because it’s not, even with a total weight of 144 grams on a bracelet sized to my wrist. And that’s all thanks to the 45.6mm lug to lug which keeps all the larger measurements in check. On my wrist, the SSK001 sits pretty squarely and from an overhead view, the protruding case sides are barely noticeable, and looks more like a 40mm watch than a 42.5mm.
The bezel is where we start to notice some differences in our old friend. Instead of an elapsed time bezel, we get a 24 hour display marked by dot markers every odd hour interval, numerals every even hour interval, and a large upside down triangular twenty four hour marker. The gray accents against the split colored bezel has this shiny quality to it thanks to Seiko’s hardlex glass application. More specifically, the daylight hour portion of the bezel displays this mirror-like characteristic that absorbs light in all sorts of fashions. When directed against a light source, that portion of the bezel emits a gray luster. But in low light scenarios, or checking the time against a piece of darker toned clothing, the bezel appears as all black. There’s a certain playfulness to the bezel, and every glance at the wrist displays a different looking watch.
Twisting the bezel on the SSK001 will evoke an unfamiliar feeling, especially if you’re used to a Seiko diver, and dive watches in general. The SSK utilizes a friction fit system which means that the warm tactile feeling we get from a click bezel is non-existent here. In either way you turn the bezel, you’re met with a dull resistance. Not exciting as a “click,” but that’s ok. Because the bezel isn’t limited to 48 clicks, this allows users of the GMT complication to track a timezone that is off by a half hour i.e. Indian Standard Time which is GMT +5:30. It’s an additional feature that adds to the long list of attractive travel qualities of the SSK.
The dial gets several refined qualities that show just how much the SSK has matured from the SKX. The dial markers are slightly raised and are outlined by polished surrounds that separate them from the black dial. The markers are bold and in your face. They’re accompanied by a date window at three o’clock that is magnified by a cyclops. Not only does the presence of the cyclops add a legibility function to the dial, but it also keeps the balance visually. In my opinion, I think that a naked date window would look a little weird, and mess up the flow of the much larger dial markers.
The handset is a familiar one, with a sword-like hour hand and a tron-esque minute hand. Looking closely at the seconds hand, you’ll notice that it’s tonally split from where it is anchored in the center of the dial – a white accent in the portion extending towards the outer part of the dial and black within the part that rotates closer to the center. The fourth and final hand, representative of the GMT complication, sports a broad arrow head that gets outlined in red. The GMT hand does look a lot like the GMT hand on a modern Explorer II. I know there are only so many ways to design an arrow hand, but I would have liked Seiko to use some of their wabi-sabi-ness here to have something that strays a little further from a Rolex design.
The movement within the SSK001 is an update to their in-house 4R caliber line in the form of the 4R34. Thanks to the movement, we’re treated to an affordable take on a GMT. The GMT hand within the SSK001 is adjusted independently of the hour and minute hand, making it a caller or office GMT. Pulling the crown out (no need to unscrew) to its first position allows the user to adjust both the date and GMT hand – turning clockwise adjusts the GMT hand and going in the other direction adjusts the date. The crown in its second position adjusts the main time and collectively moves the GMT hand along with the main handset. All of the inner workings of the movement are viewable through an exhibition screw caseback.
The steel bracelet that is delivered with the SSK001 is most certainly an upgrade from the bracelet of its original predecessor. It is still a 5 link design with brushed endlinks sandwiching the polished center links. The bracelet does taper from the end link to the clasp which is secured via a flip lock and dual button system. It’s the articulation of each link that’s the most noticeable trait about the bracelet. It’s sort of akin to different steering systems in average cars versus luxury cars. The SKX bracelet is reminiscent of a Toyota Camry steering; lax and less control. No disrespect to Camry drivers, as I own one, and they’re reliable vehicles, even at 150k plus miles on it. The SSK bracelet has this better-made quality to it, with stiffer articulation, much like a tighter steering system found in a BMW 3 series. Now is the SSK001 considered a luxury watch? Far from it if we’re speaking in terms relative to the entire price spectrum within the watch industry. The way I look at it, you’re getting a ton of watch for what Seiko is asking for.
The Seiko SSK001 GMT is my first foray into the GMT space. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled and searched on watch forums, “Best Affordable GMT Watches.” Most times, I came away feeling disappointed as I scrolled through a list of watches that didn’t suit my taste, and more often than not, had designs that were derivative of more luxurious GMT models. The Seiko SSK was the first affordable watch with a GMT complication that came across my radar and was actually one that I wanted to buy.
You can call this the beginning of my “GMT Journey.” And I could not think of a better watch to start it off with than the Seiko SSK001 GMT. I’ve found the caller GMT function already useful. Just recently, we were covering LVMH watch week which kicked off in Singapore and I was using the SSK to track three separate time zones – EST (or GMT -5) as my home time via the main handset, GMT for the GMT hand (which is where I normally keep it at), and using the bezel to track Singapore (or GMT +8). I’ve always been known to overly romanticize things, but to think that your head can go anywhere in the world with one twist of the bezel, is just super cool to me.
That said, I don’t think I need a function to tell me a third time zone. I’d be totally fine with a display that can tell me only two time zones, and I’d just do the math from GMT (if I can do it, then so can you). I’ve always aspired to own a black dial Rolex Explorer II 16570 one day, and man does the SSK001 GMT scratch that itch.
One of my favorite features of the SSK001 GMT is the additional 24 hour display within the rehaut. It just makes deciphering the time between multiple time zones that much easier. But you know what’s even better about it? Pop the 24 hour bezel off and throw on an elapsed time bezel, and you get a Diver with a GMT complication that has a 24 hour display on the dial!
I’ve noticed that the SSK would only stay on the wrist for a couple of days before it traded spots with another watch. And I think I attribute that to the larger size of the watch. I’m sure many of you have larger sized divers and find that they only work in certain scenarios or certain seasons. The same goes for me and the SSK. I just found that the watch wears a tad bit too large for my liking to be an everyday wearer. But on a day where it calls for layering up, the SSK001 looks the business at the end of a jacket and sweater cuff. The jury is still out on how I’ll feel about the watch with jeans and a t-shirt, as we’re still in the dead of winter in the North East.
The Seiko SKX diver was the quintessential watch I’d recommend to anyone who was looking to get into the hobby. No question about it. But you know what? I can firmly say that the Seiko SSK001 has taken the SKX’s place. The SSK001 has all the qualities you would want in a diver. From design, to function, the SSK has a lot going for it. Then throw in the GMT complication, and you have yourself an everyday wearer (if you’re not bothered by the size) and a watch that you could wear on vacation without worry. And if you somehow grow tired of how the watch looks, then there is no shortage of modding forums that you could check out. It’s a deep hole to dive into, but it just shows how endless your options can be. For me, the key part of it all that makes it the watch I’d recommend for someone new to the watch game, is the display caseback. Anyone could appreciate the design of a watch at case and dial value. But what will keep someone in the hobby is understanding what’s going on inside of the watch (people not taking the hobby too seriously also helps). It’s the point when the wearer understands that the watch doesn’t work, unless you move too. I did say that I tend to over-romanticize things, right?
In my opinion, I think this was a solid first step in my “GMT Journey.” Where it’ll go from here, I do not know. I guess only time will tell.
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.