Seiko SKX009 vs Deep Blue NATO Comparison
Deep Blue takes on Seiko at its own game with an homage to one of the most iconic and well-loved watches Seiko offers. How do they fare, and has Deep Blue given Seiko some food for thought?
First and foremost, a disclaimer. I am a die-hard Seiko fan. I love their watches and currently have 9 of them in my own personal collection. I rank the SBDC033 Sumo as one of my favourites from my entire collection and have a wish-list of Seikos that I want to add to the collection as soon as funds allow. There, now that that’s out of the way, let me delve a little into the background for this piece.
A little bit over a year ago, I was trawling through the various watch groups on Facebook and browsing what was on offer on auction sites, and realised that there was one watch which I hadn’t included in my collection as yet, despite it being one of the most ubiquitously discussed and displayed watches. Glance at any of the “I’ve got $500, which watch should I buy?” posts, and you’ll invariably note a cavalcade of love for the SKX Seiko range, typically accompanied by a picture to emphasize the argument-ending proposal.
I have to admit, there are some stunning pictures out there of the SKX. Either the 007 version with the black bezel and slightly darker dial, or the 009 with the so-called “Pepsi” bezel and an almost unnoticeably lighter tinge to the face of the watch. It seemed to be infinitely versatile, looking attractive on just about any type of strap or bracelet that the fan base would try them out on, and always greeted with an outpouring of unflinching love from the devotees that would respond to the post. Indeed, you can find a nicely balanced review of the SKX009 by Karl, right here.
Needless to say, they came highly recommended, and besides… a Seiko, so what could possibly be wrong with it?
Looking across my collection, I also admitted that I needed some blue added to the mix, and as such, decided to go for the 009 version, as the bezel always seemed to have a glorious blue in it, which reflected the light and dazzled the eye, whilst being cheekily offset by the 1/3 of red that accompanied it. So, the 009 was the winner.
Prior to receiving the watch, from a reputable seller which guaranteed that I was getting the real deal (because, oh yes, they do indeed make replica version of the SKX range… as strange as it may seem, there’s a market for them out there!) – I had also ordered a good quality, non-stinky, Italian rubber strap from an online store that would offset the bezel nicely.
For those of you paying attention thus far, you’ll probably guess as to what came next during my unboxing ritual. I would never go so far as to say that it was a terrible disappointment, but I do vaguely recall uttering something poetic like “Erm… ok”. Somehow it just didn’t knock me sideways the way I expected it to. Yes, I admit that, for the price, it is a well put together watch. The bezel is indeed red and blue and the case looks exactly as it should, with a decent finish and the iconic Hokusai tsunami wave homage on the caseback. The jubilee bracelet that it comes on is, as many of even the most die-hard fans will admit, nothing spectacular, and was something that I was already planning on removing pretty quickly and substituting with the rubber strap.
Continuing to look over it, something about the watch felt a lot more cheap and cheerful than I was hoping for. The coin bezel edges are very rounded and not as sharp as I would’ve thought they would need to be for a diver’s watch. The bezel insert did not catch the light as spectacularly as I would have hoped, with the blue being far more subdued and dark than I had expected and the red much the same. The crown is scratchy when unthreading it from the case, and wobbles more than I would have thought it would/should. I have since read on forums that the crown is often like this, and one of the more endearing flaws of this range which was, for me, all the more frustrating.
Admittedly, the lume does perform its standard Seiko magic of outshining just about any other watch brand on the market, and lasts longer than most, too. In the clear light of day, however, the indices are simply painted on, not applied as with so many watches these days, and added to the cheap feeling of the watch, for me. The dial itself is perfunctory, with the colour being a non-descript one somewhere between black and a very dark grey. There is no discernible texture or colour for the light to play off of, leaving the dial somewhat uninspiring and not especially attractive to look at. In some pictures I had seen, it had appeared to have a blue tinge to it, but I could not detect any of this in real life.
What went wrong?
So is it a bad watch? Not at all. It is a handsome watch which will no doubt serve me well for years and will keep on ticking when other, far more expensive watches will have given up entirely or needed a service. It is, as I said, well put together and is also a very versatile watch for any collector to have, as it will be just as happy being a beater daily knock-around watch as it will be with a nicer strap for a more smart ensemble. For those of you that are fans of the J version of the SKX, kindly note that I took the time to closely examine one whilst in Tokyo earlier this year, and whilst there were some minimal differences in quality, the overall effect was precisely the same as the K version.
I think it was simply a case of me having immense expectations and so very much looking forward to meeting an idol, that when I met it in the flesh, it left me feeling unfulfilled. Still, no harm done, Seiko, no love lost… I will just be more cautious about jumping towards something that gets an inordinate amount of love online. Interestingly, when Seiko released the SRP “Turtle” reissue, I instantly fell in love with all the pictures online, and was so very drawn to it and could not wait to get my hands on one. This time, however, I made a point of going to the local Seiko store in Budapest and taking a look at it in person. Same story. It was a handsome watch but appeared, to me, to be an SKX with a cushion case and an upgraded rubber strap… that’s it. (That said, a more love-fuelled review by Tony can be found here)
The opposing contender
Then along came the Deep Blue Nato Diver 300m collection. Without fanfare or preamble, they appeared on the market and first reactions from watch lovers seemed to be consternation. Deep Blue is a tried and tested brand. They are well known for their workhorse, solid, chunky diving watches which tend to be well built and more targeted towards those who like their watches on the larger side. Yet how could they have done this? Copy an iconic and well-loved Seiko? Blasphemy! Even I, as a non-devotee of the SKX range thought “this is definitely not cricket!”.
Slowly, however, feedback started to seep in from the watch community, and by and large the consternation turned to appreciation. I thought perhaps this was my opportunity to actually get the SKX I had been hoping for all along, and was fortunate to find a Deep Blue Pepsi version on eBay as a catch-and-release from another watch collector and for an excellent price.
Side by side comparison
So let’s take a look at some of the differences between the watches, and there are indeed differences.
Beyond the pure numbers of the specs, there are other elements worthy of note. The Deep Blue comes with a helium release valve, whereas the Seiko SKX does not. The Deep Blue has a crown etched with the company logo, whereas the Seiko is a plain, polished crown. The Deep Blue bezel has colours which really stand out, against the muted and more understated Seiko bezel colours. Not only that, but the Deep Blue bezel has a nice, sharp but well-machined coin edge to it, with clearly defined notches where the Seiko has a more mass-produced look about it.
In terms of the dial, this is where the differences really shine through. The Deep Blue comes with raised, applied indices which are beautifully encircled in metal, whereas the Seiko indices are merely painted directly onto the dial. The Deep Blue dial is a glorious, sunburst blue which really catches the light in ways that the Seiko, as previously mentioned, does not. The Superluminova on the Deep Blue struggles hard to be anywhere as impressive as the Seiko Lumibrite, however.
You can probably see from the photos that these watches, whilst emanating from the same DNA, have some different aspects about them which make them stand apart. I believe that the Deep Blue Nato Diver is the more striking watch, the more catching to the eye, the more colourful without being overboard. (Worth noting, however, that there are also bright yellow and orange dialed versions of the Deep Blue on the market, for those who really want to stand out in a crowd!)
My thoughts on both
So which is the better watch? Difficult to say.
In terms of quality, the Deep Blue oozes far more quality to the way it was put together than the Seiko does. The addition of the Sapphire glass, the colouring of the bezel and dial, the raised indices all make me feel like I’m holding a much more expensive watch than the Seiko, despite them retailing for around the same price (depending on where you buy them from). Can the Deep Blue masquerade as a smart-casual watch, however? Probably not. In this regard, the Seiko is still the winner, with its subdued tones lending far more to it being part of a smart ensemble outfit than the Deep Blue does.
Which watch looks iconic at first glance? Still the Seiko, definitely. It has the looks which are both timeless and effortless, and whilst the Deep Blue is a beautiful watch, the size and colouring (particularly with the standard blue/red Nato strap that accompanies it) make it more of a sports watch only, in my view. If you’re one of those strange types that uses diving watches for actual diving… well, I cannot really say which one would be best suited. The Deep Blue is bigger and more sturdy, but the Seiko has the lume-win as well as the heritage for diving.
So oddly enough, even though the Deep Blue has charmed many an SKX aficionado, and is a better quality watch overall, it has done something truly remarkable beyond simply giving a better set of specs than the SKX… it has made me appreciate the SKX all the more.
Initially, I thought I would be selling the SKX once the Deep Blue arrived, but now they both have pride of place in my display cabinet, side by side, vying for their chance to be the watch of choice for the day, and truthfully, they both get equal wrist time now.
Thank you for taking the time to look over my Seiko SKX009 vs Deep Blue NATO comparison, naturally, this represents my own personal feelings about the two watches, but I would love to hear your feedback and experiences of either of them!