Seiko Automatic Diver SKX781

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: The Orange Monster deserves its reputation.

The Long Version: This is a tough watch for me to review: it's a really nice watch, and compares very well to ones that cost twice as much from brands like Tissot and Tag. But I hardly ever wear it, and I'm gonna tell you why.

First of all, the Orange Monster is a watch that competes well above its price-point. The colour, while not to everyone's taste, suits the watch and is very well chosen. Orange is tough to get right, and the designers did a good job. Seiko also has a great pedigree as a watch company; they've been making watches for longer than many Swiss brands, and are one of only two companies that can build a watch movement - quartz or mechanical - without buying parts from someone else. Their R&D puts them in the top ranks, with their Spring Drive being as important as the co-axial escapement and mechanically superior. And their high-end mechanical watches, rarely seen in North America, are worthy of great respect.

The problem for my particular Orange Monster is that it's still essentially an entry-level mechanical watch, and I also own a pair of mechanical Omega Seamasters (reviewed). It sucks being the adopted younger brother to an exceptional sailor and a secret agent. Sure, as a responsible parent I can try to love them all equally, but the Seiko Diver is just outclassed and there's nothing it can do about it. It doesn't have the fit and finish, it doesn't have the looks, and it doesn't have the reassuring weight or perfect balance of its bigger brothers.

I never expected the Orange Monster to replace my Omegas, and I knew that it was never going to be a watch for daily wear. Part of its appeal to me is as a collector; a Seiko mechanical is just something that I really want to own. Another part of the appeal is that looks absolutely nothing like anything Swatch Group makes. That's a much bigger accomplishment than it seems - and I should know, since they were my employers when I bought it. Everyone in the office could immediately spot that it was from outside of the family, including the many who had only passing familiarity with the Group's products. In a world where even bad designs are duplicated, and every other watch costing under $300 can pass for a Rolex, Seiko's accomplishment in finding a unique look that isn't seriously ugly is major.

The orange monster from the side. I have no idea where the red came from.

My favourite design features are the orange dial and hands. The face is bold and immediately legible, so it does exactly what I want a watch to do, although the luminosity isn't as bright or enduring as my Seamasters. The crown being offset from the 3 position does reduce its tendency to snag or bruise, and the bezel and case design contribute to the aggressive styling of the watch. The case is tall enough that it's best worn with short sleeves: it isn't called a monster for nothing. 

The most significant problem that I have is one that probably won't matter to most people, but it's critical for me. The Orange Monster is a mechanical watch. Its power reserve, while good, isn't enough to run for the 34 or so hours that a watch sits through when it's worn every other day. It can't be manually wound, so it can't be 'topped up' in the evenings. So even when I am in the mood to wear it, the Seiko doesn't want to play. It also has a day-date display, so when it does stop and sit for a day or two, it's a real hassle to get it set again. 

If the Orange Monster was my daily wear, none of this would matter. But the extra effort of wearing it in rotation - repeatedly getting it set and keeping it running - is too much like work, and the watch isn't one that I'm going to completely stop wearing my Seamasters for. I do occasionally put it on, and maybe use it for a few days or a week, but then it goes back into its place beside the Swatches in my watch box. But, befitting its status and pedigree, it does earn the prestigious middle compartment.


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