Monday, June 07, 2010

The Poor Man's Marinemaster aka SKX007 w/WJean Super Oyster Bracelet

Welcome to the latest episode of the Recession Watch. While we all hoped this would be titled the Recovery Watch, lets face it, we're not there yet. So, the real Marinemaster will have to wait a while longer. That being said though, I really love the look and feel of a high end Seiko diver. Fortunately for us wallet challenged folks, there is a solution these days. The short answer is to get a Seiko SKX007 (or 009 if the Pepsi bezel is more your thing) and do a bracelet transplant. Now before I continue, Seiko does sell these models on stainless steel bracelets. I even reviewed one about five years ago . I wound up gifting that 009 to my brother-in-law because I just didn't like the bracelet. Don't get me wrong, the stock bracelet is ok. It is a solid link design with hollow end links. It worked just fine but it felt too light to balance the heavy 009 on my wrist comfortably. Thanks to developments in aftermarket bracelets, this issue has been addressed to my liking.

If you sniff around at the Seiko Citizen Watch Forum or on the Watchuseek Seiko Citizen forum, you will find many mentions of a "Super Oyster" bracelet for Seiko diver watches. The bracelet you see pictured above is one of them. WJean btw is short for ebay seller wjean28, from whom I got this one. As to what makes the super oyster bracelet such an improvement, here's the deal. The whole thing is much more heavily built than the stock model and the end links are thankfully solid. The bracelet employs thick screw pins (instead of split pins) and a flip lock clasp. The net result is a much beefier and less tinny package. Additionally, those solid end links will not warp over time as the hollow models I had on my 009 eventually did. WJean even included a set of extra thick spring bars (If you have seen the Seiko spring bars that the Monster or the Tuna come with, the replacements are like them). It should be noted that there are super oyster bracelets with hollow end links out there too. I believe that WJean sells them as well. I think that the links are still better than the stock bracelet but the end links are substantially the same. They cost less than the solid end link models though so that is something to consider too.

For what seems like a small cosmetic change, the super oyster bracelet really changes the character of the SKX007. What started out looking and feeling like a mid-range diver now feels like a much more expensive piece altogether. The new bracelet even includes a Seiko signed clasp although there is no diver's extension (not that I ever used the ones I have on other models).

The SKX007 itself is a terrific watch incidentally, super oyster or no. It's stainless steel case meassures 42mm in width (not including the 4 o'clock crown), 13mm in height, 47mm lug to lug and has a 22mm band lug width. Internally it is powered by Seiko's durable 7s26 automatic movement. The watch does not hack or hand wind if that matters to you (hey it has to be different from a Marinemaster somewhere, right). That being said, a quick shake will power the watch up immediately and the power reserve after a day's wear seems to be at least 35-40 hours. The crown screws down and the water resistance is rated at 200 meters. Seiko's lume is generally very good and the 007 is no exception. It isn't quite in a Monster's league but it's no slouch either. The bezel is counter-rotating with a firm action and it includes an embedded luminous marker of it's own. The crystal is made of Seiko's proprietary Hardlex, a hardened glass that sort off splits the difference in scratch resistance between sapphire (great) and conventional glass (eh). As sports watches go, the 007 is well designed to handle the abuse that diving/water sports dish out and looks terrific to my eye as well.

The bottom line (and that is the whole point of this review) is that for about $230, I now have a Seiko automatic diver that looks and feels like a watch that costs at least double that price. It's so good in fact that I personally think that Seiko should really consider doing its customers a favor and either contract with folks like WJean to offer this option or just release it themselves. Until that happens though, head over to the global tag sale and ring up a super oyster of your own for a 007/009. Frankly, even if you are flush with cash, it's still worth doing. P.S. I picked up this 007 here on a rubber strap in contemplation of getting this bracelet for it. I couldn't be more pleased with the result.
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