Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

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Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jonnybardo » February 17th 2013, 8:15pm

I've been lusting over the higher end Seiko Divers, in particular the SBDB001, which I think is the most gorgeous watch I've ever seen. But not being a high-end guy, I'm wondering if someone could tell me in brief the difference between the following watches. I'm starting with low to high price and throwing an Orient in, with links to (and prices from) SeiyaJapan.

SBDC001 - aka "Sumo" - $564

SBDC007 - Prospex - $1,108

SBBN015 - aka "Tuna" - $1,120

Orient Saturation Diver - $1,128

SBDX001 - MarineMaster 300M - $2,298

SBDB001 - MarineMaster 600M - $4,098

SBDG031- Grand Seiko - $6,848

I know that the last couple watches use a Spring Drive movement, but I'm not sure why they are so much more expensive. I know that the Sumo and Prospex both use hardlex (which seems cheap for such relatively pricey watches; my $400 Velatura has sapphire) and have lower dive ratings, but am not sure why their movement is considered so inferior and why they're so much cheaper than the rest.

So I'm trying to undertand why, for instance, the Grand Seiko is so much more than the SBDB001? And why is that so much more than the SBDX001 (other than having a Spring Drive)? What about the others? What's the main reason for these price differences? Obviously we can erase brand name from this as they're all Seiko (except for one), which is why I chose all Seiko - so the differences in price couldn't be impacted by the brand.

And please refrain from the derision. If you feel the need to be negative or nasty, go do it somewhere else. I'm looking for honest and succinct answers, and not coming at this with an agenda other than my desire to understand. Thanks.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by koimaster » February 17th 2013, 8:45pm

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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jason_recliner » February 17th 2013, 9:09pm

In a nutshell:

SBDC001 - aka "Sumo": Basic stainless steel automatic dressy diver. Think Seamaster / Aquaracer. Part of the Prospex series.

SBDC007 - aka "Shogun": As per Sumo, but with titanium construction.

SBBN015 - aka "Tuna": Professional (meaning suitable for saturation diving) quartz dive watch.

WV0041EL - Automatic professional dive watch, aesthetically less dressy and refined than Sumo / Shogun, but more fully featured (sapphire, better clasp).

SBDX001 - MarineMaster 300M - High end automatic dressy diver, suitable for saturation diving. Movement is substantial upgrade over those above, being the base for the Grand Seiko movements. Largely constructed and finished by hand in Japan, in the same factory that produces Grand Seiko. Generally more refined than old gen Rolex Sub, less refined than current gen.

SBDB001 - MarineMaster 600M: As per MM300 but with titanium construction, spring drive movement, and sapphire.

SBGA031 - Grand Seiko Diver: High end dress dive watch, competes with JLC, Blancpain, GO, etc. Extremely refined hand construction and finishing (by Seiko's best watch makers in Japan). There is also a slightly cheaper steel version of this watch.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jonnybardo » February 17th 2013, 9:36pm

Jason (or whomever) a few specific questions:

1) I'm a bit surprised that all of those watches don't use sapphire; I was under the impression that most watches in the $400-500 range use sapphire, but even the $2,300 SBDX001 has hardlex and not sapphire. Why? It seems like above a certain price point using sapphire would be the norm.

2) Is the primary difference in cost between these different models based upon the movement?

3) How do these different watches compare in terms of overall quality with similar watches in their price ranges? Which ones represent excellent value and which ones not so good value? Etc.

Thanks again - good stuff.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by bedlam » February 17th 2013, 10:30pm

jonnybardo wrote:Jason (or whomever) a few specific questions:

1) I'm a bit surprised that all of those watches don't use sapphire; I was under the impression that most watches in the $400-500 range use sapphire, but even the $2,300 SBDX001 has hardlex and not sapphire. Why? It seems like above a certain price point using sapphire would be the norm.

2) Is the primary difference in cost between these different models based upon the movement?

3) How do these different watches compare in terms of overall quality with similar watches in their price ranges? Which ones represent excellent value and which ones not so good value? Etc.

Thanks again - good stuff.


1) Because Seiko is Seiko and does whatever the hell it wants. There is a weak case for the use of Hardlex over sapphire for impact resistance but I am not wholly convinced. The MM300 is a derivative design that deliberately evokes the the physical appearance of older Seiko divers and the hardlex replicates that aesthetic better than sapphire...hardlex has a slightly golden bloom in its reflection of light that sapphire doesn't. Seiko agrees that sapphire is superior in some respects and has made the decision to use hardlex both because it is sufficient to do the job, and its inexpensive (best performance for the price being a key company value). Ultimately, Seiko doesn't approach making a watch with the same shopping list mentality that some buyers do - so it will continue to be a source of frustration to those people.

2) The 6r15 in the Sumo (and Bluering) is a mid-range movement on par with the ETA 2824-2, though at a lower bpm. The MM300's 8L35 is an undecorated Grand Seiko movement; a movement that is essentially on par with what you find in a Submariner. The Spring Drive is a quartz calibrated auto movement without any real competitor in the watch world at the moment. As far as I am aware the Spring Drive is the most accurate auto movement available.

3) The Seiko watches you listed are around the best value available at their various price points.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jason_recliner » February 17th 2013, 11:07pm

jonnybardo wrote:Jason (or whomever) a few specific questions:

1) I'm a bit surprised that all of those watches don't use sapphire; I was under the impression that most watches in the $400-500 range use sapphire, but even the $2,300 SBDX001 has hardlex and not sapphire. Why? It seems like above a certain price point using sapphire would be the norm.

2) Is the primary difference in cost between these different models based upon the movement?

3) How do these different watches compare in terms of overall quality with similar watches in their price ranges? Which ones represent excellent value and which ones not so good value? Etc.

Thanks again - good stuff.


What Carl said, pretty much.

1) Not all sapphires are created equal. At the time the MM300 was being developed, thick double domed sapphires were expensive relative to the total watch cost (as well as relative to today's sapphire prices, I understand). I have read that microscopic imperfections were common enough that the reject rate was significant, resulting in higher costs. Bear in mind, Seiko would bear all these costs as they make their own crystals.

Faced with the choice between thick domed sapphires (strong and scratch resistant, but expensive), thick domed mineral glass (strong and (relatively) easily scratched, but cheap), or thin domed sapphire ((relatively)weak and scratch resistant, but cheap), they chose mineral. Same for the Sumo and Tunas (exept the newer auto and spring drive Tunas).

Note that many much cheaper Seikos have been available with (flat, thin) sapphires for many years now. Just not the older divers.

In today's luxury watch market, it's a safe bet that the MM300 replacement will have sapphire, maybe also the Sumo and Tunas. Even the newer kinetic divers, at around US$500 RRP, have sapphire, and they feel very solid.

2. Not just the movement. See my original answer. Materials, country of manufacture, refinement of finish, and manual labour all contribute to price differences. And market positioning, obviously.

3. If you are the kind of person who shops based on features and specs, value for divers goes like this Micros > Seiko/Citizen > Swiss/German. If you start to consider the intangibles (heritage, history, innovation, design integrity, cachet - i.e., you evaluate watches as luxury goods, which they are), the micros can't really compete with the established brands.

Seiko and Citizen (and Orient) will almost always give you comparable (based on tangible features) watches at lower price points than the Swiss and Germans. You obviously don't get the cachet and 'snob' factor associated with the Swiss brands (your friends are likely more impressed by your new Tag than your new Seiko), so how much that contributes to 'value' is really up to you.

Personally, I'm not really a luxury lifestyle kind of guy, I just like nice watches, but I appreciate history, heritage, and horologological significance, and I collect mainly divers. Therefore I am not that interested in the micros (I have one, a Benarus), and tend to gravitate to Seiko and Citizen, both brands which are closely associaetd with the development and evolution of dive watches.

I also like Rolex and Omega dive watches, but the price difference (compared to Seiko and Citizen) makes collecting them a challenge for me. At the higer end, I think it is interesting to compare the Sub, Planet Ocean, and MM300. All three are very close in terms of refinement and quality, all have heritage and history up the wazoo, yet the MM300 is maybe $2,500, PO is $5,000, and Sub now something like $7k. Factor in the hand made aspects of the MM300, which is produced in FAR smaller numbers than either Swiss watch, and I feel that Seiko offers tremendous value with this watch. Regardless of whether it is fitted with a sapphire or not.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by bedlam » February 18th 2013, 12:47am

jason_recliner wrote:I also like Rolex and Omega dive watches, but the price difference (compared to Seiko and Citizen) makes collecting them a challenge for me. At the higer end, I think it is interesting to compare the Sub, Planet Ocean, and MM300. All three are very close in terms of refinement and quality, all have heritage and history up the wazoo, yet the MM300 is maybe $2,500, PO is $5,000, and Sub now something like $7k. Factor in the hand made aspects of the MM300, which is produced in FAR smaller numbers than either Swiss watch, and I feel that Seiko offers tremendous value with this watch. Regardless of whether it is fitted with a sapphire or not.

And the MM300 has a degree of hand assembly that the other two do not. The Rolex, on the other hand, is one of the most expensive robot-made production-line watches in history.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jonnybardo » February 18th 2013, 5:53am

bedlam and jason, thanks for the follow-up posts. Very, very helpful.

Jason: "Personally, I'm not really a luxury lifestyle kind of guy, I just like
nice watches, but I appreciate history, heritage, and horologological
significance, and I collect mainly divers."


This is exactly how I feel and helps convince me that if I ever want a high-end watch, one of these Seikos would do the trick (although there are some low-end Omegas that are similar in price to the MM300. And it seems that Oris and Tag Heuer both make watches that you can sometimes find for less than a grand on the used market.

Now tell me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the Sumo is particularly a great value, sort of like a "pseudo-luxury" watch for a very affordable price. Do I take it there is a new Sumo and Tuna on the horizon that might have sapphire crystals?

So from what both of you say, aside from history, tradition and gold/diamonds, you're really not going to find a better watch out there than the Grank Seiko. Is that correct? And the MM600 is just a step down?

Finally, I'll look it up but you mention newer kinetic divers for $500 - I couldn't find any other than the ~$250 SKA371/427. There is also the Prospex SBCZ011 which is about $450, but that looks exactly like the SKA371 - not sure what else you're getting there. Or are you referring to something else?
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jonnybardo » February 18th 2013, 6:11am

On a side note, the biggest thing that turns me off about the Sumo - which I've been seriously considering for awhile - is the thin clasp. That seems like a short-cut that shouldn't be taken on a nearly $600 watch; my $300 Citizen Nighthawk has a thick clasp, as does my $400 Seiko Velatura SNAA91, my $400 Prometheus Baiji, and my Orient Revolver which is similar in cost and level to the Sumo.

It seems that I could get an Orient Saturation Diver for a similar cost used ($600-700), and not only do I prefer it aesthetically but it seems like slightly higher quality overall. What do you think? Is the Saturation Diver a good "lower-end highish quality" diver to target (in the $500-1,000 range)? I'm considering the Sumo, Tuna, and Orient Saturation Diver. Anything else I should look at?
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jonnybardo » February 18th 2013, 6:59am

Thanks, JJMac. The more I hear, the more I like. It seems the Sumo can either be the crown jewel of an "affordable watch" collection and/or the gateway watch to more expensive watches, but it isn't misplaced in either sphere.

codguy, I saw that. I was specifically asking for recommendations for other divers in the price range of the Sumo and Tuna ($500-1,000) of comparable quality. I'll continue to look around other forums and websites, but wanted to see what the collective wisdom of Watchlords would come up with.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by TemerityB » February 18th 2013, 8:02am

This has nothing to do with the thread topic, but it's really true. I used to work in Mahwah, NJ, in the next office over from Seiko's U.S. headquarters. I got to know a couple of the Seiko employees (one really great guy in particular), and all he ever talked about was how hard they worked to "put out good watches."

Anyone who buys or covets ANY Seiko is okay by me. I own four, with two in rotation, and the other two gifts from my wife, and I will never get rid of them for that factor alone.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by boscoe » February 18th 2013, 6:22pm

Sumo is a kick-ass watch that delivers amazing fit and finish and accuracy. Great value for money.
Foghorn and I were among the first to get them. I sold mine simply because it was too big for my wrist.
@mr.bardo: handle a wide variety of watches and actually look at them (not photos). the fine points of quality and craftsmanship will become more visible with more experience.
You will notice how cases lack sharp edges, for example.
I suggest you study an Omega Seamaster (or buy one). This is my benchmark for a very good watch with obvious quality.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jason_recliner » February 19th 2013, 12:37am

These pics give you dome idea of the quality difference between a Sumo and a Planet Ocean:

http://s1187.beta.photobucket.com/user/jason_recliner1/library/Sumo%20vs%20Planet%20Ocean

The Sumo is well worn, but the underlying quality is evident. This gives an idea of what the extra $2k brings to the table. I don't have macros of the MM300, unfortunately, but they are out there.
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by Hawk » February 19th 2013, 6:12am

AJC wrote:photobucket sucks.
use imgur, they even have a google chrome extension that allows you to drag & drop images into your account for ease of use.

I use opera.

Mostly deleted 'cause the thread's a sticky.
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Reason: distillation of sticky thread
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Re: Watchlords - enlighten me: What's the difference between these Seiko Divers?

Post by jonnybardo » February 19th 2013, 6:22am

Thanks, Jason. That's a well-loved (worn) Sumo!

The Sumo actually holds up pretty well. It actually seems to be similar in overall finish to my Seiko Velatura SNAA91 (which isn't a dive watch).

boscoe, I'd love to do just as you say but as I live in small-town New England there aren't any good watch shops around. Whenever I go to a larger city I try to go to a watch shop, though.
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