Buying an SKX in 2022

The SKX is a watch that needs no introduction – in fact, if you haven’t heard of it, you must’ve been living under a horological rock in the past decade. It was the favorite watch of newbies and seasoned collectors-alike, the go-to piece for YouTube reviewers trying to get their channels off the ground, the darling of the Instagram watch community and the champion of the watch bloggers and forum-members. Chances were, if someone asked for a recommendation for a first watch or a watch on a tight budget, the SKX was certain to pop up among the suggestions and more often than not, it was gonna be on the top of the list.

I’m using past tense here, since in 2019 the SKX line was finally discontinued. People were outraged and in disbelief and become even more so when Seiko unveiled the new 5KX line instead of an actual replacement for the SKX. But the dust settled and as prices of the remaining SKX stock began to rise, people finally moved on – in the sense that barely anyone recommended it as a “bargain” or a “value” piece since.

Now, I’ve never actually owned an SKX before – for me, the hype (and hype in general) was off-putting and I’ve always felt that the claims that it was “the best value watch”, “the best bang-per-buck watch”, “the best entry level watch”, etc. were rather unsubstantiated.

Granted, the SKX was in production for a very long time – from 1996 to 2019 – and it’s very difficult to talk about value in such a huge time frame, but let me tell you this: the Orient Mako was first produced in 2004 and from that moment on, the SKX wasn’t the best value watch. In fact, after the first 10 years of its production passed, it wasn’t the best anything. Steadily, over the years, the price kept creeping up and the competition – Orient, Citizen and then, the microbrands – started offering way more for the money. Hell, at the very end, even Seiko had lower-priced models with better specs on offer.

And then, there’s the modding community. Now, I know some people love mods and love the SKX for the sheer choice of different aftermarket parts and that’s all well and good, but for me the modding community was the biggest proof that the SKX was, in fact, a lousy value for money. Most people just upgraded it with things like better bracelets, sapphire, newer movements and properly aligned bezels and chapter rings – and if you had to spend double the amount of money you paid for the watch just to get it in a state that’s acceptable for you, well then our concepts for value are very different.

After reading my rant, you might be wondering – Why on earth have I bought a watch I don’t consider to be best, or even second-best of anything, 3 years after it was discontinued? What’s different? Well, the SKX has remained pretty much the same – it was my perception that changed.

Now, even though I’ve said some not really nice things about it, the fact remains that the SKX is an icon. It’s an iconic watch from the past, a milestone of a particular moment in history, both for Seiko and for the watch industry in general. It’s a relic from a simpler time, when watches were meant to be worn and used, a fact that very obvious from the purpose-built nature of the SKX.

This ties in nicely to my point – the Seiko SKX is a product of a different time, a product of the past and, having in mind that during its production run remained virtually unchanged from 1996 to 2019, it could almost be considered a vintage piece. And when you look at it from the vintage perspective, many of its apparent shortcomings become much more forgivable and understandable. You’d be right to complain about a pressed clasp and the absence of a sapphire crystal on a modern watch, but you wouldn’t mind it on a 4-digit Submariner, would you? You’d just accept it as a mark of the time when the watch was produced and consider it a part of its vintage charm.

And let me tell you – the vintage charm of the SKX is incredible. I went for the J version (because why not and because it was just a little more expensive than the K), the 009 (because that pop of color just adds a bit more character) and immediately ordered the jubilee bracelet for it. Not an upgraded – solid end-link, milled-clasp jubilee – the original Seiko jubilee, in all of its pressed-and-hollow-parts glory. And really, I didn’t regret it one bit. That jubilee is one of the most comfortable bracelets I’ve ever worn. And it complements the vintage charm of the watch even more.

I was completely aware of all of the negatives of the SKX before I got it – the non-hacking, non-handwinding movement, the hardlex crystal, the misaligned bezel and chapter ring – and I can tell you 2 things: 1. They’re all true and 2. I don’t mind any of it, not a single bit. Because for all of the deficiencies it has, it makes it up in charm and cool factor.

For all the watches that were made throughout history, only a handful have reached universal acclaim and iconic status – and amongst those horological giants stands Seiko’s underdog, the SKX. And while most of the iconic watches from other brands like Rolex are virtually unobtainable for the most of us, the SKX can still be found for a reasonable price (NIB), if you know where to look.

As a friend of mine nicely summed it up, “Sure, there are divers that offer a better value for money, but Robert Redford wore an SKX in All is Lost”. And that’s just about everything you need to know about the SKX.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.