The Ultimate Guide To The Seiko 5 'SKX' GMT
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The Ultimate Guide To The Seiko 5 'SKX' GMT

The attainable travel watch that just might be the best value in its class.

If you’ve been in the watch game for long enough, there is a better-than-zero chance that you’ve owned, had someone recommend for you to own, or have at least come across the Seiko SKX series. The Seiko SKX (notably the black SKX007 and Pepsi-style SKX 009) served as the go-to value proposition in all of watches. You can still find them trading on the open market for upwards of $500, but there was a time where one could be had easily for $150-$200. A 42mm, ISO-certified, bona-fide dive watch, the SKX represents the last vestige of a true tool watch that predates hype and everything that comes with it. I own one, and continue to wear it, scratch it and bang it around fearlessly. Seiko filled the dive-adjacent void once filled by the SKX, now discontinued, with a series of Seiko 5 models in all manner of colors that resemble the SKX but never quite took the idea across the finish line.

And that’s because the SKX was a cult classic for a reason. It married function and form (except for accuracy, but that’s hardly why you buy a sub-$300 diver) in a way that we only hear about in tales from our “elders” who used to buy Rolex Submariners and GMT-Master for $150 five decades ago. It’s been a number of years now since the SKX has been a production model in the broader Seiko lineup. But just two summers ago, the venerable, vertically integrated, Japanese juggernaut of a brand unveiled something new in the Seiko 5 range –  a travel-ready SKX-looking release that seems poised to assume the cultish throne.

I am of course referring to – what Seiko calls – the SKX series of GMT watches. It's an odd naming convention considering the fact that all of them begin with reference prefixes SSK, but I digress. This new SSK GMT series hit us like a freight train in the night, as if some strange horological wish was heard and made true by the watch gods. For all intents and purposes, this watch is the GMT version of the SKX, bringing a toolish, affordable charm to a travel-watch format that so desperately craves it. For everyone who correctly differentiates the Seiko 5 divers from the SKX, this GMT actually feels like the proper heir. And that’s because a GMT watch need not be ISO-certified, and it should have that extra bit of cosmopolitan aesthetic feel because its a travel watch, one destined for the skies and every new adventure ahead of us. 

The original trio of watches Seiko unveiled at the launch of the brand new SKX collection of GMTs were the SSSK001, the SSK003, and the SSK005. In order, those were a black-dial variation with a red GMT hand plus a black-and-grey bezel, a blue dial variation with a red GMT hand plus a black-and-blue bezel, and a striking orange dial with a black GMT hand plus a black-and-grey bezel, with orange markers to match the punchy dial color.

I remember just being positively gobsmacked at the launch because it occurred during a time in which affordable GMT watches were decidedly not the norm, and the sting of the SKX’s discontinuation hadn't quite worn off yet. Sure, there were some things that I, and other hardcore “horologists,” didn't quite love, such as the continued use of the new Seiko 5 logo, the script automatic text, and the exhibition caseback. Oddly enough, as this watch grew on all of us, those gripes faded into the vast expanse of pedantic space. So leaving opinion out of it, let’s first look at the foundational trio.

The SSK001

The Seiko GMT SSK001 was, and has remained, my personal favorite of the lot by sheer virtue of its simplicity. If you ever fancied the original Seiko SKX 007 as a rugged, affordable, Japanese take on the Rolex Submariner, then the SKX 001 no doubt can be viewed as some kind of riff on the GMT-Master 16710 in its black- bezel, red-hand variation. Here you get a straightforward black dial, applied numerals, red dial text matching the large and legible red GMT hand, as well as the aforementioned black and grey bezel.

This, in my opinion, is the stealth traveler. In a world where more and more people are worried about what watch to travel with in exotic locales, or even just [insert city here], with this watch you get a color scheme that makes it versatile as all get-out and simultaneously feels injected with a dose of heritage due to its ties back to the SKX (and by the transitive property, the classic 62MAS diver heritage of the ‘60s).

The SSK003

For this watch, we need only to look to the sky and find Gotham’s Commissioner Gordon shining the Bat Signal high above the city. In keeping with the theme of light homage, you only have to glance at the bezel of the SKX003 to understand what it’s pulling from (hint: It’s the Rolex GMT-Master II aptly nicknamed the Batman for its blue-and-black bezel).

That’s right, this GMT adds a blue-and-black bezel color combination to the fray which, in turn, brings a whole different look and feel from the SSK001. Unlike the Rolex, the blue-and-black bezel is contrasted against a sunray-finished blue dial which is then punctuated by that large GMT hand much like the SSK001.

The SSK005

This watch takes color and visibility to a new level, pulling design inspiration from many vintage divers with orange dials such as the Doxa Sub 300 Professional, and even the Seiko Monster. The result here is a convergence of Seiko’s heritage as a maker of professional-grade dive watches with this newly charted path of GMT models.

The dial is a deep and vivid orange color that allows the stark white of the markers to truly pop. A red GMT hand would have been a legibility nightmare so what we get is a nice grey hand that compliments the marker surrounds. 

In an interesting twist, the hands take on a gilt-like color playing off the gilt-ish coloration of the numerals on the bezel. The bezel is again bi-color, split into black and grey just like the SSK001. The GMT text on the dial here is just a standard black.

This wraps the original line of the SSK, but the story doesn’t end there. Another trio followed soon after in the form of the U.S.-exclusive SSK017, SSK019, and SSK021.

The SSK017

An appropriate watch to talk about after the orange SSK005, the SSK017 injects even more vivid color into the dive-meets-GMT format. What we get here is the black-and-grey bezel split pitted against a Coldplay-level yellow dial. The yellow is on the dial and on the secondary 24 hour rehaut, creating a real cohesiveness to the whole package.

The yellow dial allows for the red GMT hand and red text to really sing while the black surrounds on the markers and black of the hands make this likely the most legible variation of the entire bunch.

The SSK019

Here we get arguably — ah heck, I’ll make the argument — the most interesting of all the choices within this SSK SKX line. That is because it mixes “basic” everyday color features with a particularly iconic combination of red and blue. The most obvious way to effectuate the “Pepsi” colorway on a GMT is to split the outer bezel into those two colors.

Instead, here we get the standard black and grey split with the red and blue combo reserved for the rehaut scale. It’s like having two watches in one in some ways. I can also see this being more of a purist choice and the type of design choice that removes this from “everyday wear” consideration. In all, the rhodium-esque dial with the red and the blue make this the buzziest of the bunch.

The SSK021

Let’s be honest, this wouldn’t be a watch collection without a two-tone model, and that is exactly what we get with the SSK001, which brings a gold tone to the bezel that picks up on the warmth apparent on the GMT hand and the GMT text on the dial. 

These flourishes are complimented by the stark black-and-grey nature of the dial and the bezel. I think this watch could have taken this two-tone ideal to the finish line by rendering the bezel insert numerals in a gilt coloration but this looks handsome nonetheless.

The SSK027

Rounding out our list is the Seiko 5 Sports Yuto Horigome Limited Edition SSK027. Horigome is a professional skateboarder and the watch is a reflection of his life growing up in Tokyo. It also manages to evoke a popular vintage GMT watch aesthetic.

The case and bracelet are all black unlike the steel of the other models. It features a black dial, a red GMT hand and red GMT text, but where this watch really separates itself from the competition is in the bezel insert, which is done in what Seiko calls a navy-and-purple color combination evocative of the sunset in downtown Tokyo that Horigome remembers as a young skateboarder.

To me, this is very reminiscent of the way vintage Rolex GMT-Master bezel inserts tended to fade over time due to exposure to various elements. It is interesting to see this vintage touch paired with the very modern look of the case and bracelet, but boy, is it cool.

The Seiko 5 GMT

Now, we very easily could have included the more field-watch-style SSK023 and SSK025 models in this article, but the truth is, those do not capture the same SKX energy that these other SSK models do. And I think it is important to be able to track the lineage of the king of value divers into these new kings of value GMT watches.

On the bracelet, or paired with all manner of straps, it is hard to deny the way that these new models in their various color combinations have captured the hearts of watch enthusiasts and collectors of all kinds.

I wouldn’t dare tell you which model to choose, or which is the best. Rather I want to hear from you. Which of the new SSK GMT models is your favorite?

Case Size: 42.5mm, Thickness: 13.4mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Hardlex, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Seiko 4R34

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