Friday, January 27, 2006

Watch Collecting – Dive! Dive! Dive!

The Seiko dive watch stands as proof that collecting watches is not just a pursuit for the wealthy.

Seiko began producing dive watches in 1965 with their 6217-8000 model (also known as the ’62 MAS’), and has kept an unbroken stream of affordable, durable dive watches coming ever since. Popular with soldiers, police, outdoorsmen, office-bound ‘desk divers’, and rock stars as well as divers around the world, the Seiko line of dive watches has become the Toyota Pickup of watches.

Toyota pickup? Known for their value, abundant used parts, and variety of customized after-market accessories, the Toyota pickup was long a favorite for 4WD enthusiasts. The 4-cylinder 22-R engine standard in the Toyota is known for its robustness – lasting for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Likewise, the Seiko dive watch has become a favorite platform for watch collectors wanting a custom look at a realistic price.

The hands-down best online reference for this much collected series of watches is maintained by Kevin Chan at Seiko Divers Reference. A detailed chronology of models, years of manufacture, variations, hundreds of images, and collected knowledge on these outstanding watches can be found there, and it is THE place to check up on that watch you’ve found at auction to make sure it is authentic.

Many of the linked articles on the Seiko Divers Reference are gleaned from The Seiko and Citizen Forum, a place filled with friendly and knowledgeable collectors. The site also maintains a Sales Forum, a good place to start a collection, without getting taken for a ride.

Current model Seiko divers like the base-model SKX007 can be had for less than $150 for Asian market models from vendors like Chronograph.com, and U.S. models like the base SKX173 can be found new or nearly new on sales forums a for less than $200, around $100 less than you might pay at a jewelry store in the mall.


A Seiko 6309 from the ‘80s on aftermarket rubber strap

Older models, like the 1988-1996 7002 series, or the 1976-1987 6309 series can also be easily found in great condition for less than $200 on sales forums. Collecting all but the pre-1975 models won’t set you back much at all.

But like the Toyota, where the Seiko diver really shines these days is in the customization and aftermarket parts department. Bill ‘Yao’ at MKII Watches has become almost synonymous with ‘custom Seiko diver’ (although he is now producing a variety of custom watches). If someone advertises a ‘Yao’ Seiko, you know it’s something special.

A ‘Yao’ customized SKX007 with bead-blasted case and GMT bezel

Likewise, Jack at International Watch Works (IWW) is well known for awesome customization. Jack takes it a step further as well, offering refurbishing and movement servicing.

Both sites have loads of pictures, as do most watch collecting forums these days. Seiko divers provide a great example of the diverse collecting opportunities that can be found even within one series of watches - and they are solid, usable timepieces as well.

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