After James’ review of extreme dive watches, I’d like to bring you back to Earth with a review of a modern classic: the Seiko Orange Monster.
Introduced in early 2001, and officially called the SKX781, this bold diver from Seiko quickly inherited its nickname from its older sibling, the “Black Monster” (SKX779). There are also more expensive limited editions available in blue, yellow, PVD black, and red.
Let’s start with some specifications:
- 41.5mm by 12.5mm. 179g.
- Unidirectional rotating bezel, 120-clicks, with enamel in the recessed numerals.
- Screw-down crown at the 4 o’clock position with heavy guards.
- Bezel guard from 3:30 to 7:30 and 10:30 to 1:30.
- 7s26 automatic movement: H/M/S, day & date, non-handwind, non-hacking, 21 jewels.
- Domed Hardlex crystal. (Hardlex is borosilicate glass, sometimes called mineral crystal. It’s better than plastic and normal glass, but softer than sapphire. The doming is more readable under water and avoids the mirror effect seen with flat crystals.)
- Stainless steel bracelet and clasp with fliplock, micro-adjustments, 17mm wetsuit extension. The bracelet is brushed with polished edges, and uses huge spring bars. (See this page for a nice tutorial on how to size the bracelet yourself.) The lugs are drilled which makes changing the strap or bracelet much easier.
- Waterproof to 200m or about 650 feet.
The first thing you notice about the Seiko Orange Monster is the dial color. The Swiss company Doxa did research in the late 1960s and learned that orange is the color most visible in deep water, where shorter wavelengths get absorbed. They introduced the world’s first commercial dive watch, the Doxa Sub 300t, in 1967 with an orange dial, and you see it used on dive watches to this day. It makes for excellent above-water visibility, too, as the black hands contrast well against the orange face. Like the Doxa, this Seiko is a real diver’s watch, rated to 200m (660ft) and bearing the “Diver’s” logo that indicates ISO6425 compliance. (ISO6425 is the relevant standard for waterproofing, legibility, luminosity, shock resistance, anti-magnetism, and band solidity. Compliant watches can bear the “Diver’s” mark.)
Seiko is well-known for excellent nighttime visibility, and the Orange Monster excels in this regard. With large amounts of Lumibrite on the hands, indices, and bezel dot, the Orange Monster glows like a torch and is easily legible in pitch-black after eight hours or more. The hands each have a distinct shape, which also helps legibility as the lume fades.
The Orange Monster is a fairly large watch, but I find that it wears very comfortably due to its low profile, comfortable bracelet, 4 o’clock crown, and nicely etched caseback that keeps it in place on your wrist. I’m particularly fond of wearing it with a rubber Z22 strap, though the orange and black combo is a bit garish.
After wearing the Seiko Orange Monster for a while, you start to notice the small details that are really unexpected at this price:
- The bezel is the easiest to grasp and turn of any watch I’ve ever seen, with both machined grooves and large scallops. Notice that the matching scallops in the case align perfectly if you rotate the bezel in 5 minute increments — very nice touch.
- The crystal sits just below the concave bezel where it’s well protected. The domed crystal is very clear and assists in readability both above and below the surface.
- The chapter ring, which is a separate piece carrying the minute hash marks, is also concave, and provides a visual link between the face and bezel.
- The bracelet is simply superb. It’s solid as a rock, styled to match the watch, nicely adjustable using micro-adjustments, very secure, and expandable if you’re wearing a wetsuit. And if for some reason you don’t like it, it’s easy to swap out due to the drilled lugs.
- I don’t know about you, but I really find having the day on the dial to be useful. Seiko added a couple of other nice touches by making Saturday blue and Sunday red. Also, it has two languages on the dial, and you can use either. (The second language is usually Spanish, but its available with others).
- The build quality is impressive. The stainless steel is nicely machined with competently finished surfaces. Not a rough edges to be found.
- The style of the Orange Monster is uniquely Seiko, and can’t be mistaken for anything else. These days, when so many other watches look like something else, (e.g. a zillion variations on the Rolex Submariner), it’s refreshing to have something bold and unique.
- And last but certainly not least, the overall value. As one poster on Timezone put it, for less than the price of a battery change on a Breitling SuperColt, you get a true dive watch that you can enjoy worry-free.
In the interests of balance, let me list off the negatives as well:
- Lack of handwind/hacking. (Hacking means that the second hand stops while you set the time so that you can set it more precisely.) Not a huge deal, but I find it annoying sometimes. Of course, the slightly more expensive 6R15 divers fix this, but at more cost and a different style.
- Accuracy. This particular one is pretty accurate, but expect that a 7S26-based watch might keep time within 20 seconds a day. Not great.
- While I’m wishing on a star, an anti-reflective coating on the crystal would be nice.
And that’s about it. None of these issues are show-stoppers, and considering the price, it’s hard to kvetch too much. Perhaps the greatest praise of the Orange Monster is the fact that on various forums dedicated to dive watches, every now and then someone asks for advice on a dive watch to actually dive with, often in locations where expensive brand-name items are a risk. The most common advice?
“Get an Orange Monster.”
By Paul Hubbard