Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seiko Dive Watch SKX781K3 AKA "Orange Monster" Review

NOTE: Click on the any of the photos for a larger view.

I bought my SKX781K3 (Hereafter referred to the Seiko Orange Monster) around two years ago and wore it frequently since then on and off duty.  Since there are already hundreds of reviews on the net that pretty much touch on every aspect of this watch, I'll just give my thoughts on the basics and aspects I like and dislike about this watch. Keep in mind when reading this review, I'm a watch user, not a collector. A collector's view would be MUCH different.

The Orange Monster and it's brother the Black Monster (SKX779) are arguably Seiko's most popular dive watches amongst watch collectors, enthusiasts, horologists, et. al. These are the models with the rubber bands; of course they come with nice stainless steel bracelets too in the SKX781 and SKX779K models.


The first thing that stands out about the Orange Monster is that it's much different than other watches; in a good way. For those who like dive watches, the Orange Monster is a "looker". The orange color, large size and just plain good looks garner comments from even the non-watch crowd. The stainless steel case without the crown is a substantial 41.5mm across and almost 13mm thick. The crown is offset at the 4 O'clock position which minimize rubbing against the back of the hand when your hand is bent backwards. The Scalloped Bezel stands out amongst other divers and looks very nice. The crystal dial window called hardlex by Seiko is slightly convex and slightly magnifies the details of the watch face. In short, it's a beautiful watch and I can't count the number of compliments I've received on it.


The Bezel turns nice and smoothly counter clockwise for 120 clicks. The "clicks" as it turns are just the right tension; not too tight not too loose. The scallops or grooves, are perfect for gripping it. I use the bezel to time my runs and workout times. Simply turn the marked arrow on the bezel to align with the minute hand and go...simple. If you're looking for a bezel that lines up perfectly with the corresponding numbers on the dial face, you may want to look elsewhere. This doesn't bother me.

One thing that was pointed out to me to a "watchuseek" user (tirod) was that the scallops on the bezel are polished or buffed to give the shiny look while the rest of the bezel and watch are left to the standard stainless steel look. Good eye tirod. :)


The dial window is made of a hardened crystal that Seiko calls Hardlex. In short, IT"S TOUGH. I've banged my Orange Monster into many things from fence posts, to barbed wire to brick walls and it barely shows any signs of wear. I'm impressed.


The Case on the Orange Monster is very tough polished stainless steel and made to take some abuse. As stated before the crown is placed at the four O'clock position and is protected by steel on either side protruding from the main case. The Bezel sits inside of a protective Bezel Guard  at the top and bottom which is also part of the main case. Seiko leaves the sides unprotected so you can grip the bezel to turn it. Seiko put some thought into this case and it works perfectly.


The dial is laid out nicely with large lumibright markers where the numbers usually sit. The arrow shaped hands are also large and coated with lumibright. The day and date are pleasantly large enough to actually read (a complaint I have with many other watches). The dial on the Orange Monster is one of my favorite things about it.


Seiko calls their lume coating used on their dials Lumibright. Lumibright is Seiko's own concoction of florescent paint used on watch dials and hands. It absorbs light when available and glows for a short while in the dark. Of the watches that I currently own that use florescent paint for lume, the Orange Monster ties for the brightest with my Reactor Trident watch. After a day in the sun, the Seiko stays illuminated brightly for about 20-30 minutes, then less so then on for about and hour. At the three hour mark, the very slight glow is barely enough to read the time in the dark. To be fair, the lume on most florescent painted watches do not last this long and Seiko has them beat in this respect and in it's initial brightness. The only lume that lasts longer is electroluminescent options or tritium tubes. As you can see below, the Seiko lume is BRIGHT.


The Orange Monster like many Seiko's is an automatic watch. This means that it does not require a battery and is powered by your natural movement when mounted on your wrist (or while sitting on a winder). Seiko calls their automatic movement the Magic Lever Winding System which consists of only four moving parts. The simplicity of the system aids in it's robustness which is one issue many automatics usually fall short on.  The power reserve on mine was usually good when fully charged for about 2+ days. If it runs down, just pick it up, give it a minute or so of gentle shakes, adjust your time and your set.


Movement inside the Orange Monster is provided by Seiko's in-house 7S26 21-Jewel mechanism. It's nothing fancy but it works as it should. The 7S26 has it's good points and it's bad; first the good. Seiko's 7S26 movement is a very common movement used in many of their watches and also used in many other brands sold to them by Seiko. This being the case, if you ever have to have your watch serviced, most horologists know how to clean and repair them. The other good point, is that due to their simplicity, they are a little tougher than other more complex movements. 

The bad points unfortunately for me are that (on my two tries/copies) it wasn't as accurate as I would have liked which lead to other problems I didn't like. My first attempt gained over a minute a day! My second try showed a gain of about 40 seconds a day. Then I read various sources that claimed that this movement got better after prolonged use and it will eventually "settle". On my Orange Monster, it did finally settle to the accuracy of 1 to 1.5 minute gain a week. While it doesn't seem like much, over several weeks, it adds up to an inaccurate watch that I constantly found myself adjusting. This lead to another issue I have with the Orange Monster. The weakest part of this (and other analog watches) is the crown, hence why they are all protected in some form or another by some type of guard. Every time you need to adjust the time on the Orange Monster, you must unscrew the crown, pull it out two clicks, adjust the time, push it back in and hold it in while your screw it down. The date function on this watch must also be adjusted frequently because it counts from 1 to 31 every month and as you know, every month doesn't have 31 days. Again, this leads to having to access the crown, pull it out one click and adjust the month. While having to constantly adjust the time and month may seem trivial, I'm 6'1" 230 and have gorilla hands that do not work well with delicate instruments and the crown is by all accounts a delicate instrument. 


The Orange Monster is first and foremost a divers watch and is reportedly waterproof down to 660 feet. While I've attempted a 660 foot dive to test this, for some reason, I've never gotten past 9 feet deep. I usually run out of breath and my ears start popping, so I'll have to accept what others say is true. I have however, snorkeled with this watch extensively in local rivers and lakes and had zero issues.


As I said before, when wearing this watch, I get compliments all the time. It is an eye catcher for sure. At almost 42mm wide, it's not a small watch but I do own larger ones. For a 6 foot plus tall man, I think it's the perfect size. It even looks good on a smaller wrist in my opinion. The positioning of the crown at the 4 O'clock position works well for comfort. This watch wears well in a dressy environment or in shorts riding your mountain bike. I've worn it many times at work where I sometimes walk for miles through the south Texas brush climbing fences, banging it against trees and fence posts, subjecting it to sweat and the elements. For an automatic, it has held up well and never showed any signs of stress.


Price, if you can find one, is very reasonable for a watch of this quality. The problem was that initially these watches weren't available in the US. The internet has somewhat alleviated these problems and if you can find one on the web, the Orange Monster with the rubber strap can be had for $150-$170 and the model with the bracelet can be found for anywhere from $180-$200. You can also find them occasionally on the watch nerd forums in the classifieds. Again, for the price, this is a nice watch. 


The Seiko Orange Monster (and the Black Monster) have become one of Seiko's all time best selling dive watches and for good reason. The movement while not as accurate as some higher priced watches is durable and can reportedly run without adjustment for 15+ years. It is still however an automatic and cannot take the beating of a quartz or come close to what a G-Shock can take. Still, under normal circumstances, the 7S26 movement should provide years of reliable service. The looks of the Orange and Black Monster are a thing of beauty; from the distinctive bezel to the lume to it's large size. If you buy this watch, you will get questions and compliments. For me however, being a "set it and forget it" type user (not a collector), I ended up selling it. If Seiko ever upgrades the movement to a Seiko 6R15 and gets a perpetual calendar, this may be the perfect watch for me.

Ironically, after writing this review, I think I may go buy another one with the stainless steel bracelet. It is a very nice watch :) 



  1. The Seiko monsters have a certin animal magnetism, I think they're more fun to wear than a Rolex.

  2. Hey thanks for the very detailed review.
    I like this attention-seeking watch, considering of getting one.

  3. Eh, I always wanted for a Orange Monster, but this one is hard to get, so took Seiko Black Monster on, but still very happy with it :)