Best Budget Alternative To Rolex GMT Pepsi: The Seiko SKX009K2
Simon Schneider25 February 2021 | 7 min read
Homage watches, by virtue of their nature, often end up putting prospective buyers into a dilemma. They tend to offer almost all of the design from the original watch with none of the charm at a fraction of the price.
Let’s set things straight, a homage watch (despite the name) does not copy the original design out of intense respect and admiration for the original but because they are lazy.
Their pricing is not the result of a determination to make the experience of the original easily available but a scheme to make some money from those who are on the journey to better watches.
If you are d’accord with the nature of a homage watch and still want to buy it, by all means go ahead. The only thing that will happen is that some watch geek may, at a glance, think you have the real deal. Then, after the inevitable second glance, try to avoid eye contact.
What if you want to avoid uncomfortable looks from insignificant watch nerds or, more vitally, don’t want to support lazy copycats but you still really like the look of a Rolex Pepsi on the Jubilee? Seiko has an answer for you.
The Seiko SKX009K2 shares design similarities with the GMT-Master, but makes a real effort to be its own watch.
It’s a respectable watch with a nice design and functionality, and a true dive watch depth rating of 200m.
It’s currently available from Amazon. You can check prices & reviews here.
The Seiko SKX009K2
It had to be Seiko didn’t it? The Japanese watchmaker is the longtime love affair of every watch nerd out there. That is because they are the only watch brand that literally offers a model for every taste in every price segment of the market. The Seiko SKX009K2 is the equivalent of the Ford F-150 in the watch world. It’s not a basic model, but far from fancy and is built to be bullet-proof.
A diver, not a pilot
While the SKX sure has taken a few glancing looks over to the GMT-Master to kickstart their brainstorming, I would consider it disrespectful to the icon to call it an homage. That is because not only are the major differences in form to the GMT but also in function since this is a diver’s watch rather than a pilot’s watch.
The SKX009, and its sibling the SKX007 which is the same watch except with a black dial and bezel, were initially introduced in 1996. Like the cars of this time period, the design shows its age with a rounded appearance.
It features a satin finish on the top elements and mirror polishing on the side, which is separated by a blunt edge that creates the form of the silhouette. A nice oddity that immediately identifies this watch as a Seiko is the crown position at 4 o’clock. While it is not visually very appealing due to breaking up the symmetry, it does have the functional aspect of not digging itself into your wrist while bending your hand.
The dial has a grainy dark navy blue appearance that could easily fool you into thinking it was black. Befitting the hips of the case, the face has equally soft features with a printed dial with hour markers the shape of a tic-tac. The hour and minute hands are easily distinguishable and have markers at the end that match with the chapter ring to aid legibility. The seconds hand has a nice contrast and a counterweight lollipop with lume on it.
Regarding the seconds hand, I have heard people complain about it not being useful because the lume is on the wrong side. To this I have to say that the only reason you would want lume on the seconds hand of a diver is to show that your watch still runs, and not to help you count seconds underwater in the dark. This is not a bad design on the part of the Seiko, but rather shows an understanding of a dive watch’s purpose beyond the superficial.
A ‘proper’ diver: 200m depth rating
This understanding in what makes a true dive watch is also reflected in its depth-rating. Have you ever wondered why most watches talk about water-resistance and measure it in bar rather than waterproofness measured in meters? That is because most watches will never touch any water before receiving its rating. Instead they will be tested in the dry with an air pressure test which simulates the effects of being under water.
The SKX, however, has a true dive-watch rating to 200m. This number is usually considered the bar any watch has to pass in order to be considered a true diver. To have it black on white that this is a true dive watch Seiko made the effort to have this watch certified according to ISO 6425. This refers to the parameters set by the International Organisation for Standardisation in regards to what a dive watch has to bring to the table.
As with any dive-watch the bezel is a key element in your experience of the model. It has 120 clicks which feels great with a lot of tactile feedback and a nice sharp audible sound. The pattern on the Bezel provides enough grip but because all the edges are rather smooth it may be a little tough to grip it in the wet. The insert is made out of aluminium which is both period and budget appropriate.
There are two issues I have with this bezel, or more specifically its insert, though. Firstly the blue tone on the bezel does not match that on the dial since it is a little lighter in color, however due to aluminum fading in the sun over time this will most likely be the case anyway. The second is that the first 20 minutes are colored red, when I always thought it would make so much more sense to have the last 20 minutes in a different color to alert you to that you are possibly overstaying your dive. Then again red is the first color to fade from the light spectrum in the water so it probably does not make much difference anyway.
The bracelet is a bit of a weak point in contrast to the very strong package that the SKX offers. I say that because while the case is rather thick and chunky feeling in nature the bracelet is flimsy and light in contrast. The result is a watch that feels very top heavy and like to rattle and swing all over your wrist as you wear it.
A lot of wearers like to switch this out for an aftermarket bracelet with a better fit and finish, though I would not say this change is necessary since its imperfection adds to the charm of the watch. And while far from great the standard bracelet does a decent job both in regards to being comfortable and securing it to your wrist. The clasp is out of stamped metal with a safety latch which won’t win any prizes for its design. It does, however, have a practical pin adjusted micro-adjustment which allows for a tight fit to compensate for the wobbly wrist presence.
A standout feature: night visibility
A stand out feature of the SKX is its night visibility. Copious amounts of Lumibrite prove yet again that the amount of glowing material used will always be more important than its composition. It is so strong in fact that the SKX can hold its own even against the likes of the Submariner. One issue I have here is that I find the day/date complication a little distracting. A cleaner dial could have been created if they would have just doubled down on the dive watch spirit and just put another lume marker in its space.
There is one elephant in the room that I have so far avoided to talk about. That is the fact that the Seiko SKX is no longer in production. It’s still available on Amazon, but I’m not sure for how long that will be the case. It may well be a little harder to get. Seiko does offer a Seiko 5 very similar in style to but that watch has only 100 meters of water rating, and does not conform to the ISO 6425 standard.
The good news is it seems that prices have only risen since it is no longer produced. The community has clearly recognized what this model has to offer and it already has proven itself to be an icon. As such it is very stable in price and easy to find a new buyer for in case you have it and want to get rid of it. I should know, after all I used to own one and ended up selling without any loss after I was done enjoying it.
The Seiko SKX009 is a fantastic watch that would feel at home in any watch collection. Beyond just being a great watch I truly love this watch because while it is clear that it takes certain inspirations from the Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi it makes a real effort to be its own unique pepsi dive watch. Not only that, but it also shows that there is a clear demand in the market for creative watches in this budget that do more than copy from the big brands. The Seiko SKX proves that the best homage isn’t a homage.