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It’s easy to be a watch collector with deep pockets. Drop $16,295 on a Rolex Daytona or $5,995 on an Omega Seamaster and you’re guaranteed to get a gorgeous timepiece worthy of handing down to the kids. But what to do if you love watches and can’t spend a few months’ mortgage just to tell the time? Look east, look to Japan. The land of the rising sun’s got a lot more to offer than Casios. For a few hundred dollars, Japan has a plethora of collectible watch brands to lust after and, for us, foremost among them is Seiko.
Seiko actually means “exquisite.” Back in 1969, Seiko put the Swiss on their heels with the creation of the first truly automatic chronograph movement, and the first production quartz watch. Seiko is legit. While it’s possible to spend $5,000 on a Grand Seiko, it’s the stock Seiko divers that get us excited. The brand’s rabid fan base has christened many Seiko divers with kooky names, all terms of endearment—including the tuna can, the monster, the sumo, the samurai and the turtle. Two of our favorites are the original Orange Monster and the new Blue Samurai, highly collectible divers that are quintessential Seiko and can be had for between $200 and $600.
THE CLASSIC ORANGE MONSTER
There are quite a few Seiko divers with orange faces, but the true classic Orange Monster is special. Launched back in 2000, it’s officially called the SKX781, and the pre-2015 models are sought-after with the reliable 7S26 automatic movement that has a 40-hour power reserve of run time. It’s 43mm with deep notches in the bezel, chunky guards, rated to 200 meters and the crown sitting at 4 o’clock. The stainless steel case is both brushed and polished, designed to be a utilitarian workhorse and all the more beautiful for it. The Orange Monster can dive all day, taking monumental abuse, and still turn heads at the bar when surrounded by watches costing quite literally 20 times more. Used: between $200 and $400
THE BLUE SAMURAI
The Samurai is an icon of the Seiko lineup and divers’ watches in general, earning its name thanks to the angular case and the hands that remind Seiko aficionados of a Samurai’s sword. The latest versions come under Seiko’s Prospex banner, meaning Professional Specification, and watertight to 200 meters; our favorite is a limited-edition, only available in Japan, with what is known as the Pepsi bezel, thanks to its blue-and-red colors, officially known as the SBDC057 Prospex. Its 6R15 movement is selfwinding, running 50 hours when fully charged. Don’t let its more refined look fool you; this watch is a tool and a big statement on your wrist with a 45mm diameter. $450 to $600 (and a plane ticket to Japan)