Seiko 5 Sports SKZ209K Atlas review

SKZ2091w

Watch History

 

  • Date acquired: June 5th 2005
  • Production Date: April 2005
  • Source: Chun Cheong Watch & Pen Store, Sungei Wang Plaza
  • Price paid: MYR560 (approximately USD147)
  • Status: In production

Background

When preliminary photos of the new SKZ207/209/211 Seiko 5 Sports models appeared on the Seiko & Citizen Watch Forum in mid 2005, it caused a stir amongst many of the forum members who collect divers and sports watches.

It was also a historical first for Seiko as the watch company had never produced 200m W.R. versions for their Seiko 5 Sports line before. I’ve been used to seeing the myriad 50m and 100m Seiko 5 Sports models and Seiko’s bold move to introduce a higher water resistance rating sports watch really piqued my interest.

The earliest pictures that greeted our curious eyes were actually from an online watch store called Watch88.com, operating from Singapore. I distinctly remember someone posting a photo of the white dialed SKZ207K and followed by the SKZ209K.

Traditionally, SCWF members would periodically check our favorite online stores like Chronograph.com and Roachman.com for new Seiko releases but neither seller had these new models for sale yet.

Here are the photos that I recall seeing in the forum:

SKZ2071 SKZ2091w

The SKZ207K (left) and SKZ209K (right). Photos from Watches88.com

These were the first ever pics of the Seiko 5 Sports 200m series and the details didn’t tell much about these new models. They looked completely different than the classic 7s26-0020 line of dive watches that I’ve been used to. Neither did they resemble any of the dozens of the existing Seiko 5 Sports 100m models that I’ve already seen.

I traced the photos to the original website and found out it was from Watch88.com. There was another model that really caught my eye and it was the black SKZ211K with yellow hands that really got me excited! 🙂

SKZ2111

The new SKZ211K pictured above, brewed fresh excitement in several watch forums.

Meanwhile, watch pundits in SCWF mulled over the appropriate nickname to be given to the new Seiko 5 Sports series. Some forgettable nicknames were mooted but in the end, the majority decided on the “Atlas”. I guess it’s because the internal rotating sun compass ring that suggested the use of this watch in hiking and jungle trekking. Since an Atlas is associated with a map and a map in turn has connotations with navigation, Atlas was chosen.

In other forums, the Atlas is also known as the “Landshark”. I’m not sure how that alternative name was selected but the it’s also a widely accepted nickname for this watch. 🙂

Perhaps what attracted Seiko enthusiasts to this watch was the familiar shape of the thick, pointed hour and minute hands. The hands are reminiscent of those from the legendary 6159-7010 Professional 600m diver from the late 70s and the limitedly produced, SBDX005 Historical Edition Professional 600m (see photos below).

6159-7010-37 SBDX005-36

The 6159-7010 (left) and the SBDX005 (right) perhaps inspired Seiko to borrow the hands design for their Atlas models.

Interestingly, some Atlas models were sold with special Seiko Seiko 5 Sports pouch kit which included a cool-looking bund strap. Of course, the pouch isn’t free so there’s a premium to be paid for the all-in-one kit. Atlas watches that come with the kit were typically sold for USD185 on eBay.

SKZ209K1KIT_4 SKZ209K1KIT_2

The SKZ209K Atlas with the special pouch and spare nylon bund strap (Pics from Pokemonyu)

Sometime between 2006 and 2007, “Made in Japan” versions of the Atlas appeared in the market. These were often sold by eBay grey market sellers like Pokemonyu and Premierworld from Singapore. These watches were sold with a small premium (usually USD20 more) over the normal “K” variants. Quality-wise, both the SKZ209K and 209J are the same. The “J” version is intended for special export markets, such as the Arab speaking, Middle East nations.

Your choice depends on whether you’re willing to pay twenty bucks more just to have that “Made in Japan” text on the dial and the “Japan” engraving on the caseback. 😉

SKZ209K on a nice aftermarket leather strap "Made in Japan" text on the dial differs the SKZ209J from the more common SKZ207K

The SKZ209K on aftermarket leather strap (left) and the 209J (right). Photos courtesy of Chronograph.com

I was so determined to be among the first to own the SKZ211K that I uploaded this very photo into my Palm T3 PDA and actually went from store to store looking for them! None of the sellers had seen this model before as it was very new in the market. I guessed it would take a month or two before they hit the stores in Malaysia, so I patiently waited for it to arrive.

And true enough, it finally did! I finally tracked down the SKZ211K at a small but popular watch store in Kuala Lumpur. The sales assistant, Richie presented me not just the SKZ211K but the SKZ209K as well! For the first time I spent over an hour debating whether to get the black 211K or the blue 209K. It was a tough call to make as both models were equally attractive and desirable. Choices, choices! 🙁

Richie said that he thought the 209K has a more classic look to it whereas the 211K has a sporty feel due to its yellow hands. Come to think of, it did make sense. The 211K’s case also has a de-blinged finish while the 209K’s was finely polished.

As I couldn’t possibly buy both watches due to budgetary constraints, I finally decided on the SKZ209K instead. I figured that I would buy the SKZ211K sometime later, which I did. 😉

Look and feel

The Atlas has an amazing, solid feel to it. It sits flatly on the wrist and doesn’t flop around that easily. The well polished case appears to be die cast from a solid chunk of stainless steel which extends to the twin crown guards that flank the case. The thick, finely knurled uni-directional rotating bezel provides excellent grip to help turn this otherwise moderately stiff-turning bezel.

The bezel insert is of dark indigo blue to match the watch dial and is marked by 5-minute graduations. I wished Seiko had opted for the traditional diver-style markings, with prominently enlarged markers at the 15th, 30th and 45th minute positions. And a lumed triangle denoting the 60-minute position instead of the number “60” would be very much welcome.

I like Seiko’s choice of the blue hue in this watch – depending on the lighting it resembles black. I’m a fan of dark blue dials, really and this watch really grabbed my attention immediately.

Note the resemblance of the hour/min hands to the 600m Professional divers

A closeup view of the SKZ209K’s indigo blue, matte dial (borrowed photo)

Alas, the Atlas wasn’t meant to be a diver’s watch – it was designed as sports watch from scratch. I suspect Seiko intentionally made the Atlas to look this way so that it doesn’t overlap with their true diver’s watches.

Of the three Atlas models, only the SKZ209K had polished sides of its case whereas with the white SKZ207K and the black SKZ211K, their cases have matte, blasted finish. I have no idea why only the SKZ209K has a polished case but my guess is that Seiko intended it to make it a decent dressy sports watch.

On the underside of the watch, the SKZ209K has highly polished caseback with a prominently engraved Seiko 5 logo.

The Atlas' polished caseback with the Seiko 5 logo SKZ209J1-2

Caseback photos of the SKZ-series Atlas.

A nice touch is its signed compass crown with the Seiko 5 emblem on it. Seiko had an oversight with the compass crown design – there is no way to lock it down. The crown is rotates too easily so you can’t prevent the compass ring from accidental turning. If you rely on the watch’s sun compass for navigation, you may be at risk of losing your bearing.

Anyway, if you’re a serious hiker chances are you won’t use the watch’s primitive sun compass for navigation. You’re likely to be equipped with a proper magnetic compass and perhaps a GPS unit as well. 🙂

On the wrist, the protrusion of the compass crown guards doesn’t bother me. In fact, the extra surface area helps to distribute the watch’s heavy case evenly. The crown guards also stops the watch from sliding or rotating on the wrist should you prefer to wear this watch loosely. Neither do they dig into my wrist. It’s surprisingly comfortable to wear despite photos suggest. You really have to try this on to see for yourself.

Note the polished case sides Signed crown offers a bit of luxury!

Side profile of the SKZ209K showing the large signed compass crown. (Borrowed photos)

Some savvy Atlas owners have resorted to inserting a piece of small plastic tubing into the compass crown stem, which helps to hold it in place. Seiko however, did fix this minor but somewhat irritating quirk with its second-generation Limited Edition Atlas, namely the titanium SKZ215K/217K models (see below). These had compass crowns with a simple locking mechanism which should have been incorporated into the first generation Atlas watches.

Seiko SKZ217K (left) and SKZ215K (right)

Seiko’s 2nd generation SKZ17K and SKZ215K models finally had locking compass crowns. Photo courtesy of Keith Sun.

On the opposite side of the case, the main crown is a rather tiny affair. Sloped crown guards flank the rather miniscule 4.5mm diameter crown. Finger-and-thumb grip is excellent, thanks to the finely knurled crown surface. Unscrewing the crown is not a problem but screwing it back using the “reverse direction trick” in can be rather fiddly.

skz209k1_4

The SKZ209K’s main crown has a nicely sloped, wedge shaped crown guards. Pic from Premierworld.

Seiko apparently spared no expenses in designing the SKZ209K Atlas. After all, it was their first 200 meter water resistant Seiko 5 Sports and first impressions count big time. The 22mm Oyster inspired bracelet is surprisingly top notch – solid links all around with highly polished sides and matte brushed links with a dab of polished center link strips. Can you spell “Quality”? 🙂

In this photo, the SKZ09K looks like a black faced watch

The SKZ209K, showing its heavy and solid linked Oyster-like bracelet

In the lume department, the Atlas’ lume brightness unfortunately falls short of even the SKX007 diver. The Arabic numerals are barely bright enough to read in total darkness but the ultra-thin strips of lume representing the other hour markers are rather dim. The main hands have just adequate lume and their brightness could have been better.

Again, the SKZ209K is a sports watch – it’s not an ISO certified diver’s watch therefore it doesn’t use the same grade of LumiBrite compound which Seiko typically uses for its range of true divers.

SKZ209K_1657 SKZ209K under UV light

Lume photos of my personal SKZ209K, bathed in ultraviolet light.

Dimensions

Here are the measurements of the Seiko SKZ209K which I measured with vernier calipers.

  • Diameter: 42mm (without crown), 46.5mm (with compass crown)
  • Lug-to-lug: 48.5mm
  • Thickness: 14mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Bracelet width: 20mm, tapering to 18mm at the clasp

As with my personal watch reviews, here are some photos of my SKZ209K on my 6.5″ wrist:

SKZ209K_2654 (Medium) IMG_4018 (Medium) IMG_4015 (Medium) SKZ211K (left) and SK209K (right)

Specifications

  • Caliber: 7s36A, 23 jewels
  • Caseback type: 7s36-01E0
  • Movement: Automatic, non-hacking
  • Beat rate: 21,600 bph (6 beats/sec)
  • Loss/gain: Less than 40 sec/day
  • Power reserve: About 42 hours
  • Calendar: Day/date, dual language
  • Construction: Stainless steel
  • Crystal: Hardlex glass, flat profile
  • Screw-down crown
  • Bezel: Unidirectional, 120 graduations
  • W.R. rating: 200m
  • Luminous material: LumiBrite™
  • Movement Singapore, cased in China

Conclusion

The SKZ209K is quite a nice watch, really. The sun compass isn’t really useful and I regard it as just a novelty. If you look past this gimmick, you’ll find that the Atlas is equally suitable for office and casual wear.

It’s also quite strap friendly and its short lugs accommodates aftermarket straps rather nicely. I have a friend who happens to have the same model and he switched the bracelet to a 22mm black leather strap. His colleagues were taken by surprise when he showed up with the watch and they thought it was a new timepiece. One of his friends couldn’t believe that the leather strap alone made the watch look like some expensive Swiss marque! 🙂

A bit of caution though: If you intend to remove the bracelet yourself, be aware of the bracelet’s end pieces. It has rather sharp edges and if you may accidentally cut yourself if you’re not too careful.

Would I buy the Atlas again? Sure. Well, if I had to buy all over again, I would rather have the SKZ209K over the black SKZ211K.

I’m not sure if Seiko still produces the 1st generation Atlas as models belonging to the Seiko 5 family have rather short market life spans. Seiko continually updates their Seiko 5 products every two years or so and the SKZ209K and its siblings are already in their third year of production.

Although I don’t see fresh stocks of the SKZ209K at the local stores lately, they are still available from our favorite eBay grey market sellers like Pokemonyu and Premierworld. Of course, Chronograph.com still has the model albeit at higher prices.

Why the significant price increase? Well, unfortunately the local Seiko distributors have raised prices for its watches several times since 2005. Record high global fuel prices and the falling US currency may have also contributed to Seiko’s across-the-board price increase.

I guess I was lucky to get my SKZ209K when it was more affordable. 🙂

What I liked:

  • Solidly built case and 7s36 movement
  • Easy-to-read, dark indigo blue dial with Arabic numerals
  • Signed Seiko 5 compass crown
  • Easy-to-grip knurled screw-in crown
  • Standard 22mm lugs and solid linked bracelet with twin push button clasp
  • The first 200m W.R. rated model in the Seiko 5 Sports lineup
  • Looks good on either factory bracelet or aftermarket strap

What I didn’t care for:

  • Sun compass feature is more of a novelty
  • Mediocre lume
  • Tight turning bezel
  • Bezel insert design is rather unorthodox
  • Non-locking compass crown

Quartzimodo’s Rating

Price: 4-half-star
Looks: 4-star
Build quality: 4-half-star
Features: 3-half-star
Value for money: 4-star
Overall: 4-star

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Comments

Another great review and super pictures!
This is another Seiko that I want! (White dial version)
This is the first review I’ve been able to find on this model – very interesting.Shame the lume isn’t top notch – but hey, what are divers for?!
ps – ordered my Sumo from Higuchi today – can’t wait for it to arrive!
Cheers
Jim

Thanks, Jim! 🙂

The white dialed SKZ207K is probably the hardest to find – probably demand for this model isn’t as large as the black SKZ211 and SKZ209 versions.

The SKZ207K’s hands are unfortunately not framed in black so contrast may be an issue. The Atlas family are not true divers therefore they are not endowed with bright lume.

It does make a very nice classic sports watch though! 🙂

Congrats on buying the Sumo from Higuchi. If for any reason the watch is defective, send him an email for an exchange. JDM Seiko watches that are bought from Japan usually have warranties that are only valid in Japan (not an international warranty).

I’ll be writing a review on the SKZ211K in the future. 🙂

Quartzimodo.

I recently saw a SKZ209k at Citichain. They are pricing it at RM881 after 10% discount. The first 2 digits of the serial number is 55…. I presume this means it is made in May 2005. Is this a fair price for this watch? Kindly advise. Thanks in advance.

Hi Joseph,

IMO City Chain’s prices are a rip off. I have never bought a watch from any City Chain outlet and never will. Their retail prices are way above market prices. You did get the watch production date correct though.

Although Seiko has revised prices for its watches a few times since 2005, RM800 is a ridiculous price to pay for this watch.

Try to scout for a NOS (New Old Stock) piece at Sungei Wang Plaza or better still, Pertama Complex. I can’t guarantee you’ll find the SKZ209K as it’s considered an old model.

Otherwise, look for one on eBay (stores like Pokemonyu and Premier World). They also have the “Made in Japan” versions.

Hope this helps.

Quartzimodo

Hello Quartzimodo,

Many thanks for your valuable advise.

Will definitely follow your advice to scout at Sungai Wang or Pertama Complex. Failing which I shall check out those eBay stores.

Thanks again!

Regards
Joseph

Hi Joseph,

Incidentally I stopped by the Chun Cheong Watch & Pen store in Sg Wang Plaza today. They have one SKZ207K (white dial) left but no signs of the SKZ209K/211K.

Ask for Richie Liew – he may be able to help you order one if possible.

cheers,

Quartzimodo

Hello Quartzimodo,

Thanks for the tip!!

I will try to make a trip soon and pay Richie Liew a visit 🙂

Regard
Joseph

[…] “Ultraman Pat"!) He found out that the 22mm solid link bracelet for the 1st generation Seiko Atlas models could be substituted instead by removing the end […]

Ahhh… i’ve been meaning to ask somebody’s opinion of the Limited Edition SKZ217K(black PVD), might as well ask you since I hardly have any WIS friends over here. My regular friends look at me funny when they find out I’ve been collecting SEIKOS of all things.

Anyway, I’ve been able to find a brand new one at an AD but at a premium price of 17,000 PHP plus change. I know its a limited edition and all that, but isn’t the price a bit steep even in this case?

For that amount, I can buy BOTH a Knight and SS Samurai(both on my wish list) and still have enough left over for dinner and movies.

Of course the Knight and Samurai aren’t limited editions- but they’re both out of production so they’re also going to be gone from the shelves soon.

So what do you think? Limited Edition Atlas or TWO regular edition but soon to be hard to find Divers instead?

Hi Stanley,

Although Seiko watches are generally considered timepieces that are worth every cent (or Peso) paid for them, unfortunately not all models are collectible. Not all collectible models will fetch a higher price in the future either – it depends on the demand for such Limited Edition models.

There are however, exceptions – like the SKZ203K Yellow Monster for instance. These used to sell about USD460 each when they were introduced and the last time I looked, they were going for USD1,000 on eBay after all 300 pieces were snapped up. The Seiko 5 40th Anniversary Divers (SKZ201K and 205K) are considered collector’s items too. Spurred by the success of these LE models, Seiko went overboard with their bevy of LE models that didn’t quite stir the same interest as the three models I mentioned. Not to mention the various LE models from the Criteria range that not many people really care about.
Even the limited edition S/S Samurais didn’t seem to fare well on the market – they were more expensive and didn’t look half as good as the regular Samurai divers.

I would rather stick to the original Atlas/Landshark models – they are easy to sell if I decide to flip them. The LE Atlas models are a different story – they don’t appeal to many Seiko enthusiasts as they look weird and pricey at the same time. If your intention is to keep it to be passed on to your future generations, then you might want to consider buying the SKZ217K. 🙂

Personally, I prefer the Knight and the Samurai (as evidenced by my owning two Ti Sammies and one S/S Samurai). They are easy on the eyes and I’ve received compliments about them from strangers on several occasions (including my watch dealer). 😉

Quartzimodo Admin.

Thanks!

Sound advice. I think I’ll forego the LE Atlas and go for the Sammy/Knights combo instead.

That’s great news, Stan! I wasn’t trying to sway your decision towards the Samurai/Knights because I happen to own them – I explained the merits of choosing either the Sammie/Knight pair or the LE Atlas. Of course, if you had the money then by all means get all three of them.. lol. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, not all Seiko sports watches or divers are sought after, collectible models. When faced with a tough decision whether to spend money on a particular model, you have to justify your reasons for buying it. Of course, millionaires need not justify their purchase – they can buy whatever they want. 😉

Quartzimodo Admin.

The loose crown for the Atlas/Compass ring is quite annoying, indeed. It makes the watch feel cheap, although the rest of the watch is really top notch.

I found that this little ‘problem’ can be solved real easy: two turns of dental floss under the crown and a double thight knot on the backside (cut away the rest of the dental floss as close as possible to the knot) of te watch fixes the problem perfectly!

Hi Black Betty,

Thanks for sharing your tips on fixing the free-wheeling compass crown on the Atlas models! In later versions like the titanium Limited Edition Atlas models, Seiko provided a simple solution in the form of a locking crown. They should’ve implemented this on the SKZ209K and its siblings in the first place. Some owners have come up with ingenious workarounds such as installing a very short plastic tubing cannibalized from the tip of a disposable ballpoint pen ink tube.

Quartzimodo

I don’t see fresh stocks of the SKZ209K at the local stores lately, they are still available from our favorite eBay grey market sellers like Pokemonyu and Premierworld.

Hi Hublot,

I think the original Seiko “Atlas” models like the SKZ211K and SKZ209K have been discontinued by Seiko some years ago. That’s why you can’t find new ones at brick-and-mortar watch stores.

Seiko introduces several new models for their Seiko 5 Sports lineup each year. Older models that are not considered “fresh” are usually discontinued to make room for the latest designs.

There might be NOS (new old stock) pieces of this model that can be found at retail stores in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, but such stores don’t sell watches online. It’s quite possible that the supplier for Premierworld and Pokemonyu has managed to round up the remaining, unsold pieces of the SKZ209K from Hong Kong.

That said, I haven’t seen the SKZ209K listed by either Pokemonyu or Premierworld for ages. If you like this watch, buy one before their entire stock depletes completely. 🙂

cheers,
Quartzimodo

Dear Quartzimodo,

I owned Landshark, n love it so much. However recently I found there are condensation n left water mark. I understand that this is Water resistant for 200M and I only use it for daily use. Do your Landsharks having the same prob? Can you recommend me which watch shop can fix it in klang valley?

Hello Fumi,

Your case of your Landshark/Atlas having moisture inside the crystal is not an isolated one. My SKZ209K blue Landshark was affected as well, although it took years until I noticed a uniform condensation within the watch. It didn’t appear like specks of water droplets but but fogged up crystal. This is especially apparent when the watch is viewed from a slanted angle.

I compared mine to my friend’s SKZ209K and found that his watch dial appeared clearer (the dial being a darker shade of blue); therefore I knew my watch had a case of moisture seepage. The fix is easy but it involves opening the watch’s caseback and gently removing the movement. This gives access to the Landshark’s underside glass surface and all that’s needed is a gentle cleaning with an optician’s lens cleaning cloth. This is preferably done in an air-conditioned environment where the air humidity is much lower.

Any trained watch repairman who is able to lift out the movement from the case should be able to perform this simple task. Mine was done free of charge as I’ve known the watch retailer’s sales assistant for years and I observed the entire cleaning process, which took no more than 10 minutes. 🙂

Months later I noticed that my friend’s SKZ205K also started to accumulate condensation just like my watch, therefore I suspect that either the Landshark’s compass crown tube or the main crown’s seal may not be that air-tight. So far I’ve experienced condensation with my black Seiko SKXA49K “Black Knight” diver and my Orient CEA2001B World Timer automatic and had both cleaned up at the same watch store. Oddly enough, my black dialed SKX211K Landshark isn’t affected by condensation – perhaps because I had swapped the original bracelet with a Morellato Cordura Lorica leather strap and I never got it wet ever since the strap replacement.

hope this helps,
Quartzimodo

I’m a little bothered to hear about condensation in the watch. I just ordered mine and should get it on Tuesday. My Seiko Samurai has never leaked and I’ve taken it freediving. Ive also taken my Landmaster Summitter swimming and freediving and no leakage to that one either, plus the Summitter is only rated to 100m.

The Land Shark is not that expensive but I still hope I didn’t get a piece of crap. I like to swim and snorkel in the summer and I don’t like leaving my watch on the shore.

Hi Will,

Of all the Seiko watches that I’ve owned (new and second hand vintage), I’ve had two with lightly fogged up crystals: my dark blue SKZ209K Atlas and my black SKXA49K “Knight”, a 200m ISO certified diver’s watch.

My vintage Seiko watches are never exposed to water, therefore they’re safe. Strangely my friend who had the exact model as I do also slowly developed the same symptoms. My black dialed SKZ211K Atlas on the other hand, is fine and vapor-free; probably because I later switched the factory bracelet to a Morellato Cordura water-resistant leather strap and never got it wet after that. 🙂

My only other watch which had the inner crystal slightly fogged up was my Orient World Timer (CEA02001B). Both the SKZ209K and CEA02001B had one thing in common – an inner rotating bezel driven by a separate crown. I strongly suspect both watches had weak points at the rotating bezel crown seals. My watch repairman cleaned all three watches at no charge – he only had to remove the movements with the dials attached to them.
The Atlas and Knight were easy and straightforward to open up to access the crystal, while the Orient was a bit complicated to re-assemble back. Thankfully, there was no need to separate the dials from their movements.

I can’t explain how condensation managed to seep into my SKXA49K black Knight. Although I’ve never took it swimming, at some point in time I did get it wet under running tap water while washing my hands. It could be the crown wasn’t tightened properly at the time.

Sometimes it all boils down to the luck of the draw since all these watches are mass produced. Should your SKZ209K Landshark develop a fogged-up crystal, it’ll be an easy fix. 🙂

cheers,
Quartzimodo.

I guess it could be an easy fix, but the fact that bothers me is; it says 200 meter water resistant. Running it under a tap should not matter in that case. Case in point, I took my Seiko Prospect Land Master Sumitter swimming just yesterday and dove down just for fun, 20 feet. No fog no bug no, nothing. Time will tell, if the Land Shark holds up I’ll keep it and love it, but if it can’t stand up to the life it should on my wrist, than I’ll have to get rid of it. Or figure out a modification to make it water resistant to it’s proper depth. I do like to hack things, so maybe my watch smith friend and I can figure something out. I like watches, but only if they can handle the environment, Never been much for wrist candy.

Thanks for the info Quartzimodo, :). I’ll have to keep you posted.

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