A couple of years ago, someone proudly posted his proud acquisition on SCWF – a strange looking 7s26-0020 diver’s watch that none of the forum members had ever seen. Nobody was able to identify the odd model from Seiko and a few suggested that it may be a fake Seiko watch.
I scrutinized the photos carefully and couldn’t put my finger on it. Appearance-wise, it looked like the garden variety SKX173 model for North America – except that there were differences enough to suggest that it wasn’t a SKX173 at all. The second hand was indisputably borrowed from the SKX007K model as the lumed dot (or some call it “meatball”) was on the opposite end of the hand. It was as though this model was a “Franken Seiko”, i.e. cobbled out of parts from different Seiko models.
Forum members nevertheless congratulated the owner for his strange find. This watch was never seen again on the forum nor was it discussed after that. It was largely forgotten. Until recently.
I still kept the photos downloaded from the post and decided to take another look at them. What model was this watch, exactly? It wasn’t even referenced in Kevin Chan’s Seiko Diver’s Reference – the well known, de facto Seiko diver photo repository.
There was something strangely familiar about the design of the watch dial – it’s like I’ve seen it before, but where?
Where does this watch fit in?
Before we delve further into the subject matter, we need to make direct comparisons this mystery watch with what we already know – the SKX173 and the very commonly found SKX007K.
Top: The mysterious 7s26-0020 vs another well-known 7s26-0020, the SKX007K.
As we can see, the only the only similarities between the two are the black rotating bezel insert and the hands. The dial on the watch on the left has square hour markers while the SKX007K’s have round and ellipsoid index markers. The 12 o’clock index shapes are also vastly different.
At the surface, our mystery guest seems to be an SKX173 diver gone wrong! Did someone at the factory inadvertently switch the wrong parts for this oddball piece?
OK, now let’s take a look at the same watch versus the North American model.
Top: Compared with the 7s26-0028/9, the SKX173 for the North American market. Nope, doesn’t match 100%.
Now the arcane looking Seiko diver draws more parallelisms with the SKX173. You can see that the hour markers are rectangular and the addition of the lumed marker at the 3 o’clock position. In fact, it would be a dead ringer for the SKX173 if it weren’t for the:
- Different styled second hand (lumed dot on the opposite end of the hand)
- Shorter and wider V-shaped 12 o’clock marker
- Framed index markers (hardly noticeable in the picture)
As you can see, the cryptic watch appears to be a combination of the SKX173 and the SKX007K. I would have believed that, except for one thing. The dial is very unlike the SKX173 despite both designs having rectangular markers. I figured out that it had to be some short-lived model that not many people knew about.
The mystery was solved at last!
I remembered that there was one particular SKX diver that was considered rare as hen’s teeth and only a handful of photos were available. It was the SKX401K with the Pepsi-colored rotating bezel. It struck me that the V-shaped 12 o’clock marker looked very close to the SKX401K’s, so I decided to compare this watch with it.
Top: Our guest watch next to the very-hard-to-find, SKX401K. Bingo! Perfect match!
As you can see, except for the bezel insert color, all aspects of both watches are similar. The dial of the mystery watch matches the SKX401K’s to a tee. Likewise, the hands are also of the same design with each other.
Here are more pics of the rare SKX401K. It’s so rare that if you were to put up one for sale in the watch sales forums, I guarantee that your watch would be booked by eager buyers within minutes! 😉 In fact, one regular SCWF forum member used to persistently put up a WTB (Want-To-Buy) ad in the trade forum for the SKX401K for months. I don’t know whether he finally got one though.
Top: Two breathtaking shots of the SKX401K. Pics courtesy of Chris Moy.
Since the unknown watch was very much related to the SKX401K, it had to be a model that’s numerically close to the SKX401K. I looked for some reference numbers in the Seiko database and I finally nailed it. The mystery watch was the rarely heard-of SKX399K.
More photos of the rare SKX399K
Let’s take at some pics of the SKX399K as submitted by the owner (sorry, I cannot remember his name). From a distance, it sure looks like the North American model, SKX173 diver. But it’s not. Dimensions-wise, it is similar to the ubiquitous SKX007K or J model, nothing more and nothing less.
Above: Additional photos of the SKX399K. This watch was a March 2004 production.
Incidentally, the SKX399K has a dark grey-black dial with a dial part number of 1614XB13 while the SKX401K’s deep navy blue dial has a different part number – 1614XL13.
Where were the SKX399K and SKX401K models marketed?
This is the tough part to crack. I can’t pinpoint which countries these two models were sold back then. But I can tell you that these watches were definitely not for:
- The Japan domestic market. JDM models always have a 4-letter prefix with no “K” or “J” as the suffix.
The North American market. If they were, the dials and caseback should show the country of origin as per US FCC regulations. Also, North American SKX divers have the caseback designation 7s26-0028 or 7s26-0029, not 7s26-0020.
- The Middle East market (like the SKX007J/011J). These watches are designated as “K” models and don’t have “Made in Japan” printed on the dials. I doubt these were exported to the Arab speaking countries.
I think the SKX399K and SKX401Ks were probably sold in Southeast Asia (not all countries). It could have been for the Hong Kong, Taiwan or the Thailand market. Definitely not for Malaysia or Singapore – otherwise I would have seen them locally and the Singapore based eBay sellers would have auctioned them by the truckloads. 😉
A close up pic of the SKX399K with the warranty card. Photo by the watch owner.
As we can see from the picture above, the standard 1-year warranty card and silver hang tag is typical for Seiko watches sold in SE Asia. The owner was a very lucky chap to own a totally new old stock (NOS) piece, given the fact that the SKX401K and SKX399K were rare birds. He purchased it more than two years since it was made, by the way.
It’s unclear why the seller marked the caseback as “7s26-0020w” because no such caseback number exists according to Seiko’s caseback naming convention. It could have been an error made by the seller. This watch is definitely a 7s26-0020 and no doubt about it.
Latest photo gallery of the SKX399K
A big round of thanks goes to my good friend James Tan from Singapore, who happens to be another proud owner of this uber rare Seiko diver. He took the trouble to submit fresh photos of this this lovely watch just for Quartzimodo’s Time Journal!
According to him, he purchased this watch from someone in the Philippines. Without additional supporting data, it’s too premature to deduce that the SKX399K (and the Pepsi-bezel SKX401K) were confined to the Philippines market.
Above: James’ watch comes with the factory fitted Z22 polyurethane strap. The blue protective sticker is still intact, suggesting that he very seldom wears this watch or doesn’t wear it at all.
Above: A direct, side-by-side comparison with the Japan-made, SKX009J (left). You can see how the framed rectangular index markers makes it appear slightly dressier than the SKX009.
Above: James’ trademark “wok” (Asian deep frying pan) shots lend a very unique background to these stellar quality photo shots. Note how the index markers glow like in the lume photo on the top right.
Why were these models unheard of before?
The answer to that question is simple. They were simply not produced in enough quantities to go around. However, it’s unclear as to why Seiko made very few pieces of the SKX399K and SKX401K. Perhaps Seiko was trying them out to see how they fared against the extremely popular SKX007/SKX009K.
Or, it was specially made for a specific Southeast Asian market for a very limited period of time. Not much is known about these two very hard-to-find 7s26-0020 divers.
Suffice to say, both the SKX399K and SKX401K are rare as hen’s teeth. I have no idea when they first appeared in the market, but I’ve seen photos of the SKX401K as early as 2004.
So if you ever see one of these for sale – grab it while you still can. I know I would! 😉
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