Not too long ago, Seiko made a series of classic Kinetic divers with strong design influences from the world famous Rolex Submariner diver’s watch. These were fondly remembered as the “SKJ" Kinetic Sports divers and they remain the only homage copies of the Submariner with the Kinetic movement.
There were also only three generations of this style of Kinetic divers and they were marketed internationally as generic models, i.e. not belonging to any particular Seiko sub-range such as the Sportura, Arctura, Coutura, etc.
These models sat unnoticed in the midst of the many obscure Kinetic models that shared the same movement. Unlike the international sub-ranges like the Velatura, Premier and Sportura, Seiko didn’t spend on advertising the SKJ Kinetic divers. To the Seiko company, they’re just a few of their countless generic models – if you happen to like them, buy them!
1st Generation (5M23-6B50)
Seiko first debut of the Kinetic divers was probably in 1994 or 1995 with their SHF-series 5M23 models. These had a water resistance of 150m and were named the “Sports 150" series. The 5M23 caliber was equipped with the early problematic capacitors and offered a maximum power reserve of just 3 days. The SHF-series had the familiar dial and hands layout which was carried forward to the SMY-series Kinetic divers.
Firstly, I’d like to state that the SHF-series Kinetics and its successors are not ISO certified divers’ watches. They are merely water resistant sports watches that resemble diver’s watches. For an in-depth explanation on water resistance, you may want to read my previous blog entry.
The first Kinetic divers. From left to right: SHF045P,SHF047P and the gold toned SHF048P.
Right from the beginning, these divers were designed with the Jubilee bracelet in mind. No other bracelet options (e.g Oyster-style) were available. The SHF-series had Hardlex mineral glass and were equipped with 120-click, unidirectional rotating bezels.
Some real world photos of the 1st generation SHF-series divers:
Above: The early SHF047P 150m Kinetic diver. Pics courtesy of PMWC and Easternwatch.
I have not seen better other photos of the 5M23-6B50 models other than the above from the ‘net nor have I encountered anyone in the SCWF owning such models. Perhaps the SHF-series Kinetics didn’t generate much interest compared to its successor, the SKJ Kinetic divers or they weren’t made in sufficient quantities.
2nd Generation (5M43-0A40/0B30)
Towards the end of the decade Seiko upgraded the 5M23-6B50 models with a higher water resistant rating of 200m. These were the more famous “Sports 200m" Kinetic models or simply known as the “SKJ" Kinetic divers, with a new and improved 5M43 caliber with a longer power reserve of 1 week.
The SKJ-series were lesser known as the 5M43-0A40 models but they were more proved to be more popular amongst Seiko Kinetic diver collectors. Seiko added four more models for the 5M43 Kinetics and including two titanium versions. The dial and hands were carried over from the previous generation and like the SHF-series, were fitted with solid linked Jubilee bracelets.
The new SKJ models had improvements over their predecessors. Apart from the newer movement, the 2nd generation Kinetic divers were also upgraded with Sapphlex glass, which is actually a mineral glass base with a sapphire laminate in the top layer.
I don’t know why Seiko had since discontinued making Sapphlex crystals as they provide the best of both worlds – a more scratch resistant surface with less brittle characteristics. Maybe it was costlier to make compared to a 100% sapphire glass. These days you get either normal Hardlex or sapphire from Seiko.
The 5M43-0A40 parade. Clockwise from top: SKJ001P, SKJ003P, SKJ004P, SKJ0137P (with silver bezel insert) and the all-blue SKJ031P
The SKJ-series divers also had a minor change to the bezel insert – Seiko thankfully added a useful lumed bezel pip at the 12 o’clock marker, which was absent in the earlier SHF-series models.
The SKJ137P was perhaps the odd one out. It’s the only model to have a silver colored bezel insert and a red second hand. On top of that, its dial has a very interesting emerald green color. In my opinion, the SKJ137P is the rarest model I’ve seen in pictures and in real life, I’ve seen and handled two SKJ137Ps.
The only titanium (5M43-0B30) models in the three generations: SKJ045P (left) and SKJ048P (right)
Two titanium models, the SK045P and SK048P were also injected into the SKJ lineup, making a total of seven variants for the SKJ-series. The titanium models were probably made in smaller numbers and they are more valuable to collectors than the stainless steel ones. Due to the scarcity of the titanium versions, they fetch a higher value in the used market.
Some years ago I’ve had the opportunity to take photographs of the rare SKJ045P prior to shipping it to a buyer from USA. He saw a photo of the watch that I posted in the SCWF forum following a visit to the store that had it and contacted me immediately to buy it on his behalf. 🙂
Here are some nice pictures of SKJ-series Kinetics below.
Two photos of the very rare SKJ045P titanium Kinetic diver taken before I shipped it to its buyer
A nice collection of 5M-series Kinetic divers. Clockwise from top left: SKJ001P, SKJ014P, SMY003P and SKJ031P. The SKJ001P and SKJ031P were fitted with Seiko Oyster and President bracelets respectively. Photo courtesy of Stefan Molle
Chronograph.com used to have a few SKJ Kinetics for sale at one time. From left to right: SKJ001P, SKJ031P on a black aftermarket NATO strap and SKJ003P. Bottom: the gold toned SKJ004P
3nd Generation (5M63-0A10)
In the early 2000s, Seiko introduced their latest and current 5M63 Kinetic caliber to replace the 5M43. The new 5M63 movement promised a more efficient power generation unit and an even much longer power reserve – 6 months versus the 5M43’s 1-week reserve.
More importantly, with the 5M-caliber, Seiko solved the infamous problem with their earlier Kinetic watches by replacing their leakage-prone capacitor with the rechargeable lithium ion (LiOn) cell. Seiko also provided replacement LiOn cells for the last batches of their 5M4x watches to watch dealers and end users upon request.
This spelled good news for owners of the 5M43-series owners (including the SKJ divers) as the LiOn cells were totally compatible with the older 5M4x calibers. It is not uncommon for used SKJ divers for sale to have been upgraded with the LiOn cells. Click here for my past article regarding Seiko Kinetics.
Seiko introduced only three models for its 5M63 Kinetics – the SMY001P, SMY003P and the SMY005P. Titanium models or gold toned models were completely dropped from the third generation lineup.
My best guess is that the company felt that they went overboard with too many variations with their former SKJ-series and perhaps the black SKJ001P and SKJ003P models outsold their siblings. Maybe their titanium models were too expensive and didn’t sell that well.
Borrowed photos of the SMY001P (left) and SMY003P (right). I haven’t found a photo of the blue SMY005P so far.
Aesthetics-wise, the SMY series were identical to the SKJ-series but with the following differences:
Dial text no longer says “Sports 200" but “Kinetic Water Resist 200m"
A very plain and bland polished caseback instead of having the “wave logo" as with its predecessors
The SMY-series divers could have carried forward the famous Seiko wave logo that adorns the casebacks of their ancestors but sadly, they come with plain vanilla casebacks. There’s nothing to admire from the rear save for the mandatory caseback and reference numbers and the usual Seiko text markings. I suspect Seiko chose the plain caseback to cut production costs.
The 3rd generation SMY Kinetic divers dispensed with the wave logo on the casebacks. Pic courtesy of Timefactors.com
Thankfully, the SMY-series Kinetics still adopted the hybrid Sapphlex crystal from the previous SKJ-series and are fitted with the same high quality, solid linked Jubilee bracelet.
I guess am fortunate to own probably the last NOS (New Old Stock) SMY003P in Malaysia and I’m happy to say that it’s one of my favorite watches. 🙂
Photos of my very own SMY003P. No, I’m not selling this one for sure! 🙂
Will there be a 4th generation?
That’s a good question. I don’t suppose there will be any. If it serves as an indication the SMY-series were already discontinued and you don’t see fresh stocks of these watches in the stores, whether online or brick-and-mortar.
If it’s one thing I know about Seiko, they’re largely in the profit making business and they make watches mostly for the masses, not for the very selective individuals like enthusiasts like us.
While it’s also true that Seiko also makes very high end, fine timepieces sold through their Grand Seiko and Credor lines but sales of watches from those lines constitute a small percentage of their total earnings.
If a particular range or variant didn’t fare well in sales, the company would cease production of that model, whether you really adore the watch or not. Which probably explains why the evergreen SKX007 mechanical diver is still in production today since 1996 while some exotic designs like the Sky Professional analog digitals only ran a rather brief two-year product life span. And I’m not talking about limited edition Seikos either.
Although the Kinetic 5M63 caliber has been around since the early 2000s, I’m not sure what Seiko’s marketing division plans to develop new Kinetic divers based on the day/date 5M63.
It appears that the Japanese watch manufacturer lately preferred to concentrate on pushing their date-only 5M62 Kinetic divers, such as the SKA293P “Big Boss", SKA369P “Big Freakin’ Kinetic (BFK) and their latest SKA383P ISO-rated 200m divers.
So far I have not seen any new Seiko diver models based on the 5M63 Kinetic since the SMY-series Kinetics and the SMY089PBlack Knight (also discontinued). Perhaps Seiko’s recent market research showed a consumers’ preference for date-only watches in non-automatic divers? Hmm…..
Above: The SKA293P “Big Boss", SKA369P “BFK" and the yellow SKA385P 5M62 date-only Kinetic divers. All pics from Chronograph.com
So if you missed the opportunity to own a brand new piece of a model that had been discontinued, you’re largely out of luck. That doesn’t mean that finding one is impossible – it’s just it’s a lot harder to source it. There could be a few lying unsold in some obscure watch store somewhere in the world, waiting for the right buyer to give them a good home. 🙂
You can also place a WTB (Want To Buy) advertisement for a specific Kinetic model that you’re after. Hopefully someone will answer your ad with a very good offer. Of course, there’s also a possibility that these model come up on eBay from time to time. Keep monitoring the auction sites and remember, perseverance pays off handsomely in the end! 🙂