Source: Chun Cheong Watch & Pen Store, Sungei Wang Plaza
Price paid: MYR560 (approximately USD147)
Status: In production
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:
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! 🙂
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).
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.
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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”? 🙂
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.
Lume photos of my personal SKZ209K, bathed in ultraviolet light.
Here are the measurements of the Seiko SKZ209K which I measured with vernier calipers.
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:
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
Bezel: Unidirectional, 120 graduations
W.R. rating: 200m
Luminous material: LumiBrite™
Movement Singapore, cased in China
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