The Sky Professional is a sub-range of the Seiko Prospex line of watches that are meant for the Japan Domestic Market (JDM). As the name suggests, the Sky Pro was designed with aviators and pilots in mind. Apart from having a world time capability, alarm and 100-hour chronograph, they are also equipped with a rotating analog E6B flight computer or slide rule.
Seiko released the Sky Professional series in 2001 in three guises – the flagship titaniumSBDR001 and two stainless steel (S/S) models, the black SBDR003 and blue SBDR005. The SBDR001 looks unorthodox compared to its stainless steel cousins and apart from endowed with a sapphire crystal, it was also priced almost twice that of the S/S models.
I first saw the SBDR005 on Wayne’s Watch World and he had one piece for sale. I emailed Wayne twice but got no response so I had to do a bit of hunting in Kuala Lumpur. As luck would have it, I finally spotted these watches at two stores in the Suria KLCC shopping mall.
The Sky Professional family. From L-R: SBDR005, SBDR001, SBDR003
One was displayed in the watch section of the Isetan department store while the other was found at Emotus Time Culture. I inquired about the SBDR005 at Isetan and was told by the salesgirl that she could only offer a measly 10% discount. So I decided to check out Emotus Time Culture instead. Reena, the supervisor was a charming and friendly sales manager and she agreed to give me a good discount for the SBDR005.
Naturally, it was an offer too good to resist so I decided to buy it on the spot, no questions asked. This was the watch that I had been eyeing for quite some time even before I purchased my Sportura SNJ001P. I wish I had found this watch before I bought the SNJ001P as the Sky Pro was at the top of my wish list at the time.
Here is a web clipping from Seiko Japan’s web site which I snipped not too long ago. Note that the blue SBDR005 is not in the list, indicating that it’s sold out and no longer in production. The two analog chronographs on the right are the SBDP005 and SBDP007. While the duo are part of the new Sky Professional range, they are based on the 7T62 alarm chronograph caliber – not the analog digital H023 caliber.
A web clipping of Seiko Japan’s Sky Professional range, circa 2005
Look and feel
The SBDR005 has a definite masculine look and is quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye. At first glance the dial looks busy due to the intricate printing of the inner rotating slide rule bezel. Once you’re accustomed to it, telling the time is a walk in the park.
Four conventional looking buttons and a large knurled crown surround the satin brushed finished case. The crown serves no other purpose than to rotate the internal slide rule bezel. In my opinion, the layout looks more well balanced than the traditional 4-pusher layout of a H023 caliber Seiko.
The watch case itself is a chunk of solid stainless steel, mostly brushed with a hint of polished edges. I preferred the blue SBDR005 as the outer bezel has a very attractive metallic turquoise color. In contrast, the black SBDR003’s bezel has a somewhat dull slate gray color. The bracelet has solid links all-around and is luxuriously equipped with a butterfly deployant clasp.
On the wrist, the bracelet is a bit of a hair puller but not to the point of being totally uncomfortable. The clasp is the triple-lock type with twin-push buttons with a safety catch. My only gripe with the bracelet is that it doesn’t have enough adjustment holes for fine tuning for my 6.5" wrist. It’s either too loose or too snug.
Here are the measurements of the SBDR005:
Diameter: 44mm (w/o crown), 47mm (w/ crown)
Lug width: 18mm
Bracelet width: 20mm, tapering to 18mm at clasp
The watch is rather top heavy and with the narrow bracelet it tends to flop around my wrist if it’s not worn tightly. By comparison, my Sportura SNJ001 wears better than the Sky Pro. The crystal, while made of Seiko’s patented Hardlex mineral glass instead of sapphire, does have an anti-reflective coating which helps to minimize reflections.
Unfortunately the beveled crystal is sited too high above the bezel and may lead to accidental chipping. You’ll have to be careful when wearing this watch.
Wrist shots of my SBDR005 Sky Professional
The upper left pusher is a multi-function Adjust button that sets the watch’s date and time. It also doubles as the “transfer time" button in the World Time mode. The lower left is the Mode button and it cycles through the following modes:
Time display (12/24 hr format)
World Time (28 cities, including GMT with Daylight Savings Time option)
This is the default mode which displays the current city, the digital time and calendar display. If you find the digital readout somewhat distracting, there’s an option to suppress the extraneous information except the day and date. I prefer this suppressed display as it keeps background clutter to a minimum. Despite the lack of backlight, the LCD display offers high contrast and is still legible in low light.
The watch beeps when you press a button but you can put it on silent mode if you like. Pressing any button will instantly display the digital time and city abbreviation. You can also have a 24-hour time format if you like. The calendar is fully automatic, keeping track of leap years and good up to the year 2043.
In the World Time Mode, you can view only one city time at any one time and choose the city that you desire by pressing the upper right button. Press and hold this button and the watch fast forwards through all the time zones. The second hand also serves as a pointer, it will indicate the current city on the bezel. There’s no provision for you to reverse, if you missed a city you’ll have to cycle through all cities.
A cool feature is the one-touch, instant local time setting. Seiko calls it the “transfer function". All you have to do is to push the Adjust button. A shrill beep is issued and the main time hands magically move to synchronize with the local time indicated in the LCD display. The hands can move forwards or backwards to the local city time, whichever is the shortest route. If you’ve never seen the H023 in action, you’ll be impressed with the show. Frequent use of the transfer function can shorten battery life. I imagine the stepping motor uses considerable power to physically move the hands.
You’ll find the transfer function very handy if you travel across time zones.
A lume shot of my SBDR005. The lume is adequate for this type of watch.
The chronograph has a resolution of 1/100 sec which means it can measure to the nearest 0.001 second! The H023 caliber remained the only analog-digital Seiko watch capable of this fine resolution until the newer H024 caliber appeared sometime in 2006. As the stopwatch runs, a series of F-15 Eagle jet fighter icons move from left to right on the topmost LCD display, indicating that the stopwatch is activated. It’s a nice touch, often reminding me that it’s a pilot’s watch. Other H023 based Seikos have running chevrons instead of the F-15 icon. It supports a single lap time measurement with no memory.
If you like timing long events, you’ll be pleased to know that the Sky Pro can time up to a maximum of 100 hours before resetting to zero. Perfect for timing long haul, international flights.
The alarm is a conventional affair, with a nice sounding two-tone trill that’s piercing enough to alert you in a convention center but not loud enough to wake heavy sleepers. It’s a tad louder than my Sportura SNJ001P. You can set the alarm time to another time zone. It’s useful if you’re in New York and want to be reminded to make a phone call to Tokyo when it’s 10 a.m. over there.
The Sky Pro is a wonderful watch and a definite keeper for me. The stainless steel SBDR003 and 005 were the first to be discontinued, it’s unclear whether they fared badly on the market or Seiko didn’t plan to produce more of these beauties. The top-of-the-line SBDR001 in titanium guise is still around, as evidenced by its presence on the Seiko Japan website. I wouldn’t know if the company still manufactures the SBDR001 or they were a tough sell – it could be too expensive or consumers simply didn’t like it.
Finding the stainless steel SBDR003 and 005 would be somewhat a challenge as it was discontinued by 2003. A fellow watch collector that I know – Melencio from New York USA, spent a year trying to track the SBDR005 down. His perseverance finally paid off – after many false leads an Asian based seller responded to his email and sold him one.
Would I buy the SBDR005 again if I lost mine? Yes, if I could find one in New Old Stock (NOS) condition. 🙂
What I liked:
E6B flight rule calculator
Rarest among the H023 family Seikos
Clean looks, superb dial layout
Striking anodized color coded bezel
Anti-reflective (AR) coating on crystal
World time function
1/1000sec chronograph with 100-hour timing capability
Regular lugs means leather strap options
What I didn’t care for:
Bracelet could have more micro adjustment holes
18mm lug width a bit too narrow for this huge watch