After the new wears off: A review of the 173
by Elvis September 2004 Currently with hand-rounded lugs [above], this is my skx173. A review follows here...
The SKX173 is not my first Seiko diver. My first was the yellow dial SKXa35, and I indeed have had a favorable experience with that watch. A bicycle crash led me to take the numbers off the bezel to try and even out deep scratches, but the watch remained waterproof. However, the combo of plain bezel and yellow dial didn't quite appeal to me. The a35, though still servicable, spends most time in my desk drawer. I particularly like black-faced watches, perhaps you could even describe my favorite dial designs as "military" or military-esque in appearence. I'd prefer the term utilitarian. Which led me to the SKX173. Black dial, black bezel, square markers, lume on tip of second hand, arrow at "12"... The 173 is a modern incarnation of the 6105 and its brethren, the classic diver that brought Seiko into the lives of active people and watch enthusiasts to this day. Of all the 0029 cased Seiko divers, it is closest to it. The a35 has a yellow dial, not black. The 007 has round markers, and the 175 has round markers, plus a blue face and two-tone bezel. The face of the 173 is not identical to the early Seiko divers, but it is similar in a way which makes it seem the modern embodiment of their style and function.
Though an initial review was posted at my personal website of the LoneRider [www.angelfire.com/thelonerider/index.html], I find extreme4/SEIKO! [my first attempt at a watch-themed site, please be kind, ye critics!] is a more appropriate place to take a closer look at it!
As of April, after nearly two months of constant wear, the 173 showed hardly no sign of damage; indeed it looks brand new despite having been on the wrist from the moment I got.
Now, in November of 2004, it has taken just about everyong you can throw at a watch, without actually throwing the watch ;^)
But there has been time enough to grow accustomed to it and see beyond that initial excitement of new ownership which makes it hard for most watch enthusiasts to initially take an objective evaluation of the timepiece on their wrist.
The 173 came on a vented Seiko rubber strap with stainles steel buckle [as shown here...]
The 173 line first entered production in 1996. This example, according to the Seiko Production Date Calculator as the Seiko Diver's Reference [seiko and citizen forum], was born in November of 2003.
UNDER THE HOOD: The heart of any watch is its movement. A watch, after all, is a mechanical device, and is only as good as the mechanism that drives it.
The SKX173 uses Seiko's 7s26 automatic movement, a 21 jewel mechanism produced in Singapore. [7s26 Picture by Keaton, of EOT, with permission]
The 7s26 movement is used in all the variants of this line, including the skxa35, the skx175, and the skx007. The day/date functions are quickset, but the movement cannot be manually wound. If it is not running, the watch is started by swinging it gently from side to side. The 7s26 does not "hack" -- that is, the second hand does not stop when the crown is pulled out for setting the time. However, by turning the crown slightly backwards, it is possible to acheive a similar effect while setting the watch.
CASE: The watch is contained in a 0029 stainless steel case. This is the same case used on the skx175 and 007 variations, as well as the a35. The screw-down back is imprinted with the now famous Seiko Wave logo, and contains three numbers: The movement number [7s26] the case number  and the watch's own serial number. Seiko has been consistant in this regard; they mark today's dive watches the same way they marked the 1970's Seiko 5 automatics, making it easy to date the style and year of yesterday's watch today -- or today's watch, tomorrow.
The crown at the 4 o'clock position is finely grooved and steps down slightly to the flat end; the end of the crown, like the sides and back of the case, is polished. The case top [visible part of which consists mainly of the tops of the lugs] is a brushed finish. The crown screws down firmly and is protected by an effective and aestheticly pleasing crown-guard, although this makes it somewhat difficult to tighten it fully for those with large fingers. The bezel is unidirectional with numbers in ten minute increments, dots for minute positions and line indices for 5 minute intervals. the "60" position is marked with an inverted arrow framing a luminous dot. Bezel insert is black; all bezel markings are steel colored. The edges of the bezel are double knurled and it is slightly narrower at the top then the base. It provides an excellent grip and is well constructed, with no looseness in fit. Indices line up perfectly.
DIAL: The black dial is a "classic" diver design similar to the old 6105 in general terms; squared indices, dot at the far end of the second hand. But it has its own look. The 12 is marked by a split, narrow inverted arrow, with squares for every five minues and longer rectangles for the "6" and "9" positions. The day/date display is at the "3" position and is black on white, except weekends; Saturday is in Blue and Sunday in Red.
Under the "12" the watch is marked "SEIKO AUTOMATIC" in grey/silver, and above the "6" it is marked "DIVER'S 200m" in red, the only splash of color on the watch. there is no minute track on the dial, minute indices are in an angled chapter ring around the inside edge of the case.
The luminous material on Seikos is infamously bright, and the 173 is no exception. The bezel dot, hands, and dial glow bright, and constantly. Though some dimming will occur throughout the night, it is still clearly visible after a prolonged period of time.
CRYSTAL: The crystal on the watch is called "Hardlex" by Seiko. I'm not exactly sure what it is composed of, but I think it may be specially treated or coated mineral glass, although I may be wrong... In any event, it held up great and it was months before it got its first scratch. Even now, it shows few of the scratches Mineral Glass is known to be susceptible to.
Seiko, along with Citizen, the other major Japanese watchmaker, is known for making long-lasting dive watches, and the 173 is indeed waterproof. I cannot, however, speak to its performance at any great depth as I haven't taken it diving. Screw down crown and caseback ensure the water stays out, and the pins used to secure the stock rubber strap are enormous and stout enough one does not have to worry about the watch being pulled off the wrist. Those same pins can be used on some aftermarket stainless steel bracelets if one spreads out the pin slot of the endpieces, which is exactly what I did in this case. The watch has spent the past week on a stainless steel aftermarket bracelet purchased at a local shop. Looks and functions great. Some people have expressed difficulty at finding 22mm bracelets or endpieces, but the reality is most local jewelers have them if you pester them enough to dig them out of storage!
That said, I find the strap more practical for everyday wear and so have returned the Seiko 173 to its rubber strap. However, not liking the tactile and visual aspects of the rubber, I have it on a nylon strap. May eventually end up on a proper nato.
ACCURACY: I haven't done any exact timekeeping studies of the SKX173. As a rule, quartz watches are usually more accurate than mechanical watches, but I have not noticed any significant lapse. Perhaps the 173 has gained or lost a minute or two over the last month. I adjusted it once for daylight savings time correction, and maybe once or twice other times, never more than two minutes or so. However, I've been wearing it constantly except for one afternoon or so, and at night when I sleep. If someone did not wear it constantly then surely it would fluctuate, because it would not be as constantly wound.
Custom: Current state of this watch: As of November 2004, the Seiko skx173 is way different than when I bought it. I have rounded off the tops of the lugs. This gives it a softer appearence, with less hard angles, and also makes it look older. The pics of the watch with the stock case show a clear constrast to what it looks like today. The lack of planes and flat surfaces reduces light reflection, making the watch less flashy and giving it a more utilitarian look. The rounded lugs also contrast with the bezel and make it stand out more.
short description: SEIKO SKX173