THE SEIKO SUMO DIVER'S WATCH SBDC003
I've owned a large variety of watches in the past year. When money was coming in nicely and all was well, I had the luck of getting to "rent" (I say rent as I had to resell them in short order) two phenomenal Omega watches: the Speedmaster Professional and the 2254 Seamaster Professional. When things got rougher and a lot of my industry went out of work (we're largely freelancers) I had to settle for something a little less. After a brief flirtation with Suunto watches, I returned to mechanical movements happily with Seiko's 6R15 lineup. The Green Alpinist was my first, and ended up being just not quite my style. I reviewed earlier in the spring. While the outer appearance may not have suited me perfectly, the 6R15 movement was incredible. It kept time nearly as well as an Omega but for a fraction of the price. I found myself in -4 / +4 territory per day, and that was precisely where I wanted to be. Trading off the Alpinist, I decided to go for a watch I had casually looked at many times in the past.
THE INITIAL IMPRESSION
You're greeted by a familiar sight when you pop open a box with a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Seiko. A white outer carton, and a stronger cardboard presentation box inside. Instructions (Japanese and English) for the watch itself and warranty info are usually packed in the white carton as well. Open up the presentation box and you're greeted with a plastic wrapped Seiko with several hang-tags (in Japanese with Yen values) on a tiny pillow. While nothing particularly fancy, I've been keeping watch bands in this presentation box and swap them out often... that means the box itself has gotten a great deal of usage (above and beyond just bringing the watch to you) and has not shown any wear and tear. The box seems to be coated with an almost fabric like substance which appears quite durable.
The Sumo is, indeed quite large and immediately pops at you inside the box.
The Sumo has a very "Seiko" diver appearance about it. At first glance Seiko divers often appear to be a playful interpretation of the Submariner style. At closer examination, you'll find much more to them. I lovingly refer to this particular watch as my "Cartoon Rolex."
Nice, thick Bezel.
By "Find much more" I actually mean that this watch pays homage more to older Seiko divers, and bears a great deal of influence from modern Omega divers. The case itself reminds me a great deal of the 2254 I had, and the Planet Oceans I have held. It is close in heft and quality to the Planet Ocean, as it is a bit thicker than the 2254. The lugs too are curved in a very similar way, but do not end up "completing the curve" down to the connection with the pin. I would prefer that this curve continued in a Speedmaster Professional way, rather than terminating sharply as it does. This particular edge is at odds with the rest of the case; it simply is not finished as well. A little bit of polish by a watchmaker to soften this would go a very long way. All is forgiven though with the inclusion of drilled lugs. How on earth did I get by without these before? It's so easy to swap things on and off with only one simple tool, and because of this I can actually change the watch in a matter of minutes every morning based on what I'm wearing on that given day. I understand the design motive of removing these for a clean surface, but they're just so damned useful.
Lousy Picture, but great drilled lugs!
Another lovely innovation on this watch is the bezel guard. The bezel (described in depth later) is very thick, and without this guard I'd imagine it would be bumped frequently. It's a great consideration and it plays well with the other curves on the side of the case. I haven't seen anything like it on anything else, and others should really consider such a feature. At first I was concerned that my fingers might be pinched when turning said bezel by this guard... not at all. It is well finished and smooth, and the curve of the lug travels up to meet in in a way that ensures you'll never be caught. Excellent design.
Fantastic Weight in the hand.
The bottom of the case is very nicely to fit around the wrist ever so slightly, and has no sharp edges in any way. The back is of brushed texture but has that nice Seiko Diver "Wave" emblem just as a Speedmaster would have the Seahorse in the center.
THE CROWN / THE MOVEMENT
I've opted to put these two categories together simply because the crown is an extension of the movement: it is the only part of the inside that you the wearer will interact directly with.
Great finishing, even close up. Look at the Crown!
The crown itself is very slightly inset into the case of the Sumo, and when fully screwed feels exceptionally sturdy. It grips very easily and the machined "S" looks extremely nice in person. A few counter clockwise screws and the crown pops out. This at first felt a bit rough, as if there was a little sand in caught inside. Over the past two months this has smoothened out immensely and feels quite similar to the 2254 when unscrewing.
The crown wobbles a bit when fully unscrewed. I don't particularly like this, but I do hand wind it frequently (I do miss that Speedmaster) and it hasn't posed any problem thus far. The watch hacks when fully extended, and given that it runs ever so slightly fast (about +1 per day) I've only had to re-calibrate it for the atomic clock three times (I don't like it going over 15 seconds fast) since I've owned it.
This leads into the movement itself, which is absolutely fantastic. As I mentioned before, this Sumo gains less than a second per day. A lot of physical activity or running around (I wore this watch while performing a large move, for example) and it will run perhaps closer to +2 per day. As a rule I wear a watch when I sleep, so I do not regulate it by placing it in a specific way overnight. Some would argue that this Seiko doesn't beat at a fast enough rate, but you really can't take such a complaint seriously for what is a very tool-like watch. This movement isn't about horological fanciness, it's much more about solid, reliable timekeeping.
THE DIAL / THE BEZEL
The Sumo has an excellent dial. Extremely readable, you are always able to tell where 12 o'clock is and everything has a wonderful rim of highly polished silver around it so even if the lume dies (impossible) you're still able to catch light and quickly read it. The lume itself is absolutely phenomenal, and may actually keep you awake if you're sensitive to light when you sleep. If I go to sleep at midnight, the watch is easily readable until the sun rises again, or if I have the blinds closed it retains its glow for beyond 7 hours.
A Rubber Strap, one of my favorite options.
The Hands are finished in identical fashion with generous lume, and will remain lit just as long as the dial. I find this style of hands to be much more useful than the Seamaster Bond style hands, and they do an excellent job for very quick (sub one second) glancing to read the time. The second hand does not have as smooth a sweep as a more expensive diver, but this is due to the slower beat rate of the movement. Again, I feel that this is an acceptable sacrifice.
The Bezel is by far the most pleasing thing about this watch. Large and easy to grip (though less easy to grip underwater) the bezel on mine is quite solid and has no play whatsoever. It squeaked a bit at first but now only makes two types of click: solid on each minute, and a smaller less solid click at the halfway between each. Frequently used for the timing of things (how long has that laundry been in the machine?) the bezel is incredibly useful around the house and shows no sign of wearing down / loosening so far.
No AR Here, but generally there's no glare... unlike these pictures.
This area of the watch is finished off with a Hardlex crystal. I'd of course prefer an AR coated Sapphire, but I see no reason to switch to one until the Hardlex is scuffed up. It may not be as clean / clear as a Sapphire but it is domed slightly so you don't get a reflection from any angle that will obscure the view.
My Sumo is blue, and is far more subtle than the blue I've seen on the Ti Samurai. In direct sun light it's a very rich blue that pops, and inside it is a darker navy blue. I'm glad that I was able to get this color rather than the black, as I think it goes incredibly well with the design.
THE INCLUDED BRACELET
The Sumo has a very interesting lug design for such a large watch: rather than taking a 22mm band, it takes a 20mm. This reminds me in many ways of the older Seiko divers with cushion cases, melded with the Omega curved lug. I personally like this design very much, but I can see some people being turned off by it.
The Bracelet: Not a perfect fit, but pretty close
Consequently, the included bracelet can at times look a little odd on the Sumo as it doesn't really "flow" from the case design as many other bracelets do. While quite squeaky at first, the Sumo bracelet quiets and wears in very nicely over time, and ended up being a good though not perfect wear option for me personally. It is finished quite well with soft edges and a sturdy buckle, though I'd definitely like to see some kind of screw system for removing links rather than the pin and collar setup it has. The highlight of this bracelet is certainly its solid end links, which do try to make some sort of reconciliation with the case design.
Solid Endlinks... Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh.
I personally only wear the bracelet when I travel, and want a little extra security in keeping such a large and nice looking watch on my wrist. I really prefer the Sumo on my brown NATO strap, and with the black rubber band as shown below. Because of the 20mm lug size, you've got an incredible wealth of options for accenting a Sumo. And because of the drilled lugs, you can swap them off and on easily.
Here you can see the diver's extension on the bracelet.
The Sumo is an excellent watch, and if Seiko had sold it for $1,000 rather than what it goes for now, I don't think anyone would have complained. It is finished incredibly well for a watch at this price point, features a movement that keeps amazing time for a mechanical, and appears to be very sturdy. If you've been looking at the Planet Ocean and wishing that it were just a little less expensive or perhaps felt that the price would keep you from wearing it outside or while doing things that would fulfill its purpose, the Sumo might be a perfect watch for you.