Seiko SBDC001 'Sumo' Hands-On Review

Seiko SBDC001 ‘Sumo’ Hands-On Review

by Robert-Jan Broer
Hands-On, Seiko, Under $500

I should let you know upfront that I’ve never owned a Seiko before. Well, with the exception of a titanium Pulsar chronograph with quartz movement in 1995 that is. If I am not mistaken, Pulsar is part of the Seiko company. Anyway, let’s say I’ve never owned a mechanical Seiko watch before.

The enthusiastic reviews and feedback I’ve seen on the Seiko ‘Sumo’ SBDC001 made me decide to try it myself. The Seiko SBDC001 ‘Sumo’ from the Prospex line-up. Prospex stands for Professional Specifications and is aiming at professional use by divers. I am not a diver by far, only have my basic swimming diploma, so don’t expect a thorough test on its water resistance.

Seiko SBDC001 'Sumo'

Seiko SBDC001 ‘Sumo’

As these models are not for sale in my country, I ordered one via eBay for approximately 350 Euro including shipping. The official list price in Germany (where it is officially for sale) seems to be 600 Euro, I only found out later that our neighbor country Germany has these models officially for sale at selected Seiko retailers.

Anyway, about a week after I ordered it the package was delivered to my doorstep. The small yellow carton box is a bit cheap-ish but what to expect of a watch at this price? This article is a bit of a hands-on review without going to much into detail. The biggest question I am trying to answer is whether it could live up to my expectations and basically what you will get for 350 Euro.

The first thing I paid attention to was the line-up of the hour markers and the bezel. I read about issues with these watches regarding the alignment of the markers and bezel. Mine seems to be fine though. The issue is that this isn’t something that you can fix yourself and returning a watch for repair or warranty to Japan might be an issue.

The watch has a 44mm diameter which is still considered fairly large these days, although it is certainly not gigantic on the wrist. It actually suits me well and due to the curvy lugs, it sits well on the wrist. The dial is quite large and so are the numerals and hands. You could say that the dial is one of the best readable ones out there. The location of the winding crown at 4 o’clock is wisely chosen, as this prevents the crown of a relatively large watch from sticking into your hand.

Seiko SBDC001 'Sumo' - Wristshot

Seiko SBDC001 ‘Sumo’ – Wristshot

Inside, we find the Seiko 6R15 movement that seems to be designed and constructed as a workhorse. It doesn’t have the fancy finish of its more expensive Marine Master brothers, but it does the job well in terms of accuracy. As this Scuba 200M model is on the market for a couple of years now, my assumption is that its reliability is also on par.

So, what did I get for my 350 Euro? Am I as enthusiastic and smitten by its design and performance and many Seiko fans out there? This is not an easy question to answer basically. It depends on your expectations. If you keep in mind that this is a < 500 Euro watch, it is a really (REALLY) good and interesting watch. Perhaps some magazines or reviewers would mark it as a ‘Best Buy’. I’d really agree with that. Even if you would crank up the price a bit to – let’s say – under 850 Euro, it would still be a watch to consider. However, and this is where I don’t agree with some existing reviews from owners out there, you can’t compare this watch to some Swiss brands in the 1000 – 1500 Euro category. First of all, the bracelet is total crap in my opinion. Even for a 500 Euro watch it is a flimsy feeling bracelet with a cheap looking clasp. The first thing I did was to swap it with a rubber strap. I ordered the rubber strap that actually belongs to the Seiko Marine Master 300 (a different category watch) for just 30 Euros and it looks and feels amazingly good. Perhaps some people will favor the stainless steel bracelet, and I realize that a lot of people have different opinions and perceptions of what a good bracelet should be, but I took it off and never looked back. I wouldn’t even know where the thing is now to be honest. Why do I think that it can’t compare to – let’s say – a 1200 Euro Longines? Well, the finish of the Seiko Sumo case looks very nice, but the brushing is done very lightly on the surface. This also means that scratches are very easily made and very visible. The bracelet was something I already mentioned. Leaves the dial. The dial is nice and very readable and illuminates like crazy in the dark, but the finish on the dial is simply not as nice as on that 1200 Euro Longines. There is less detail in it. Movement wise it is difficult to say, I am not a watchmaker so I have to make assumptions here that I rather don’t do. I’d say that the Seiko movement performs really well, but the optical finish is lacking. However, since it has a closed caseback anyway, you are probably not bothered by it anyway.

Seiko SBDC001 'Sumo' - Caseback

Seiko SBDC001 ‘Sumo’ – Caseback

All in all, it is a great watch for its price and if you can see it as such (let’s be fair and use the official list price of 600 Euro here), it is a superb watch that will bring you a reliable watch for years to come probably. Basically, it is an awesome watch but do not expect to get an equivalent of an Omega Seamaster Professional for example.

I find myself wearing the Sumo from time to time, especially during the weekends when I don’t want to be afraid of scratching or damaging any of my more expensive watches when doing some work on my car, playing with my kid or any other activities where you might easily scratch or bump your watch into something that’s tougher than the material of your watch. I can also imagine that someone buy this – or similar model – as his or her first mechanical watch. It would make it a great first experience in the world of mechanical watches, or Seiko watches.

Seiko SBDC001 'Sumo' - Wristshot

Seiko SBDC001 ‘Sumo’ – Wristshot

    Author Bio

    Articles by Robert-Jan Broer


    Robert-Jan Broer has a weak spot for (relatively) affordable mechanical timepieces, but also has a lot of appreciation for high-end watchmaking or 'haute horlogerie'. Robert-Jan is running Fratellowatches for 10 years and is writing for several other on-line and print publications he is definitely considered to be a subject matter expert by many. He sold his car to be able to purchase his first mechanical serious timepiece in the late 1990s, being a student he could only afford to have one of the two.