Top positive review
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An Outstanding Value
on March 27, 2014
DESCRIPTION: The revised Seiko SRP307 "Black Monster" with the new 24 jewel 4R36 mechanical automatic movement replaces the legendary SKX779 "Black Monster" with the venerable 21 jewel 7S26 movement. Externally, the two watches are very similar, with the most notable changes being removal of minutes/seconds numbers from the watch face and use of a knurled rather than ridged stem on the new version. Internally, the changes are much more dramatic. The new 4R36 movement adds the ability to stop or "hack" the watch at any seconds position, allowing precise time setting, and it also adds the ability to hand wind the watch, both of which were missing in the 7S26 movement. Just as important, the 4R36 movement appears to have much better accuracy (ability to keep good time) and isochronism (changes in timekeeping due to state of wind and watch position), right out of the box. For those not familiar with this iconic and inexpensive timepiece, the Black Monster is an armored stainless steel dive watch advertised as waterproof to 200 meters (658 feet). It is both rugged and reliable, but was not particularly accurate - until now. Its markers and hands rest under a domed mineral crystal on a black watch face and are coated with a generous amount of LumiBrite, allowing them to glow perceptibly for hours after exposure to light. Hours, minutes, seconds, day and date are indicated - day and date through a window in the watch face at the 3 o'clock position. The crystal is further shielded by a sloped and very rugged unidirectional, stainless-steel timing ring whose inner ridge is lower than the outer ridge - the exact opposite of most dive watches - to protect the crystal. The timing ring moves only counter-clockwise, 120 clicks per revolution, and is very smooth and well damped in operation. Massive ridges on its outer edge provide ample grip, even with gloves on. Timing marks are deeply engraved into the steel and filled with black paint for better contrast. The 12 o'clock timing position features an inlaid LumiBrite dot, for readability in complete darkness. Surrounding the timing ring is a ridge of stainless steel armor protecting the upper and lower thirds of the ring from accidental movement or impact - another unique feature of the "Monster". The watch stem, used to set the time, day and date is at the 4 o'clock position and is protected by its own ridge of armor at the top and by the timing ring armor ridge at the bottom. The watch stem is large and knurled in a fine diamond checkerboard pattern that provides excellent grip and screws down to provide a positive water seal. The watch back is domed to resist pressure and screws onto the watch case as one piece. The model and serial numbers are stamped onto the back along with Seiko's "breaking wave" logo for its dive watches. Overall the watch body and timing ring feature a mixture of polished and machined matte finished steel. The metal bracelet is equally robust, with solid machined stainless steel links, including solid end links. It is attached to the watch body with conventional spring pins. Links are fastened to each other using the Seiko pin-and-collar system that is quite difficult to adjust, but very strong and reliable once correctly assembled. The clasp is made of stamped stainless steel and is of the double fold-over type with twin squeeze-to-release locking buttons on the inner catch. It features four micro-adjustment positions set by spring pin and a rather flimsy looking snap-out diver's extension that is reinforced by a steel hook when not deployed.
PERFORMANCE AND IMPRESSIONS: This watch is called the "Monster" for a very good reason - it looks like one. With no concessions to popular style, it defines a unique and iconic look all its own, written in the robustness, boldness and practicality of its design. And it takes some getting used to. Perhaps that's why its appreciated even by collectors of much more expensive timepieces. If ever there was a tool watch designed by an engineer, this is it, particularly with the new 4R36 movement, whose performance now matches the very high standard set by the watch case and bracelet. My previous experience with the old 7S26 movement (in two Seiko SKX173 style dive watches) was that accuracy out of the box was 20-30 seconds per day with a variance of about +/- 12 seconds - not stellar. I purchased two of the new "Monsters", the SRP309 orange faced version and the SRP307 black faced version ("Black Monster") at a 2-for sale in December 2013. Both have the Japanese built version of the 4R36 movement. The Orange Monster has so far shown an accuracy of -5.5 seconds per day when on a winder and +5.5 seconds per day in normal use. The Black Monster is even better at -1.0 seconds per day on a winder and -4.0 seconds per day in normal use - meeting several Swiss COSC standards - a remarkable performance for a low-cost, mass-produced mechanical timepiece. After three and a half months of alternating wear, both watches look almost new - a tribute to the quality of their materials, finish and protective armor. And if you don't like the black watch face, the Monster is also available with an orange face (SRP309 - "Orange Monster") and in other variations that can include a rubber strap, PVD coated body and timing ring, etc.
GOTCHAs: Three potential issues exist with this watch, all controllable by the owner. The first involves band resizing. The Seiko metal bracelet uses a system where links are connected to each other using stainless steel pins inserted from one end only and secured by a very tiny metal collar inserted from the opposite end. Removing and inserting these pins and collars is a very exacting process that is difficult to do at home and requires a magnifier and precision tools. Many watch shops will improperly assemble the pin-and-collar arrangement (most often losing the collar), causing the bracelet to come apart later, at the worst possible time. So make sure the person resizing the bracelet knows how to work with the Seiko pin and collar system. The second issue is the knurled stem, which in some ways resembles a metal file. Clearance between the stem knob and surrounding armor is so tight that sufficient play exists to allow the knob to grind and bind frustratingly against the armor ridges when loosening or tightening it. Fortunately, the grinding action that causes the problem in the first place also solves it - after a few months of use the interference points have apparently worn down and binding is minimal. The third (potential) issue is owner expectation. This is a mechanical "automatic" watch. It has about 41 hours of reserve power when fully wound. It will simply stop if not worn or wound within that period. Compared to an electronic quartz watch, it is inaccurate. A quartz watch will usually drift no more than a half second per day. So expect to reset the time on the Monster weekly. This is very good for a mechanical watch.
SUMMARY: At this price point I've seen no other mechanical watch that can match the Monster's robustness, quality, precision (build and timekeeping) and practicality of design. It is an excellent first mechanical watch for any collector. Several people have walked up to me, pointed at the watch and said "Monster!", with a smile - so there is a community of aficionados out there. As backup to a dive computer, it is eminently practical, and it works as a daily beater, too. As for style - well... that's in the eye of the beholder. It is a heavy, bold watch that stands out. Generally speaking, it is NOT a dress watch :)
RATING: Overall, for excellence in design and execution, its unique and bold look and incredible value, I give this watch five (5) stars. It is simply outstanding in its price class.