Chapter 1: The Seikos are Sent Abroad
Sealed in bubble wrap, packed into boxes, and brimming with optimism, Crusty and the Orange Monster headed north to Canada, while Blumo and the Sawtooth journeyed south to America. Through the magic of the mail, Blumo and the Sawtooth arrived in Washington, D.C. In record time. Kim had sent them securely packed along with two bottles of prescription pills. Actually, they contained the stock Sumo bracelet and a Yobokies "beads of rice" bracelet. There was no contraband, but the sight of the pill bottles did reinforce my very American perception of Canada as the land of cheap meds.
The watches had their share of battle scars. In addition to the usual swirl marks and scrapes of daily use, the Blumo had a small scratch across its aluminum bezel and both had damaged crystals: a tiny chip in the Blumo and a long mark across the face of the Sawtooth. Mineral crystal is pretty tough stuff, and arguably more shatter resistant than sapphire, but even Seiko's proprietary Hardex will scratch, and unlike acrylic, you can't buff it out with Polywatch. Scrapes and dings aside, they were ready for their adventures in America.
Chapter Two: The Sawtooth is Spurned
The Sawtooth is a 200 meter dive watch, rated by Seiko for scuba use. Now discontinued, it still has a devoted following and good examples trade hands for between $200-300. It has a 7N36 quartz securely ensconced in a "tuna can" case in which a central barrel housing the movement is surrounded by external case with a bezel shroud, and integrated lugs. It is a whopping 47.6mm wide, but only 48mm long and 12mm thick, which makes it wear smaller than you might think.
The Sawtooth moniker comes from the bezel. Its brushed finish, recessed index, and buzz saw grip look great, but those little teeth are pointy and the action is firm. It might be fine to operate with diving gloves, but mighty uncomfortable with bare fingertips. The shroud is also brushed while the exposed hex bolts are polished and knurled to match the large screw down crown at 4 o'clock. It is beast of a case, and a very cool one at that.
Kim did not send the watch on its factory supplied rubber strap but packed a couple of 20mm NATOs instead. I tried some of my own, but did not think the thin nylon balanced it well, and after some strap swapping, neither did any of my 20mm leather straps. The problem is that the broad case and integrated lugs make for a wide surface area, so a 20mm strap of any variety just looks puny. Much like the SUN019 Prospex I reviewed a few weeks ago, this watch demands a steel bracelet.
As aggressive as the case may be, the dial really steals the show. It is a lovely shade of azure with a distinctive wave pattern. The markers, hands, and bezel pip are treated with LumiBrite to produce the brilliant glow for which Seiko divers are famous. It is undeniably cool, but while I liked the Sawtooth, I did not love it. In its current, strappy state it just seemed unfinished. Sad to say, it spent most of its visit to America in the watch drawer.
Chapter Three: Behold, the Blumo!
This was my first encounter with the SBDC series. In my travels through cyberspace, I had heard tell of the mighty Seiko Sumo. Powered by the 23 jewel, hand winding 6R15 automatic, it was said to be a watch of beauty, value, and girth in equal proportions.
The beauty part stuck me right away. The watch is almost too elegant for a diver, but too damn tough to be anything else. It is still in production, and lists for $650, although it is not hard to find one new for about $500.
The case is big: 45mm wide, 52mm long, and 14mm thick. It towered over my 6.5" wrist and struggled to squeeze under a shirt cuff.
Still, in a world of oversize watches - and there are many - Blumo pulls it off better than most. For this, I credit the long lugs that appear to bracket the central barrel. They are massive and angular, more like bridge supports than bracelet attachments, but their design has an industrial elegance. The lugs twist inward and terminate in flat, sheared-off ends that are drilled through. The top surface of the case is brushed, and the sides, and the inner surface of the lugs are polished. The alternating surface textures and architectural curves give the watch a rather flattering figure.
A mighty, screw down crown with wide, deep groves protrudes from the 4 o’clock position. It is polished, and signed. While it is highly functional and looks amazing in and of itself, I did not like the way it disrupted the lines of the case.
Blumo is a proper dive watch, so the presence of a 120 click, unidirectional timing bezel is no surprise, but its shape is a different than most. Viewed in profile, you see a thick ring of steel, slightly broader at the top than the base so its polished and fluted sides radiate outward. This offers excellent grip and has the pleasant side effect of creating some interesting reflections. Quite unlike its toothy stable mate, the action was superb; firm and precise without any struggle or discomfort.
The wide aluminum insert rises slightly towards a beveled inner edge. It is a deep, royal blue with a slight metallic quality, marked with unapologetically broad silver numerals. The fat font is one of the defining features of the Sumo line, and one that many are in a big hurry to change, replacing the insert with aftermarket parts bearing thin, unassuming characters. It seems a shame. After all, who wants anything skinny on a Sumo?
The color of the bezel is repeated in the chapter ring and dial, creating – dare I say – a sea of blue. It is a striking effect that dresses up the watch, particularly when compared to black or other color variants. Applied markers are the familiar circle-and-quadrangle shape, polished and filled with green-white LumiBrite, as are the heavy sword hands. These elements are big, but not disproportionately so. Text is limited to the Seiko brand name and the bare minimum of technical information. Water resistance is truncated to “Scuba 200M,” indicating that this watch is among Seiko’s dive certified models. “Automatic” is printed in a stylized script that has an almost vintage flourish.
Overall, it is pretty. It is big and functional for sure, but pretty.
Chapter 4: American Seikos in Saskatchewan
Several days after Kim’s contingent arrived on American soil, Crusty and the Monster finally found themselves in the Canadian heartland.
She was enamored with Crusty, but the Orange Monster got all the love at first, and it is easy to see why. I provided a thorough analysis of its charms in my earlier review, but in short: it is rugged, beautifully finished, and a lurid shade of orange. What’s not to like?
Eventually, she worked up the courage to take Crusty out on an adventure – to the mall.
Chapter 5: Blumo Goes to Washington
Meanwhile, back in our nation’s capitol, I was ready to take Blumo for a spin. My first thought was to fit one of the bracelets Kim had packed. The factory unit was typical of Seiko’s higher-end work: solid links, solid ends, and a locking clasp with diver’s extension. The center links are polished, echoing the dual finishes on the case. It is 20mm wide, which seems small in comparison to the 45mm case, but this does help the watch wear a bit smaller. At least, it would if I could get it on. I puzzled with it for awhile, baffled at the odd contour of the end links, before I gave up and emailed Kim. After a brief exchange, we discovered that she had mistakenly packed the bracelet from her SBDX001 MarineMaster 300, which is nearly identical save for a ratcheting clasp and, of course, completely different end links. Oh well.
My next try was a two-piece strap from my own collection. The British Tan leather complemented the blue dial and seemed like a sure winner – until I strapped it on. You see, the Sumo has some awfully long lugs. As I mentioned in Chapter 3, this makes perfect sense as they elongate the case, improving its appearance. The problem is, they also position the spring bars far from the case, 5mm to be exact, which means even the thickest two-piece will leave a gap between the end of the strap and the barrel of the case. On many people this will not be a problem, and certainly, Kim’s lady wrist can pull it off without issue; however, on my furry paw, it created an awkward window through which unruly tufts of arm hair sprouted. Not cool. Not cool at all.
This discovery also spelled the end for the classy Yobokies “beads of rice” bracelet too. Its lovely rounded links terminated in straight ends, and that would have meant another arm hair exposition. The bracelets were packed away and I went looking for some suitable NATOs. Generally, I would not be thrilled about one-piece straps on a watch like this, but they actually worked really well. The lugs form a transition between the wide case and the narrow strap, avoiding the unbalanced look of the Sawtooth. Moreover, that yawning gap will swallow just about any strap you can throw at it.
Suitably strapped, I secured the Sumo and set out the show it the sights. Truth be told, this watch could be a nice dress diver for someone with big arms, but I am not that guy.
Undeterred, I perched it on my 6.5” wrist, stuffed it under my shirt cuff, and wore it to the office anyway. Were I to own a Sumo myself, it would have to remain strictly casual. It is just too big. I have no idea how Kim wears this thing without tipping over.
Blumo and I enjoyed all the highlights of Washington, DC: Beltway traffic, the Pentagon, bridge traffic, the monuments, downtown traffic…
Chapter 6: The Adventures Conclude
Our international watch exchange lasted about a month before we decided to wrap it up and send everyone home. Along the way, Blumo and the Sawtooth visited an SRP455 Blue Monster for a family portrait.
I also had opportunity to show them to some fellow watch nerds, at both a casual dinner and a larger watch get together. Somehow, I managed to anoint the strap with soy sauce, but it was my own strap, and my own sauce, so I could deal with it.
While Blumo was out sightseeing and socializing, Crusty helped out at Kim’s workplace.
He also took part in Canada's strange, foreign customs and holidays.
As an American, I am sure he was the loudest one at the table.
Blumo’s last stop was the beach. We headed east, past the Chesapeake Bay to view the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly for the dive watch, it was not get wet. It was only 50 degrees that day (that’s 10 to you metric folk) and The Time Bum does not do cold water.
I believe I did something to enrich the life of this fine blue watch. It saw great history, fine dining, and the majesty of the ocean. Apparently, Crusty saw something new too.
The very notion of a watch exchange is a bit strange. You establish a virtual relationship with someone you have never met. You usually don't even know their faces or real names, but you like what they post about watches. After a brief email exchange, you say "Hey, how's about I put some of my prized possessions in the mail to you, and I'll trust you not to steal or destroy them, and you do the same." Then, you actually do it. It is a nutty, yet wonderfully optimistic act. A world in which watch exchanges happen must be a pretty good place. All around, I’d call this exchange a success.
Seiko Sumo SBDC003
Pro: Big and beautiful
Con: Did I mention big?
Sum: Another winning diver from Seiko
Seiko Sawtooth SHC057P
Pro: Intense dial
Con: Painful bezel
Sum: Could be a brute on the factory bracelet