The Best Watch under $300: Seiko Turtle Review

Seiko SRP779

TL;DR. This is the newly reissued Seiko SRP779, commonly referred to as the “Turtle.” It’s the best watch under $300 – at least that I’m aware of – and I’ll explain why.

Disclaimer: Currently, the black bezel version of this watch, the SRP777, is available for $272 new on Ebay. The pic of my watch above is the same watch, except it has a “Pepsi” (red and blue) bezel (SRP779), and it’s going for $265 new on Ebay. Prices will fluctuate due to supply and demand.

“The first draft of anything is sh*t.” -Hemingway

No, I’m not talking about the first Seiko Turtle being sh*t. I’m referring to my prior disdain for Seiko dive watches; specifically, the SKX and Monster. The majority of watch nerds online love Seiko, but the goofy designs kept me away from the entire brand. The build quality and specs for the money were hard to ignore, and I love dive watches, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger on one. I even saved up enough money for a Rolex Explorer II before jumping on a far less expensive Seiko sports watch. Again, mainly because of the unconventional designs.

This meant I went a long time without buying a new watch, which was very difficult, because I am also a watch nerd. I already had a Bernhardt Sea Shark that satisfied my beater tool dive watch fix, so I set my eyes on the next watch that I felt was the absolute best value for the money. By the way, that’s how I prioritize all of my watch purchases. First and foremost, I look for watches that I like, but then I exhaustively search for the best values. We all do this to a certain extent, whether we realize it or not. If you’re like me and you enjoy watches (and the internet), you’re not buying anything less than your favorite that you can afford.

Anyway, now I finally get it! I’m still in the honeymoon phase with this watch – as it just came in the mail a few weeks ago – but now I fully understand the Seiko hype. This watch is easily the best under $300 that I’ve come across (in person or online). It would have even made my list of the best watches under $500 blog post, had it been released when I wrote that article.

Seiko Turtle (SRP779) Specs

  • Case: Steel
  • Movement: Seiko 4r36 (40 hour power reserve, hacking & winding)
  • Lume: Lumibrite
  • Lens: Hardlex
  • Strap: Rubber
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Dimensions: 44.3 x 48 mmmm
  • Thickness: 14mm
  • Lug Width: 22mm
  • Price: Current Ebay “Buy It Now” $265.92; I paid $392.91 on Ebay a few weeks ago.

While I think the SRP779(Pepsi bezel on the matte black dial) is the best version of this watch – it also comes in a few other colors – some of which look almost equally awesome. Specifically, I love the SRP773(blue) and the SRP777(black), but I’m not a huge fan of the SRP775 because of its gold markings.

Why The Seiko Turtle is The Best Watch under $300

When approaching this section of the review, I feel a bit overwhelmed. Thats how much I love everything about this watch. I’ll do my best to do it justice by hitting the most prominent reasons in my mind. But for the sake of my own sanity, which is dicey at best, I will say that I am surely forgetting a few things. Also, I don’t get too deep on the movement, as it’s not my primary interest or expertise.

First, I’ll explain what I was originally looking for and how it led me to purchase the Seiko SRP779. Having an understanding of my perspective might help you for your own opinions about whether or not this watch is right for you. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m going to tell you about it. 🙂

bernhardt sea shark dive watch

I sold my Bernhardt Sea Shark, which is a great microbrand dive watch and very affordable. There were only 3 things about it that I didn’t love, and I’ve listed them here in order of how much they bothered me:

  1. The shark fin shaped indices – They looked a little cheesy, but I thought I could live with them; especially, considering the value and price. I was wrong.
  1. The lume – Or lack there of. It had 0 glow.
  1. The stiff bezel action – It was the least of my issues, but still something that bugged me.

After selling the Sea Shark on /r/watchexchange for $125, I was in search of a new diver. I wanted something relatively affordable that would last, but I was also wanted a few upgrades over the Sea Shark; specifically, better build quality, better lume, and an automatic movement (with hacking and winding).

I researched the crap out of sub $500 divers, but I also started looking at more expensive watches. I’m not a fan of homage watches, so between that and hand winding/hacking, your options are pretty limited.

I even thought about selling my Rolex Explorer II for extra funds to buy a Tudor Pelagos (w/ ETA based movement from DavidSW). I love the Pelagos and my thinking was that I would use the remaining funds on a Nomos or something. I listed the Rolex in a few forums and got some break even offers around $4k, but I just couldn’t let the Rolex go.

Shortly after, I discovered the new Seiko SRPxxx “Turtle.” Like I said, I had never been crazy about Seiko, but this watch is the best looking Seiko diver to date. They also did everything right.

Clearly, I couldn’t wait until I got home to open the box!

To me, it’s like the poor mans Pelagos. Clearly the fit and finish is not of the same caliber, but I can honestly say it’s an extremely solid watch. 44mm sounds large, but it wears perfectly for a larger sports watch (although I wouldn’t go any bigger).

Features and Look/Feel

I’ve always been slightly drawn to the Pepsi (blue and red) bezel because it’s a bit more nautical/sporty, but I didn’t love the blue dial on the SKX009. Also, that watch is a bit smaller, and I wanted to go slightly bigger for my beater tool diver.

The movement is hacking and hand winding, which are nice features usually reserved for more expensive watches. I love the matte black dial with the Pepsi bezel. The size is perfect. The lume is as good as everyone says about Seiko dive watches. The bezel action is a bit tinny, but much smoother than the Bernhardt Sea Shark (and most microbrands I would assume). Then there’s the rubber band. It’s truly perfect… comfortable, soft, feels like it’s durable and will last. It’s also correctly proportioned and doesn’t make the watch look too immature.

The practicality and convenience of the day/date is an added bonus. I have to have a date (unless its a dress watch), because I have a bad memory and I use it a lot.

The chapter ring is slightly off as reported, but it doesn’t bother me, and I am super OCD about certain things (i.e. the shark indices on the Bernhard Sea Shark).

The screw down crown is well made, albeit not to the extent of a $1,000+ Swiss diver, but much better than most microbrands.

Finally, lug holes, which make it easy to swap out nato straps.

How I Found and Bought The New Seiko Turtle

I’m constantly browsing the web for new watches, and I first saw the new Turtle on Instagram. Shortly after, I sold my Bernhardt Sea Shark, then went after the Turtle. I needed(wanted) the watch immediately, but only the SRP777(black) and SRP775(gold markings) are listed on the US Seiko site. So I jumped on eBay and bought it from a seller in Singapore with good feedback. I paid $390 shipped, and it took about a month to get to me, but man was it worth the wait. It would have been nice to save a few dollars a month or two later – as the price has since dropped about $100 – but it was a risk I was willing to take at the time. It feels like a metric TON of watch for even $500.

If you’re looking for other great watches for less than $300 have a look here.