The Seiko (SRPD25) Fourth Gen Monster: A Cult Classic Receives Some Upgrades
I also published this review with our friends at WatchCharts.com.
When I first started down this never-ending rabbit hole of watch collecting, one of the first watches that I purchased was the Seiko SKX781, or as you probably better know it, the “Orange Monster.”
What drew me to the Orange Monster over, say, an SKX007/9 was its rugged styling with the chunky scalloped bezel made of brushed steel, and bright orange dial. The color was so bright that it looked like you actually had a piece of a fresh orange strapped to your wrist. The fact that I could get an automatic watch for under $200 (the going rate at the time) sealed the deal.
The “OM” was such a hit with me that it wasn’t too long before an SKX779, or “Black Monster” ended up in my collection (for obvious reasons, I try not to use the abbreviation “BM” for the black colorway). What it lacked in bright color, it made up with an almost militaristic style. Having one of each in your collection was not a crazy idea.
Fast forward to 2019, and I had long since bought and sold a handful of first gen Monsters. I found myself missing the fun styling, and decided that I needed some fun back in my watch collection.
Unfortunately, what I quickly found was that, since it has been discontinued for some time, it’s not so easy to buy a clean SKX781 any more. Many of them have been abused at this point, and sellers of clean ones often want over $400 for them. Just check out the current prices on eBay (affiliate link).
I quickly expanded my search to the second gen Orange Monster (SRP309). This model looks very similar to the “1G,” but adds tooth-shaped teeth, and a hacking/hand-winding 4R movement. Unfortunately these are less common, and at least as expensive as the first gens (affiliate link), plus I didn’t like the markers as much.
Continuing up the chain, I remembered hearing that a third gen Monster existed, and found that a few orange sunburst dial ones were available (SBDC023). Unfortunately, these models also existed outside of my budget because they contain the higher-end 6R movement. You can check out eBay at this affiliate link, but chances are you won't even find one.
Luckily, around this time was when the fourth gen Monsters were hitting the typical markets. Unfortunately they do not currently make an orange version, but I ended up buying a brand new blue dial version (SRPD25, or SBDY033 in other markets). MSRP is $525, but I found one for roughly $300 on eBay. I pulled the trigger, since I could get a BNIB fourth gen for less than a well-used first gen.
You can check the latest prices on eBay (affiliate link).
If you pefer to shop on Amazon, they are currently $319 (affiliate link).
I missed the pop of that orange dial, but I’m always a sucker for a deep blue sunburst. Stick with me to hear my impressions of the watch, as well as a comparison to the OG OM, and some worthy alternatives.
Immediately when you put on this watch, you can tell that Seiko has taken it up a notch from the original. The watch feels and looks more expensive on the wrist. The trade-off being that it has lost some of the fun and rugged character of the original.
The 42mm width, and 13mm thickness are identical on both, but the new looks bigger on the wrist. I think the main reason is the bezel.
The first thing that you’ll notice about the new Monster is that the bezel has received some changes. Most obvious is that it is now black ion-plated.
The finishing remains similar to the first gen, with circular brushing on the top surface, and polished sides. It also retains the inwards slope of the bezel and scalloped cuts on the sides. The scallops are smaller on the new monster which, combined with smaller chamfer around the edge, and the removal of the vertical cuts, make the watch wear bigger. The bezel now stretches proudly out to the edges of the watch.
Black paint is obviously swapped for white, and a different font was chosen to modernize the new watch. Both use similar minute markings, including the lume pip. The new bezel also has shallower recesses for the paint. I wonder if this makes it more likely to be chipped off.
The bezels on both watches are quite easy to grip and turn. I could not compare them back to back, but the quality of the clicks on the new watch are smooth and secure, but don’t have the tighter tolerance feeling of more expensive watches.
Both watches utilize a Hardlex (mineral) crystal. The first gen has a fun domed crystal that adds a playful distortion to the dial when viewed at an angle, without adding the cloudy look that sometimes occurs. I’m a sucker for domed crystals, and I’ve swapped them into mupltiple Seiko watches that I’ve modded.
The new watch swaps out the dome for a flat mineral crystal, but then adds a long magnifier to cover the entire day and date window. This is another choice that gives the watch a more high end look, and even though it loses the dome I think it looks great with the rest of the watch. I don’t plan to change this one out.
Besides the obvious color change, the new Monster received some additional updates on the dial.
It retains the signature notched chapter ring, and has returned to the beloved rectangular applied hour markers of the original. The hour markers, however now have a polished metal perimeter, rather than the white (I assume plastic) surrounds of the old watch.
The new dial changes from a matte finish to sunburst (even on the black SRPD27 version, and new all-black case SRPD29), and adds the “X” logo to denote that the watch has been upgraded into Seiko’s Prospex line. The numbers denoting minutes are also removed from the dial, which i think cleans it up nicely.
The hands retain similar shapes, but with some streamlining which further modernize the watch. They also receive a brushed metal finish rather than the black or white outlines (depending on dial color) of the old watch.
As you would expect, Seiko’s fantastic Lumibrite is still used on the new watch. The surprise is that Seiko has changed it to blue! It looks great in low light conditions where you can still somewhat see the blue color of the dial.
The theme of streamlining and modernization continues with the case.
Both watches have a 200m water resistance. The new Monster retains the semi-shrouded case design, but swaps out the cutout crown relief for a small half-circle recess. This again takes away from the rugged look, but makes the new watch look more elegant and also makes the crown easier to grip. The crown itself retains a similar notched design.
The new watch also has sharper edges to the case, and nicer finishing all around. Thankfully it keeps the drilled lugs! The lug shape is also similar on the old and new watches.
The case-back also goes upscale on the new watch. It retains the Seiko tsunami logo, but receives much nicer finishing, as well as a flatter surface that helps it to hug the wrist.
Overall, the watch is very comfortable for its size. The sloped lugs allow it to hug the wrist well.
If you haven’t noticed a theme yet, the bracelet looks very similar to the original. But again, if you examine more closely, you’ll find some improvements.
The area where the bracelet meets the case on the one watch was not very well-integrated. The bracelet was almost straight and sat in a recessed area.
The new bracelet actually has an end link that is curved to perfectly fit the case.
The new links have a similar brushed main surface, with a polished area where it meets the next lug. On both, the links are fairly short, which allows the bracelet to drape the wrist well. Both use the typical cheap-but-effective Seiko pin and collar system to resize.
The clasp design is also very similar, but I believe the one on the new watch is a few mm wider. This allows the link that enters the end of the clasp to be the same width, rather than having the funny narrow link of the old bracelet. Both watches feature four micro-adjust positions.
The new watch also keeps a similar dive extension.
My one complaint is that the bracelet is a little rattly on the wrist compared to what I remember from the old model. The noise seems to come from the clasp, and probably could be reduced but bending it slightly, but I have been often wearing it on a strap (as you could imagine by now).
Seiko also sells the black dial version with an updated Z20-style strap if you prefer rubber. I always found the waves of those straps to dig into my wrist, and I haven’t preferred the metal keepers on the new Prospex models.
The new watch receives a much-needed upgrade to the 4R36 movement. It’s very similar to old watch’s 7S26, but adds the hacking (stop seconds) and handing winding functionality that was so badly missing from the old watch. It has the slower 21,600 vibrations per hour beat rate, but also keeps the excellent magic lever automatic winding system and great reliability you’ve come to expect from Seiko. It’s noting special, but completely appropriate for a watch in this price range.
It keeps the day/date function as well. Normally I’d prefer a blue date wheel to match the dial, but I think because it has a magnifier, the white works well in this application.
I’ve been loving the new Monster, and find it (as usual for Seiko) a fantastic value for the typical street price. Since my purchase, they have dropped in price a little more on eBay, so I highly recommend picking one up.
I do miss the fun character and bright orange pop of the OM. That being said, I find myself wearing this watch almost every day now, as its upscale look can cover a lot more situations than the funky original. It doesn’t hurt that, I am always drawn to stare at a blue sunburst dial.
…you love the watch, but have a smaller budget.
As they did with the original Monster, Seiko offers a lower-priced Seiko 5 version of the Blue Monster (model number SRPB37). It's currently on Amazon for $188 (affiliate link) and if there are a few currently available on eBay for around $170 (affiliate link).
You’ll lose out on some water-resistance and upscale finishing, but still be getting a 4R36 movement and Seiko quality watch with a funky style. You’ll also gain a transparent case-back.
…you want something with a similar style, but in a higher-end watch.
Let’s face it, nothing can match the style of the Monster. That being said, if you are looking for a higher end chunky and funky dive watch with a blue sunburst dial, black bezel, and a day/date function, Oris has you covered. Check out the Aquis Big Day Date ref # 01 752 7733 4135-07 8 24 05PEB (yes, they really used that many numbers).
You’ll get most of the fun of the Monster, but also a sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel, and a Swiss automatic movement. Just be prepared to shell out about 5 times what the Monster costs (MSRP, or street price) at around $1500 on eBay or Amazon (affiliate links), or $2500 MSRP.
…if you’d love a blue sunburst dial Seiko Prospex, but prefer something more traditional.
I’d strongly recommend the Seiko SBDC053 (aka SPB053). They are more expensive at around $600 on eBay or Amazon (affiliate links), but they punch way above their weight class. The finishing is superb for the price, and the blue dial and metallic bezel look amazing in the sunlight. I’ve owned two of them, and I recommend getting a good strap as well as the bracelet from the black SBDC051 model.
Thanks for reading! Please let us know in the comments what you think of the watch, and what is your favorite generation of the Seiko Monster.