If there is one watch manufacturer that offers a great deal, in technical and aesthetic terms, at a (still) affordable price, it is Seiko. The Japanese giant has been the protagonist of tremendous growth in the past few years, and today it represents, thanks to its varied range from the cheapest watches with the Seiko 5 to the King Seiko and Grand Seiko, a model to which many enthusiasts look as a reference point. So, let’s dive into the gigantic world of Seiko and explore some of its most unique offerings.
What is the history of Seiko?
Seiko was born around the end of the 19th century as Seikosha, “House of Exquisite Craftsmanship” in Japanese, later shortened to Seiko to meet the tastes of the international public.
Over the years, after its beginnings in watchmaking, Seiko has achieved significant milestones, creating its manufacture movements in the early postwar period and contributing fundamentally to the evolution of modern watchmaking with the first quartz watch and later with hybrid mechanisms such as the Seiko Kinetic, where the movement of a central rotor winds an accumulator that drives a quartz mechanism, and the Seiko Spring Drive, a movement with an electronic regulator that ensures incredible running precision, fitted inside the timepieces of the Maison’s most sophisticated models.
Is Seiko watch worth buying?
Over the course of time, enthusiasts have come across Seiko watches as successful recipes for quality, elegance, and affordability. In terms of technical features, Seiko watches often had the edge over their Western counterparts.
And although this feature is less evident in the latest models launched by the Japanese manufacturer, their value remains unquestionable, as does their character, which made several Seiko models true icons of watchmaking. Thus, they are not only watches to consider for future purchase: they are watches that are often a virtually perfect choice in the watchmaking scene, and still, despite fierce competition, hold their own against competitors in several market categories, both at the lower and higher end.
Is Seiko a high-end watch?
One of the company’s most interesting features is that it has organized its production in several lines to cover almost all price ranges and to be adequate and competitive in all of them – something very few manufacturers achieve. In fact, its models range from the inexpensive Seiko 5 to the Grand Seiko, which rival in quality and finish the better-known Swiss houses.
This diversity comes from a management model that leaves the hands free to the managers of the various product lines, who even go so far as to compete with each other for the same market niches: this unusual strategy makes the Japanese house so unique in the international panorama of watch manufacturers, and enhances quality and value for the customers.
Is Seiko as good as Rolex?
The right question might be whether Rolex watches are as good as Seiko ones. But provocations aside, we must remember that it makes little sense to compare watches with each other that belong to different market niches. The average Seiko production certainly does not gravitate in the same orbit frequented by Rolex and other Swiss Maisons of its level. But if we compare the House of the Crown with the Grand Seiko line, a comparison of the two becomes possible and obvious – and in this case, we can see that both manufacturers have many good cards to play. In this field, we can see that, by and large, the Grand Seiko have a more dressy character than traditional Rolex production, although their core tends to be more technological. But at the level of materials and finishing, the comparison becomes very difficult, as comparing perfection with perfection is always quite difficult.
The eight best Seiko Automatic Watches
It is challenging to choose the “best” automatic watches of different types within Seiko’s immense production: we must say that any watch enthusiast will be able to find a Seiko watch that meets their desires. Yet, as good watch enthusiasts, we, too, have preferences and models that, in our view, have become indispensable icons that no watch fan can afford to ignore. So, as seven is an auspicious number in Oriental traditions, here’s our choice of the “Seven Samurais” (plus one).
1 – Most popular Seiko watch – Seiko 5 line
In this case, we take the definition of the adjective “popular” literally and use it to define what has been Seiko’s best-known and most popular line since the 1960s: the Seiko 5.
Born during a time of technical evolution that offered everyone the novelty of the automatic watch with a date display, the Seiko 5 did so with excellent quality for the price paid, and with models of endless kinds and types ranging from purely dress watches, to pilot watches, even reaching the first dive watches.
It is impossible for us to select a specific model within this enormous production, which went on uninterruptedly since 1963, when the first Sportsmatic 5 debuted; however, we need to pay a tribute to this line, which represented the first step into mechanical watchmaking for millions of enthusiasts – so we chose the Seiko 5 as an icon of popular watchmaking.
2 – Best Seiko dive watch – Seiko Prospex SPB151J1 Captain Willard
The Seiko Captain Willard picks the name from the protagonist of the movie Apocalypse Now, who wore this timepiece during his adventures in search of Colonel Kurtz. And although there is no historical evidence to claim that this specific watch was actually provided to American soldiers during the Vietnam War, the 6105 has become a style icon, in part because of its undoubted ruggedness and versatility.
Seiko has reissued the 6105, which was on production from 1968 to 1975, in several new versions, such as the SPB151J1, which faithfully echoes the lines of its illustrious ancestor both in design, with its cushion-shaped case with a recessed crown at four o’clock, and in its considerable size (44 mm), mitigated by the absence of lugs, which nonetheless makes it well wearable. Completing the picture is a modern 6R35 movement that gives the new Captain Willard an impressive 70 hours of autonomy.
3 – Best Seiko casual watch – Seiko Prospex New Alpinist SPB121J1
The Seiko Prospex New Alpinist represents a reissue of a model from 1959 when watch manufacturers competed to produce watches suitable for exploring the highest peaks, creating rugged timepieces that could be subjected to any stress. And this model from Seiko is second to none, with the retro design that makes it so charming and unique.
The New Alpinist mounts a modern 6R35 movement with an impressive 70 hours of autonomy and 200 meters of water resistance. Still, it retains all the design features that make this timepiece almost a dive into the past, such as the cathedral hands and the green dial fitted with contrasting gold hour markers, accompanied by an inner bezel with a compass.
4 – Best looking Seiko watch – Seiko Prospex Ocean Conservation Turtle Diver SRPH57
Prominent among Seiko’s many diver watch models is this Conservation Turtle, dedicated by the company to an important project to protect sea turtles. The dial is unique among the brand’s models, with a central gradient effect decorated with a motif reminiscent of a turtle’s case, installed on a watch that was precisely named King Turtle by its fans because of its shape.
Available in three colors (blue, turquoise, and brown), this watch was launched only in the U.S. market, still, it is not difficult to find online. It mounts a reliable 4R36 automatic movement with 41 hours of power reserve and 200 meters of water resistance.
5 – Best Seiko watch under $500 – Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time
This line from Seiko features some very classy, beautifully finished watches designed to be perfect timepieces for everyday wear. The Cocktail Time series features several models that change in dial color and guilloche patterns. Thanks to their versatility and virtually perfect 40mm size, they make excellent timepieces for any occasion (but don’t wear them in water, that’s not their element).
Available with either a leather strap or a metal bracelet, the Cocktail Time is the perfect travel companion. They mount a 6R15 automatic movement with a 50-hour power reserve but can be wound manually and allow hacking to fine-tune the time, thanks to the crown traditionally placed at 3 o’clock.
6 – Best Seiko watch under $1000 – Seiko Presage Automatic Enamel Dial SBP045
The Presage line stretches up to and beyond, albeit by a small margin, the $1000 mark, and this very classy model sits right there. It has features that place it in a higher class, so much so that many call it (rightly) Baby Grand Seiko.
The enamel dial is the centerpiece of this model, created by Japanese master Mitsuru Yokozawa following the pocket watch model created by Seiko in 1895. The Roman numerals are painted ten times to achieve that imperceptible three-dimensional effect that makes this timepiece so special.
It mounts a caliber 6R27, with a power reserve of 45 hours and a reserve indicator at 9 o’clock. If you like classic watchmaking and a luxury finish with typically Japanese attention to detail, and do not want to overstretch your budget, this model is for you.
7 – Best luxury Seiko watch – Grand Seiko GMT Shosho SBGJ249
The Grand Seiko line debuted to provide the Japanese manufacturer with an entry into the high-end market, hitherto dominated by Swiss manufacturers. Technical evolution has led almost all Grand Seiko to mount the most technological movement produced by the company, the Spring Drive system, which combines the tradition of mechanical watchmaking with the precision of an electronic calibration system. Still, as in this case, there is no shortage of high-frequency mechanical calibers.
Among the models belonging to this line, we chose one from the “Nature Time” series: it is named Shosho, and its dial is poetically inspired by the waves of Japanese lakes in summer. It mounts a High-Beat 9S86 movement with a GMT complication that indicates the time of the second time zone via a blue hand on an inner bezel.
8 – Best Seiko dress watch – Grand Seiko Asakage SBGW267
The Grand Seiko line brings together dress watch models that verge on perfection; this reference proves that. The Asakage has a dial inspired by the Shoji, decorative elements of Japanese homes made from a sheet of rice paper that allows light to diffuse inside the house and has a textile and organic look. The perfection of the lines and applied markers make it balanced, thanks in part to its size of just over 37 mm, typical of 1960s dress watches.
Inside the stylish case beats a manual “heart,” the caliber 9S64, with 72 hours of power reserve. A marvelous watch, genuinely representing the quintessential dress watch produced by the Japanese Maison.
9 – A Hidden Gem from Seiko – King Seiko
As far as technical development and design creativity are concerned, the 1960’s were a decade of unprecedented advances for Seiko. Additionally to the Grand Seiko, the company produced another series of mechanical watches with high accuracy and stylish design. It was known as King Seiko. Along with its precision, its powerful yet graceful design ememphasizes the high quality of its construction. You can now find these watches on eBay and other online auction sites, alongside new models that were relaunched by Seiko last year. Both new and used, they offer outstanding value for money.
At a glance
Seiko’s reputation among watch enthusiasts is growing more and more, as is the awareness of its timepieces. As a result, and from an appreciation by a niche of fans, its reputation is growing and widening more and more. And, we must say, its prices are also following the same trajectory, rising to position themselves at levels appropriate to its quality, whereas before, they were definitely affordable (sometimes, perhaps too much so, which made them true bargains).
This means that there are still excellent value to be had in the primary and secondary markets, as the value of Seiko in the future is bound to go up: since we are still at the beginning of this path, it is time to put some exciting pieces in our collections, knowing that in the future, we will continue to appreciate their style and value.