Ever since I officially became a watch nerd in 2014—meaning when I started spending an unusual amount of time reading and researching about watches—Seiko has always been the brand I’ve always gone back to. No matter how long I would stray from it by indulging in dreams of owning a Rolex Explorer 1 or other high-end Swiss timepieces, Seiko has always been more of my type of brand—affordable and unique. The very first watch I laid my eyes on in 2014 was the SKX013. But I didn’t pull the trigger when they were still being made and therefore cheaper.
I regretted this decision until two months ago when the first images and specifications of the new Seiko 5 GMTs came out. I thought it was the perfect move from Seiko: using the iconic SKX case design and adding a GMT hand. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better beater watch and Seiko fulfilled my dreams that even I was not privy to. So let’s take a look at the black dial Seiko 5 GMT SSK001!
The Seiko 5 GMT SSK001 Spec Sheet
I don’t know why but I used to be intimidated by the dimensions of the SKX007 and 009 which I thought would be too big for my skinny wrist. This concern didn’t even come to mind when I made the decision to acquire the Seiko 5 GMT SSK001. Coming in with a diameter of 42mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 46mm, a thickness of 13.6mm, and a lug width of 22mm, the SSK001 fits rather nicely on my 16cm (6.25”) wrist. It does command a certain wrist presence, however, it does so in just the right way. Thankfully, the watch is quite light thanks to having a jingly Jubilee bracelet and a pressed clasp. Speaking of which, I adore the clasp, although many moan that it’s not of the milled variety. (A pressed clasp is, in my experience, more comfortable than a milled one as it sits flatter on the wrist.)
The big aesthetic departure from the old SKX line resides in the fact that the markers are applied (not painted,) and that the aluminium bezel insert on the friction-fit bezel is covered with Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex, making the insert look like ceramic. The crystal atop the dial is also made of Hardlex and comes with generous amounts of anti-reflective coating. Furthermore, the crystal is equipped with a cyclops which makes reading the date a breeze. (I’m not even 40 and I appreciate that little detail.) Aiding in the overall legibility of the watch is the application of Seiko’s proprietary Lumibrite which glows green and bright (pun intended.)
Inside the Seiko 5 GMT SSK001—and this is the big star of the show for me—is the 4R34 GMT movement. In typical Seiko fashion, this movement beats at 21,600 BPH (3Hz,) it has 24 jewels and comes with 41 hours of power reserve. That’s a lot of specifications for the modest price tag of $475 (480 EUR) which many would argue isn’t. This makes the SSK001 (and its colourful siblings the SSK003 and SSK005) the first in-house GMT automatic watch under $500, which is something that we were all dreaming of seeing for a long time. Seiko did it and I for one think that they did a pretty darn good job at it.
A Very Handsome Watch
As mentioned above, the hour markers are applied and come with highly polished surrounds. So do the hour and minute hands. Combined with the Hardlex crystal affixed on the bezel, the Seiko 5 GMT SSK001 shines and the way it does varies based on from which angle you look at the watch. From the sides, all reflections become more subdued and the mirror-finish on the second half of the bezel insert majestically appears. From other angles, it’s a reflection show (in a good sense!) and the entire bezel insert looks pitch black. So there are a lot of things happening visually, whichever angle you look at the watch. Luckily, Seiko went for a matte dial and not a glossy one to balance things out.
A distinct visual characteristic of the old SKX and its modern replacements is the design of the hour markers and hands. For the lack of a better description, the hands are very “SKX” like (I usually compare the design of the hands to something else we are familiar with) in that they are legible and come with pointy bits, akin to the end of a musket. (The shape of the hour hand looks like a truncated Sword hand while the minute hand looks like an actual arrow.) The line at the tip of the hands can also be found in the hour markers at the cardinal positions. The one at the 12, more specifically, is an inverted triangle while the ones at the 6 and 9 o’clock are oblong. The rest of the hour markers are circular.
It would be hard to miss the broad and flashy red GMT hand. Critics say it’s a Rolex GMT hand (and they add to this comparison the date magnifier) but I would say that whoever came up with this design first, it works so very well on the SSK001. It has a distinct pointy end and reaches further than the minute hand, creating additional contrast between the two. The GMT hand points confidently at the rehaut where we can see one of the two 24-hour scales. The second one is printed on the bezel, making it possible to track two additional time zones in addition to local time.
Random tidbit: I think the SSK001 (and the SSK003 and SSK005) are the first Seiko watches with a triple Hardlex construction. The proprietary Seiko material can be found on the bezel, atop the dial, and on the case back, letting us see the simply-finished 4R34 movement.
Last but not least, the finish shows a nice balance of polished surfaces on the case side, the centre links of the bracelet, the coined-edge bezel, and the case back. Everywhere else the finish is of the brushed variety. This means the Seiko 5 GMT SSK001 does not appear too toolish (by having brushed surfaces only) nor does it look too dressy (by having polished surfaces only.) This aspect of the watch’s construction adds to the versatility of the SSK001, which also can be found in its functionality as well as reasonable dimensions.
Functionality, Functionality, Functionality
The Seiko 5 GMT SSK001 is a watch full of functionality. I omitted a couple of specifications at the beginning of the review to reinforce this point. Not only does it come with a GMT complication which is useful to people who like me have family in different time zones and/or whose clients live in different parts of the globe. It also displays the date which is a must-have as I like to know how far I’ve gone in the month. It also comes with 100 meters of water resistance (with a push/pull crown) which is enough water resistance for 99% of the situations I find myself in. Lastly, the 4R34 movement is a robust piece of mechanical engineering which keeps good time (+ 4 sec/day for me.)
Seiko hit a home run with the new line of Seiko 5 GMT watches. They preserved the well-loved case design of the old SKX and adorned it with applied indices, a triple Hardlex construction, a poppy GMT hand, and a date magnifier. The icing on the cake is the GMT complication which adds functionality to an already functional timepiece. Although some would moan about the lack of a sapphire crystal and click bezel, I think that Seiko is giving us a lot of bangs for our bucks with this new release. As many do, I hope that the 4R34 movement will appear on other models of the Prospex line.
You can read more about the Seiko 5 GMT SSK001 on Seiko’s website here.