No matter if you are just beginning your watch collection, or if you have been collecting timepieces for a few decades, the Seiko 5 is a watch that appeals to many different kind of collectors.
Its very affordable price will please you if you're on a tighter budget and seek to build a collection without breaking the bank. Its refinement will earn the respect of the most experienced watch aficionado.
This article will help you decide whether the Seiko 5 is the watch for you or not.
The Seiko 5 is part of the smallest men's watches on the market, with its 37mm case diameter and 43mm lug-to-lug size. This is a very subtle timepiece that is suited for discreet men with a preference for minimalistic watches.
The 11mm case thickness and 2.08 ounces weight might not seem like huge numbers, but it is thicker and heavier than most watch in this price range. This can mostly be explained by the fact that the Seiko 5 uses an automatic movement, contrary to most sub-100$ watches, which usually use quartz movement.
The stainless steel case is equipped with a Hardlex glass, which is Seiko's branded mineral composite crystal. Since it is a very basic watch, the bezel is stationary on most models, and there are no chronograph features. Even though the 4 o'clock crown isn't screwed-down, the Seiko 5 is still good for 30m water resistance, which is enough for basic swimming.
The movement is really what makes the Seiko 5's reputation. As I said earlier, you rarely see a sub-100$ watch with a mechanical movement. Not only does the Seiko offer an automatic movement, it offers a really good one.
The 7S26 automatic movement is an in-house caliber made by Seiko, used in many different models. It uses 21 jewels and beats at 21 600 bph. The power reserve is about 40 hours, so you will need to wear it almost everyday if you don't want the movement to stop.
If the movement does stop, you will have to start it again by hacking it for about 30 seconds, since the Seiko 5 doesn't offer the possibility to hand-wind it. Even if you keep it running at all time, its clock will still lose or gain between 3 to 30 seconds per day, so its clearly not as precise as a quartz movement.
On earlier models, this movement was made directly in Japan. Since then, Seiko decided to move the fabrication to Malaysa, where it is cheaper to produce it. The movement is still as good as it ever was.
The four models above are the most common Seiko 5 watches right now. Also known as the ''Military Seiko 5'', this variant is the cheapest available. It's the same timepiece as the other models, only hooked to a nylon strap. Even if you don't like this material, it is often worth it to buy this version and get a band from a third party.
These models are available for a really good price. Usually, you can have them from 70-75$, with the price sometimes dropping in the 60$ range on occasions such as black friday. It is one of, if not the best bang for your buck timepiece out there.
The Seiko 5 line is also available in sports or diver editions. These models are a bit rarer and more expensive than the military ones, but they are worth it if you plan on using them in a sportier context.
These models offer an increased 100m water-resistance, still without using a screw down crown. This will allow for snorkeling, but not diving. The diver models, such as the SNZH53 or SNZF5J2, are recognized by their large rotating bezel. The sports models, on the other hand, have a smaller, fixed bezel.
The sports and diver models can be equipped with three different band materials; stainless steel, nylon and rubber, as pictured above. The last difference is the movement, which uses 23 jewels in the sports/diver models, instead of 21.
These models are a bit pricier, considering the additional features. They will often start around the 110$ price mark, to a bit under 200$ for most variants.
The Seiko 5 has way too many variations for me to list them all. The ones mentioned above are by far the most common ones and represent the vast majority of Seiko 5's sold. It's still important to know that many other variations exists, such as the Turtle, Baby Monster, and much more. There is also a large variety of Seiko 5 women's watches.
To talk about the design of the Seiko 5, I decided to focus on the most popular model, the SNK809.
The case of the Seiko 5 is very pleasing to the touch. The stainless steel gives off a very durable feeling, and the watch has a nice weight to it. You will feel like you're wearing a timepiece of quality. The push/pull crown is also robust and you can use it with the confidence that it won't break.
One of the cool aspects of this watch that is often unknown is the presence of its skeleton case back. This allows you to see the caliber do its work, and it helps you connect with the authenticity of this proper watch.
The dial on the 5 offers a great mix of functionality and beauty. There is a mark for every single minute, and there are arabic numbers for every 5 minutes and every hour marks. This makes it very easy to read the time in a few seconds.
The date is displayed, including both the day of the week and the actual date. You can choose for the date to be displayed in different languages, depending on which region you buy this watch in.
The hands are really what make the Seiko 5 stand out from its rivals. The minute and hour hands are elegant lozenge-shaped pointers, while the second hand is thin all the way to the tail, where it becomes a small circle. The point of this hand is also red, adding a touch of color to a mostly black and white timepiece.
Above, you can see the very convenient luminous phosphorescent that is applied to the Seiko 5. It gives you just enough information to know approximately what the time is in a dark place.
As I mentionned earlier, the strap that comes with the military models, is made of Nylon, and the color matches the dial. This is not a bad look, but it certainly is not everyone's favorite layout. For example, I prefer to use leather bands on pretty much every single one of my timepieces.
For my SNK807, I bought two different Fullmosa leather straps. The first one is brown with a silver buckle. It really brings out the blue of the dial and it is my favorite of the two. For the second one, I kept the original concept of using the dial color. They are both equiped with a quick-release system, so I can change them out in a few seconds.
The Seiko 5 is an incredibly versatile watch that can be matched to pretty much any type of outfit. Its movement shows great respect to the heritage of watchmaking,and it is a reliable one that will last for a very long time if you take good care of it.
I definitely recommend buying this watch for anyone who is building a watch collection. The only people I would steer away from the Seiko 5 are people with really big wrists. The 37mm diameter might look too small on a large wrist, and some collectors might dislike that. Other than this, I see no reason not to add the Seiko 5 to your collection.
My last recommendation is to buy a third party watch band. Considering its really small price, most of the budget goes into the movement and the case, leaving little for the strap. You should take it as your responsability to equip a nice band to personalize it to your style. Let us know in the comment which is your favorite model and why!