If you're looking for an elegant mechanical dress watch, there are plenty of options on the market. The problem is not the number of models available, it's the price that accompanies the most popular timepieces.
For example, the famous Seiko SARB035 will cost you close to 400$ USD. This is where the Seiko SNKL comes into play: it offers top-notch features for a reasonable price (<150$). This is why it earned the nickname of "Baby SARB" or "The poor man's SARB".
This article will help you determine if the Seiko SNKL has what you need, or if you're better off buying a high-end model.
The case diameter of the Seiko SNKL is on the smaller side of the spectrum, standing between 37-38mm (depending on how you measure it). It fits greatly on men with small to medium wrists (5.5" to 7") and on most women (it has unisex styling).
The SNKL actually runs a bit smaller than the specs would let you think, as the lugs are quite short and fit snugly around your wrist. The 42mm lug-to-lug length can give you a good idea of how it will fit on your wrist.
Also, the 10.5mm thickness is a bit thinner than most mechanical watches. The 18mm lug width is also small but is pretty standard, so finding a replacement strap is easy.
Of course, the Seiko SNKL is equipped with the ubiquitous 7S26 automatic movement. This 21 jewels caliber is found on almost every entry-level Seiko watches. While the accuracy isn't that great, you can count on it to run for several years, as it is a proper workhorse.
Seiko states that the 7s26 should vary by about -15 to +25 seconds per day. In reality, this will really depend if you're lucky on the unit you get. A good example comes from Alessandro from The Slender Wrist, as he bought an SNKL41 and SNKL45.
From his calculations over several days, the SNKL41 gained an average of 8.5 seconds per day (+4 to +10 range) and his SNKL45 gained an average of 15 seconds per day (-15 to +40 range). As you can see, the accuracy varies greatly from one 7S26 to another.
It's also good to note the 40 hours power reserve and the Seiko Diashock system inside the 7S26.
You should be acquainted with the rest of the specs if you've owned an entry-level Seiko before: 30m water-resistance, scratch-resistant Hardlex (mineral) crystal, stainless steel case and bracelet.
If you're used to Seiko's powerful and long-lasting luminous phosphorescent, you might be a bit disappointed by the SNKL. While it does have lume pips at the bottom of the indices and lume coated hands, the luminescence is dull and brief.
Alessandro compares the lume of his SKX013 to his SNKL41 in this great Youtube video. As you can picture above, the SKX013 (on the left) is much brighter than the SNKL41 (on the right).
Since the specs are nothing out of the ordinary, the styling is undoubtedly what makes the Seiko SNKL line so popular.
The good quality starts at the stainless steel bracelet. Usually, the bracelet is a let down when you're in the market for sub 150$ watches.
This is not the case for the Seiko SKNL; the Jubilee bracelet has a good finish, with a nice-looking design. You even get useful features, such as three micro-adjustments.
The case used in the SKNL is known as the 01V0 model. It is common on entry-level Seikos, and its usually well-loved. It features a polished bezel, that's shaped in a way that strongly resembles much more expensive Grand Seiko Models.
SKNL45 / Grand Seiko Snowflake
The lugs are made of brushed stainless steel, so they contrast with the bezel nicely, giving an original look to the timepiece. On the flipside of the watch, you get a mineral exhibition window displaying the 7S26 movement.
The dial itself is very clean and contributes to the overall elegance of the SNKL. Every hour mark is denoted with steel-plated indices, while every minute mark gets small black applied indices.
Apart from those indices, the dial contains a silver-colored Seiko 5 logo, the "Automatic 21 jewels" script, and a basic day-date wheel. In the middle of the dial, you can find triangle minutes and hours hands, and a thin seconds hand.
Finally, the last thing to talk about is the push/pull crown situated at the 4 o'clock position. It is very small and subtle, but it works just fine to set the time and date.
The Seiko SNKL41 is the most traditional looking of the bunch. As you can picture above, the white dial of this watch matched with the stainless steel case give off a classic vibe.
On this model, even the day-date background is completely white, giving it a very conservative look. It will appeal mostly to collectors who like subtle timepieces that won't get noticed too much.
The SNKL43 is almost exactly like the SNKL41, with the exception of the dial color. On this model, the dial is now light blue. The dial is iridescent, so it will go from very light to almost black depending on the light exposure.
Apart from the dial color, everything is the same: hands, day-date display, indices, etc..
Last but not least, the SNKL45 is the dark dial option of the group. Not only is the dial extremely dark grey, but the day-date display is now also fully blacked out. The finishing touch that makes the SNKL45 so desirable is the red seconds hand, which helps with visibility and makes it more stylish.
To some people, wearing a dress watch with a stainless steel bracelet is a sacrilege. If you're part of this group that thinks everything looks better with a leather strap, the Seiko SNKL is perfect for you.
As you can picture above, any of the Seiko SNKL models will look great with a leather band. On the left, the SNKL41 is equipped with brown leather, and the result is amazing. Some people won't believe how much you paid for such a sophisticated timepiece.
In the middle, you can picture the SNKL43 with a black leather band. To me, this is the best combination, but there's a lot of proponents of the brown strap / blue dial combo. I can't argue with them since this watch looks great with both.
Finally, the 3rd picture shows the SNKL45 with a black leather band with a drilled holes pattern. To me, this is the only acceptable color since the brown strap / black dial is rarely a good idea.
The Nato strap is always favored by Seiko 5 owners. The reason is quite simple, they all look amazing with nylon. The SNKL41 above is frankly exquisite: the black braided nylon strap gives a modern touch to the watch while keeping a traditional vibe.
On the right, this SNKL43 owner went with a red and blue Nato to give more life to his timepiece. This combination almost gives a diver look to the watch, so its a good change of pace from the dress styling.
The SNKL45 above is maybe the only black on brown combination I would ever recommend. The chocolate brown with the cream layer in between reminds me of a good old ice cream sandwich, and I like the way it fits with the dial. This is a controversial opinion, as not everybody digs this look.
The Seiko SNKL is an excellent, if not the best, option for its price range but let's face it, if you have 400$+ to spend on a watch, your best bet is to get the SARB033/035. This classic timepiece is superior in almost every aspect.
For example, you get the more refined 23 jewels 6R15 movements, 100m water resistance, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, a higher quality bracelet, and much more. If money doesn't play a role in your decision, the Seiko SARB is definitely the superior choice.
If you love the style of the SNKL, but you don't want to have the inconvenients that comes with mechanical watch ownership, the SGF204/206 ideal for you. Thanks to its 7N43 quartz movement, the SGF is much more accurate (-+15 seconds/month) and its also much thinner.
With its 8mm thick case, you will be able to wear this timepiece comfortably even with very tight dress shirts. Also, the SGF is even cheaper than the SNKL, so it's really a bargain. If you're interested, head over to my Complete Seiko SGF Review.
In short, the Seiko SNKL is the perfect watch if you're on a tight budget and you want something dressy with an impeccable look. It offers a bunch of features that are scarcely available in this price range and it is a viable alternative to the classic Seiko SARB.
If you're still unsure about this timepiece, look at the list below to figure out if it's right for you.