By Dhananjay Pathak

Seiko is a brand that is highly respected among people from the watch fraternity for producing some of the best value-driven mechanical timepieces. Given the brands diverse and expansive watch catalog there is certainly a Seiko out there for everyone. But before you rush to your nearest authorized dealer to try out that killer new Seiko currently causing a stir on the internet please be aware that there is a high possibility that the watch you are lusting after is sadly not available for sale in your country. And while Seiko is certainly working on making more of its watches globally available, there is certainly a lot to catch up on including the stunning JDM release that we review for you today, the SARB033. So, without wasting any time let’s have a look at what this Japanese domestic market release has to offer.

The Case

The SARB033 is popularly known as the “Baby Grand Seiko” and that is because it draws quite a bit of design inspiration from its elder sibling which clearly shows in the case design of this watch. Made out of 316l stainless steel the case on this watch is 38mm wide, 11.2mm thick and has a lug to lug distance of 44.8mm making it a modestly sized watch that sits comfortably on the wrist. Starting from top, there is a nicely polished bezel which holds the sapphire crystal in place and has a pleasant sheen to it that complements other polished elements on the watch. This is followed by the curvaceous mid case which is a mix of polished and brushed surfaces and is responsible for the giving this watch a Grand Seiko like stance. Viewed from top, there is first a layer of a brushed surface which nicely flows throughout the mid-case and ends just before the tip of the lugs.

Below this polished layer sits the rest of the mid-case which has been beautifully polished with a mirror-like finish which is quite reminiscent of the Zaratsu finishing on the Grand Seiko’s and extends all the way to the end of the curving lugs giving a nice layered look to the mid-case, showcasing the attention to detail that was paid while designing the watch. And finally, you have a polished screw down exhibition case back which can be used to view the movement powering this watch and has some relevant text related to the watch engraved on it. Last but not the least, the case is water resistant to 100 meters. While there is no doubt that the case on this watch has been tastefully crafted, the only thing that bothers me about the case is that a large portion of the case has a polished finish making it highly prone to scratches.

The Dial

The dial on the SARB033 is black in color and has a glossy finish to it making it play well with light, exhibiting different shades of black and even brown under different lighting conditions. The baton style hour markers have been nicely polished and applied giving a sense of depth to the dial. And while there is nothing wrong with the way the markers currently look, I certainly feel that their execution could have been cleaner and more refined. For instance, every marker has a lume plot in front of it, which is not a bad thing to have in a watch as it helps in reading time in low light situations, but as per me it certainly does not look aesthetically pleasing on the SARB033 and does take away some of the dials elegance. I would also have loved the markers to look slightly meatier like the ones on the SARX033 (another JDM release), but I guess I am getting a little too nitpicky here and if this change ever made it to the SARB I wonder if the SARX033 would even exist.

Nevertheless, let me not ramble on this anymore and let us rather move on to one of my favorite details on this watch, the handset. The hour and minute hands on the SARB033 have a sword style shape and simply look stellar. They are well proportioned, nicely faceted and just like the hour markers have been polished to perfection making them look razor sharp and reflect light beautifully. I also happen to like the needle-like seconds hand which has a trapezoidal counterbalance and extends all the way to the tip of the sloped minute chapter ring. There is also a date window at 3 which has been nicely bordered and surprisingly the date wheel also matches the color of the dial, a detail that is not even seen on much more expensive watches, sadly including some Grand Seiko’s as well.

The Movement and Bracelet

Powering the SARB033 is Seiko’s caliber 6R15 which is a technically capable workhorse automatic movement that sits a few notches above the 7S and 4R calibers from Seiko. It comprises of 23 jewels and operates at a frequency of 3 Hz. The movement hacks and is capable of hand winding which is an activity that I really enjoy using the perfectly sized crown at 3. The 6R15 caliber also uses a Spron 510 mainspring which gives its some antimagnetic capabilities and is also responsible for providing a whopping power reserve of 50 hours. Being a workhorse, decoration on the movement is quite Spartan with only some Côtes de Genève stripes on the rotor. Even though this might not be a movement worth looking at from an enthusiast’s perspective, it is worth noting that the SARB033 could very well be someones first ever mechanical watch and it might give them immense pleasure in viewing it through the exhibition case back.

The SARB033 comes fitted to an oyster style bracelet out of the box and having handled quite a few affordable Seiko’s with those clumsy and rattly bracelets I must admit that I was quite skeptical about the quality of the bracelet on the SARB033 initially. But having worn this watch on its stock bracelet for a while now I am happy to say that this thing is really well made and surprisingly comfortable too. The bracelet has an oyster style design and is finely brushed on the top while the sides have been polished. It features solid end links that are closely attached to the mid case and there is solid milled clasp with a double locking mechanism ensuring that the watch is always securely attached to the wrist. The drape of the bracelet is excellent and I did not experience any hair pull issues whenever I had the watch on my wrist.

But not all is honky dory with this bracelet and here are a few things which I feel should be improved. My first and foremost issue is that even though the locking mechanism on the clasp works perfectly fine, when locked it does not sit flush with the rest of the bracelet leaving a considerable gap. While this does not affect the functioning of the clasp it looks a bit odd especially considering the overall good quality of the bracelet. The second concern that I have with the bracelet is again not functional but has more to do with the manner in which the end links have been attached to the mid case. While I am now quite used to the positioning of the end links it is quite strange that they have been affixed to the center of the mid case once again leaving quite a bit of the case exposed. Now, I am not sure on whether there was a technical reason behind this, but it would have given the watch a much more cohesive look had it covered the entire case.

Final Thoughts

The SARB033 is hands down one of the best value packed everyday watch that you can buy for around 300 dollars today. It is looks great on a bracelet and can be easily dressed up using a nice aftermarket strap. Yes, it is not perfect but then again does a perfect watch even exist? Not something that I can think of.