I started my watch collection journey with a Seiko. After starting with one, then two, then the next piece and so on, one finally realized the depth and breadth of the Seiko brand. Unlike most brands that tend to stick to just a few categories of genre and price points, Seiko appears to cover every variety and type (and price points), literally.
From a horology pedigree point of view, Seiko is part of the Ivy League of watch brands. Established in 1881 by the founder Mr. Kintaro Hattori, the family remains in control of a vast Seiko empire that designs and manufactures every component of the watches in-house.
I was delighted when given this opportunity to showcase what I view to be the top five Seiko to have for the modern collector. To some readers, some of these watches may be unknown because of Seiko’s policy of restricting part of the Company’s collection only for the Japanese domestic market (or JDM). It would appear that this policy is slowly being relaxed. As such, this is a good time as any to be introduced to some of the beauties in Seiko’s vast collection.
Here are my top five Seiko watches for the modern collector.
5. Seiko Mechanical SARB017 Alpinist – A very refined gentleman’s sports watch classic
Seiko Japan released the first of five generations of Alpinist in 1961. Categorized under Seiko’s Mechanical line, the SARB017 is from the current generation of Alpinist. The dimensions are very formal-like. The width of the watch case is just 39 mm with a thickness of 12 mm. Some say that it has a Rolex Oyster style case characterized by thin and sharp lugs, solid caseback as well as sapphire crystal and screw-down crown. Nevertheless, unlike the Rolex Oyster style case, the watch comes with a pair of properly designed crown guards.
The most striking feature of the SARB017 Alpinist is the sunburst green dial. The shade of green seems to change depending on the angle, and the applied gold numerals are very reflective and easy to read. Above the case sits a flat sapphire crystal. In addition, the second crown for rotating the compass ring can easily be manipulated when holding the watch.
The stainless steel is brushed beautifully in concentric circles. The case feels very heavy duty and the sapphire crystal seems thick. The 200m water rating seems to back up its strength.
4. The Ananta Double Retrograde Automatic SPB013J1 – Fabulous masterpiece from Seiko’s craftsmen
Ananta is Seiko’s first line of high-end watches. The SPB013J1 is the most handsome piece to come out of the Ananta range. The watch case has a diameter of 46 mm wide while the thickness is 13.1 mm. The finishing of the watch is something that can only be appreciated by personally looking and touching it. Using the art of polishing Samurai swords or Karatsu, the “Katana” sides of the cases are specially “blade polished”. The watch hands also went through the same treatment. These watches have some of the finest polishing jobs I’ve ever seen on watches.
Over the dial as well as for the display caseback, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment is used.
The watch has three-half dials. The top left is the power reserve indicator. The on the right is the day indicator and the last one on the bottom dial is the date indicator. As the name suggest, it has two retrograde hands that automatically moves back to the original start position once reaching the end of the movement cycle.
The layout is balanced and symmetrical. It makes for an attractive, modern, and very Japanese look (for example the retrograde dials look like fans). Although the watch looks bulky, it is designed to fit nicely on a wrist. The shape of the casing properly wraps itself on the wrist, hence distributing the weight over a larger surface area.
3. Seiko Astron 8X Series Titanium SSE005 GPS Solar Chronograph – Modern technology for accuracy and convenience
The choice for any collector for a GPS-enabled wristwatch would have to be the SSE005. This watch is part of the Astron series.
When Seiko launched the series back in 2012, the Company took the world by storm with the technological feat in miniaturizing a GPS receiver inside a typical sized wristwatch that does not need to be powered by anything more than a typical watch battery. Coupled with a solar panel under the dial, the Astron became a game changer for travelers.
The 8X is a second generation Astron and is 30% smaller than the first generation 7X series due to further miniaturizing. Coupled with the chronograph function, the SSE005 is a very capable watch that can fulfill a most of the needs of a typical business traveler.
The watch is 44.6 mm wide and made from titanium with special hard coating for additional scratch resistance. Apart from the chronograph function, it has a perpetual calendar function as well as magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m. In your travels is you feel like taking a dip in the pool, you can do so knowing it also has a water resistance of 100 meters.
2. Grand Seiko SBGE001 Spring Drive GMT – A beautiful watch in all aspects
The SBGE001 is a GMT watch and part of the high-end Grand Seiko range. One of the bigger watches in the range, it has a 43.5 mm diameter face and a 14.7 mm thick case. The stainless steel construction tips the scale at 177 grams. Powered by the Spring Drive movement, this is one of the most accurate hybrid mechanical timepieces one can find apart from pure quartz watches. This watch movement was developed by Seiko and to date; it is the only commercially available wristwatch embedded technology capable of truly creating a continuous movement of the second hand, instead of the traditional beats per time unit as seen in quartz or mechanical watches.
The quality of manufacturing and finishing is unsurpassed and sublimed. Using the best modern Japanese manufacturing technology can muster; Seiko also infused the traditional arts to make the end result in something spectacular. The ancient art of Karatsu “blade” polishing derived from the manufacturing the katana blade (or Samurai sword) has been utilized on the SBGE001.
The perfect combination of the steel used, the way it is forged, and the polishing technique applied, gives the piece a gorgeous sparkle that competes with the finest Haute Horlogerie anywhere in the world.
The whole dial is protected by a domed, dual anti-reflective coated, high-definition sapphire crystal. What makes this watch looks different than other is its sapphire bezel. Seiko created a domed sapphire crystal for the bezel that gives it a seamless transition from bezel to dial window. Under that crystal are indexes and numerals painted with luminous paint. Unlike other watches, the index and markers on the bezel can be seen in the dark.
The use of sapphire crystal instead of the more commonly used ceramics for the bezel show the length that Seiko would go through to make the watch special. Although using ceramic bezel will give the same scratch resistance properties as sapphire crystal, taking a harder and expensive route is a testament of Seiko’s watchmaking pedigree. Only a true watch enthusiast will understand and appreciate this effort.
1. The Prospex Marinemaster 1000m Hi-Beat SBEX001G Titanium Limited Edition – A true showcase of Seiko’s 50th year in the dive watch field
To celebrate Seiko’s 50th year in the dive watch arena, a new watch was created. The limited edition SBEX001G is a relatively large watch with a lot of innovative features.
The watch face has a diameter measuring 48.2 mm. The watch case has a thickness of 19.7 mm. Made out from a single piece of titanium block, access to the internals only via the front of the watch. The movement is the top-of-the-line Hi-Beat 8L55 caliber.
Due to the monocoque case design and a special proprietary L-shaped gasket, the watch is impermeable to helium and appropriate for saturation diving right down to 1000 meters. The engineering is so precise and the manufacturing process is so exact that this watch does not need a helium escape valve system to operate at such depth. This design also affords the internal movement some anti-magnetic protection. In this case, up to 16,000 A/m (or 200 Gauss).
Made under the Prospex series of watches, the SBEX001G is currently the most sophisticated mechanical diver made by Seiko.
All five watches are incredible in their own special ways. The quality, sophistication, functionality and the sheer wrist presence of these watches makes them very collectible. Out of the five watches listed above, I got the opportunity to acquire four of them. The only one that still eludes me is the Astron. Hopefully will be able to get one before the year ends. I hope…
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MEOR AMRI MEOR AYOB – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Meor Amri is a passionate watch collector from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Having bitten by the horology bug in 2010, he has written extensively about the watch scene and has assembled a large collection of watches (excessively!!!) on his own free time. His blogs on the same subject are: Eastern Watch & Western WatchRead his articles here