When most men think of buying a reliable, high-quality wristwatch, brands like Rolex and Audemars Piguet stand out. But what also stands out is the price tag of those brands. Ouch. But what about buying a Seiko watch?
Not every man has the budget for luxury, Swiss timepieces. With a Seiko watch, you can get a durable, high-quality timepiece starting around $100.
Seiko has been around for 142 years, and to this day, they are one of the world's top watch manufacturers. With a wide selection of timepieces ranging from affordable options to high-end luxury offerings, they have cemented themselves for their durable and high-quality timepieces.
But why buy a Seiko watch over any other brand? What does Seiko do differently? Which is the best Seiko watch to purchase in 2023?
In today's article I'm going to cover:
- Why You Should Buy A Seiko Watch
- A Brief History Of Seiko
- What Makes Seiko Watches Special?
- Top Seiko Watches I Recommend
- When And Where To Buy A Seiko Watch
Why You Should Buy A Seiko Watch
Seiko Watches offer a lot of benefits that other watch manufacturers can't match. But why should buy one? Here are a few reasons why you should buy a Seiko watch.
When it comes to Japanese watchmakers, there are really only 2 that come to mind for most men – Seiko and Casio.
While Casio is a great company and you can find plenty of classic Casio watches to choose from, they tend to offer more rugged and digital options than Seiko.
The key selling point of the Seiko brand is that regardless of which model you choose, you are always getting a top-notch watch from a company with great heritage.
Seiko has plenty of offerings that start around $100 – sometimes less depending on where you shop. But even on their high-end offerings, you are still getting an incredible value.
Often times, luxury brands like Rolex or Patek Philippe are only available directly from the manufacturer, if you decide to buy new that is. This means you could end up paying a massive mark-up on your watch.
Seiko is available almost everywhere you can buy a watch. With the digital landscape of 2023, you can easily head to a major online retailer and buy almost any Seiko watch you'd like.
Just because Seiko has affordable watch options, does not mean that you're getting a poorly designed timepiece.
Unlike other watch companies whose claim-to-fame is only producing clones of famous designs – think Invicta's clone of the Rolex Submariner – Seiko has real heritage and history behind their designs.
Over the years, Seiko has even given some of their watch designs refreshes to keep them modern with the times. This is the attention to detail that separates companies like Seiko from others with their dedication to design and authenticity.
As I previously stated, there is a Seiko watch for everyone.
Anywhere from casual field watches and dive watches, to formal dress watches and everything in between. Do you want a Seiko watch to wear when hiking? They have that. Do you also want a Seiko watch you can wear with a tuxedo? They have that too.
Seiko truly has one of the best selections for beginners to get their feet wet in classically designed timepieces. And the best part is, they only go up from there.
A Brief History Of Seiko
Where It All Began
In 1881, Japanese clockmaker Kintaro Hattori opened a shop that was dedicated to selling and repairing watches and clocks in Ginza, Tokyo.
He excelled at this for the next 11 years, until 1892, when he founded Seikosha, the company that was to become one of the most important manufacturers of timepieces in the world.
It was here that Hattori produced his very first clocks.
Then in 1895, he built the first pocket watch, the Timekeeper. This was an important development for timepieces from Seikosha that heavily paved the way for Japan's first-ever wristwatch.
How Japan's First Wrist Watch Came To Be
After creating the first pocket watch in Japan, Hattori would go on to create the first wristwatch made in Japan, named the Laurel in 1913.
At the time, the company was only able to produce a small amount of watches. Then, unfortunately, in 1923, a large earthquake struck the company's headquarters and the Seikosha factory burned down.
In 1924, after a fresh start and under the new name of Seiko, the first Seiko brand watch went on sale.
For the next 30 years, Seiko would go on to create and innovate in the timepiece space, even, becoming the official supplier of pocket watches to Japan National Railways as the railway industry was expanding in Japan.
How Seiko Became So Prominent
From 1956 onward, Seiko solidified itself in horology by innovating and designing some of the most well-known components in wristwatches we know today.
Seiko went on to create the Diashock in 1956 – a component that Seiko used to absorb shock in their watches to better protect them. Then in 1959, they created their own proprietary “magic lever” system, which is an innovative self-winding system that is still used to this day in Seiko watches.
Hitting a pinnacle in 1960, when the first Grand Seiko model was created, Seiko wanted to create a watch that was more durable and legible than any other watch. It was their flagship and really set off the next 60+ years of innovation to where we know Seiko today.
Here are some more staple moments in Seiko's history of innovation:
- 1964 – created Japan's first wristwatch with a stopwatch on it, the Chronograph
- 1965 – produced Japan's first diver watch to handle deep water pressure
- 1969 – introduced the world's first quartz watch
- 1973 – introduced the world's first 6-digit LCD quartz watch
- 1982 – introduced the world's first TV watch
- 1983 – introduced the world's first voice recording watch
- 1999 – created the Spring Drive – this gave mechanical watches quartz accuracy
- 2006 – introduced the world's first E-Ink watch
- 2012 – introduced the world's first GPS solar watch
What Makes Seiko Watches Special?
While it's well known the vast majority of watchmakers use different types of the same components, what's less known is the types of materials that each brand uses.
For example, Seiko creates their watches with commonly used materials mixed with proprietary technology and designs to create timepieces that are durable and high-quality.
What Materials Does Seiko Use In Their Watches?
Much like other manufacturers, Seiko uses a broad range of top materials to create their watches. This is a list of what you'll find in most offerings of Seiko watches:
- Steel 316L – industry standard, used for watch cases, bezels, and bracelets
- Sapphire crystal – premium option, extremely scratch resistant, less shock resistant
- Mineral crystal (also known as Hardlex) – budget option, relatively scratch-resistant, more shock resistant
- LumiBrite – proprietary lume found in regular Seikos AND premium Grand Seiko watches – 10 minutes of bright sunlight = 3-5 hours of gradually fading light
- Premium Leather – used for straps and bracelets
What Movements Does Seiko Use?
Possibly some of the most interesting aspects about Seiko watches are the internal movements that make each watch tick – pun intended.
Now while I won't get into too many details about the specifics and terminology of mechanical watches, I will dive into a few different movements from Seiko specifically.
If you're looking for a deeper dive into mechanical watch research, check out the Ultimate Watch Buying Guide.
Here are 3 of the most common movements that Seiko uses and some features of each:
1. Seiko 7s26 – The Less-Expensive Movement
- Non-hacking, automatic and manual winding not possible
- 41 hour power reserve
- Accuracy somewhere between -20 to +20 seconds a day out of the box, settling down to somewhere in the range of -15 to +15 seconds a day or better
- Found on Seiko 5s and other older models
2. 4r35 – The Mid-Range Movement
- Hacking, manual and automatic winding possible
- 41 hour power reserve
- Date display
- Accuracy of -20 to +20 seconds a day, settling down to -10 to +10 seconds a day or better
- Found on Seiko Cocktail Times and newer lines
3. 6R15 – The Higher-End Movement
- Hacking, automatic and manual winding possible
- 50 hour power reserve
- Date display
- Accuracy of -10 to +10 out of the box, settling down to -5 to +5 seconds a day or better
- Found on Seiko Prospex and old Alpinist models
Top Seiko Watches I Recommend
It's important to find the Seiko that's perfect for you. But with such a wide selction to choose from, it's understandable that you would want somewhere to start.
Without further ado, here are some of the best Seikos I've owned and some I wish I owned!
Seiko Ion Prospex SRPB55
- Quality dive watch
- 200m of water resistance which matches other luxury watches (think Tudor)
- Around $400
Seiko 5 SNK793
- Highly affordable dress watch
- Features day-date, sunray dial, and exhibition case back
- Around $100
Seiko 5 SNZF17J1
- A more adventurous Seiko 5 option
- Features a chunky, unidirectional stainless steel bezel and lumed hands
- Around $200
Seiko 5 SRPC61
- Smart-casual Seiko 5 option
- Features 120-click unidirectional bottlecap-shaped bezel
- Around $300
Seiko 5 SNK800
- Classic field watch style
- One of the most versatile Seiko options available for the price point
- Around $100
Seiko Presage Cocktail Time SRPB43
- Classic style dress watch that works for both office and cocktail attire
- Features mid-century design with a sunray dial combined with 3D markers
- Around $400
Seiko Alpinist SPB121J1
- One of Seiko's most popular watches online – design slightly updated in 2021
- Features sapphire crystal, 200m water resistance, and a 70 hour power reserve
- Around $700
Seiko Prospex SBDC051
- Premium dive watch that combines old and new design
- Features a rugged stainless steel case with 200m water resistance
- Around $1,000
When And Where To Buy A Seiko Watch
The easiest answer to this question is “when you have the funds”. But the better answer is that it depends. And this goes for any watch, not just a Seiko. Let me explain.
A watch is highly visible on the wrist, making it a deeply personal part of a man's wardrobe. For this reason, a good time to buy a watch is at a major life event such as graduating college, milestone birthdays, getting married, or a promotion at work.
But whatever the reason, the best time to buy a watch is when you are ready to buy one. Find your perfect watch, not someone else's.
Certain iterations of Seiko watches may have more value at one time or another if you're into collecting. Regardless, if you are looking for a good quality watch at a decent price, Seiko is one of the best options on the market.
As far as where to buy a Seiko watch, unlike other luxury brands that require you to go direct to the manufacturer or risk massive mark-ups from dealers, Seiko can be purchased just about anywhere.
Online is probably the most viable way to get one in 2023 but some large department stores, retailers, and dealers, will have plenty of Seiko options for you to choose from. When in doubt, a certified Seiko dealer will be your best bet.
That's it. I hope this guide helps you to find your next Seiko watch so that you can finally get your hands on a well-designed, classic Japanese-manufactured watch that has withstood the test of time.