Seiko 5 Review

November 22, 2004

I hadn’t owned a mechanical Seiko until recently. I was looking for a daily “beater” watch that still looked good without costing me an arm and a leg. A number of posts at the Poor Man’s Watch Forum and on WatchUSeek praised Seikos as a good choice in this category. I picked mine up on ebay only a few months back. The subject of this review is a Seiko 5 model, a twenty-one jewel automatic. This particular version is widely available on both the Internet generally and on ebay through a variety of sellers for less than sixty dollars. As such, it represents a remarkably good deal. I have read that this particular watch is a re-issue of one of the original 1960’s vintage Seikos. I think that it does have a nice classic look to it that would fit in anywhere.

The watch itself is fairly typical of the Seiko 5 line. It is 38mm in size including the crown, uses an 18mm bracelet, has a strong looking stainless steel case, and uses Seiko’s Hardlex mineral glass crystals for both the face and display back. Hardlex is apparently Seiko’s improved version of mineral glass, supposedly more scratch resistant but not as much so as the sapphire crystals used in high end watches. The watch is marked water resistant but no depth rating is given (I have read conflicting accounts of Seiko’s without depth ratings as being either thirty or fifty meters water resistant). Irrespective, the Seiko 5 line does not come equipped with diver style screw-down crowns so one already knows that deep water is out. In the absence of a clear water resistance guide, I am treating this watch carefully by not immersing it for any length of time where possible. As I mentioned, this watch has a display back, a nice feature that allows viewing of the movement. The movement itself has a plain, industrial look about it, but it is still interesting to see. Otherwise, the watch is quite basic although it does show both the day and date.

In the final analysis, there is nothing truly exceptional about the Seiko 5. To a great degree I think that is the point of this line. It is not meant as a technology or style showcase but instead as a hard working daily-wear timepiece. As such, it does have certain limitations. First off, The Seiko 5 line can neither be hacked or hand wound. If you are the type of person who likes to set your watches to exact nuclear time and measure their accuracy, the Seiko 5 isn’t for you. Similarly, if hand winding is important, as opposed to letting the automatic winder do its work as you wear the watch, look elsewhere. Personally I consider these to be minor quibbles, especially in an automatic watch at this price range, but some may feel differently. The other issue for me with this watch was the bracelet. The stock Seiko 5 bracelet is made from stainless steel that is either rolled or folded over on to itself. I am not personally enamored of this bracelet design. Don’t get me wrong, the band holds the watch securely and looks just fine, but it has a tinny feel to it that I felt detracted somewhat from the watch. It isn’t awful at all, again considering how affordable this watch is, but I thought it could be better. Like the earlier reviewed Sandoz, I solved this issue for myself by replacing the standard bracelet with a heavy, solid link model from Hadley Roma (Watchprince has a good selection). Even with the replacement band, this watch still comes in at less than a hundred dollars and that is a very good deal indeed. With the solid link bracelet, it is easy to confuse this humble workhorse with some very fancy timepieces.

If you are seeking a good watch, and don’t ever want to deal with the hassle of changing batteries, a Seiko 5 is a fine choice. It is well made, good looking (I have jokingly referred to mine as a poor man’s Rolex Explorer), and reasonably accurate as mechanical watches go. It is also reputed to be very durable. While I can not personally vouch for this, I have encountered numerous claims that the movement in the Seiko 5 (known as the 7S26-click for an excellent review by the Purists) will run with no maintenance at all for as long as twenty years. Most automatic watches need cleaning and lubrication every few years to operate properly. That the Seiko 5 can go potentially for decades without a care is just icing on the cake, so to speak.

Advertisements

26 Responses to “Seiko 5 Review”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I have been wearing Seiko 5’s for about 12 years now. The watches from the 1990’s were manufactured in Japan, now in the 2000’s they are manufactured at the Seiko factory in Singapore. That is partially the reason they are so readily available on eBay for great prices. If you want a more “upscale” automatic Seiko, you should look at the Diashock models. I got mine in Tokyo, however there are some retailers where you could purchase one here in the USA. On the Seiko Japan web site, they are under the “Mechanical” watch section:
    http://www.seiko-watch.co.jp/mechanical/index.html
    I highly recommend these, as the fit and finish of the case is much nicer, and the movement is hacking. These watches are more on par with the construction of a Rolex or a Tudor, without the expense. They retail for about 45,000 JPY, however you can find them for less money. I bought a SARB007 from the Sakuraya Watch Kan in Shinjuku. It is 23 jewels and very much higher quality than the Seiko 5. I had previously done the same as you–I bought a Seiko 5 to be my “everyday” watch and I was disappointed in the bracelet. The clasp seems cheesy. It is the older style snap clasp. The newer ones have a better snap-clasp with a little fold-over device, or a push-button release. Those offer a bit more “security”. As it was, the simple snap-clasp bracelet on my Seiko 5 was kind of bothersome. I don’t think it held well, and was a bit cheap. Now, if you go for one of the more expensive “Mechanical” Seikos, like the “SARB001” model numbers, the bracelet is MUCH better quality. That’s the difference between an 80 dollar watch and a 350 dollar watch: Better bracelet, better case, better dial, better movement. 🙂 However, I am always going to be a big fan of Seiko. They are sturdy and reliable watches for sure.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I have been wearing Seiko 5’s for about 12 years now. The watches from the 1990’s were manufactured in Japan, now in the 2000’s they are manufactured at the Seiko factory in Singapore. That is partially the reason they are so readily available on eBay for great prices. If you want a more “upscale” automatic Seiko, you should look at the Diashock models. I got mine in Tokyo, however there are some retailers where you could purchase one here in the USA. On the Seiko Japan web site, they are under the “Mechanical” watch section:http://www.seiko-watch.co.jp/mechanical/index.htmlI highly recommend these, as the fit and finish of the case is much nicer, and the movement is hacking. These watches are more on par with the construction of a Rolex or a Tudor, without the expense. They retail for about 45,000 JPY, however you can find them for less money. I bought a SARB007 from the Sakuraya Watch Kan in Shinjuku. It is 23 jewels and very much higher quality than the Seiko 5. I had previously done the same as you–I bought a Seiko 5 to be my “everyday” watch and I was disappointed in the bracelet. The clasp seems cheesy. It is the older style snap clasp. The newer ones have a better snap-clasp with a little fold-over device, or a push-button release. Those offer a bit more “security”. As it was, the simple snap-clasp bracelet on my Seiko 5 was kind of bothersome. I don’t think it held well, and was a bit cheap. Now, if you go for one of the more expensive “Mechanical” Seikos, like the “SARB001” model numbers, the bracelet is MUCH better quality. That’s the difference between an 80 dollar watch and a 350 dollar watch: Better bracelet, better case, better dial, better movement. 🙂 However, I am always going to be a big fan of Seiko. They are sturdy and reliable watches for sure.

  3. Ed Says:

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll check out these higher end models. They sound very interesting.

  4. Ed Says:

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll check out these higher end models. They sound very interesting.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, definitely look into the Diashock 23 jewel models. They have some very cool styles. I showed my SARB007 to a friend who owns a jewelry store, who used to be an authorized Rolex dealer. He wears a $3000 GMT-II, and when he saw my Seiko, he was really surprised! He was not expecting it to be on par with Rolex, and he even said, “This is just as solid as a Rolex. How much did you pay for this??” The Mechanical Seikos are very nice, but in the USA they are very difficult to get. Like I said, mine came from a watch shop in Tokyo. Oh, and if you really want something to drool over, take a look at the Grand Seiko models. Talk about a beautiful watch… Yeah, the Seiko 5’s are great watches–don’t get me wrong–but they are kind of there to lure you in. You get one and then you go, oh WOW. Look at what ELSE they make! Seiko 5’s are like drugs on a playground. It’s a gateway watch to a more expensive habit!

    By the way, I just thought I would mention there is a Seiko/Citizen watch forum. You can really learn a lot there:
    http://www.network54.com/Forum/78440/
    Check it out! 🙂

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, definitely look into the Diashock 23 jewel models. They have some very cool styles. I showed my SARB007 to a friend who owns a jewelry store, who used to be an authorized Rolex dealer. He wears a $3000 GMT-II, and when he saw my Seiko, he was really surprised! He was not expecting it to be on par with Rolex, and he even said, “This is just as solid as a Rolex. How much did you pay for this??” The Mechanical Seikos are very nice, but in the USA they are very difficult to get. Like I said, mine came from a watch shop in Tokyo. Oh, and if you really want something to drool over, take a look at the Grand Seiko models. Talk about a beautiful watch… Yeah, the Seiko 5’s are great watches–don’t get me wrong–but they are kind of there to lure you in. You get one and then you go, oh WOW. Look at what ELSE they make! Seiko 5’s are like drugs on a playground. It’s a gateway watch to a more expensive habit!By the way, I just thought I would mention there is a Seiko/Citizen watch forum. You can really learn a lot there:http://www.network54.com/Forum/78440/Check it out! 🙂

  7. Ed Says:

    I’ve been over to Seiko Citizen a few times. Some very knowledgeable folks there for sure. Those Diashock models do look very well done indeed. I belive I saw one at a Poor Man’s Watch Forum meet once. Not all that easy to get in the States though. I don’t understand why Seiko doesn’t market those here. I think they would sell quite well.

  8. Ed Says:

    I’ve been over to Seiko Citizen a few times. Some very knowledgeable folks there for sure. Those Diashock models do look very well done indeed. I belive I saw one at a Poor Man’s Watch Forum meet once. Not all that easy to get in the States though. I don’t understand why Seiko doesn’t market those here. I think they would sell quite well.

  9. Kev Says:

    Great review. I have a Seiko 5 superior now, 7S36 movement. Keeps great time, looks a hair better than the standard 5 but still inexpensive enough to wear for a daily watch.Mine ended up costing me about $140 AU on ebay i think. Keeps perfect time, its quiet and best of all…no batteries, ever!Just a word to the wise though in regards to automatic watches…they are not entirely maintainance free…every 3-5 years they need to be cleaned and oiled, but if you take the time and do this you will have no problems at all.I have had a couple of different automatics over the years, Tag and two seiko’s now (my old 5 is now in my son’s possession)….the Seiko’s have both held up better than the Tag!

  10. Ed Says:

    Good point about the maintenance. And my Seikos have held up better than my Tag too 🙂

  11. eco_crusader Says:

    Hello Ed,Am a seiko 5 sports user, with a nice 7S36-0620.I had recently given my watch for oiling and ended up with a daily loss of 20 seconds (which I know is bad) and have noticed that the watch servicemen in India are not bothered about accuracy(as the quartz watch market is booming in India). What do I do? The back of this watch had been scratched and I cannot bear to see that done to my watch.Could you kindly advice me on the accuracy aspect and how to remove these scratches?

  12. Ed Says:

    It should be possible to improve your accuracy with regulation. Similarly, a stainless steel back can be polished. There are scratch removal kits periodically advertised on the sales forum at pmwf.com. Good luck with it.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    How long will a seiko 5 run after you put it down given it is fully wound?

  14. Ed Says:

    At least 30 hours I would say.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    What do you think of orient mechanical watches? I’m thinking of getting one but I don’t know if it has a power reserve function or if it will stop running after a couple of days like my seiko 5. Are you familiar with Orient watches?

  16. Ed Says:

    I think Orient makes a terrific watch. A number of folks at the Poor Man’s Watch Forum have them and they are well regarded.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    How do I get to the poor man’s watch forum that you have mentioned? What is the web adress?

  18. Anonymous Says:

    You’ve said that acuracy on a seiko 5 can be improved with regulation. What did you mean by that? Wearing it regularly?

  19. Ed Says:

    Regulation is a process by which a jeweler carefully adjusts a part of the watch called the regulator and in doing so, speeds up or slows down the ticking of the watch as needed.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    This watch CAN BE hacked.In time-set mode, simply turn the crown backwards just a hair and the movement stops until you move it forward again. :-)I love this watch!P

  21. Anonymous Says:

    I bought a Seiko 5 in 1975 and it is normally my summer watch. it runs really well and never needed maintenance. the original Seiko bracelet broke down long ago and i replaced it with a cheaper one, as i the time i could not find an original one in Lisbon, Portugal, where I live. trying now to find an original one as this wonderful watch really deserves it.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    This regulation process, does it have to be done by a Seiko retailer shop or can be done in any watch shop? Do you have any idea about how much it costs?

  23. Ed Says:

    Any jeweler should be able to do it. Shouldn't be too expensive either. $25-$30 tops.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Ed,can you please help me. I just order seiko 5 and I'm not sure which metal band would fit the watch. Do you think that this Hadley Roma Oyster style will fit? Should I go for the one with strait or curved ends. Thank you for the answer

  25. Ed Says:

    A Hadley Roma Oyster should look good. I'd go with the straight ends. There is no real way to know without trying it to find out if a curved end bracelet will fit the curve of a watch case it wasn't designed for. Good luck with it,Ed


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: