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Seiko 5 - Affordable Automatic Watches from Japan

Posted on July 20 2020

Ten of the Best Seiko 5 Watches

Seiko 5 Watches
The Seiko 5 line of watches were designed with value for money in mind. The concept is relatively simple - well made and affordable mechanical watches, with the design emphasis on a younger demographic.

What this has meant in practical terms, is a series of watches built with Japanese in-house movements and often taking design cues from other, more expensive, Seiko designs.

 

Seiko 5 Watch

First launched in 1963, the Seiko 5 line had very clear specifications. Five features each watch must have. Still in use today, the compulsory attributes are:

  • An Automatic Movement
  • Day/date displayed in a single window
  • Water resistance
  • Crown at the 4 o’clock position
  • Durable case and bracelet

Bear in mind that this was the standard required in the 1960s and it was to be achieved at an affordable price. Sporty, functional, mechanical watches to be aimed at a youthful market. It’s a great mission and still meets the basic demands of today’s watch buyers. The only snag I’ve encountered is that they’re often aimed at Japanese and Asian buyers and not always readily available for UK and US buyers.

Although I’ve emphasised the features common to each watch in the line, the reality is a selection of watches with quite a variety of styles. There is a strong sporting emphasis, with divers being prevalent. However, there are also dress models and military-inspired pieces.

I’ve highlighted ten of my favourite Seiko 5 watches, making sure to include a range of styles. It’s not an exhaustive list, rather, an introduction to this incredibly popular line of affordable watches.

 

Seiko 5 SRPB31

 

The first watch on the list is a model I picked out recently for my post on Super Compressor style watches (more here).

Super Compressor style watches have two crowns, one of which is used to rotate an inner bezel. Stylistically, they’re divers watches that place the bezel under the glass rather than on the case. I’m a big fan of the design and enjoy the dual crown aesthetic.

Obviously, in this case, the SRPB31 doesn’t strictly follow the ‘crown at 4 o’clock’ feature of the Seiko 5 credo, but the crown positioning isn’t too significant. Other than that, this ticks the boxes.

It has a beautiful vintage appeal, with a distinctive use of colour. Sadly, the other colour variations seem to be mostly sold out. Like many watches in the 5 Series, this model has proven popular.

  • Seiko 5 SRPB31
  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Seiko 5 SNKE01K1

 

Other than the core attributes, this model has very little in common with the Super Compressor style piece. There’s just the one crown, correctly positioned at 4, a more traditional external bezel and simple use of colours.

The result is a more spartan, military-styled watch. A really well designed and well thought out model. I have a real soft spot for watches like this. There’s nothing flash, nothing complex and at first glance nothing particularly eye-catching. Nothing jumps out because each of the components is so well balanced and complimentary that I just see the whole.

At 37mm it’s a little smaller than the average modern watch, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Like most of the Seiko 5 line, there’s a lot of watch for the money - you can pick this up for less than £150.
.

    • Seiko 5 SNKE01K1
    • 37mm Diameter
    • 12mm Thick
    • 21mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 50M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SRPE69K1 Watch

     

    Compared to the previous watches, this model is probably more typical of the Seiko 5 line. Albeit, maybe not this blacked-out variation. But this style of watch is the picture I have in my head for this collection.

    It’s a chunky sports style watch with a recognisable Seiko design. The hands, markers, case, and crown at 4 are all reminiscent of the pricier SKX007 - a Seiko classic. Where it differs in style - the lack of a bezel and the all black colouring - the changes only enhance the watches character. Where the last model didn’t initially catch the eye, this watch is the opposite. It’s bold and distinctive.

    • Seiko SRPE69K1
    • 40mm Diameter
    • 11.5mm Thick
    • 20mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 100M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SRP611J1 Watch

     

    Demonstrating the range of styles in this collection, the SRP611J1 offers a direct contrast to the last piece. Instead of a simple, clear dial and minimal use of colour, we have a busy dial, bright orange bezel and even a second hand that includes a small aeroplane.

    Once again, it works.

    This Pilots watch allows the reading of two time zones and has slightly uncommon features that include the enlarged date window and various information displayed on the bezel.

    It’s a fairly chunky watch, coming in at 45mm. 5mm larger than the last model. It’s also a little thicker and features an exhibition case back.

    • Seiko 5 SRP611J1
    • 45mm Diameter
    • 13mm Thick
    • 20mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 100M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SRPB93K1 Watch

     

    More straight forward, and with classical styling, this model is one of the more expensive in the Seiko 5 line. There’s a strong vintage vibe, with the lack of crown guards and case shape adding to this.

    The colouring manages to be quite distinctive without being off-putting. Green watches (more here) aren’t to everyone’s tastes, with a simple black dial being the popular choice. But like the Rolex Hulk, this diver uses the green tastefully and even manages to get away with a touch of red and gold.

    The specifications are pretty standard for a diver at this price-point, with 100M water resistance, a stainless steel bracelet and again, an exhibition case back.

    • Seiko 5 SRPB93K1
    • 44mm Diameter
    • 13mm Thick
    • 22mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 100M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SRPD69K1 Watch

     

    Sticking with the theme of bold colouring, the SRPD69K1 is the most eye-catching of the watches featured here. Purple is seldom used on watches, so that alone drew me to this watch. Although easily recognisable as a Seiko diver, the colouring sets this watch apart. Again, it’s not for everyone, but I really like it.

    Most of the dial, including the hands, is the same as the blacked-out model above. In fact, other than the bezel, most of the watch is similar. Yet the final result is a real contrast.


    This purple model has a few vintage touches - the script on the dial and the Milanese style bracelet for example. Whereas the SRPE69K1 used the black colouring and a simple Nato canvas strap to create a military look this model has created a sporty style. The same basic watch with two very different appearances.

    • Seiko 5 SRPD69K1
    • 42mm Diameter
    • 13mm Thick
    • 22mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 100M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SKZ211K1 Watches

     

    This model, the Atlas, is one of the series’ bigger, chunkier models. It’s an interesting piece as, like the Super Compressor model, it has two crowns. This time the inner rotating bezel has compass markings - it is rotated by the crown on the left.

    The outer bezel operates as expected, as a divers timer on a watch that has 200M water resistance. The yellow hands add a touch of colour and tip the watch towards a sporty feel, rather than that of a field watch. The prominent crown guards give the case an uncommon asymmetrical shape that I really like.


    The overall effect works well, particularly when we’re judging it by the 1963 aim to create affordable mechanical watches for a younger audience. 

    • Seiko 5 SKZ211K1
    • 45mm Diameter
    • 14mm Thick
    • 22mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 200M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SNKL45 Watch

     

    I placed this watch next to the Atlas model to demonstrate the variety in the Seiko 5 line. From a dual crown and dual bezel divers watch, we’ve come to a simple and smart dress watch. Despite the apparent differences, both models fulfil the basics required of the collection. Namely, the 5 compulsory features.

    Both achieve this through different means. The SNKL45 is a modestly sized dress watch that tones down each feature. It’s water-resistant, but only to 30M. The crown is at 4, but small and recessed. It’s 10mm thick, rather than 14mm.

    The result is a slim, subtle piece that is more at home in the office than the sea. And it really hits the spot for affordability. This is a sub-£100 watch. Not bad at all for a watch that contains an in-house automatic movement.

    • Seiko 5 SNKL45K1
    • 38mm Diameter
    • 10.3mm Thick
    • 20mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 30M Water Resistance

     

    Seiko 5 SNK369K1 Watch

     

    The next model that I’d like to highlight is one that takes the basic case shape of a dress watch and adds a little sports styling. For me, it’s a success. The smaller case size and thin profile keep some of the subtly of the SNKL45, but the dial and hands make it more playful.

    While it’s not quite one style or another, the marriage of the two concepts keeps it interesting. It reminds me of the goal of Seiko’s Alpinist range. The watches were aimed at the Japanese office worker who would hike in the hills at the weekend. Therefore, the watch had to be smart enough to wear with a suit during the week and informal enough to work with a t-shirt at the weekend.

    I see this watch also fulfilling the same function.

    • Seiko 5 SNK369K1
    • 37mm Diameter
    • 11mm Thick
    • 22mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Mineral Crystal
    • 30M Water Resistance

    Seiko 5 SRPE65K1 Watch

     

    This final watch is a bit of cheat. It’s the same model as the blacked-out SRPE69K1 - just a different colour. I couldn’t decide which I liked more, so I included them both.

    • Seiko 5 SRPE65K1
    • 40mm Diameter
    • 14mm Thick
    • 20mm Lug Width
    • Stainless Steel
    • Japanese Automatic movement
    • Hardlex Mineral Crystal
    • 100M Water Resistance

    Conclusion

     

    Most watch fans are aware of the Seiko 5 range. Since the early 1960s the Japanese brand has been producing this affordable range that aimed to provide well made automatic watches with contemporary styling.

    It’s a sound concept that has remained popular throughout the years. By remaining open-minded Seiko has been able to stay true to the original mission while also producing an ever-changing range of watches.

    Importantly, aside from a few Chinese and Russian brands, these are among the cheapest automatic watches available. The Seiko 5 collection demonstrates that quality mechanical watches can be bought even on a tight budget.

    As ever, if you've anything to add please comment below.

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