Monday, November 22, 2004

Seiko 5 Review

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.

43 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

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

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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! :)

3:55 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

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.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Kev said...

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!

3:14 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

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

3:16 PM  
Blogger eco_crusader said...

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?

8:16 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

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.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

3:50 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

At least 30 hours I would say.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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?

1:19 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

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.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

3:23 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

www.pmwf.com

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

6:00 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

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.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

3:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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?

2:40 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

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

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

4:49 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

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

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah i've bought a new seiko 5 7s26 model...it's an executive cum heavy duty model....it matches with all dresses..even crush jeans...a better option to have at this price...but can only buy through internet or i've to japan or asia...

10:09 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Just thought I'd comment on the period the Seiko 5 will keep running without wearing it; so far I am up to over 36 hours (which surprised me).
This is a fairly recent purchase (for C$90, which I think is an incredible bargain, at a jeweler that was going out of business, list was C$189).
In style it reminds me somewhat of my old Rolex Explorer, with the addition of date.
So far, I am astonished at the quality for this price and it's cool to be able to show people how a mechanical watch works!
One concern I have is that it has no depth/pressure specification, just "water resistant". Now I'm not daft enough to take it diving (Ihave an ancient Yema diving watch), but I'm very likely to take it swimming at the lake, do you think it'll survive?

9:24 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

If it just says water resistant, that probably means washing hands, rain etc. I wouldn't swim with it.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Platty said...

Ed i have Seiko 5 Automatic Silver watch the bracelets have been stamped on each side, but does not have clear back like i've seen on the others bit has a number printed on the back 980052 is this watch worth anything?

10:51 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Depends on the condition really. Search around on ebay for similar models. That should give you a reasonable idea as to the value.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Jasson C. said...

I love wearing watches too!! They are another fun accessory!

Click here Orient watches

5:13 AM  
Blogger JimDavidson said...

unshart 17Hi Ed - Forgive me if I am Bumbing this thread. Enjoyed your review of the Seiko 5. I have been wearing a 7n43 (battery powered) model for years and use it as my "work" watch. About 6 years ago in the desert the watch wound up under a heavy crate and the band was damaged. Any good site I can check out for a nice Seiko replacement for it? Also, if anyone is interested, I am going to look for the Diashock models in my travels overseas which currently take me to the Middle East. Thanks! Jim

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just purchased my first Seiko 5 7S26c. Bought at duty free Colombo (Sri Lanka) airport. Am disapointed as it it losing 1 minute per day! I live in Australia and have emailed Seiko here and am awaiting reply. Any suggestions for a fix?

3:53 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Could be magnetized or jus need a minor regulation.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have an seiko 7s26a-0440 s/n 380947 what year is this ?

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 7S26 (Asian Edition with the glass back)is 15 years old and has never missed a beat until now. The "winder" has stuck in so it has gone to be fixed.
I am now wearing its predecessor, bought in the 80s which, apart from losing a minute per day runs perfectly.

10:53 PM  
Blogger williams smith said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Raul Garcia said...

This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.
Seiko Watch Bands

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Seiko Men's Watch said...

The watch itself is fairly typical of the Seiko 5 line. It is 38mm in size including the ... seiko-menswatch.blogspot.com

7:12 PM  
Blogger Bris said...

I have an SK007diver with the same 7s26 movement.

It took it to my local watchmaker (Seiko authorised) because it was running 40 secs/day fast. He offered to regulate it for free but said it would be probably be a waste of time.

The 7s26 movement is notorious for running (very) fast and can be very hard to regulate. If you get a 'bad' (+40s/day) one like I did you are out of luck. There is very little that a watchmaker can do to help.

The newer 24J movements found in the post 2012 Seiko 5 Sports are far better.

5:12 AM  
Blogger lee337 said...

hi Ed,
what do you think of the new Seiko 5 sports line, particularly the SNZG13J1? I've been reading up on this for the past few days and was inclined to order it until I read one of the reviews state it needed to be serviced every few years to ensure its integrity. I already own an snk 793, which is an older model from 2010 and is just a standard Seiko 5 like you had stated can last 25 years with no maintenance. Do you agree these newer Seiko 5 sports do not have enough appeal to upgrade from the older and reliable Seiko 5 I already own? Your reply is highly appreciated.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi ed..
My wife bought me seiko 5 7s26 recenntly at seiko retailer. It come without international warranty as she dont bothered to ask for.. ( women huh ) the date at 3 o'clock and day at 6 o'clock.. I had never see that seiko 5 had this model

11:08 AM  
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7:42 AM  
Blogger beat spacek said...

Picked up a nice looking Seiko 5 recently. Made the mistake of submerging in water at the beach and now it's like a mini fish bowl- half filled with water :( Can it be fixed by my local watch retailer? It's a 21 Jewel automatic. Not sure of age. Please can someone help as I absolutely love the look and feel of this watch and would be sad if had to let it go after such short Length of ownership.
Thanks in advance

10:51 PM  
Blogger Andrew Hansen said...

I've been wearing my Seiko 5 for seven years and I hope to be wearing it for another seven at least. Five minutes slow every three or four days is my average. I've been working as a kitchen manager for four of those seven years and a carpenter the other three. This watch has taken a beating and been submerged in water more times than I can guess,and keeps going strong without any service as of yet. A strong and smart choice for an everyday automatic at a very competitive price.

11:25 PM  
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2:37 PM  

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