The Durable, Reliable and Affordable Seiko 5

There is a tendency in the watch industry for companies to constantly be inventing, introducing new products, and making sure that the public knows that everything they have for sale is cutting edge and new.

There’s a place for that, but sometimes, there’s also a place for the tried and true, the proven, and the reliable.  Flashy watches are nice, and new complications and features are always welcome.  At the same time, there’s always a market for something that looks good, keeps accurate time and is generally reliable.

That watch is the Seiko 5.

A vintage Seiko 5
A vintage Seiko 5

The Seiko 5 was introduced in 1963 and is still being made today.  That’s an incredible lifespan for a watch that was introduced as an everyday timepiece that was intended to meet 5 criteria:

  • Self-winding automatic movement
  • Water resistance
  • Day/Date
  • Durable case
  • Recessed crown

That was it; the watch was intended to meet those five objectives and was named for the number of them.  The movement is the 7S26 that was developed in-house by Seiko.  Originally, the movement and the watches were made in Japan.  Today, the Japanese-designed watch is made in Malaysia.

It’s pretty incredible that the Seiko 5 has endured for as long as it has.  It’s a workhorse, to be sure, but there’s nothing glamorous about it.  The watch does have its detractors, particularly in that a lot of people do not like the straps that come with the versions that don’t include a stainless steel bracelet.  That’s a minor quibble, I think; if you don’t like the strap, you can easily add another one in its place.

The water resistance on the Seiko 5 is OK.  It’s rated at 30 meters, and that means you can go showering with it and perhaps swim a bit, but that’s all.

seiko 5 automatic
The Seiko 5 automatic

You also cannot wind the Seiko 5 manually.  It’s automatic watch, and you’ll be expected to wear it often.  If not, it will run down, as the term “power reserve” wasn’t really given much thought in 1963 when the watch was designed.  If you wear it daily, it will run consistently.  But don’t think that you can take it off for three days and come back to find it still running.

On the other hand, the Seiko 5 has a history of running reliably, and there are people who have been wearing them for decades without having them serviced or replaced.  They just run and run and run.

Not only that, but the price is pretty amazing for an automatic watch.  There are a number of different models of the Seiko 5 with varying prices, but the high end is about U.S. $150 and the low end is about U.S. $60.  That’s remarkable.  You can find other automatic watches in that price range, but most of them are Chinese-made models that are not particularly reliable.

If you are looking for a watch that will be suitable for every day use, that has a self-winding movement, that has timeless (if unremarkable) looks, and is likely to just keep running pretty much forever without any maintenance, then the Seiko 5 is a good bet.

seiko presage