There are watches, which cost an arm and a leg and offer nothing. They just are, that’s that. There are also watches, which provide the right finishing and specs for the money. And then there are watches, which cost little but offer a ton of the good thing.
In the watch community, there are more than enough people who’ll tell you that in the last of these three categories, Seiko is king. Are they right? Well, let’s find out.
Seiko introduced the “5” collection as the Sportsmatic 5 back in 1963. Wherever you look for an answer as to what the 5 stands for, every source has a different theory. One thing that’s for sure is that it stands for 5 key features of each Seiko 5. The explanation I’m leaning towards is that it stands for:
- Day-date display
- Seiko Diashock device
- Diaflex unbreakable mainspring
Some say that the recessed crown is one of the 5 features, but since not all of them have it, I’d say that’s probably not the case. Anyway, whether or not these are the actual 5 features that Seiko had in mind when naming the collection, one thing is for sure: each Seiko 5 offers more than that. They always have tended to over-deliver.
The “5” is a favorite wherever it was or is available. In the late 1960s, Seikos were popular with American troops going to Vietnam. MACV-SOG operatives bought theirs privately until the government ordered a number of these watches from Seiko. They all offered the necessary features, while at the same time, the watches wouldn’t attract any unwanted attention.
I’ve got a personal connection to the Seiko 5. Back in 1983, my grandfather was working on a contract in Iraq – the state-owned electric company that he worked for was contracted by Siemens to modernize power lines in and around Baghdad. On one of the off-days in the city, grandpa bought two Seiko 5s, one for himself, and one for my father. Both watches weren’t treated lightly, and both were daily beaters. Extreme heat, cold, dust, water – they survived it all. This personal connection is what led me to have this particular watch.
The watch I’m reviewing is an SNXS79K. K-suffix references are typical for entry-level Seikos made for all markets except Japan. Japanese domestic market (JDM) Seiko 5 and SKX models have a J-suffix reference. Grey market specimens can be found in the US and Europe, however, they won’t be covered by Seiko’s warranty. Unless the seller offers any warranty of their own, there’s no warranty on these.
While JDM J-suffix references are made in Japan, the K-suffix international models roll out of Seiko’s facilities elsewhere. Previously, it was Malaysia and Singapore, currently – as per the sticker I’ve peeled off of mine – it’s China.
A common feature in 5s for a few decades now was a day wheel in two languages. Most had it in English and French, or English and German. Current J-suffix models have it in English and Japanese. So, I’ve no idea why my (theoretically) European market model has it in English and Arabic. I don’t know if Seiko has on purpose delivered these to Europe, or was my watch some glitch in their exports, and was meant to be sold in the Middle East. Technically, any non-JDM SNXS79 is an SNXS79K, so that’s possible.
The case (and how it wears)
- Diameter – 37 mm
- Thickness – 11.5 mm
- Lug to lug – 43 mm
- Lug width – 19 mm
- WR – 30 m
- Crystal – Seiko Hardlex (both sides)
The SNXS models share the same case with the SNXF and SNXG. The case is stainless steel, with a recessed crown and a screw-down display back.
While the case is all polished, it certainly doesn’t fall short on finishing. The rather subtle chamfer between the top surface and the flanks, narrowing down to the lug tips, gives the watch a sleek and streamlined appearance.
I’ve heard several reviewers call the SNXS models the most alternative to the Rolex Datejust, given the similarities. Although frankly, I see none of that in the case. It’s entirely a thing of its own. OK, there’s one Rolex-ish thing about it, that being a “bubbleback” profile, as the case back has a tall, sloped edge, creating something of a bowl, with the rest of the watch sitting well above it. However, even that’s not a Rolex-specific thing. In case any rumors might have unsettled you, rest assured – the SNXS models aren’t a homage to anything.
The crown is small, but given that the movement doesn’t hand-wind anyway, you don’t need a bigger one. While some don’t like the fact that it’s recessed, it does wear comfortably. There’s just no way for it to dig into your wrist.
The case back has a high dome to it. In any larger and/or heavier watch, that tends to be a problem. Not here. The center of gravity sits relatively low here, as improbable as it may sound. And it’s light. So, no chance of it feeling top-heavy. I’ve seen some people complain about the tall case back, leaving a considerable gap between the top of the lugs, the bracelet, and the wrist. Yeah, it’s there.
One thing I don’t like about the back is the fact of placing the technical markings on the underside of the crystal. I’m sure it makes sense from a practical standpoint in production, but it looks cheap. Dear Seiko, please settle for acid-etching that stuff on the circumference.
The case is equipped with Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex crystal on the front and on the display back. While Hardlex is tougher than an ordinary mineral crystal, have no illusions – it’ll eventually scratch. Sure, you can get it buffed out by a watchmaker, or you can replace it.
As the website from which this one came – monsterwatches.eu – points out, in the SNXS case, the crystal is pressed between the main bloc and the bezel. That means that the bezel has to be removed to change the crystal. This can’t be done without leaving marks. So, if you want a sapphire crystal installed, you have to buy that separately, and either settle for a DIY solution or have someone replace it for you.
Like most of the non-Sports models, this one is rated water-resistant to 30 m. Technically, it’s only splashproof. However, I’ve seen people submerge – even swim with – these watches, so I presume that it’s relatively safe to expose them to water. However, it all depends on whether you want to take your chances or not. Seiko understates the water-resistance of their cases. If that pattern extends to the 5s as well, you’re probably safe if you forget to take the watch off before going for a swim. As an ordinary precaution, I’d still advise protecting it from unnecessary risk.
As most 5s are, the SNXS79 is equipped with an all-brushed, folded link bracelet with hollow end links, held together by flat pins. Yes, it’s light and rattly, but it’s not uncomfortable. It’s miles ahead of the stock bracelet in the Vostok Amfibia, that’s for sure. It pinched a hair maybe once since I’ve got it.
I’ve heard claims that it’s made from a different steel alloy than the case. Sure, the brushed finish plus a lightweight folded link structure can give you that impression. However, without any evidence, the claim can’t be confirmed.
I must confess that I don’t like the clasp. The quality of the finishing on the surface and the stamped Seiko logo is lackluster. You don’t get a twin-trigger release here, not even a safety latch – just a friction-fit clasp like in the old days. Sure, it works. While I don’t mind the way it works as long as it works, if you’re unable to settle for lack of added security, you’ll be better off swapping this bracelet for something else.
As far as I know, you can get cotter pin, solid link bracelets to fit many 5s on AliExpress. Some of them can be used with the original end links. Some will need a little filing down here and there on their end links.
The 19mm lugs don’t make it easy to find a replacement bracelet. However, the SNXS79 would also look great on any black, brown, or taupe leather – the simpler, the better.
I’ve learned to live with the original bracelet. After a few days of constant wear, I just got used to it. Sure, it isn’t the height of engineering, but it’s nowhere near as foul as the Jubilee-style bracelet that Seiko used on 5s in the 1970s and 1980s. Now, these were the hair-pinching contraptions that were just meant to land up in the bin. This bracelet is nothing like it. For the moment, I feel no need to replace it.
One argument against the stock bracelet is the fact that it’s brushed, which not necessarily plays along with the all-polished case. I have the same combination on my Casio A168. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me.
As is the case with the majority of entry-level Seikos, this one’s powered by the good, old cal. 7S26 with 21 jewels, a power reserve of 41h, and 21,600 vibrations per hour. It doesn’t hand-wind, and it doesn’t have a hack feature. Quickset day, quickset date.
This particular version is the 7S26C. It only differs from the 1st generation 7S26A in two details: the shape of the rotor has been changed (in the 7S26B), and the previous regulator has been replaced with the slightly more potent Etachron. On paper, it’s nothing special.
However, in practice, it’s an excellent movement. The rotor action is quiet. Sure, you can hear it, but that’s that. A considerable advantage of this one is Seiko’s Magic Lever bidirectional winding system, first introduced in 1959. It’s simply a role model for winding efficiency. As someone I know spoke of the Seiko 5, you can just rest on the couch all day, and get up only when you need to, and it’ll still give that movement just enough motion of the rotor to keep it going.
Some might not be OK with the lack of a hand-winding capability. However, let me assure you that the Magic Lever compensates for that.
If there’s one problem I could point at here, it’s the action of the day-date display. It’s slow. Very slow. The date mechanism engages at 9 PM, starts switching some time past 11, and completes the switch by just after midnight. The weekday wheel, however, takes longer. It engages before midnight and ends the switch sometime before 4 AM.
This has to do with the fact that with 14 positions (display in 2 languages), it has to cycle through two positions. Other than that, no issues there. The display is undoubtedly lovely, with working days in black, Saturday in blue, and Sunday in red font.
If there’s one thing that’s obvious about the Seiko 7S26, it’s that it isn’t pretty. It’s certainly not as hideous as the Miyota 821A, which I would consider the Fiat Multipla of modern watchmaking as far as the looks go. Still, the 7S26 doesn’t look bad. I’d prefer it under a solid back, but I’m OK with it as it is.
The 7S26 has been recently discontinued – the entry-level Seikos are being upgraded to a day-date version of the 4R35 (aka NH35A), the 4R36. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. The 4R series is better, but this also means an increase in prices. While an upgrade is a good thing, in this case, I’d go with the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” credo.
I’ve left the best for last. The SNXS79 is all about the dial. When it comes to watches in this price range, Seiko simply offers the best quality. And as far as the 5s go, the way I see it, the SNXS79 dial is the One Dial To Rule Them All. I’d describe the color as a grey sunburst. In different lighting, it changes tone from a warm slate to a graphite/anthracite tone. In that manner, combined with the baton hands, it reminds me of the “MACV-SOG” 6619-8060.
Meanwhile, the lume-filled rectangular hour markers, paired with this color, are a nod to the legendary 62MAS. For whatever reason, the day I received it, on my way to the market I just had to listen to some Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The whole furniture is excellently finished. Almost all polished – except the day/date aperture frame. This one’s seasoned with a matte finish on the inner facet, giving a most welcome added depth to the whole dial. In certain lighting, the polished features almost seem black. And that’s when it becomes obvious that Seiko did it just right.
Of course, you get the customary applied Seiko logo and the “shield” logo of the 5-series.
And then, there’s the lume. Seiko’s Lumibrite is known to be decent. And it lives up to its reputation here. It charges up quickly and it glows like a torch. In terms of the strength and lasting of the glow, it beats the Vostok Amfibia.
For the money, I seriously doubt there’s any dial that comes even close to that level. And there probably isn’t.
Whenever the SNXS79 shows up for sale, it doesn’t take long to be out of stock again. They just fly off the shelves, not unlike the way more expensive Presage Cocktail Times. Perhaps not as much as SARB models used to, but still, you’ve got to keep a weathered eye on the availability or you might miss your window. I don’t know how long these will be available new. Mine was the last specimen that Rob at Monsterwatches had in stock.
The European MSRPs on 5s are of the nasty sort compared to the average prices for them in the US. 140, 150 euro…come on. In the US, they’re available for 70-90 USD, but given the shipping costs, import duties and VAT, buying from the US isn’t a good idea. Unless you live in the US, obviously.
Rob had them on sale for 95 euro, 118.50 including shipping to PL. As far as EU MSRPs go, it’s a good deal.
Speaking of shipping, the corona panic took its toll here. I can’t blame Rob; once he shipped it, it was out of his hands. Presumably, because the reliable shipping companies like DPD and UPS don’t give squat about the smaller entrepreneurs and put up idiotic thresholds for pickup service availability, the watch was shipped via B2C Europe.
B2C is possibly the most hated and inept shipping middleman out there. B2C promises delivery in 7-10 working days. Yeah, right. The parcel has been bogged down at their warehouse for 14 long days, then handed over to another intermediary, who handed it to their branch in PL, then shipped it via the Polish Post’s courier service. All of that took almost 4 weeks.
I’ve been a bit disappointed to see the watch in bubble wrap instead of a Seiko box. However, since Rob is the source of entry-level Seikos for the Seikoholics in Germany, I asked a German friend of mine about that. It turns out that Rob never ships in Seiko boxes, as he doesn’t even order them to keep the cost down. I guess I’m OK with that.
Since the shipping issue seems to be a matter of the current circumstances, I’d say that Rob’s shop is an OK source to buy a Seiko. If you need parts or want to order your Seiko with customizations/mods, Rob offers all of that.
The shipping left me furious, but the watch compensated for that.
The Seiko 5 is unbeatable in terms of bang for the buck. And no other Seiko 5 beats the SNXS79 as far as the dial goes. It really is that good.
Along with the Seagull 1963, it’s the most versatile watch I own. It doesn’t look out of place with any outfit.
It’ll survive a weekend trip, and if older Seiko 5s are any indicative, presumably even an actively spent week or two off. It’s affordable, comfortable, and durable, and any repairs should be affordable if they’re ever needed. It’s just a rock-solid working man’s watch, and for the money, that’s as good as it gets.
What do you think of the Seiko 5 SNXS79? Let me know in the comments below.