From Astron to Zaratsu

The Complete Seiko Buying Guide: Every Current Model Line Explained


March 11, 2019 Watches By

The Seiko catalog is massive, its reach global, its diversity unrivaled. Seiko’s watches occupy many price points, from the rock solid sport watches you’ll find at Walmart up to handcrafted Grand Seikos costing five figures at swanky boutiques. Some of the tastiest Seikos lie in the middle tiers, particularly the bang-for-buck Prospex (sport/tool) and Presage (dress/retro) lines.

Seiko’s technology is equally diverse, with movements ranging from old-school mechanical calibers to GPS-enabled solar powered quartz units that set themselves when crossing time zones. Seiko, quite literally, offers something for everyone.

Seiko is constantly releasing limited editions and/or market-specific models, and watch nerds in the USA are particularly charmed by the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) designation. Seiko aficionados tend to huddle in one corner, sometimes around just one model, like the revered sub-$200 Seiko SKX007 diver or the handsome JDM-only Seiko Alpinist.

Despite Seiko’s diversity, there are a few qualities that tie all Seiko watches together.

Value: Whether you’re buying a last-minute gift at the drugstore or dropping ten figures on a solid gold handmade Grand Seiko, you’ll be getting an impressive value.

Quality: Even the lowest-tier Seikos are well made and will typically outperform their price-point counterparts from other brands.

In-House Movement: From bottom to top, Seiko manufactures all of their movements themselves. You might sound a little silly pointing out that your $45 watch has an in-house caliber, but you wouldn’t exactly be bullshitting either.

Cred: If you showed up at an horological snob-fest with a Grand Seiko, even the snobbiest would acknowledge the value and craft. Pop into your local SCUBA shop with a Seiko diver and they’ll give you more than the time of day. Flash a budget Seiko at Mom, and she’s likely to approve of your frugality and good taste.

Below is a map through the enormous territory that is the Seiko ouvre.

Credor

In 1974, Seiko created the sub-brand Credor to create watches made from precious metals. While it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what sets Credor apart from Grand Seiko, the aesthetics are decidedly their own, and Credor exhibits a propensity to include enamel dials and to decorate their movements at a level that rivals the highest houses in watchmaking. Despite the appearance of independence, Credor is very much a part of the Seiko family.


Price Range: ~$1,798 to ~$85,396

Standout Model: Eichi II in Rose Gold
This time-only watch is insanely simple on the surface, but with a highly decorated Spring-Drive movement it is one of the most technically advanced mechanical watches around. The rose gold model came out in 2018, and this alloy is cold-forged repeatedly in order to withstand the rigors of Zaratsu polishing.

Case Size: 39mm x 10.3mm
Case Material: Specially formulated rose gold with Zaratsu polish
Movement: Spring Drive Credor 7R14 with 60-hour power reserve
Water Resistance: Not listed
MSRP: $41,000

Grand Seiko

Officially splintering off from Seiko in 2016, Grand Seiko is still tightly related to the larger brand, so much so that occasionally Grand Seiko’s most storied craftspeople lend their time-honored techniques to limited edition Seiko Presage models. These techniques include the ancient Zaratsu steel finishing that produces sword-sharp hands and markers, multiple dial finishing and engraving methods, and impeccable in-house movement building. Grand Seiko’s movements range from the sophisticated 9F Quartz unit (+/-10 seconds / year), to robust automatic mechanical engines, fast-paced Hi-Beat versions, and the acclaimed Spring Drive movement, which uses quartz precision to regulate a fully mechanical drive train.

Grand Seiko’s catalog is divided into Elegance, Heritage, and Sport lines.

Grand Seiko Elegance

Price Range: $4,300 – $29,000
Grand Seiko Elegance prices end where many comparable haute horlogerie prices begin. You can get platinum, gold, titanium, or steel cases that house enamel, flecked, or beautifully engraved dials. Keep an eye on the unending stream of limited editions, too.

Standout Model: SBGW321
This time-only watch is serenity on the wrist, with its warm cream dial hovering above a badass hand-wound mechanical movement, which is crafted in-house using Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) for tolerances measured in microns.

Case Size: 37.3mm x 11.6mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 9S64 hand-wound mechanical with 72-hour power reserve
Water Resistance: Splash resistant
Price: $4,300

Grand Seiko Heritage

Price Range: $2,200-$59,000
Honoring the history of Grand Seiko’s nearly 60 years of fine watchmaking, the Heritage collection embraces aesthetics of the past while driving the technology behind the dial into the future.

Standout Model: SBGA211 “Snowflake”
The Spring Drive movement and power reserve indicator offer tasteful amounts of geekery, while the handmade Snowflake dial glistens like fresh powder in the back bowls of your dreams. Zaratsu steel hands and hour markers are insanely sharp against this dial.

Case Size: 41mm x 12.5mm
Case Material: Titanium (with matching titanium bracelet)
Movement: 9R65 Spring Drive with 72-hour power reserve
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $5,800

Grand Seiko Sport

Price Range: $3,000-$14,800
The Grand Seiko Sport watches carry a level of finishing and performance that puts them alongside Rolex’s Professional models, and they do so typically for less money. From big, complex chronographs to classic divers and GMTs, these are thoroughbred tool watches.

Standout Model: SBGN003
Seiko has never shied from imitating Rolex, as evidenced by this Explorer II-style GMT. The fixed 24-hour bezel and GMT hand provide your home time reference, while the Zaratsu hands slice their way across a glossy deep-black dial to show local time.

Case Size: 39mm x 12.1mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel (with stainless bracelet)
Movement: 9F86 high-accuracy, in-house quartz with GMT function
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $3,200

Seiko Prospex Line

Robust and stylish tool watches at incredible prices. As always, keep and eye out for interesting limited editions, and the occasional re-issue of a vintage reference, often costing thousands. (Women’s models are available.)

The Prospex collection (“Prospex” = “professional specifications”) is divided into Sea, Land, Sky and Street.

Prospex Sea

Price Range: $375-$5,400
These Prospex Sea divers range from enormous Radio Controlled units to retro-styled mechanical divers that borrow elements from Seiko’s storied back catalog.

Standout Model: SRP777 “Turtle”
Seiko’s 6309 Turtle was produced from 1976 to 1988, and the SRP777 is an excellent (if not exact) re-issue. Billboard legibility, a disco-ready cushion case, day-date complication, and a ratcheting unidirectional bezel make this is a professional-grade dive watch that can hold its own alongside Rolex and Doxa Subs.

Case Size: 45mm x 14mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 4R36 automatic with 41-hour power reserve
Water Resistance: 200 meters
Price: $495

Prospex Land

Price Range: $375-$395
These field watches from the Prospex Land line offer big value and useful features for hiking, camping and fishing.

Standout Model: SRPA95P9
With huge numerals against a brushed autumnal dial and a crown-activated internal rotating bezel for taking compass readings, this watch is all about getting lost (at least proverbially) in the woods.

Case Size: 42mm x 12.1mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 4R35 automatic with date and 41-hour power reserve
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $375

Prospex Sky

Price Range: $450-$895
Go big with these unabashed pilots chronographs. The Prospex Sky range mashes up Breitling navigational sophistication and Breguet elegance into designs that are 100% Seiko.

Standout Model: SSC631
Big, legible, infinitely detailed, and profoundly technological, this solar-powered chronograph isn’t attending any fancy destination weddings, but it might help you fly to one.

Case Size: 45mm x 11.6mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: Solar-powered V192 chronograph with date and power reserve indicator
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $475

Prospex Street

Price Range: $450
Inspired by some of Seiko’s most heavily armored watches of yesteryear, the Prospex Street lineup is aimed at those taking on the rigors of an active urban life.

Standout Model: SNE537P1
Inspired by the vintage Seiko diver appropriately nicknamed the Tuna Can, this monochromatic urban diver is proud of its hidden solar panels and massive proportions. Bang it around while skateboarding to your morning coffee, and leave it on for a night of club hopping.

Case Size: 46.2mm x 12.7mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel and hard coated plastic
Movement: V157 solar-powered with date
Water Resistance: 200 meters
Price: $450

Seiko Presage Line

Price Range: $425-$2,400
Presage is the dress watch equivalent to Prospex: affordable, durable watches with styles that range from modern and edgy to classic and retro. Seiko releases limited-edition Presage models that feature parts manufactured in the Grand Seiko studios. Women’s models are also available.

Standout Model 1: SRPB46 Cocktail Time
Staring at this brown sunburst dial is like gazing into a glass of aged Santory Yamazaki single malt. The price-to-quality ratio is off the charts, and you can grab one in an assortment of beverage-inspired colorways.

Case Size: 40.5mm x 11.8mm
Case Material: Stainless steel with gold PVD accents
Movement: 4R35 automatic with date and 41-hour power reserve
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Price: $495

Seiko Recraft Series

Price Range: $275-$375
The Recraft Series watches dig deep into Seiko’s closet and come out with some snappy Mid-Century outfits. Affordable, fun, and stylish, they’re also mechanically excellent. There are a number of retro-cool models and colorways to choose from.

Standout Model: SNKP23
This automatic mechanical watch sports a sapphire case back window so you can see the movement do its thing, but the real party is going on around front. A handful of funky dial options are available.

Case Size: 39.5mm x 11.8mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 7S26 automatic mechanical with day/date
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Price: $275 (often deeply discounted)

Seiko 5 Sport Line

Price Range: ~$65-$260
In the 1960s Seiko debuted the Seiko 5 line, promising outdoorsy folks the following: (1) automatic winding, (2) a day/date window, (3) water resistance, (4) a recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position, and (5) a durable steel case and bracelet. Today’s Sport 5s offer the same. It’s impossible to keep track of all the Sport 5 models out there, but you’re sure to find something that appeals. (It’s also nearly impossible to find all the Seiko 5 models available on Seiko’s website — often Amazon is the best place to look).

Standout Model: SNK803
This is 100% field watch: straightforward design, highly legible, minute markers emphasized, old-school looks and size.

Case Size: 37mm x 11mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 7S26B automatic (no hacking, no hand-winding) with quick-set day and date.
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Price: $195 (often deeply discounted)

Seiko Astron Line

Price Range: ~$1,350+
In 1969, Seiko devastated the Swiss watch industry with an innovative quartz movement inside a watch called the Astron. Still aggressively pursuing the latest technology, today’s Astron line watches are 100% solar-powered, GPS-connected, and brimming with features.

Standout Model: 5X Series SSH009J1
Seen taking a serious beating on the wrist Novak Djokovic, the 5X not only changes time zones with you, but also allows you to swap home and travel times between the main and sub-dial at the push of a button (called Time Transfer). The movement also offers dual time and world time functions, AM/PM indicator, perpetual calendar (showing the correct day and date until the year 2100), as well as indicators for power level and GSP-sync.

Case Size: 42.9mm x 12.2mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 5X53 solar-powered with GPS sync, Time Transfer, perpetual calendar and more
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $2,500

Seiko Premier Line

Price Range: $500+
Kinetic, mechanical, solar and quartz, the Premier line from Seiko are formal yet modern dress watches for men and women. As always, the quality and value are unrivaled.

Standout Model: SRPA17J2
A beautifully engraved dial, blue steel hands, narrow roman numerals, and long lugs give this tuxedo-compatible watch heaps of charm. A rock solid mechanical movement keeps it traditional.

Case Size: 40.6mm x 12mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: 4R35 automatic with date and hand winding
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $670

Seiko Coutura Line

Price Range: $350-$695
These solar-powered watches link up to atomic clock references for the most accurate timekeeping on Earth. The Coutura watches are sometimes diamond-studded, sometimes laced with carbon-fiber patterns, sometimes both. They’re always sleek and never retro. Ladies models are also available.

Standout Model: Radio-Synced Solar Watch
This watch will automatically sync to atomic time references, correct its calendar until December 31st, 2099, wisely manage its own power reserves, and take chronograph readings down to 1/5th of a second.

Case Size: 45.3mm x 11.5mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel with integrated steel bracelet
Movement: 8B92 solar-powered, radio synced, chronograph, world time, dual time zones
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $595

Seiko Diamond Collection

Price Range: $375-$650
If garish women’s jewelry is your thing, the Diamond Collection isn’t the worst place to look. Genuine mother of pearl dials, real diamonds, and robust technical specs at incomprehensibly low prices means that these little dazzlers offer classic Seiko value.

Stand Out Model: All of these watches stand out.

Seiko Core Range

Price Range: $40+
Think of this as the widest net Seiko casts onto its global consumer base. These are the one’s you’ll find on the rotating displays at Target and on millions of wrists around the world. With models ranging from huge solar chronographs to retro-styled men’s dress watches to little sparkly pink things that, apparently, also tell the time, the Seiko Core Range is worth sifting through for gems. (This range is difficult to search for via the Seiko website, and Amazon is generally the best bet for finding these types of watches.)

Standout Model: Seiko Solar Men’s Leather Watch SNE473P1
This field watch runs a solar powered quartz movement for dead-accurate timekeeping, and the day/date display helps keep your phone in your pocket.

Case Size: 44mm x 11mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: Solar-powered quartz
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Price: $250 (though often discounted to around $100)

The Complete Rolex Buying Guide

We break down every Rolex model in the modern lineup. Read the Story

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