Seiko 5: Why It Deserves Respect

You may recall a recent post discussing what a truly high-end watch is and isn't. 

You may also recall my previous post where I suggested that Seiko may have made more technical contributions than Rolex and even be more "in-house" than Rolex.

Well, today I am here to tell you exactly why and how the Seiko 5 (and Seiko in general) proves my case(s), and why it's easily the least expensive high-end watch money can buy.

First the criteria:

  • Seiko has pedigree, founded in 1881 and still has descendants of the original family within the company
  • Seiko produces the majority of it's movements entirely in-house and at various times in their history, were 100% in-house
  • Seiko has various vintage pieces within its collection of watches
  • Seiko makes watches in Stainless Steel and in the correct size
  • A great number of it's movements are mechanical movements

Hublot, one of many "supposedly" high-end brands do not meet that same criteria. And Hublot is not the only one.

Second, their technical horological contributions:

The most famous contribution, but a negative one to purists, is the invention of the Quartz movement.

It's a negative contribution because it started the "quartz crisis". The Quartz crisis caused a serious decline in business for many, many other companies. And if it weren't for big conglomerates like Swatch Group, who eventually bought out companies like Omega, Zenith, Blancpain, TAG Heuer, etc., they would have been literally gone.

But despite not being gone, these companies and others turned into very boring companies, no longer in-house innovators (stuffed with generic ETA movements, also owned by Swatch), making generic watches not worth their MSRPs.

And while some (Zenith, Heuer, etc.) are at least *trying* to turn things around, the damage was done.

But Quartz movements didn't hurt Seiko, it took their business to a new level. Quartz movements are still the most precise and we have Seiko to thank.

But besides Quartz movements, Seiko also invented their own in-house automatic Chronograph: they were the 3rd place finisher behind Zenith's El Primero and Heuer's c.11 in 1969, and recently (ironically), sold one of their in-house chronographs to TAG Heuer, which is now the basis of TAG's Chronograph revival calibre 1887.

How long was it before various big brands were able to develop their own in-house Automatic Chronograph?

Seiko can also be proud to be the only watch manufacturer with every watch-making expertise: Quartz, Solar, Kinetic, Mechanical and Spring Drive

Their Spring Drive Technology is amazing, period. Seiko announced it in 1997 and presented the manual-winding version of the Spring Drive in 1998. The automatic version was released 2004, and in 2005 the first Seiko Spring Drive self-winding watch was on the market. And in 2007 Seiko released the Spring Drive Chronograph.

The Spring Drive is possible because of serious advancements in almost every single aspect of watchmaking, but the main key for it's accuracy (apparently ten times higher than any other mechanical timepiece), is the Tri-synchro regulator. This innovation replaces the escapement, the weakest and the most vulnerable part of traditional mechanical movements, which provides higher stability, durability and precision.

It has a one-way motion, which is powered by the main spring and controls the speed of the glide wheel and the watch hands using electromagnetic braking. It has a circular movement, which allows the central second hand to move permanently with a fairly unique glide-motion (sweeping like, with no "ticks").

But wait, there's more!

Seiko is also responsible for Kinetic movements. These movements, are among the best Seiko can offer. Kinetic technology was presented at Baselworld 1986, using the trial name ‘AGM’. It was the world’s first movement that converts the kinetic energy of the body motion into electrical energy that powers a watch.

It has a special rotor, which converts the energy from the wearer’s motion into the electrical power that supplies the quartz battery. This means that after an initial charge (by shaking the watch), any additional consideration of the energy is not necessary, so long as it's worn on the wrist. Even if it sits longer than the energy storage allows, the watch will start beating at the same moment it's shaken again.

Referring to a previous post, Rolex (among many other companies), has nothing in it's repertoire that can compete with that. Nothing.

And at Seiko's low-end, lives their famous Seiko 5.

The '5' in the name refers to 5 important characteristics: water resistant, day, date, automatic, and shock resistant. All Seiko 5's provide it's owner those features. And let's not forget, these watches are all in-house.

At a price of well under $100, that's crazy!

Again, many, many supposed "high-end" companies do not make a watch that can compete.

Replace the boring Rolex-imitation strap with a nice quality alligator strap, which will not increase the total investment that much, and you will have yourself a pretty nice mechanical watch, guilt free that will last you a very long time.

The Seiko 5 has also been extended to a more sporty range, which increases the cost some, but is still a steal.

To that end, I say we all should have at least one Seiko 5 in our collection... modify the strap, add on many straps for that matter, have fun with it!

But most of all, we all owe the Seiko 5 (and Seiko, too, I suppose) some respect!