Almost every watch collector has heard of or even owned, the Seiko 5.
They were made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Seiko, but eventually, became an amazing line of watches in their own right.
They’re reliable, good-looking, and EXTREMELY affordable – some of the cheapest automatic watches anyone can buy. And they’re made by Seiko, a brand highly recognized for its exceptional quality and value.
What really makes them so amazing is their value for the money. Don’t confuse affordable with cheap. While they might not cost a lot, often around $100, they’re built well and have hundreds of unique designs from dress, field, sport, and dive watches.
And best of all? Many of them look way more expensive than they really are.
Great watches don’t have to be expensive. That’s why I’ve prepared for you a list of the most expensive-looking Seiko 5 models. Let’s get into it!
One of the first mechanical watches I ever bought for myself, the SNXS79 (full review), has an extremely luxurious and rich-looking sunburst charcoal bezel.
It looks slightly different, depending on the lighting angle and intensity, which adds to the dynamic charm and visual depth of this watch.
It has a beautiful, all-polished case with dimensions including a 37mm diameter that is on the smaller side by modern standards, but at 13mm thick, sits slightly taller than other watches of this size. This adds just the right amount of wrist presence for almost any size wrist, big or small.
Thanks to its rather muted and monochromatic appearance, It looks great on a variety of straps and works just fine as either an everyday watch or a dress watch saved for special occasions.
Ahh, the SNKL23, the seventy-five dollar watch that looks like a million bucks, according to Hodinkee.
Well, they’re not wrong.
Its standout feature is the pinstripe design on the glossy black dial which adds a slight touch of visual interest and breaks the monotony of an otherwise extremely simple looking watch.
The case has a combination of both brushed and polished finishes that are done impeccably well; almost a little too good for the price. Its contrasting finishes are machined precisely, allowing the case to catch and reflect light beautifully from any angle.
The dauphine hands add a feeling of luxury, with just a touch of lume inside which is subtle enough to fly under the radar, but pronounced enough to help the watch read slightly more visibly in the dark – helping to establish this watch as the perfect affordable one-watch collection.
I challenge you to find a strap that this watch doesn’t look good on. And with the right strap, it can work for any dress situation – formal or casual.
Pick up the SNKL23 if you want an absolutely stunning dress watch that will surprise anyone who finds out this watch only costs around $100.
The SNKL45 is becoming harder and harder to find at a good price as it starts to creep up in popularity.
And it’s no surprise, as it makes a great alternative to the discontinued Seiko SARB033.
It features a slightly ‘boxier’ case design with lugs that protrude geometrically in an almost Rolex-like fashion, making it wear a bit larger, and sportier than its 37mm diameter would suggest.
Having a watch case with so many precisely machined edges that vary in their finish, from brushed to polish, is rare in most watches, let alone watches this affordable. The top-brushed lugs are accented by a polished bevel that really adds some visual dimensions when viewing this watch from different angles.
The dial appears black at first but exposes itself as a rich, dark dark sunburst brown when exposed to direct light. A matching black date wheel ensures continuity throughout the entirety of the dial, with no harsh visual breaks like some other watches tend t have.
It has dauphine hands and a surprising red second hand that adds a pop of color and sportiness, breaking the watch out of the mold of all o the other plain and simple dress watches on the market.
If you want a watch that is simple and clean enough to be worn as a dress watch, but still sporty enough to be rocked everyday, the SNKL41 may be the perfect choice for you.
The SNK355 (full review) has the feeling of a Rolex Oyster perpetual, without the hefty price tag.
The brushed case lugs contrast with the high-polished bezel, and all-silver dial, pairing with the beautiful (although quite uncomfortably hair-pulling) mixed-metal bracelet.
Together, the design elements of different metal surfaces come together to create a package that has an extremely luxurious feel, while still retaining all of the design elements that make a Seiko 5.
As a subtle nod to the Seiko 5 heritage, the dial has the Seiko 5 badge logo across it, but it’s only noticeable up close, and in direct lighting and doesn’t distract in any way. In fact, I think the subtle texture adds a spark of interest that a plain silver dial otherwise might lack.
At only 37mm in diameter, and 11mm thick, the SNK355 sits close to the wrist, making it an extremely dressy-looking piece that is just screaming to be worn on an exotic leather strap like a crocodile or lizard.
Overall, if you want a great-looking Seiko 5 that nods to the brand’s heritage, while almost looking like an entry-level Rolex to those who are none the wiser, the SNK355 may be the Seiko 5 for you.
The SNKL15 is a lesser-known silver dial variation of the previously mentioned SNKL23.
It retains exactly all of the same dimensions and stylistic queues that make the SNKL23 so great, just with a silvery-white dial instead of black.
Because it’s slightly overshadowed by the 23, the SNKL15 isn’t quite as expensive and can be found slightly more affordably.
Finally, we have a slightly dressier version of the previously mentioned SNKL41.
Because of its extremely simple and clean white dial, the SNKL41 is a blank slate. This watch will look absolutely perfect on any strap, and is the perfect watch to dress up with a dressy exotic leather strap, or dress down with a bright and fun colored NATO.
At 37mm, and with a crown at 3:00, the SNKL41 disappears on the wrist and is more than comfortable enough for everyday wear.
Pick up the SNKL41 if you want a clean, minimalist white dial watch that can pair well with quite literally any outfit or watch strap.
The SNX111 has an extremely minimal design with little to no visual distractions. Because of this, it remains rather understated, in a very classy way, and won’t attract any unwanted attention.
It’s one of the few Seiko 5 models that features a crown at the traditional 3:00 position, as most Seiko 5s have one at 4:00.
It has a milky silvery-white dial that has a slight sunburst effect but isn’t so pronounced that it becomes distracting.
The hour markers are darker than silver, almost black, which makes them more visible and readable when contrasted against the beautiful silver dial.
Throw this watch on a shiny black gator strap and you have a perfect dress watch, or on a colorful NATO and you’ve got yourself a great weekend beater. Either way, it looks amazing.
With that said, the SNX111 has been discontinued and is extremely difficult to find. Check out the previously mentioned SNK355 for a very similar-looking alternative.
Is the Seiko 5 Worth Buying?
Yes, the Seiko 5 is worth buying.
Seiko 5s include specifications, such as a japanese in-house workhorse movement, and a level of finish, and attention to detail that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere in the ~$100 price range.
Seiko 5s are often compared to watches much more expensive than they are for their subtle, understated designs that give a luxurious look. Their combinations of various finishings, brushed and polish, on their cases and bracelets is something that only Seiko seems to go the extra length to do at such an affordable price point.
With that said, the Seiko 5s are not perfect. They have a hardlex crystal which isn’t as scratch resistant as a sapphire, their included bracelets and straps are mediocre, and sometimes downright uncomfortable, and the included 7S26 is reliable, albeit basic, and can be inaccurate.
All in all, the Seiko 5s offer incredible value for the money, and there is little competition for automatic watches around the ~$100 price point.
Did Seiko Discontinue the Seiko 5?
No, Seiko hasn’t discontinued the Seiko 5. They are still in production, however, Seiko has no longer released any new 37mm original Seiko ‘5’ badge models. Instead, Seiko is releasing new Seiko 5 Sports watches, such as their SRPD 5KX dive watch, SRPE DressKX, SRPG field watch, and SRPH29 pilot watch models.
These new Seiko 5 Sports are slightly more expensive than the older, smaller Seiko 5 models, coming in closer to $200, however, they have a noticable step up in build quality, including an upgraded 4R36 movement with hacking and hand-winding.
What Does the 5 in Seiko 5 Mean?
While this has changed over time, the 5 in Seiko 5 represented the original 5 elements that were present in every watch:
- An automatic movement
- Day and date display
- A recessed crown at 4:00
- A diaflex mainspring and diashock movement
How long will a Seiko 5 Automatic Last?
As long as you take care of it, avoid excessively dropping or bumping it, and avoid water damage, a Seiko 5 can last a lifetime.
Seiko 5 watches are durable, and their 7S26/4R36 movements are reliable workhorses known to withstand some abuse and survive it.
However, while the watch will survive for generations, if properly looked after, you will need to have the movement serviced by an experienced watchmaker. This is the case with every mechanical watch, as their series of tiny mechanical parts need to occasionally be cleaned, and lubcricated to run properly.
With that said, the movements in Seiko 5 watches are known to last exceptionally long without ever needing a service. For example, my grandfather’s gold Seiko 5 from 1989 has been passed down to me, and 33 years later, it still runs perfectly fine, without ever having been serviced.
Not all will be so lucky to make it this long, but you can rest assured that Seiko’s movements are some of the most reliable out there.
What Movement is in the Seiko 5?
Seiko 5s typically use either the entry-level 7S26, or slightly upgraded 4R36 movement. Both movements are made in-house by Seiko, a rarity in affordable watchmaking.
Both are very solid entry-level movements, known for their reliability over long periods of time, and diashock technology which helps the movement survive minor drops, bumps, and falls. Although not the most accurate, and not the most decorated, these cut corners help keep costs down in the movement, and in the watch.
The Final Verdict
It’s hard to go wrong with a watch with such classic dimensions that looks great on any wrist, looks great on just about any strap and happens to be one of the most affordable automatic watches you can buy.
They’re mostly unique designs made by Seiko, a very well-regarded company in the watch world, and while these watches aren’t top of the line (for the price, you can’t expect them to be) they’ve become a bit of an icon in their own right.
The kings and queens of value in the mechanical watch world, if you will.
Although my personal favorite Seiko 5 is the SNXS79, the price and stock of the watch do fluctuate quite a bit.
Fortunately. there are hundreds of other Seiko 5 models to choose from. I urge you to check them out on Amazon and find one you like if none of these tickle your fancy.
Is there a Seiko 5 you think should be added to this list? Let me know in the comments below!– Anthony