Since the Seiko SARB033 and SARB035 have been discontinued, many watch collectors have continued to seek an alternative to this pair of extremely expensive-looking, once affordable, Japanese watches.
If you just want the simple and straightforward answer, my favorite SARB alternatives at the moment are:
They were once a fantastic value, often available for under $400, and at that price point, they offered tons of bang for buck. Now, they’ve become much harder to find, and as a result, their prices have become ridiculously inflated, sometimes selling for an insane $800 – $1,000.
While Seiko hasn’t released a direct replacement to their SARB lineup, they’ve released quite a few watches that are comparable – and even some with a few improvements.
Keep on reading to learn more about what makes these such great alternatives, and others to consider.
Top Choice: Orient Star Automatic RE-AU0004B00B
The Orient Star Automatic lineup is an extremely underrated series of dress watches that hits all of the same notes that the SARB did, and maybe some even better.
I own both the SARB033 and the Star RE-AU0004B00B, and despite the fact that the SARB was known for its finish and attention to detail, side-by-side, the Orient Star’s level of finish is even more refined.
Its multi-faceted beveled indices paired with the glossy black dial reflect light beautifully, and its case and bracelet have a wider variety of contrasting finishes.
This results in a watch that looks much more expensive than it really is.
The bracelet is solid, even more so than the bracelet included with the SARB, and the overall design comes together in a package that is modern, yet sophisticated.
Check out my full review of the Orient Star, where I’ve compared it directly with my SARB033.
One thing the Orient Star lacks that the SARB embodied, however, is simplicity. Its power reserve adds a bit of complication that may be a bit too overdone for some.
If you’re looking for a watch that’s a bit more understated, but still has a refined design palette, that’s where our next picks come in…
Budget Choice: Seiko 5 SNKL45 & SNKL41
The Seiko 5 SNKL45 and SNKL41 are the most affordable alternatives on this list.
Don’t let their affordable price tag fool you, however. These Seiko 5s still offer incredible value for the money, and like most Seiko 5s, they look much more expensive than they really are.
While Seiko has seemed to have abandoned sub 40mm watches in most of their modern releases, the 37.5mm of the Seiko 5 SNKL45 and SNKL41 will get you roughly the same dimensions as the SARB when worn on the wrist.
Perfect for those like myself who prefer a smaller, more traditionally-sized dress watch. This is also a great dress watch for those with smaller wrists.
While the finishing of the brushed and polished surfaces on the case of these Seiko 5s might not be quite as good as the more expensive Seiko SARB, they’re still excellent compared to other watches in this price range, and others that cost hundreds of dollars more.
Frederique Constant Classic Index Automatic
Possibly the best dress watches under $1,000, the Frederique Constant Classic Index looks as if you took the SARB from the Japanese market, and refined it just a bit.
Coming in at under $1,000, the Constant Classic is more expensive than the SARB, meaning it may not be the greatest value replacement. However, the extra cost isn’t for naught, as the extra level of refinement in; with a thickness of just 10mm, keeps this watch slim and elegant, fitting effortlessly under the cuff of a shirt.
With a 39.5mm diameter and a 46mm lug-to-lug, this has a modern dress-watch sizing that gives room for the beautifully executed dial, and high-polished case to shine. Pun intended.
Seiko SZSB012 & SZSB011
Essentially a more affordable version of the SARB033, the SZSB012 takes all of the design queues of the SARB but cuts a few corners in its overall fit and finish to keep costs down.
First off, it has a slightly downgraded 4R35 movement. While not technically as good as the Seiko SARB’s 6R15 movement, the 4R35 movement has the upside of being more affordable, and common. This means it’ll likely be cheaper to have the watch serviced than its 6R15 counterpart.
The SZSB012 also disregards some of the design elements that made the SARB so great, like its multi-leveled and multi-finished case design, so that may be a bummer to some who wanted the SARB for its wow factor, and level of refinement.
Coming in slightly larger at 39.9mm, with less variety of finished surfaces, and without any lume whatsoever, it wears quite a bit visually larger, and more subdued than the SARB on the wrist.
Overall, if you don’t mind an ever-so-slightly larger, no-frills dress watch that embodies a similar style as the SARB, the Seiko SZSB012 may be for you. Similarly, the white dial SZSB011 makes a great 035 replacement.
Seiko Prospex Alpinist SBDC087
While the Seiko SARB033 and 035 have officially been discontinued, Seiko hasn’t stopped releasing amazing watches altogether.
In fact, their modern Prospex Alpinist lineup is some of my favorites yet. If you’re someone who loves the versatile nature of the SARB, but wants something a touch more sporty, the Seiko Prospex Alpinist SBDC087 will certainly speak to you.
While not a direct replacement for the SARB033/035, the SBDC087 has some of the design queues that we know and love from the SARB and expands upon them in a slightly larger 40mm case.
With a case shape and rounded bezel very similar to that of the SARB, the SBDC087 is a watch that would work just as well for an outdoor adventure as it would when worn with a suit, paired with the right dress strap.
It’s complemented by a powerful 6R35 movement, a very minor improvement over the SARB033/035’s 6R15.
It even has 200m water resistance, yet another functional improvement over the SARB, making it even better for everyday wear.
Overall, the Seiko Prospex Alpinist SBDC087 is a watch that passes equally as dressy or sporty, depending on the strap you wear it on. It’ll never look out of place, and will never be the wrong choice when you go to grab it from your watch box – just like the Seiko SARB.
Seiko 5 SNKL23
Easily one of the most beautiful affordable alternatives to the Seiko SARB is its Seiko 5 counterpart, the SNKL23.
Essentially the little brother of the SARB duo, the SNKL23 packs a punch, with all of the minimal, yet elegant, design cues of the SARB and Grand Seiko lineups in a smaller, and more budget-friendly package.
Despite being an affordable watch, Seiko didn’t spare any expense when it comes to the finish of this piece, as its variety of brushed and polished surfaces on the case, paired with its unique, pinstripe dial, come together to form a beautifully executed dress watch.
Given how refined this watch is for its cost, it’s no surprise it sells out and goes out of stock frequently.
Seiko 5 Sports “DressKX” SRPE55
Treading the line of both dressy and sporty, the new Seiko 5 Sports lineup, cleverly nicknamed the “DressKX” is quite an interesting mashup of various watch styles.
It has the bold legibility of a dive watch like the Seiko SKX, but its elegance, through its rich sunburst dial and polished bezel can also make it functional as a modern everyday dress watch.
While not completely comparable to the SARBs as a dress watch, the 5KX can be a great alternative for those who want something a little more sporty for everyday wear.
The Tissot Visodate has that same classic dressy/sporty vibe as the SARB, and comes in either black or white dial variants. The simple and minimal design makes this an amazingly versatile piece that can be dressed up, or down with ease.
It’s not all just for show, however, as the Visodate is built as well as it is designed. Housed inside of the Visodate is an impressive Swiss automatic movement with hacking and hand winding.
It also has a sapphire crystal to keep your dress watch looking scratch free and pristine.
Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic
The Hamilton Khaki Field is another amazing-value watch that simply punches way above its price point. I’d argue it’s one of the few watches that competes with the SARB033/35 in terms of value, dollar for dollar.
Closer to a field watch than a dress watch, if a more rugged and tough vibe is what you’re looking for, the Hamilton Khaki Field is a great alternative.
With that said, the Khaki Field Automatic has a variety of brushed and polished surfaces and a subtle refinement that allows it to easily be dressed up, paired with the right strap
What Made the Seiko SARB033 & SARB035 So Great?
The Seiko SARB033 and SARB035 are well-known for being watches that look and feel much more expensive than they really were.
Often referred to as “baby Grand Seikos” for their excellent level of finish, and attention to detail, the SARB series packed a punch when it comes to value, and delivered a luxurious watch feeling, without the luxury watch price tag.
Details like a variety of stepped case finishes, combining thin, brushed, and polished elements, along with the solid Seiko 6R15 movement, and a sapphire crystal come together in a classic, tasteful design, that simply looks like it should be a watch that costs thousands of dollars, not under $400, as it was previously being sold for.
Are the SARB033 & SARB035 Discontinued?
Yes, as of 2018, the Seiko SARB033 and SARB035 were discontinued.
Why Were the SARB033 & SARB035 Discontinued?
While no official statement has been given by Seiko on why the SARB033 & SARB035 were discontinued, there is quite a bit of speculation.
For one, the SARB033 and 035 were released in 2008, meaning the watches have had 10 years on the market to shine.
It’s possible that these watches were such a great value that Seiko felt it was limiting their ability to sell watches at a higher price.
Since the SARB family has been discontinued, watches that Seiko has released with similar specifications, such as the newer Seiko Prospex Alpinist family, are being sold for over $600, hundreds of dollars more than the SARB was originally selling for.
Is the SARB033 & SARB035 Still Worth It?
When the SARB was released, it was being sold for under $400.
Since the SARB has been discontinued, and much harder to find, its prices have skyrocketed to exorbitant amounts. They are often being sold for $600+ used, and $800 – $1,000 for a new model.
At these prices, the SARB is no longer the great value proposition it once was, and unless you’re a die-hard collector, you may want to consider picking up a more affordable, but still fantastic, alternative on this list instead.
Seiko themselves also have quite a few alternatives, like the more affordable Seiko 5 SNKL series
While the SARB will forever hold a special place in my personal collection, I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed with any of the other alternatives on this list.
Let me know if you have a suggestion for SARB alternatives to add, or if you’ve ever owned a SARB yourself, in the comments below.– Anthony