Seiko Finally Brings One of Its Most Coveted JDM Watches Stateside

Seiko’s endearingly flashy dress watch continues to shine even after seven years.

To the vast majority of Americans, a Seiko wouldn’t raise much of an eyebrow. It’d be a nice watch, likely quartz. Something you’d pay, say, $200 for at Macy’s. But there’s a subset of watch nerds, the so-called “Seikoholics,” enlightened to the brand’s other side. Among the many reasons to be a Seikoholic — the low price, the mechanical movements, the unique designs and the robustness — there’s the unique phenomenon of the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Seiko. For many Seiko diehards, owning one outside of Japan adds to the allure.

Japan-exclusive products aren’t limited to Seiko. If you love cars, video games or menswear, you’ve likely uttered the boyish phrase, “Japan gets all the cool shit.” But as far as watches go, Seiko especially has kept its special models and sub-brands — many of them packing mechanical movements — within its homeland. In recent years, thanks to the internet, Seiko fans elsewhere have become privy to these JDM models, and thanks to their incessant begging, Seiko is finally releasing one of its most coveted JDM watches to the world: the Cocktail Time.

Created in 2010, the original Cocktail Time was the result of a collaboration with Ishigaki Shinobu, a prolific Japanese bartender and mixologist. As its name implies, the Cocktail Time was designed to invoke ritzy libations and the cosmopolitan bar scene. While its brilliant, shimming guilloche dial was able to capture that look, it managed to do something else: it turned the Cocktail Time into an unexpected and immediate hit.

Some dress watches are austere to the point of feeling dull, but the Cocktail Time feels alive.

Now, seven years on, the Cocktail Time is part of Seiko’s Presage line, which is new to the world market. Aside from a couple minor aesthetic touches — a new crown, some change in font on the dial — its the same watch that captured the hearts of enthusiasts seven years ago. That means its icy-blue sunray dial is carried over. Photos really don’t do justice to the way it catches the light from every angle. Some dress watches are austere to the point of feeling dull, but the Cocktail Time feels alive.

The hour indices and hands are sharp and beveled and blend with the guilloche dial’s aesthetic. At 40.5mm in diameter, the Cocktail Time is a great middling size for most wearers, and at 11.8mm thick, it’s relatively slim; much of that thickness comes from the domed crystal, so the watch feels even thinner than it really is. If there’s a point of contention with the Cocktail Time’s overall look, it’s that its strap feels too polished, a problem that can be easily solved with an aftermarket replacement made from a more subtle leather, suede or steel mesh.

Inside the watch ticks away Seiko’s 4R35 automatic movement. It is, in essence, a more evolved version of the movement used in the modern Seiko 5. That means it’s fairly simple and utilitarian-looking, something you’ll notice if you take a look through the Cocktail Time’s transparent case back. While it almost feels ironic such a decadent-looking watch has such an inornate movement inside, it does put the price at a relatively low $425.

At that price, there are a lot of dressy options that compete with the Cocktail Time, though it still stands on its own as something truly unique. That used to be, in part, because of its forbidden-fruit status, but even now that the Cocktail Time is freely available everywhere else in the world, it still feels exceedingly special thanks to its vivid design and distinct character. Like many other great Seiko designs, it leans into its idiosyncrasy in a way that truly sets it apart from anything else in its price range. No wonder Seiko finally started selling it worldwide — it’s just a shame it took so long.

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