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A Guide to the Very Best Seiko Watches

Seiko offers some of the best value in watches.

seiko watches
Courtesy

We Americans have a bad habit of saying, “only a Seiko.”

As in, “Oh, this watch? It’s only a seiko.”

What they mean to say is: “Oh, this old thing? The watch I bought for cheap and wear all the time?”

And Seikos are, indeed, ubiquitous. Start looking and you’ll see them all over the place. Your buddy wears a Seiko 5; your mom has a Coutura in her credenza; your favorite movie star wears a Seiko diver on the silver screen.

“Oh, this watch? It’s only a Seiko.”

Yes, yes it is.

The History of Seiko

Japan’s most iconic watch brand started its journey well over 100 years ago, when Kintaro Hattori opened a small watch shop in Tokyo, in 1881. It’s led Japanese watchmaking ever since, making Japan’s first wristwatch, its first chronograph and its first dive watch. And worldwide, Seiko has made some of the biggest marks on watchmaking of any company. It innovated quartz with one of the first quartz watches, the first six-digit LCD display quartz and the first analog quartz chronograph. It is a dominant force in movement making.

Though the company doesn’t publicly share production numbers, Seiko movements — both mechanical and quartz — drive a huge number of watches worldwide. For over fifty years, Seiko has made a steel sports watch that’s one of the most beloved affordable timepieces ever. There’s a lot of beauty to be captured at Seiko, but its most important and iconic watches all intersect at unique design, affordable prices, and bulletproof build quality.

The Seiko catalog is massive, its reach global, its diversity unrivaled. Seiko watches occupy many price points, from the rock-solid sport watches you’ll find at Macy's 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. The Seiko identity, catalog and even the names and ranges of sub-brands are constantly evolving.

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 its 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 a 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 of the enormous territory that is the Seiko oeuvre.

Credor

seiko credor watches
Seiko

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 modern 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.

Standout Model: Eichi II in Platinum

Seiko
Credor Eichi II
seikowatches.com

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 platinum model came out in 2020, and it features a porcelain in a deep blue color meant to evoke lapis lazuli. It’s a mesmerizing watch, full of Seiko’s utility and beauty.

  • Case Size: 39mm x 10.3mm
  • Case Material: Platinum
  • Movement: Spring Drive Credor 7R14 with 60-hour power reserve
  • Water Resistance: 30m

    Grand Seiko

    grand seiko watches
    Watchbox

    Grand Seiko makes the grails of the Seiko watch line, watches that cost more and have more finishing, high-end materials and perfect design than standard Seikos. Nominally 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 the likes of limited-edition Seiko Presage models. These techniques include the Zaratsu steel finishing that produces sword-sharp hands and mirror-like surfaces, multiple dial finishing and engraving methods, and impeccable in-house movement building. Grand Seiko’s movements range from the sophisticated 9F family of quartz calibers, to robust automatic mechanical engines, fast-paced Hi-Beat versions, and the acclaimed Spring Drive technology, which uses quartz precision to regulate a fully mechanical drive train.

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

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    Grand Seiko Masterpiece

    It’s rare to find a blinged-out Seiko, but here they are. On par with Credor in terms of finishing and prices but with Grand Seiko design codes, the Masterpiece line is for some of the most special, high-end watches the brand makes. You'll find bejeweled watches and precious metals as well as exquisitely hand-finished movements.

    Standout Model: SBGZ007

    Grand Seiko
    Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGZ007
    grand-seiko.com
    $79,000.00

    Released for the brand's anniversary, this model represents the special nature of the collection with a fully hand-engraved platinum case-matched, a deep blue dial with a sparkling effect and the 9R02 movement finished to haute horlogerie standards. This is obviously not just-a-Seiko material.

    • Case Size: 38.5mm x 9.8mm
    • Case Material: Platinum
    • Movement: 9R02 Spring Drive manually wound movement
    • Water Resistance: Splash resistant

      Grand Seiko Elegance

      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: SBGY007

      Grand Seiko
      Grand Seiko Elegance SBGY007
      grand-seiko.com
      $8,300.00

      This time-only watch is serenity on the wrist, with its pale blue, ice-inspired 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: 9R31 hand-wound mechanical with 72-hour power reserve
      • Water Resistance: Splash resistant

        Grand Seiko Heritage

        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. It’s all about “pure” watchmaking here, or, as the Grand Seiko design team pursued in the 1960s, “the best functional watch.”

        Standout Model: Series 9 SLGH005

        Grand Seiko
        Grand Seiko Heritage Series 9 SLGH005
        grand-seiko.com
        $9,100.00

        Fascinating textured dials are one of Grand Seiko's signatures, and this one is meant to reference birch bark. The SLGH005 watch has all the traits the brand is celebrated for, from zaratsu polishing to exquisite detail, and it's powered by a high-beat (5Hz, rather than the more common 4Hz) automatic movement.

        • Case Size: 40mm x 11.7mm
        • Case Material: Stainless steel (with matching steel bracelet)
        • Movement: Hi-Beat 9SA5 automatic
        • Water Resistance: 100 meters

          Grand Seiko Sport

          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, accomplished with an eye for beautiful design.

          Standout Model: SBGN019

          Grand Seiko
          Grand Seiko SBGN019
          grand-seiko.com
          $4,550.00

          Most Seiko and Grand Seiko watches stick to functional simplicity with few complications, but there are some exceptions and the GMT fits right in with the Sport collection. The fixed 24-hour bezel and GMT hand provide a second time zone reference, while the Zaratsu hands slice their way across a deep-black dial to show local time. It’s a unique take on GMT style with a design as iconic as other greats.

          • Case Size: 40mm x 14.7mm
          • Case Material: Stainless Steel (with stainless bracelet)
          • Movement: 9F86 high-accuracy, in-house quartz with GMT function
          • Water Resistance: 200 meters

            King Seiko

            In 2022, Seiko announced the re-release of a classic 1960s line of watches, King Seiko. Specifically, they released a new watch that’s extremely reminiscent of the King Seiko KSK, from 1965. It’s available in a number of dial colors and it blew the Seiko-loving watch world’s socks off when it was released, thanks to its ultra-clean dial and excellent steel bracelet.

            Standout Model: SPB281

            Seiko
            King Seiko SPB281
            seikoluxe.com
            $1,700.00

            It’s an ice-cold 1960s stunner. With a hypnotically simple dial, jubilee-style bracelet, and all of King Seiko’s legendary prestige, well, we’re tempted to snag one, even though its price tag reaches near Grand-Seiko's levels.

            • Case Size: 37mm
            • Case Material: Stainless steel
            • Movement: Automatic 6R31
            • Water Resistance: 100m

              Seiko Prospex

              seiko prospex watches
              Seiko

              The Prospex collection (“Prospex” = “professional specifications”) is overwhelmingly populated by dive watches broken into various price tiers, sub-collections and even a few field and pilot-style examples. These are robust and stylish tool watches often at very affordable prices. As always, keep an eye out for interesting limited editions, and the occasional re-issue of a vintage reference, often costing thousands.

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              Prospex Divers

              The Prospex divers range from enormous quartz and solar-charging units to retro-styled mechanical divers that borrow elements from Seiko’s storied back catalog with options for just about any budget.

              Standout Model: “King Turtle”

              Seiko
              Seiko Prospex "King Turtle" SRPE05
              macys.com
              $595.00
              $446.25 (25% off)

              Seiko’s 6309 Turtle was produced from 1976 to 1988, and the modern version is an excellent (if not exact) re-issue. The "King Turtle" is so nicknamed because of its addition of premium features like sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel and a few aesthetic tweaks to differentiate it — while costing only nominally more. Its crosshatched dial and knurly bezel lend an unforgettable, understated look.

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

                Standout Model: SNJ025 “Solar Arnie”

                Seiko Prospex Solar Divers "Arnie"
                macys.com
                $525.00
                $393.75 (25% off)

                The original version was the first ever hybrid analog-digital dive watch. It got its nickname when Arnold Schwarzenegger wore one in The Predator, one of the best movies of all time. This new version has a chronograph, alarm, calendar, and dual time, with a solar-powered movement that’ll never quit on you and a plastic shroud that’ll take a beating before its stainless steel case does.

                • Case Size: 47.8mm
                • Case Material: Stainless steel and plastic
                • Movement: H851 solar quartz
                • Water Resistance: 200 meters

                  Prospex Land

                  Watches from the Prospex line meant for outdoor activities on dry land offer durability, water resistance, charming design and a different side of Seiko from the dive watches that dominate its catalog.

                  Standout Model: Alpinist SPB119

                  Seiko Prospex Alpinist
                  amazon.com
                  $670.00

                  Another retro comeback, the Alpinist (reviewed here) is an evolution of the brand's first sport watch it made for "mountain men" of the 1960s. It stands apart in the Prospex collection for its elegant looks (for a sport watch), rotating inner bezel, and quirky but now-classic design. If at first it looks like an in-between, out-of-place watch, well, give it a minute… as plenty of wearers can attest, it’ll grow on you.

                  • Case Size: 39.5mm x 13.3mm
                  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
                  • Movement: 6R35 automatic with date and 41-hour power reserve
                  • Water Resistance: 200 meters

                    Standout Model: SSC813

                    Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Solar Chronograph
                    amazon.com
                    $404.85

                    Especially in the panda dial style, this Prospex Speedtimer Solar chronograph captures the essence of Seiko (utility, straightforward style) with a touch of the legendary. It’s got some Rolex Daytona to it, but would never be called a simple homage. It’s unusual style, with a reasonable price to boot.

                    • Case size: 39mm
                    • Case material: Stainless Steel
                    • Movement: V192 Solar chronograph
                    • Water Resistance: 100 meters

                      Prospex LX

                      Go big with these hardcore sport watches that are equally bold in size and price. With land, sea and air models and costing near Grand Seiko prices, the LX line brings a higher level of materials, construction and finishing than you'll typically find in the rest of the Prospex line, which is mostly lower-mid tier.

                      Standout Model: LX SNR035

                      Seiko
                      Seiko Prospex LX SNR035
                      seikowatches.com
                      $5,500.00

                      Big, legible, infinitely detailed, and profoundly technological, this Spring Drive-powered pilot's GMT isn’t attending many fancy destination weddings, but it might help you fly to one. Don’t forget to bring a change of straps — you can wear it to both the ceremony and your dive outing.

                      • Case Size: 44.8mm x 14.7mm
                      • Case Material: Titanium
                      • Movement: Spring Drive 5R66 automatic
                      • Water Resistance: 100 meters

                        Seiko Presage

                        seiko presage watches
                        Seiko

                        Presage is the dress watch equivalent to Prospex: often affordable, still durable watches with styles that range from modern and elegant to classic and retro. Seiko also releases higher-end limited-edition Presage models that feature parts manufactured in the Grand Seiko studios. If you prefer a touch of prep with your watch stylings, this is your Seiko zone.

                        Standout Model: SRPF51

                        Seiko
                        Seiko Presage SRPF51
                        macys.com
                        $525.00

                        Staring at this sandy dial is like gazing at a serene Japanese garden — at least that's the inspiration Seiko notes for this interesting execution. The price-to-quality ratio is off the charts, and it makes for a great alternative to the everyday wearability and standout dial textures of more expensive Grand Seikos. This is a fine example of how Seiko can execute a watch like no other: it’s unusual, but always smooth, polished, and understated.

                        • Case Size: 41.7mm x 12mm
                        • Case Material: Stainless steel
                        • Movement: 4R35 automatic
                        • Water Resistance: 30 meters

                          Seiko Presage "Cocktail Time" SRPB43

                          Seiko Presage
                          macys.com
                          $425.00
                          $318.75 (25% off)

                          The “Cocktail Time,” as it’s been called for some time, features a dazzling sunburst patterned dial and an elegant set of hands. With an oversized crown, on a leather strap, it’s one of the coolest affordable dress watches you’ll find.

                          • Case Size: 40.5mm
                          • Case Material: Stainless Steel
                          • Movement: Automatic 4R35 caliber
                          • Water Resistance: 50 meters

                            Seiko Recraft

                            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 for their prices. There are a number of retro-cool models and colorways to choose from.

                            Standout Model: SNKP23

                            Seiko
                            Seiko Recraft SNKP23
                            amazon.com
                            $275.00
                            $146.99 (47% off)

                            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 the 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

                              Seiko 5 Sport

                              seiko 5 sports watches
                              Seiko

                              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.

                              Today’s collection is Seiko's entry point for mechanical watches and has been refreshed to fit the modern brand's image, making the same promise but with even better finishing, materials, and movements (look on Amazon and the like for older models, many of which are still available). It’s almost impossible to keep track of all the Seiko 5 Sports models, but you’re sure to find something that appeals.

                              Standout Model: SRPD91

                              Seiko
                              Seiko 5 Sports SRPD91
                              macys.com
                              $335.00
                              $251.25 (25% off)


                              Shockingly good for its price
                              , the modern line's debut collection of dive-style (100m water-resistant) watches are well represented by this military-themed model. The designs are straightforward and thoughtful, highly legible, comfortable to wear and just a little bundle of fun for the wrist. In addition to the SKX-dive-style watches, the brand has added field watches to the collection and — notably — automatic GMTs.

                              • Case Size: 42.5mm x 13.4mm
                              • Case Material: Stainless steel
                              • Movement: 4R36 automatic
                              • Water Resistance: 100 meters

                                Standout Model: SSK003

                                Seiko 5 Sports SKX Sports Style GMT SSK003
                                seikousa.com
                                $475.00

                                Available in three distinct, fan-favorite styles (“blueberry,” orange or black and gray), this GMT version of the Seiko 5 Sport offers a lot of cool watchmaking (aka a second time zone) in a more affordable package than anywhere else. It’s often sold out — but do some digging and you may find one, mint.

                                • Case Size: 42.5mm
                                • Case Material: Stainless Steel
                                • Movement: Automatic 4R34 automatic GMT
                                • Water Resistance: 100 m

                                  Standout Model: SRPH31

                                  Seiko 5 Sports SRPH31
                                  seikousa.com
                                  $275.00

                                  Ah, it’s a field watch you want — then one you shall have, in the form of this royal blue Seiko 5. It was in fact inspired by pilot’s watches of old, so whether you’re in first class or out for a hike, you’ll look good. And you’ll have a dependable mechanical watch, to boot. Different colors and versions (one reviewed here) are also available.

                                  • Case Size: 39.4mm
                                  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
                                  • Movement: Automatic 4R36
                                  • Water Resistance: 100m

                                    Seiko Astron

                                    seiko astron watch line
                                    Seiko

                                    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 for near atomic-clock accuracy, and brimming with features.

                                    Standout Model: 5X Series

                                    Seiko
                                    Seiko Astron 5X SSH063
                                    seikowatches.com
                                    $2,500.00

                                    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, a perpetual calendar (showing the correct day and date until the year 2100), as well as indicators for power level and GSP-sync. Did we mention it's ridiculously accurate?

                                    • Case Size: 42.9mm x 14.6mm
                                    • Case Material: Stainless Steel
                                    • Movement: 5X53 solar-powered with GPS sync, Time Transfer, perpetual calendar and more
                                    • Water Resistance: 200 meters

                                      Seiko Coutura

                                      seiko coutura line
                                      Seiko

                                      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-Sync Solar

                                      Seiko
                                      Seiko Coutura SSG009
                                      amazon.com
                                      $595.00
                                      $420.00 (29% off)

                                      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. It’s also extremely futuristic looking in a way that will draw some attention to your wrist.

                                      • Case Size: 44.5mm 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

                                        Seiko Diamond Collection

                                        seiko diamond collection watches
                                        Seiko


                                        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

                                        seiko core watches
                                        Courtesy

                                        Think of this as the widest net Seiko casts onto its global consumer base. These are the ones 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 Essentials (also called 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: SUR373

                                        Seiko
                                        Seiko Essentials SUR373
                                        amazon.com
                                        $330.00
                                        $245.03 (26% off)

                                        Maybe you don't need automatic mechanical movements, and rather just want a solid watch with the superiority of quartz in a classic, practical package. You could do a lot worse than this model with a titanium case and bracelet that feels aesthetically connected to the brand's Presage and even Grand Seiko lines.

                                        • Case Size: 40.2mm x 11mm
                                        • Case Material: Titanium
                                        • Movement: 6N52 quartz
                                        • Water Resistance: 100 meters
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