Top 10 Japanese watches to get in 2021
With the first half of the year coming to an end, there’s no better time than now, to start planning for the rest of the year ahead of us. Whether it’s how you’re gonna achieve those goals or to be more productive at work and life or even, mapping out your next watch purchase. Before you make any moves, I think it would be best if we took a look at some of the best watches you can buy today. Specifically, Japanese watches. With examples from Seiko, Casio, and Citizen, we’ll be looking at some of the best watches from these 3 giants that were released over the years.
Now, granted, its more than Seiko, Casio and Citizen that offered some of the finest watches from Japan last year. And as much as we’d love to look into them and discuss them, they aren’t exactly the most attainable watches to most of us. That being said, we’d like to give some honorable mentions to the Credor Eichi II in blue enamel, a stunning blue dial variant of the incredibly impressive and astronomically expensive Eichi II. The Grand Seiko Elegance SBGY007, inspired by the frozen lakes of Lake Suwa, with a stunning icy blue textured dial that, as is with any Grand Seiko, beautifully finished and detailed to impossible perfection. Powered by a 9r31 Spring drive caliber that is finished by Seiko’s state of the art micro artist studio. And lastly, from a lesser-known name to the public but one that is revered in the watch industry; Hajime Asaoka’s Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 1. An art-deco style 38mm chronograph in a bi-compax style layout powered by Seiko’s very own NE86A self-winding chronograph movement. Offering immense reliability and an affordable glimpse and experience into one of Japan’s most coveted watchmakers.
Now, with the big guns out of the way, let’s get on to the more attainable and equally pretty things that came out of Japan last year. And in no particular order, here are our top 10 Japanese watches you need to get in 2021.
CITIZEN KUROSHIO '64 NK0008-85L MEN'S LIMITED-EDITION WATCH
Starting off the list today is one of my favourite dress watches from Citizen the Kuroshio 64’; Possibly one of the finest and most unexpected Japanese dress watches released last year. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the limited edition NK0008-85L in blue. The Kuroshio 64 line is named after a collaboration project between Citizen, the Japanese Maritime Defense Force, and the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology to study the flow of the currents along the sea surrounding Japan.
Citizen created Japan’s first water resistant watch, the Parawater, and saw this project as a great way to test as well as market their brand-new watch. It’s a rather endearing tale that I shan’t get too much into, but what we’ve ended up with in today’s reissue is a faithful representation of the original but with modern touches; such as a 41mm case, automatic caliber and of course a beautifully patterned dial meant to mimic the current of the ocean.
But despite all of these updates, the Kuroshio 64 NK0008-85L is still a very nicely vintage styled timepiece, with applied arrow shaped indexes, dauphine hands, a box shaped crystal and a slim brushed case. It gives an incredibly traditional wearing experience of a three-handed dress watch. The stainless-steel bracelet certainly adds more versatility to the otherwise dressy piece, and the inclusion of lume pips along the markers and hands harks back nicely to the watch’s rather nautical origins.
Overall, if you’re looking for something with a little bit more history and heritage, with excellent finishing, attention to detail and pedigree, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better than the Kuroshio 64, especially at this price point.
Seiko Prospex 62MAS Reissue SLA037J1
No list of the best watches to get from Japan will be complete without a luxury diver. The luxury dive watch is a staple of any collection, and while practically everyone will think of the Rolex Submariner as the staple luxury diver, it’s not exactly the most accessible watch you can get these days.
So, let’s look at something you can actually have, something that is just as interesting, and maybe, just maybe a little more special. Introducing the Seiko 62MAS Reissue SLA037J1, a commemorative limited edition to the first model from 1965, Seiko’s first ever diver the 62MAS. Powered by Seiko’s Hi-beat Caliber 8L55 and beating away at 36,000VPH (5Hz), the SLA037J1 pays proper tribute to the original 1965 62MAS Diver and then some.
The 8L55 is essentially an undecorated version of the Grand Seiko 9S85 caliber, with 37 jewels, 55 hours of power reserve and an accuracy of -10 to +15 seconds per day is a proper demonstration of Japanese watchmaking prowess. Coming in a 39.9mm ‘Ever-brilliant steel’ case that is finished beautifully with Seiko’s mirrorlike Zaratsu polishing. It ensures both stunning good looks and water resistance of up to 200m. The aforementioned ‘Ever-brilliant steel’ case gives off a brilliant white hue and is much more corrosion-resistant than traditional steel. It is certainly tougher than your run-off-the-mill diver. A boxed sapphire crystal with a dual-sided anti-reflective coating protects the proud blue dial and it features a screw-down crown at 3 O’clock too. Granted at over $6,000 this is the most expensive watch on our list, but then again, it offers fantastic history, craftsmanship and performance from a brand renowned for making amazing watches for over a century and is still properly brilliant at it today.
Seiko Presage Chronograph SRQ025J1
I don’t think our list will be complete without looking at one of the most coveted and sought-after complications in mechanical watchmaking: The chronograph. While Japanese mechanical chronographs may be hard to come by, there’s always a gem that appears every now and then that we have to look at, and this is it: The Seiko Presage Automatic Chronograph SRQ025J1. With an elegant case, vintage piston style ushers, a simple crown and long swooping lugs, its silhouette is as elegant as a dress watch should be.
The watch features a gorgeous stark white dial with a subtle yet distinct column wave-patterning, giving you something a little more to look at. Applied Breguet style Arabic numerals adorn the periphery of the dial which matches the gorgeous blued Cathedral styled hands perfectly as well. The watch is powered by the 8R48 automatic chronograph caliber offering a very traditional triple register chronograph function, 45 hours of power reserve and an impressive 4Hz (28,800VpH) frequency as well.
I think the SRQ025J1 is the perfect Seiko for any collection, and mechanically, it’s certainly one of the most impressive as well (aside perhaps, from the High beat 8L55 we’ve looked at just now). As such, it’s a timepiece that is a must-have in any enthusiasts’ collection.
CITIZEN PROMASTER MECHANICAL NY0111-11E MEN’S WATCH
Dive watches are a dime a dozen these days, and for good reason. They’re incredibly well built, very versatile and overall, they’re just really great watches to have. The Fugu NY00111-11E harks back to a time long before us, with vintage design cues from the early history of diving and an added touch of idiosyncrasy unique to the NY line of Promasters.
The principal characteristics are the rather unconventional and rarely seen left-hand crown position at 8 which is meant to prevent accidental damage from inadvertent knocks as well as to provide more ergonomic comfort to the wearer. The bezel is distinctive as well, with alternating smooth and serrated edges allowing for better grip when being operated under water especially with gloved hands. Although the one we’re looking at today comes in the ever-popular ‘Batman’ colourway, other variations are available as well, though we think this one is probably going to be one of the more popular pieces. Power comes from a Miyota Cal. 8203 a proper workhorse movement with a 45-hour power reserve that beats at a respectable 21,600VPH (3Hz) and offers a useful day-date display as well.
An additional little attention to detail that I do find myself enjoying on this little diver is the printing of the N.D Limits scale on the strap of the timepiece, cementing the fact that it is, indeed a true professional tool. All in all, I think the Citizen Promaster NY00111-11E is a fantastic watch, and an even better value proposition as well. At well under $500 it may not have the most ground-breaking performance, but it was never meant to in the first place. What Citizen has done with the NY00111-11E Fugu, and the entire Fugu line in general is to bring about more interesting variety into the dive watch market and with some serious competition, performance, and pedigree to boot as well.
Seiko Prospex SPB121J1 Alpinist
It should come as no surprise that the new Green Alpinist made in on this list, it’s an absolutely brilliant watch. This may be a reissue piece, but what Seiko has done essentially is taken everything that made the Alpinist great and made them better.
The old Alpinist was powered by the Caliber 6R15 while the new one is powered by the 6R35, giving it a whopping 70 hours of power reserve. On top of that, there is an exhibition case-back for you to enjoy the 6R35 caliber in greater detail. However, not much has changed visually on the new Alpinist SPB121J1, aside from the Seiko Prospex “X” branding on the dial and the inclusion of a cyclops magnifier too. It’s a small touch that shows everyone that this watch is more than just a pretty face, it means serious business. And that’s the brilliance of this watch, whether it’s paired with a suit or strapped on your wrist out in the wild, the Green Alpinist is never out of place.
Versatility has always been the strongest point for the Seiko Green Alpinist and with this modern reissue, that strength has been modernized and improved (thanks to the upgraded movement) and is easily the perfect watch to have in anyone’s collection.
CASIO G-SHOCK MUDMASTER GG-B100-1A3DR MEN'S WATCH
The G-Shock Mudmaster has always been one of Casio’s toughest watches. With the GG-B100 line, that toughness now comes with even more features and functions. It should be said that I’m not the biggest fan of digital watches; in fact, my collection of only mechanical watches should speak of my tastes and preferences already. I do find myself liking the Mudmaster a lot though, and that’s really saying something.
There’s no going around the fact that the Mudmaster is a fantastic watch. The LCD screen may be small for some, but it is highly legible and offers snappy performance too. The hands are useful when needed, and are used to display certain features that we’ll get into later. However, they are usually performing their default time-telling functions most of the time. Casio’s cutting-edge screen and ultra-lightweight carbon means that there’s virtually no compromise between functionality and style.
You get the feeling of immediately wanting to fiddle with the watch the moment you hold it in your hand. Seriously, those nicely finished and knurled buttons offer such a pleasant feedback and feel that they’re practically begging to be used. And if you couldn’t already tell by the name, the Mudmaster series is all about dust/mud/water protection, and the pushers have all been designed with that in mind. I do find the number of pushers on the case (6 of them) to be quite a lot, but that just means that you have quicker and easier access to the watch’s functionalities; to which there are many. You can connect a smartphone to this watch with the ‘connect’ button at the 3 o’clock position and using the G-Shock app, allows you to adjust the watch using the app if you don’t want to use the buttons.
There’s no question that this is a very well-thought-out watch, with the dedicated buttons specifically for things such as the compass. Which really brings the functionality of the watch to the forefront. While many other digital watches may have plenty of features, they aren’t truly useful if they’re backed with a poor or difficult user interface, which the Mudmaster certainly avoids. And Casio, in general, is getting much better at making complex watches with great user interfaces too, making the overall experience of this Mudmaster all the more satisfying too.
CASIO EDIFICE SMARTPHONE LINK ECB-900DB-1CDR MEN'S WATCH
The Edifice line is Casio’s line of sporty and advanced watches that, in my opinion, shares a lot of its design roots with modern motorsports. They’re very much like G-Shocks in their functions and movements, but in a much more refined and sportier package.
The one we’re looking at today is in our opinion the best Edifice model that money can buy the ECB-900DB-1CDR. It is one of Edifice’s more advanced timepieces, featuring the brand’s Bluetooth Smartphone link, a tough solar power system that keeps the device topped up via exposure to any form of light source, as well as a multi-hand multi-function chronograph and timekeeping system too.
All of this technology in a case that is only 8.9mm thin is truly a work of engineering brilliance that is hard to find anywhere else (aside from Citizen perhaps, but that’s at a very different price point). It’s a handsome watch too, the one we have today comes with sporty golden accents along the indexes and subdials, contrasting nicely against the otherwise stealthy black dial, and set in a neatly finished, slim stainless-steel case.
If you’re looking to get your hands on a functional, sporty timepiece that won’t break the bank and looks and feels like something much more expensive than it actually is, you’ll certainly find the ECB-900DB-1CDR to fit your bill very nicely.
SEIKO 5 SPORTS SRPE57K1 MEN'S WATCH
The 2019 Seiko 5 sports (known more fondly as the 5kx) line has been rather polarizing, to say the least. But then again coming in as the modern replacement for the coveted and unfortunately discontinued affordable mechanical dive watch that is the SKX is a tough act to follow. It gives us things that enthusiasts want such as an updated modern movement with hacking and hand winding (which the SKX didn’t have) while doing away with the features that made the SKX so loved in the first place. An ISO rated case and threaded crown that a true diver should have, the new 5kx isn’t so much a dive watch as it is a dive-style watch.
And that is enough to divide enthusiasts in their opinions and feelings towards this timepiece. But all animosity aside, the new 5kx release with a fixed smooth steel bezel and smaller 40mm case might just be the best Seiko 5 release so far. With a 100m water resistance and no timing bezel, it is now a proper sports watch (not a dive or sports style watch) in its own right.
The design will instantly remind you of the Tudor black bay 36 and the Rolex Explorer 1 (or even the Omega Railmaster too) and to be honest, that’s not really such a bad thing. The SRPE57K1 is as classically correct in its design as a vintage sports watch should be. It features a stainless-steel case and bracelet, comfortable 40mm case, bold hands and markers (that are of course coated generously in lume) oh and some nice gold gilt too for a not-so-subtle touch of vintage.
If you can’t already tell, I love golden gilts on sports watches, I think it gives them so much more personality, adding a nice vintage touch to an otherwise serious no-nonsense tool watch. But the steel bezel 5kx is still a lot of fun to have on the wrist. Powered by the tried and tested 4r36 caliber offering a useful day-date complication, 3Hz frequency and a modest 41 hours of power reserve, it unsurprisingly ticks a lot of boxes for what enthusiasts are looking for in a modern sports watch. All in all, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly vintage styled sports watch but aren’t looking to sink that much money into an Explorer yet, the SRPE57K1 is going to be the best place to put your money at.
CITIZEN PROMASTER LAND CB5037-84E MEN'S WATCH
For the last of the Citizen watches that we’ll be looking at today, the CB5037-84E is the most modern and sporty looking one on the list so far. And if the Seiko Alpinist is the be all and end all of traditional field watches, this one is a field watch of the future. Powered by the E660, a downsized version of the higher-end F990, it shares similar functions with its bigger brothers in the Satellite wave line such as a chronograph, alarm, UTC, dual time-zone indicator, a perpetual calendar and of course, GPS tracking as well. Aesthetically, the watch looks like a conventional modern sports watch, with large bold hands, blocky indexes with 3 sub-dials for the functions, a tachymeter scale and a city-ring on the chapter ring too. This is a field watch, and more thanks to Citizen’s innovative technology powering it and it’s not merely gimmicks either. The practical applications and operations of its functions are 100% applicable in the real world too.
I’m writing this as my own Seiko mechanical compass field watch is on my wrist and suddenly, it looks like a dinosaur compared to this. This with its radio-controlled time setting, mine with a self-winding mainspring and an internally rotating compass bezel. But then again these are very, very different watches, and I’m very happy with my old-school dinosaur of a watch, and if you find yourself fancying the Citizen, then I can safely say that you’ll be very happy with it.
CASIO EDIFICE EFS-S570DC-1AUDF MEN'S WATCH
Of all the Casio watches on the list, this one’s probably my favourite in terms of design, even more so than the impressive ECB-900DB-1CDR we’ve just looked at. But back to this; the EFS-S570DC-1AUDF, quite a mouthful, isn’t it? This watch is part of Edifice’s slim line range of highly elegant yet technical watches. I like to refer to these designs as dressy sports watches, and yes while that nomenclature tends to be populated by watches like the Royal Oak and Nautilus, there’s still space for others as well.
There’s a much sportier and more rugged feel to these watches as compared to those two (And a significantly lower RRP too). The watch is styled visually after the bold sports watches from the 70s, with an angular case design and an integrated bracelet, though this one dials the angles up to eleven with the octagonal bezel sitting in a proud brushed navy blue against the brushed silver case. Seriously, you’d be hard-pressed to find a surface on this case that isn’t finished to perfection. The pushers are nicely executed and sleek as well adding more to the very contemporary and modern design that this watch has.
Functionally, it is a simple chronograph with a date display at 4 and is solar powered too, which means you needn’t fret too much over battery replacements. The EFS-S570DC-1AUDF is a proud celebration of modernizing a traditional tool, integrating current technology with an old-school (albeit timeless) design and display that makes for an incredibly interesting and intriguing wearing experience.
The best of Japan
So that’s it, the finest and most attainable (relatively) Japanese watches you ought to get before the year ends. Granted, it may not have been the best year, but it’s certainly given us some of the nicest watches we’ve seen so far from the 3 manufactures. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious performance diver, a refined and functional sports watch, a stunning vintage re-issue or just an everyday beater of a tool watch, you’ll certainly be very happy with any of the watches on the list today.