The finest affordable alternatives
Seiko has provided the world of watch lovers an affordable entrance into the joys and delights of owning a mechanical watch for over 50 years. Though as a giant of the industry, Seiko’s catalogue of watches and brands are immensely diverse, from entry level brands like Seiko 5 to astronomically expensive and stunning brands like Grand Seiko and Credor. Whether you’re a seasoned collector looking to add a budget watch into their collection, or a budding collector looking to get your first mechanical watch, you can’t go wrong with Seiko, particularly; Seiko 5. This sub-brand of Seiko founded in 1963 was meant to offer value-driven, everyday wear watches that were sporty and dependable, along with an excellent entry point into the Seiko line-up. It is safe to say that many have owned or even currently own a Seiko 5 and I do too. A lovely rose-gold gilt SRPD76K1, it's one of the most affordable watches in my collection, and yet, doesn’t look out of place beside its Swiss and Japanese siblings. They’re great watches at an incredibly accessible price point, offering you the rugged dependability of mechanical sports watches and for some, a classic finesse that you just can’t get anywhere else for the same price. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best budget options/alternatives from Seiko 5, to give you the taste and experience of something much more expensive for much, much less.
SEIKO 5 SPORTS SRPE57K1 MEN'S WATCH – Rolex Explorer 1, Omega Railmaster
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 this year. 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 one we’re looking at today, the SRPE57K1 is as classically correct in its design as a 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 refined elegant 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.
SEIKO 5 SPORTS SRPG47K1 STAINLESS STEEL MEN'S WATCH – Seiko Prospex King Turtle
One of the newer, and more interesting looking designs in the new 5kx line-up, the SRPG47K1 is a rather intriguing piece to look at. It shares the exact case dimensions and base design as the SRPD lined Seiko 5, but with a major difference. Its dial is finished in a stunning Royal Oak-esque tapisserie pattern giving a much more refined and artistic look to an otherwise utilitarian design.
The deep blue bezel compliments the otherwise monochromatic silver of the watch very nicely too. Matched with the blued hands and markers and we have a Seiko 5 Sports that’s both subtle yet interesting to look at as well.
The dial is finished in a clean opaline sunburst silver too, with the aforementioned tapisserie pattern, completing the monochromatic style of the watch, and I have to say it is executed very nicely. The watch is of course powered by Seiko’s 4r36 so already points can be added for reliability, functionality and ease of use too. Pair that with a classic dive style design that you often find in the Seiko Prospex line and you’ve got yourself one of the most subtly unique timepieces in the market now without having to break the bank.
SEIKO 5 SPORTS LIMITED EDITION SRPB74K1 MEN'S BROWN LEATHER STRAP WATCH – Seiko Turtle SLA033J1
Next up, we have one hell of a bang for the third watch on our list, the limited-edition Seiko 5 sports SRPB74K1 turtle. Right off the bat, you can tell it’s a vintage-inspired piece, and I know that vintage re-issues or redesigns can be quite a polarizing topic. I don’t have anything against vintage-style timepieces as long as they don’t butcher the original design which, unfortunately, happens more often than not these days.
However, the execution of this watch’s design is perfect. Being a Seiko 5, there is an array of different colours available for this timepiece and the one we’re featuring today is in a brushed yellow gold case with a textured dial and distressed brown leather strap. It’s a pretty watch, to say the least, with the brushing on the case giving it a more industrial, tool watch aesthetic and the highly legible and textured dial and indexes taking center stage with nothing to hide behind.
Where there’s a bit more flair in the design is in the exhibition case-back of the watch. With an intricate weaving pattern decorated on the glass, it obscures your view of the 4R336 caliber, but offers you a much more unique viewing experience at the same time. The SRPB74K1 is a fantastic entrance into the world of Seiko 5 for those looking to get your first mechanical watch, I think it's hard to do better than this. And for those of you who are fans of the original Turtle design or the very limited and expensive SLA033 but just can’t get one, then the SRPB74K1 is certainly your next best and affordable bet.
SEIKO 5 MILITARY AUTOMATIC SNK805K2P MEN'S GREEN NYLON STRAP WATCH – Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic
We can’t talk about affordable, reliable sports watches without mentioning the humble military-style field watch. The golden standard would be the Hamilton Field Khaki, a Swiss-made ETA powered field watch with a clean unfussy design and a vintage style highly legible dial too. But we’re talking about a relatively pricey watch here, what if we don’t want to sink so much money on what’s pretty much gonna be a daily beater? Well then, it’ll be to the Seiko SNK805K2P that we’ll be looking to. On paper, the SNK805K2P seems like the perfect military-style field watch; compact 40.5mm case, durable nylon Nato strap, 100m water resistance, simple muted legible dial with bold numerals applied with generous amounts of lume and a robust automatic caliber.
But in person, the watch does everything it says on the box perfectly and then some. The case is not only neatly sandblasted and finished, but it also comes with a nice exhibition case-back for you to enjoy the otherwise spartan looking 7S26 caliber. It doesn’t possess a very extravagantly finished movement, but then again it was never meant to. It’s a tool watch after all and the almost industrial looking movement perfectly complements the nature and character of this watch. If you’re looking for a classic, timeless and rugged everyday wear/beater with plenty of character and an easy-to-change strap, then you can’t go wrong with the SNK805K2P.
SEIKO 5 SPORTS AUTOMATIC STAINLESS STEEL SRPD76K1M1 MEN'S WATCH - MOD1 – Rolex GMT-Master II Rootbeer
The SRPD76K1M1 is part of the Specialist line of the Seiko 5 Sports series, though I genuinely don’t have the slightest understanding or clue behind the name of this category. If I were to picture a ‘Specialist styled’ watch, it’ll be a proper purpose-built tool watch. Not a polished, smart-looking diver on a rubber strap with a crocodile printed calfskin lined on top of it. The confusing naming aside, the design elements certainly make the watch look a lot smarter, yet all the more versatile as well. I can see this easily paired with your best suit or with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Though there is a twist, the piece we’re looking at today has been modified exclusively by our in-house team of watchmakers and it turns the pretty SRPD76K1 into a proper tour-de-force of watchmaking and design. With a double domed sapphire crystal, replacing the flat mineral crystal, and a sloped 2 tone ceramic bezel, it’s a properly stunning looking timepiece and one that embodies the design flair of a Rootbeer GMT-Master II.
I personally own the rose gold SRPD76K1 and it’s one of my favourites in my collection, albeit as of writing this, I really should give that watch more wrist-time. Though after looking at this modified piece, I’m even more inclined to do the same to my own, though perhaps with a black Yachtmaster style bezel instead of the Rootbeer. But I digress. Power comes from the 4r36 as you would expect and if you’re looking for a tidy and polished dressy sports watch to wear for all occasions, then this timepiece will be one to rely on.
Budget alternatives for everyone
There it is, our budget alternatives to really, really expensive watches from the Seiko 5 line-up. We hope that you’ve managed to find something interesting in this, and we’d love to hear what other alternatives you have in mind or would like us to feature next time! In the meantime, we’d like to wish you lot happy hunting for your next piece!