Royal Oak, Nautilus, Seamaster, El Primero, Calatrava, Reverso…these are all names of some of the watchmaking’s most iconic pieces ever made. Powerful and highly-recognizable, they are associated with high-quality luxury products of exceptional workmanship. However, in most cases this kind of prestige comes with a pretty high price. Featuring price tags with four, five or in some cases six figures, these iconic watches are all but affordable. So my question is: Are there any iconic watches under $1000 or $500? Can a $300, $200 or even $100 watch ever be considered as an “icon”, “legend” or something like that? While yes. Yes it can. Today we bring you a story of one of the most if not the most iconic affordable watches ever made – Seiko 5.
Introduced more than 50 years ago, Seiko 5 was designed to be a timepiece that will appeal to the needs of the new 1960’s generation. The idea was to create an affordable mechanical watch with 5 key characteristics:
- Automatic winding
- Day/date displayed in a single window
- Water resistance
- Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position
- Durable case and bracelet
Water resistance is a standard feature to every Seiko 5. The shock resistance was accomplished using two signature Seiko inventions. First we have the mainspring made from a special unbreakable alloy called “Diaflex”. The second is the “Diashock” system which protects the caliber from shock within the casing. To increase the dial’s legibility, Seiko decided to create a single window that will show both day and date. Finally, to create the watch’s distinctive design, Seiko used one its earlier inventions, the “Magic Lever”. Introduced in 1959, this mechanism winds the mainspring more efficiently. Because of the improved winding, the user doesn’t really need to use the crown much. Thanks to this, Seiko’s engineers were able to make the crown smaller and hide it under the case at 4 o’clock.
The first Seiko 5 was the 1963 Sportsmatic 5. With its unique (for the time) set of features, this model set new standard in affordable mechanical timepieces. Five years later, in 1968, Seiko introduced a new series called 5 Sports. Designed for those who wanted a bit more from their Seiko 5, this model brought few improvements including higher water resistance (from 30 to 70 meters), a new scratch resistant Hardlex glass as well as a rotating bezel. In 1969, the Japanese watchmaker presented the 5 Sports Speedtimer - the world’s first automatic chronograph.
Throughout the years, the Japanese brand has introduced various different versions of Seiko 5 including dress watches, sports models, divers, military-inspired pieces, chronographs and many others. Since 1996, all watches have all been equipped with the 7S family of movements including the 7S25, 7S26, 7S35, 7S36 and 7S55. The 7S calibers beat at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour and offer a power reserve of 40 hours. These movements feature remarkable quality and are known to work 10-15 years or more without servicing. Today the Seiko 5 enjoys a cult status among watch aficionados. With its high build quality, remarkably reliable automatic movements, and prices below $300, $200 and even $100, Seiko 5 is hands down the best value for money in the entire watch world.