When Seiko recently introduced a re-edition of the very first Seiko 5 Sports from 1968, I got quite excited, to be honest. What I was looking at, on paper until then at least, was a faithful recreation of an iconic watch. The Seiko 5 Sports has been, and still is a very important collection to Seiko, and I’m sure pretty much all of us came into contact with one at some point in life. It’s widely considered a gateway mechanical watch, one that introduces loads of people to the world of mechanical watchmaking. And while some might move on, I still love a good Seiko from time to time. And this one seemed a very good one by the looks of it. So, a quick call to our Seiko contact, a little wait, and here we are, going hands-on with it. And perhaps ruining the surprise; the new Seiko 5 Sports 55th Anniversary Limited Edition SRPK17 is even better in person!
As we’ve explained before, the Seiko 5 collection was introduced in 1963, with the beefier Seiko 5 Sports following in 1968. All watches under the Seiko 5 range are designated to have a mechanical movement, a day-date display in a single window, water resistance, a recessed crown and a robust bracelet or strap. To this day, those 5 elements still hold up and it has cemented the 5 as one of the most important collections in Seiko’s history. The sports-oriented spin given to the 5 in 1968 also welcomed innovations such as a new mainspring and shock-resistance system and the Magic Lever for more efficient winding of the movement. With this in mind, the new SPRK17 comes full circle and celebrates the 55th anniversary of the original Seiko 5 Sports in style.
As any good re-edition should, the case is virtually an exact copy of the one introduced in 1968 in terms of shape, proportions and finishing. Of course, material quality has improved over the years but it still has that iconic tonneau-shaped design with shrouded lugs, a bidirectional bezel and a hidden crown. Design elements such as the polished half-moon scallops at 12′ and 6′ are all there, resulting in the same charm as it did 55 years ago. With a diameter of 39.5mm and a height of 12.5mm it is quite compact and the lug-to-lug size of 43.1mm makes it looks and feels very good on the wrist. The drilled lugs add a nice vintage touch too and allow you to easily swap out the bracelet for a strap if you want. With 100m of water resistance, you also don’t have to worry about a heavy shower of rain or a jump in the pool or ocean.
The matte black dial is somewhat basic perhaps, but is identical to the one in the original Seiko 5 Sports from 1968. The hour indices are applied and given a LumiBrite coating and are ‘integrated’ with the silver minute track on the outer edge of the dial. The shapes, colours and proportions are a direct copy of the 1968 version, which is very cool! You get faceted hour and minute hands, a red lollipop central seconds hand, a faceted frame around the day-date window and the vintage Seiko 5 logo at noon. The only change to the dial is the printing in the lower section, which now reads ‘Sports’ in blue, with ‘Automatic – 24 Jewels – 10BAR’ in silver. Everything is covered by a slightly curved Hardlex crystal that has a subtle bevelled edge to it.
Working away diligently under the solid caseback is the all-too-familiar Seiko Calibre 4R36 automatic movement. Produced entirely in-house, this workhorse beats at a frequency of 21,600vph. The power reserve is acceptable at 41 hours, but at one point it would be nice to see an improvement to carry you over the weekend for instance. Then again, this is a perfect watch to be worn during the weekend, or any day of the week for that matter, so I’m not complaining too much. The movement indicates the time with hours, minutes and hacking seconds, and of course the day of the week and the date.
The Seiko 5 Sports 55th Anniversary Limited Edition SRPK17 (what’s in a name) comes on a 20mm wide stainless steel bracelet with flat links that have a brushed top surface and polished sides. This tucks underneath the lug sections of the case, effectively reducing the size of the watch when on the wrist. The three-part folding clasp follows the shape of the bracelet nicely and is signed with ‘Seiko’. Limited to 15,555 pieces, and that’s not a typo, the watch is presented in a special box also recreating the vibe of the original one and retails for EUR 410. It is available from July 2023 onwards at Seiko retailers and boutiques.
Now, I really like this watch, to the point I am looking to get one for myself. I love the classic look of it, which is iconic and as our editor Rebecca put it in our intro article is “the face that launched a thousand ships”. It’s a watch perfectly suited for almost every occasion (bar a red carpet event perhaps) and can be worn worry-free. It’s robust, well-built and has bundles of character. It’s also very reasonably priced so to me, it feels like a no-brainer.
I also want to address the seemingly ridiculous number it is limited to as this has to be put into context. We’re talking about Seiko here, a vertically integrated powerhouse that sells more watches than most Swiss manufacturers combined. In 2020, the Seiko corporation had a turnover of YEN 239 billion, the equivalent of EUR 1.5 billion. That would put it between Patek Philippe and Cartier in terms of turnover, and I can’t imagine where it would be when looking at volume. You also have to factor in the huge network of retailers Seiko has. In the US alone, there are 2,350 official points of sale. Add to that the 1,144 locations in Japan, 796 in the UK, 723 in Germany, 605 in France, 556 in the Netherlands and so on. The numbers seriously add up. Looking at it from this perspective, some retailers might not even get an allocation for this retro-cool SRPK17!