Even though looking out the window of my office today in France the weather isn’t the most engaging, it seems that summer is around the corner. Good weather, good vibes, good times, and the moment when we tend to spend more time outside than inside. For that reason, watch lovers also tend to have the concept of a summer watch in mind. A timepiece that can follow them during their summer adventures and can basically do-it-all. Earlier today, Seiko released the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT, a new range that we’ve already introduced in this article. And when I had the SSK001K1, SSK003K1 and SSK005K1 in my hands, it immediately made me think: could this be the best summer watch you can get now? Answer to come!
Summer… A time for outdoor activities. Forget your cup of tea and your blanket in front of the fireplace. It’s time to go out. Enjoy the sun, burn some energy… In short, enjoy the good life. Summer means many things. It’s the time for holidays, that many of us will spend at the seaside or in the mountains. It’s the time of the year when you fire up the barbecue, join outdoor parties with friends, jump in the pool or in the sea, wear your favourite linen shirt and swimsuit… It’s the moment when we’re out gardening or simply enjoying a good book in the garden. And since many people travel for their vacations, they’ll probably cross a few time zones too.
So, what does that mean in terms of watch needs? With the above list in mind, a typical summer watch is a combination of water-resistance, robustness, maybe a traveller’s function and obviously, a stylish design that can be colourful, fun and sporty. A casual-looking watch, with a comfortable WR rating, a well-protected case, possibly a GMT function, preferably a steel bracelet (a rubber strap is also an option) and, to top it all, a price that should be decent enough so you don’t worry too much if you end up scratching your watch (or worse, end up losing it…)
The easy solution to the “summer watch issue” is often to use a dive watch. If you’re fortunate enough, you can even find GMT-equipped dive watches, such as the Tudor Black Bay GMT or the Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep Black. Still, I’m not sure taking a 5K (or more) euros watch on a hiking trip or for a fishing afternoon on a speed boat seems like the right option. In the same vein, a classic 300m dive watch seems almost overdone for a seaside vacation. Even if you plan a recreational dive, the deepest you’ll go will probably be 20/30 metres below the surface.
And then we received these new Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT watches at the office… And it quickly became clear that the Japanese brand had a winner here. But not only because these watches look good, are well priced and are fully equipped, but also because they actually answer all the needs we’ve listed above. Best summer watch on the market? Well, at least, we have very serious contenders with these SSK001K1, SSK003K1 and SSK005K1.
The basics about the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT
The Seiko 5 range was introduced in 1963 as the brand’s accessible collection packed with interesting features. The 5 in the name refers to the 5 pillars of the collection, meaning 1) day/date complication within a single window; 2) in-house automatic movement; 3) water-resistance for all models (minimum 30m, most of them with 100m); 4) robust steel case; 5) recessed crown at 4 o’clock. In the 55 years that the Seiko 5 has been in production, a wide variety of movements have been used. What they all have in common, however, is reliability, minimal maintenance and affordability. Take for instance the military-inspired SNK809 and you’ll have a perfect example of ultimate value for the money…
The Seiko 5 collection was entirely revamped in 2019 with the launch of the Seiko 5 Sports Collection. And looking at these initial watches, there is another watch that needs to be mentioned, the legendary SKX007, the accessible dive watch personified. A great, inexpensive yet high-performance watch for recreational diving, the SKX007 has been a hit for the brand, yet it was discontinued in mid-2019, mostly because Seiko wanted to stop the production of the 7S series of movement, to be replaced by the 4R series.
Yet, with the SKX007 (and its siblings) being some of the most acclaimed and respected models of the Japanese brand, Seiko decided to give it (sort of) a successor, in the name of the Seiko 5 Sports Collection. This new collection can be seen as the implementation of the SKX design into the Seiko 5 concept. While not sharing the same diving capacities as the SKX, the revamped Seiko 5 Sports collection was clearly sharing the same overall sporty design – the case, bezel and dial all look highly familiar. The concept was there, even if slightly altered. An accessible, relatively robust, funky sports watch with multiple styles to choose from. An automatic movement inside, a crown at 4 o’clock, a day/date display, a rotating bezel… And here you go, a perfectly fine sports watch at a fair price. And one of the best options too when it comes to the first mechanical watch.
Over the past 3 years, the Seiko 5 Sports collection has grown to now offer different styles – without rotating bezels, in multiple colours, in different dimensions… Even the field/military design of the SNK809 was brought back. But all models, until now at least, were powered by the same automatic 4R movement with hours, minutes, seconds and day/date.
Now, in June 2022, Seiko presents the first major mechanical evolution into the 5 Sports collection, and it’s this new GMT watch. As Robin explained in his introducing article, the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT watches share multiple elements with the classic day/date models, and retain the beloved SKX Series inspiration. As such, they have the same asymmetrical stainless steel case, with a screw-down crown at 4 o’clock and a 42.5mm diameter, a 13.6mm height (which is only 0.1mm more than the classic day/date models) and a compact 46.5mm lug-to-lug measurement. On the wrist, and if the diameter sounds a bit large, these new Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT SSK001K1, SSK003K1 and SSK005K1 wear with great comfort, feeling like 40/41mm watches.
The rest of the watch doesn’t disappoint either. For instance, the water-resistance is rated at 100 metres, which seems more than sufficient for most of us (understand non-professional divers). The watch is topped by a classic Hardlex crystal, something that indicates that these new models are playing in an entry-level field. The same material is used for the insert of the rotating 24h bezel. Indeed, the classic Seiko 5 Sports watches have a 60-minute scale printed over an aluminium insert but Seiko decided to give the GMT watches a more qualitative element.
This insert is interesting for three reasons. First, Hardlex is quite resistant and the bezel is one of the most exposed elements of a watch. Second, it looks quite stunning and adds depth to the watch, since the 24h scale is printed on the inner face. Lastly, you’ll notice that the inserts are bicolour – black and grey on the black and orange models, black and blue on the blue dial version. And the result of this two-tone insert with the Hardlex surface is pretty cool… From certain angles, it looks almost entirely black. Move the watch a bit and the second colour becomes far more obvious and almost has a chrome effect – which is particularly true on the blue version. Playful, visually satisfying and denoting a true sense of detail. Well done Seiko for this, specifically in a sub-500 euro watch.
As for the dial of the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT (and for that matter, most Seiko 5 Sports watches), the connection with the SKX Series is still true. Hands and indexes are almost identical, and all the elements are generously treated with the brand’s high-performance Lumibrite material. Of course, there are some specificities to this GMT model, such as the additional 24h hand, the 24h scale printed on the inner flange and the fact that this version has a date-only display, and not a day/date. Plus, there’s a cyclops over the date. Like it or not…
The Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT is launched in three flavours: SSK001K1 with black dial, black and grey bezel insert; SSK003K1 with blue dial, black and blue bezel insert; and SSK005K1 with orange dial, black and grey bezel insert. The black dial is matte while the two coloured dials have a sunray-brushed effect, adding more depth to their colours. If the black version is sort of a no-brainer that will always work, I have a personal preference for the blue edition. More lively, a bit bolder. You can also go for the orange version if that’s your thing, but it isn’t mine… Tastes and colours…
Another new element of these Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT is the bracelet, this cool-looking, retro-styled, 5-row Jubilee-inspired steel band that somehow recalls what was once found on the SKX Series. But here again, there’s an undeniable jump in quality compared to the SKX, whether visually or on the wrist. It comes equipped with a folding clasp and secure lock. Plus, let’s be clear, it really does look quite cool!
Inside the case, you’ll find an evolution of the tried-and-tested 4R movement. Now without day/date, with an additional GMT hand. All the rest is identical: 3Hz frequency, hacking seconds, hand-wound capacity, 41h power reserve. Its magnetic resistance (4,800 A/m) is a class 2, which means it can withstand magnetic fields created by everyday gadgets and home appliances within a proximity of 5 centimetres. The movement is visible under a see-through caseback, which I could easily live without…
One important thing to note regarding the GMT complication. Unline an Omega, a Rolex, a Tudor or a Grand Seiko (or any high-end, true traveller’s watch), the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT isn’t equipped with a local time jumping function. The second position of the crown actually adjusts the 24h hour hand independently, much like an ETA 2893-2. Not a major problem in my opinion for a watch of this price, but a slight drawback in terms of practicality. Entry-level prices often mean a few concessions. Nevertheless, it will do the job when travelling and crossing borders.
Regarding prices and availability, the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT SSK001K1, SSK003K1 and SSK005K1 are launched as part of the permanent collection (not limited) and will be available from July 2022. The price is EUR 470, which seems high compared to the rest of the Seiko 5 Sports collection (starting at EUR 260), but considering the additional GMT complication, the new rotating bezel with Hardlex insert and the Jubilee bracelet, it actually remains a fairly (to say the least) priced watch. After all, it’s a fully in-house-produced watch, from a respected watchmaker, with many, many features and a quality that is almost unbeatable.
Why it’s the best summer watch now available
In a nutshell… this Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT packs it all. Period. Thank you, goodbye! Ok, let me go a bit deeper. What you have here is a watch that is a great definition of a summer watch, a toolish piece that can do it all, take it all, follow you everywhere, look good anywhere, and that will never really be out of place (except maybe at the office…)
As we mentioned, summer is a time for leisure activities and for spending time outside. What you’re looking for, or at least what I’m looking for, is a watch that can follow me everywhere I go, whether I’m jumping in a pool, gardening, riding a bike, cleaning my barbecue, taking a boat ride or simply want to visit a city like a good-old tourist. I want my watch to be water-resistant to a decent level, so I don’t need to strap it off before jumping in the water; I want my watch to be solid enough to take a bang or two without breaking down; and I want my watch to be relatively accessible because if ever I lose it, I won’t be too sad. I also prefer to avoid having an expensive luxury watch on my wrist, because no one knows what can happen (you’ve probably read those stories of Rolex owners being mugged…) I don’t want to be in that situation.
And since summer is the perfect time for travelling (and yes, we can do it again now that the pandemic seems to be almost under control), I’m very much interested in a watch that can indicate a second time zone, so I can keep track of the time at home. A GMT function is a no-brainer. A diving bezel would be nice, but let’s be real, who really uses them when swimming anyway. Yes, they are practical to cook pasta. Right… A 24h bezel is more practical in real life.
Finally, summer is the time when we can be a bit bolder with our clothes. Bright colours are much more accepted, and casual attire is the way to go; I want a watch that reflects this, with a hint of colour, a relaxed look, and a slight sporty style. And in this vein, a steel bracelet is some sort of a must for me, as I don’t really enjoy rubber straps.
With all of the above requirements in mind, I can hardly find a better answer than the Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT… It does everything perfectly, with style and quality, at a good price. And not only do I recommend this watch to newcomers (men and women) but also to far more experienced watch enthusiasts. It’s not a problem of price anymore; it’s just that this Seiko really does everything you’ll ever need. Without mentioning the fact that it has a truly versatile case that will look perfect with basically any kind of strap: NATO, Perlon, two-piece fabric, tropic… The game is on. These watches are typical strap monsters, believe me. And if the Jubillee-style bracelet isn’t your thing, you can also use the 3-link Oyster-style of the other Seiko 5 watches.
I don’t know about you, but to be honest, I think I just found my new perfect summer watch. There are many other options to consider, of course. But not many can combine such a level of coolness, quality-price ratio, and practicality. I’ll let you decide whether you agree or not, but my choice is made!
For more details, please visit www.seikowatches.com.