When someone asks me what to buy for a starter automatic watch, my answer is always the same: the Seiko 5.
Why? Because, price per quality, it’s one of the best watches you can buy. Period.
It’s not only one of the cheapest automatics out there, it also comes with an in-house movement developed by Seiko: the 7S26.
Horological experts praise this movement for its reliability and for the price — a better one is impossible to find. Watch aficionado blog Hodinkee says the movement has been known to run for “decades without complaint.”
It also includes Seiko’s “magic lever” technology, which increases the effectiveness of winding.
For comparison, most automatic watches at this price point (if you can even find them) house cheap Chinese knockoff movements.
The Seiko 5 is also steeped in horological history. When it stepped onto the scene in 1963, it was revolutionary. Seiko set out to build a watch with five attributes, from which the watch gets its name: a self-winding automatic movement, resistance to water, a day-date in a single window, a recessed crown, and a durable case.
Over 50 years later, the watch is still a favourite of those looking for the perfect intersection of reliability, style, and price.
It’s also quite a handsome watch, if subjective appreciation has any merit here. The 5 is actually a range of watches with slightly different movements and styles, including the military, pilot style pictured above, but also dressier versions and even a diving watch.
There are three main drawbacks of the 5:
- First, you can’t manually wind the movement even if you wanted to. However, as Hodinkee notes, many watches that cost much, much more are also unable to wind manually.
- Second — and this is the annoying one for me — the watch has a pretty small power reserve. Often, the watch will even die overnight, and if I don’t wear it all day, every day, it reliably dies. My other watches, which have 40-hour power reserves, are a little easier to wear, because I don’t need to worry about setting them if I’ve worn them within the nearly two days of reserve.
- Thirdly, the straps that come with the 5 are god-awful. As you can see in the picture above, I’ve swapped out the hideous canvas strap that came with the pilot version for a NATO strap, which are cheap and pretty easy to come by.
For the price, however, there’s no way to go wrong with the Seiko 5.