Affordable GMT Watches That Fly Under the Radar
A whole world of was suddenly at our doorstep – one that required a new kind of watch that could easily keep track of the time in different time zones.
Seiko 5 Sports
A whole world of was suddenly at our doorstep – one that required a new kind of watch that could easily keep track of the time in different time zones.
The Japanese manufacturer Seiko drives innovation in the watch industry. Their catalog features everything from affordable quartz watches to masterpieces with minute repeaters. They produce all of their components without any external suppliers.
With over 140 years of history, Seiko is among Japan's most storied watch manufacturers. The company is based out of Tokyo and has a reputation for producing high-quality timepieces at attractive prices. What's more, Seiko is constantly introducing innovations to the industry, including the first quartz wristwatch, the highly-efficient Magic Lever winding mechanism, and the hybrid Kinetic and Spring Drive movements, which combine the best of quartz and automatic calibers.
Seiko's catalog is vast and has something for every taste and budget. For example, the Seiko 5 and 5 Sports are popular entry-level watches that offer quality finishing and reliable automatic in-house movements for shockingly low prices. The Prospex collection also enjoys a large fan base, especially its diving watches.
The Presage collection contains Seiko's dress watches. Each comes with a mechanical in-house caliber, and the designs cover the full spectrum from sporty to classic. For something particularly modern, Seiko offers the Premier collection. These timepieces are available with automatic, quartz, solar-powered, and Kinetic movements. Fans of high-tech watches should take a closer look at the Astron collection. Named after the world's first quartz wristwatch, Seiko outfits these timepieces with high-precision solar-powered calibers connected to the GPS network.
Seiko demonstrates their full watchmaking prowess with their two private brands: Grand Seiko and Credor. The watches from these brands boast the best technology the company has to offer. Other defining features include sophisticated complications, precious metals like gold and platinum, and flawless finishing.
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Feature(s)|
|Prospex LX, SNR029J1||5,800 USD||Titanium, Spring Drive, water-resistant to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft)|
|Presage Porco Rosso, SARK017||3,800 USD||Stainless steel, chronograph, date|
|Prospex Tuna, S23631J1||2,600 USD||Titanium, water-resistant to 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft)|
|Astron GPS Solar, SSH077J1||2,600 USD||Stainless steel, GPS-controlled, solar-powered, perpetual calendar, GMT|
|Presage Prestige, SPB093J1||1,900 USD||Stainless steel, Arita porcelain dial, power reserve indicator, small seconds|
|Prospex Turtle, SPB237J1||1,400 USD||Stainless steel, date, water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft)|
|Prospex Alpinist, SPB197J1||1,000 USD||Stainless steel, internal bezel, date|
|Premier, SNP161P1||900 USD||Stainless steel, Kinetic caliber, oversized date, perpetual calendar|
|Premier Chrono Alarm, SNAF77P1||450 USD||Stainless steel, quartz, chronograph, alarm function|
|5 Sports, SRPE79K1||360 USD||Stainless steel, automatic, date, day|
|5 Sports Field, SRPG37K1||270 USD||Stainless steel, automatic, date, day|
|5 Sports, SRPD55K2||250 USD||Stainless steel, automatic, date, day|
You can find Seiko watches on Chrono24 for less than 100 USD. Most are older models from the Seiko 5 collection. Current editions from the Seiko 5 Sports line, such as the SRPD55K2 diving watch and military-style SRPG37K1, demand between 220 and 290 USD. Select special editions like the SRPE83K1 "Brian May" can cost up to 900 USD.
Prices for watches in the Prospex collection begin under 450 USD. At this price point, you can get models with solar-powered calibers, including many with chronograph functions. The collection's popular diving watches bear nicknames given by fans based on their unique shapes: Turtle, Samurai, and Tuna. You can call one of these timepieces your own for anywhere from 560 to 2,800 USD. Top Prospex models use Spring Drive calibers and sell for up to 5,200 USD.
The dress watches in the Presage collection change hands for as little as 400 USD on Chrono24. Those with a chronograph or GMT function cost between 1,400 and 1,800 USD. If you want a Presage with a Spring Drive caliber, be sure to have about 3,700 USD on hand.
Depending on the model, you can call an Astron with a high-precision GPS solar caliber your own for between 1,500 and 3,200 USD.
The Prospex collection contains sports watches for professionals at affordable prices. The name "Prospex" is derived from "Professional Specifications," further demonstrating that these watches are for professional purposes. This is made most apparent when looking at the series' diving watches.
The so-called "Tuna" models are a great example of this. Their name comes from the case's outer shroud, which bears a strong resemblance to a tuna can. The outer shroud not only protects the watch from impacts but also improves its water resistance. Thus, timepieces like the ref. SLA042J1 "Golden Tuna," with its gold bezel, boast water resistance to 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft). Large glow-in-the-dark hands and indices make telling the time a breeze in all lighting conditions. This particular reference gets its power from the caliber 8L35 with a 50-hour power reserve. A SLA042J1 will set you back roughly 4,100 USD. Its sister model, the ref. S23631J1 with a black bezel and quartz caliber, is much more affordable at around 2,600 USD.
Other popular Prospex diving watches include the various Turtle models and remakes of Seiko's first diving watch from the 1960s. Like the Tuna, the Turtle gets its nickname from its case shape, which looks like a turtle shell.
The Turtle ref. SPB151J1 is a 42.7-mm stainless steel remake of the ref. 6105-8110 worn by Martin Sheen as Captain Willard in "Apocalypse Now." This watch is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and features a unidirectional rotatable diving bezel. Other defining features include a crown with a crown guard at 4 o'clock. Thanks to the caliber 6R35, the "Captain Willard Turtle" boasts a 70-hour power reserve. Prices for this classic watch sit around 1,400 USD.
For something more affordable, the ref. SRPE05K1 is a great alternative. It has a slightly more modern dial design and uses the caliber 4R36 with a reduced 42-hour power reserve. You can find this model on Chrono24 for as little as 570 USD.
Seiko's first diving watch debuted in 1965 and has since served as the blueprint for other Prospex models. The Prospex Automatic Diver's Limited Edition SLA043J1 from 2020 is especially similar to the vintage classic. From the case shape and domed crystal to the dial design, Seiko achieved a stunningly accurate remake. However, the modern Prospex outdoes its predecessor when it comes to water resistance. While the original was only resistant to 150 m (15 bar, 492 ft), the new watch is resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft). Furthermore, the remake's caliber, the 8L35, is a state-of-the-art movement with a 50-hour power reserve. Limited to a run of 1,700 pieces, this model sells for roughly 4,400 USD on Chrono24.
The ref. SPB147J1 is a much less expensive option that also has noticeable ties to Seiko's diving watch from 1965. However, the manufacturer has lent it a more modern design and the caliber 6R35. You can call this timepiece your own for about 1,100 USD.
The Prospex LX series is home to the collection's high-tech models. Inside their cases, you'll find ultra-modern Spring Drive calibers, some with a GMT function. You can recognize these timepieces by their fourth central hands and bidirectional 24-hour bezel. Seiko equips other Prospex LX editions with compass or diving bezels.
Depending on the exact watch, a Prospex LX will set you back between 4,600 and 5,800 USD.
The Alpinist series is another pillar of the Prospex collection. Its design dates back to the models Seiko developed specifically for mountain climbers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Typical features include cathedral hands and triangular hour indices. In some models, these indices alternate with Arabic numerals. The 39.5-mm editions stand out with their additional crown at 4 o'clock, which is used to operate the internal compass bezel. Seiko leaves this feature off the smaller, 38-mm variants. As a result, these watches feel more elegant and less technical. The third Alpinist model is especially elegant and takes after the original Alpinist from 1959 with its dauphine hands and Art Deco dial.
No matter which Alpinist watch you choose, it will be water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and use the automatic in-house caliber 6R35. Be sure to have between 720 and 970 USD on hand for one of these timepieces.
If you're on the market for an affordable automatic watch, you're sure to encounter the Seiko 5 and Seiko 5 Sports collections. Prices for these quality timepieces begin below 100 USD for simple three-hand models with day-date displays. Their simple, sporty designs make them the perfect choice for everyday wear. While the Seiko 5 collection has a large number of elegant watches, it also contains models with dials and textile bands reminiscent of pilot's and military watches. On the other hand, the Seiko 5 Sports collection is mostly diving watches and extra-sporty dress watches.
In early 2020, Seiko united the two collections into one called "Seiko 5 Sports." The modern collection is split into the sub-series Sports Style, Suits Style, Street Style, Specialist Style, and Sense Style. The Sense Style line is incredibly colorful, with designs ranging from camouflage to bright and bold. Suits and Specialist Style watches have more classic and refined designs, while timepieces in the Sports and Street Style series exude a particularly sporty character,
The manufacturer outfits most current Seiko 5 Sports models with the caliber 4R36. Unlike the calibers from the 7S family found in older editions, this movement boasts a stop-seconds mechanism and the option to set the time manually.
Prices for new 5 Sports models are more than moderate despite their improved technology. On average, these watches cost between 220 and 370 USD. Even limited editions are available for less than 570 USD.
Seiko mainly produces classically elegant timepieces in the Presage collection. Many of these watches take their inspiration from vintage classics from the company's long history. Another feature shared across the collection is that each watch comes with a mechanical caliber produced in-house.
The collection is divided into two lines: Prestige and Basic. The Prestige series sets itself apart with its high-end technology. Most of the watches use calibers from the 5R or 6R series, which offer 45 and 50-hour power reserves, respectively. Many models have complications like a GMT function, power reserve indicator, or chronograph. Beyond that, Seiko furnishes many Prestige watches with enamel or Arita porcelain dials, further underscoring their elegant nature. Prices vary by model and range from 770 to 2,000 USD. However, some limited editions cost 3,900 USD or more.
In the Presage Basic Line, you'll mostly find timepieces with movements from the 4R family. These calibers have 41-hour power reserves. Seiko often decorates the dials with delicate patterns or elaborate sunbursts. The Basic Line also contains many Open Heart models with cutouts in their dials. In terms of price, you can expect to pay between 410 and 720 USD for a Presage Basic Line on Chrono24.
In the Premier collection, Seiko puts a modern twist on classic design. For example, while the use of Roman numerals lends these timepieces a traditional look, their 43-mm cases and wide bezels and lugs are decidedly modern. The technology is also up to contemporary standards. Beyond the usual automatic and quartz movements, you'll also find solar-powered and Kinetic calibers. Each Kinetic caliber has a generator that converts the rotor's kinetic energy into electricity and stores it in a battery. This battery then serves as an energy source for a precise quartz caliber.
As for functionality, the Premier collection offers everything from classic three-hand watches and chronographs to timepieces with moon phases, alarms, or perpetual calendars. Prices for Seiko Premier watches range from 330 to 970 USD.
The Astron collection is by far Seiko's most modern line of watches. The "Astron" name dates back to the world's first quartz watch, which Seiko introduced in 1969. Like their historical predecessor, current Astron watches stand for state-of-the-art technology and precision.
Seiko equips these timepieces with the latest and greatest quartz movements with GPS technology. GPS technology not only enables these watches to synchronize the time to the exact second but also recognizes which time zone the wearer is in and automatically adjusts the time. These movements can even tell if the hands correspond with the actual time and correct them accordingly. Other features found in current Astron models include perpetual calendars that won't require manual correction until March 1, 2100. Top models also boast GMT or world-time displays.
Solar cells provide the Astron with its energy. Fully charged, the Astron can run two years in the dark.
Prices for these high-tech watches depend on their functionality and fall between 1,700 and 2,600 USD.
The Lukia collection has been part of Seiko's portfolio since 1995 and is mostly comprised of women's watches. These timepieces take their design inspiration from Tokyo's famous Ginza shopping district and were exclusively available to the Japanese market for a long time. The first deliveries of Lukia watches arrived at Seiko boutiques in North America and Europe in 2020.
The current collection contains six 34.8-mm models in stainless steel, the only difference between them being their dial colors: There's "gofun" (white), "kurenai" (deep red), "ruri-iro" (deep blue), "aoshiro-tsurubami" (graceful gray), "sakura-iro" (rosy pink), and "tsukishiro" (light blue). The dials are made of mother-of-pearl, feature floral patterns, and are set with diamonds. Each watch uses the automatic in-house caliber 6R35 with a date display.
Lukia models rarely appear for sale on Chrono24. Their recommended retail prices range from 1,300 to 1,400 USD, depending on the exact watch. Limited to a run of 250 pieces, the version with a light blue dial and diamond bezel has a list price of 2,500 EUR (approx. 2,800 USD).
The high-end brands Grand Seiko and Credor represent the very best that Seiko has to offer. Both brands offer luxury watches of the highest order that more than stand up to their counterparts from Switzerland.
Grand Seiko watches set themselves apart with their clear, conservative designs. Beyond technological perfection, Seiko's watchmakers pay particularly close attention to finishing. Their zaratsu polishing is among the best in the world.
The Credor brand focuses on precious metals like gold and platinum. Their watch designs range from classically simple to finely decorated. You'll also find models with tourbillons or minute repeaters.
Of course, so much luxury has its price. A current Grand Seiko model will set you back anywhere from 5,600 to 115,000 USD. Prices for Credor watches are known to surpass 170,000 USD.
Kintaro Hattori first opened a small clock store in his early twenties in 1881, creating the foundation of today's Seiko corporation. The first factory followed only eleven years later and had the name "Seikosha." This term comes from the Japanese words "Seiko" (precise) and "sha" (house). The goal was to manufacture all of their own components and to sell watches at more affordable prices than their competitors. The concept was a triumph and has brought the company long-lasting success.
Today, they produce almost all of their own watch components — a unique trait in the world of watchmaking. When Seiko introduced the first Japanese wristwatch "Laurel" to the public in 1913, every single component had been made in-house. Prior to that, they had manufactured pocket watches and wall clocks.
President Shinji Hattori heads the corporation, which also includes brands such as Orient Watch, Pulsar, and Lorus.