Can a “grail” be attainable? Sure! It just depends on how much money you have and how hard you’re willing to work for it. And some grails aren’t limited in production, just in availability. It’s awfully hard to find a Nomos or an Arnold & Son in a store, and Seiko Credor are unavailable in most markets.
Can a “grail” be affordable? Affordability is in the eye of the beholder: Some people think a Greubel Forsey is affordable, while others must stretch to save up for a Tissot.
So what would be the ultimate attainable and affordable grail? It would have to be difficult to find and highly desirable, yet likely priced a bit higher than most customers are willing to spend. By that metric, the Seiko SARB065 “Cocktail Time” definitely fits the bill!
Update: Seiko appears to have ended sales of the SARB line, including the Cocktail Time, as of 2018. However, you can still get an excellent example through the secondary market for relatively little money.
Let’s start with a little background. Back in 2010, Seiko teamed up with Ishigaki Shinobu, Japan’s “top bartender”, to produces a line of upper-mainstream watches for the domestic market. Shinobu-San designed three “Cocktail Time” watches: SARB065 was “Cool”, SARB066 “Dry”, and the limited (to 300 pieces) SARB068 “Sweet”.
All of these are part of the upper-class Seiko-branded SARB line and use the high-spec mainstream 6R15 automatic movement. A derivative of the plebeian and ubiquitous 7S26 movement, the 6R15 adds hacking and hand-winding and boasts 50 hours of power thanks to a SPRON 510 mainspring. It still ticks at just 21,600 A/h and is lightly decorated, but the 6R15 is at least competitive with lower-mainstream Swiss movements from the likes of ETA.
And the SARB line is made entirely in Japan, unlike the lesser Seiko 5 models found worldwide. It’s nicely finished, too. The distinctive super-sunburst pattern gives the dial serious depth even though it’s actually quite flat. It’s reminiscent of the Venetian “sgraffito” technique.
The case, crown, and crystal are also highlights of the SARB065. The domes crystal gives it a retro touch, though it’s Hardlex mineral not plexiglass. The simple case is really classy, and the signed crown is well finished and comfortable.
One more clever touch I appreciate about the SARB065 is the blue stitching on the black leather strap. It really gives it a subtle hint of color without being overpowering.
Technically, the SARB line is only available in Asia (principally Japan), but they’re fairly easy to get here in the USA. Grey market importers like the reputable and reliable Long Island Watch have the SARB065 in stock, and Japan-based companies like Chino and Seiya will happily mail you one from there. After shipping, you’ll be out about $580, which is on the high end for a Seiko-branded Seiko but hey, it’s a grail!
Or is it? Let me know if you agree that a $600 Seiko can be a grail!