Today’s “Watch A Day” is a Seiko Premier SSA027, the dressy brother of yesterday’s SSA005 tool watch. Part of the Seiko Premier automatic line, it features the updated 4R39A movement and an “open heart” design. It’s a decent if clunky dress watch, better made than most Seiko models and a bargain compared to Swiss offerings.
Seiko’s Premier line was launched in 2013 for upscale watches that could command premium prices compared to the mainstream lines. It included quartz and kinetic as well as automatic models. The latter used the “SSA” model designation, along with some Coutura models, and used the updated 4R3x movement family. Today, the sole Seiko Premier model in the Seiko USA web site is a cousin of this watch, the SSA245, with a MSRP of $625, compared to the $650 price of this model on launch. I chose the silver/white dial SSA027 rather than the black dial SSA023 or dual-tone SSA024, but all come with the same black leather deployant strap.
Let’s start with the dial: The most noticeable element is the “open heart” at 9:00 which allows the escapement to be observed. This was quite a trend around 2010, initiated by Frederique Constant I believe and soon aped by most other brands. It’s fun to be able to see the escape wheel, but seems a little gauche, especially on high-end watches like the Zenith El Primero. Seiko benefits from the design of their mainstream automatic movement, which places the escapement on-axis with the winding stem (“Lépine“) for a more harmonious dial design.
See Also: Seiko SSA005: Bargain Navitimer
But Seiko ruins this with the oddly-placed 24 hour subdial at almost 11:00. It would have been much classier to skip this mostly-useless complication. Note that this location allows the SSA005 to place the 24 hour dial at 12:00 with the crown huddling down by the lower lugs. I imagine that Seiko included the 24 hour subdial to enhance the “luxury” marketing of the watch among neophytes: Most recognize that pricey watches have subdials (for seconds, chronograph, or date) and Seiko includes this to ape that style.
The dial has a classy large waffle pattern reminiscent of Audemars Piguet which contrasts with the raised guilloche index ring. The Roman numerals appear to be applied but I suspect it’s a ruse: It’s likely stamped. The railroad seconds ring sits at a further level, though it’s very close to the index ring. A guilloche ring surrounds the open heart aperture and intersects with a cutout guilloche disk for the 24 hour subdial. Overall the stacked elements on the dial give it a real sense of depth. Thankfully Seiko skipped the date wheel on this already busy dial.
The case is fairly large, measuring 40.5 mm in diameter, and quite thick. The bezel has a traditional Seiko angle to it and holds a flat, modern mineral crystal. But the rest of the case looks rather English, with scrolled and screwed lugs and fat crown guards around a narrow domed crown. This works well with the English alpha hands, giving the whole thing something of a Speake-Marin vibe, but the Audemars Piguet dial doesn’t fit with that theme.
The leather strap is quite thick and features a high-quality pushbutton deployant clasp. But Seiko’s single-deployants always seem backwards to me: The pointy “tongue” attaches to the top of the watch case and sticks toward the wearer. I’m not sure why they do this, since their simple clasps point in the other direction.
Inside, Seiko specified their new 4R39A movement. This is part of the same family as the similar 4R37 (with date but not open heart), 4R35 and 4R36 (date and day/date, respectively) and plain 4R38. These are updated versions of the mainstream 7S family with new technology added: They hack and hand-wind. And they’re made in Japan to a higher standard than the ubiquitous 7S. But they’re still a mainstream, mass-produced movement and beat at a leisurely 21,600 A/h.
The Seiko Premier line seems to be petering out. Perhaps customers weren’t willing to spend $650 on a mainstream Seiko mechanical watch after all. But I was able to buy mine from the Seiko Company Store at 70% off as part of a pre-Christmas sale, making it a screaming bargain. And they are quite affordable used as well. If you’re looking for a decent mechanical watch with real eye appeal, you could do a lot worse than the Seiko Premier SSA027!