If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I love Seiko watches. They provide a wonderful combination of value, functionality, and simplicity. That’s why today’s “Watch A Day” is something special to me: It’s my very first mechanical watch!
Seiko introduced their “5” moniker to the world in 1963 on the Seiko Sportsmatic 5. It combined five essential elements deemed noteworthy on a mainstream watch then and now:
- Automatic winding
- Day and date displayed (in a single window)
- Water resistant
- Recessed crown (at 4:00)
- Durable case and bracelet
You’ll see all five elements in every “Seiko 5” watch produced since then, including this early 2000’s 7S26-01V0 model.1
Automatic winding went from a rarity in an inexpensive watch in 1963 to an obsolete technology in the 1970s to a sign of pride today. Seiko was a pioneer of affordable quartz timing and helped drive the cost of electronic watches below that of mechanical in just a few decades. Today, although they certainly keep better time, quartz watches are not prized like their mechanical counterparts. Even though Seiko makes very similar quartz and automatic watches, the latter are typically priced quite a bit higher.
In the space of 50 years, this watch represents the same values as that first Sportsmatic 5. It’s sporty, inexpensive, durable, and suitable for wear every day. Let’s go through the “5 virtues” as exemplified by this watch.
It’s not a glamorous movement, but Seiko’s 7S26 is cheap, durable, and has most of what entry-level buyers want. It has Seiko’s bi-directional Magic Lever winding system, which uses pawls rather than gears to protect the works in case of shocks. It’s fully-jeweled and doesn’t need regular servicing. Production of the movement is almost entirely automated, allowing Seiko to sell it at rock-bottom prices. It has day and date with quickset from the crown for each. This 7S26B model adds Etachron regulation.
What’s not so good? It lacks hacking or hand-winding and ticks at only 21,600 A/h. Power reserve is a little anemic too, at just 40 hours. Later descendents fixed both of these shortcomings, but Seiko still ships lots of 7S26 watches. All of these movements have only cursory decoration, as is typical of mass-produced machine-made movements, so they’re not much to look at.
The durable case is made in the “engineer” style, with integrated lugs and a smooth bezel. It’s obviously mass-produced, with soft polished edges. There are about a million different dials available, but mine has a sporty automotive motif, with luminescent bar markers and minute numerals inside. The gray and red coloration between 12:00 and 4:00 is reminiscent of a dive timer, but it’s not clear what purpose it is supposed to serve here. The arrowhead hour hand is a nice addition to an otherwise simple hand set.
The case has the crown rotated to almost 4:00, another Seiko 5 hallmark. This helps protect it from shocks without needing large “shoulders” or crown guards. The crown itself is easy to pull and operate, setting the time quickly and smoothly in third position and supporting both date and day quickset in second. First position does nothing, and it doesn’t screw down.
The bracelet is a 5-link “jubilee” style, made of folded and pressed metal, with a simple metal clasp. Typical of such bracelets, mine has loosened up considerably over the years and now rattles and flexes quite a bit. These bracelets use the inner link pin for adjustment, making it somewhat difficult for the uninitiated.
The clasp is a simple folded metal affair but perhaps a little nicer: It is signed “Seiko 5” and includes pushbuttons for release. It has just a few adjustment holes.
I wore this watch for a few years before getting more into watches and investing in a more serious Swiss daily-wear watch. Although it’s really nothing special, this Seiko 5 was an important door into the world of watches, and I strongly recommend models like this to friends. They’re durable, interesting, and well-made. Even watch snobs love a good Seiko!
- There are other lists for the meaning of the “5” out there, but this one comes direct from Seiko! ↩