The return of the Seiko 5 Sports line is here with 27 different models based off of a familiar case.
Between entertaining my daughter in the kiddie pool, drinking ice cold Keo, and engaging in deep, meaningful discussions with my wife (ok, she’d beg to differ on that last point) while on holiday in Cyprus, I actually did check my email every so often. On one of these occasions, I received an email from Seiko informing me about the return of the Seiko 5 Sports line. Aside from seeing a very familiar case (that, mind you, had already been leaked some months back on forums) and a different style of logo, I kind of passed the email off as a typical email from Seiko that tells me of news that we already know. Another Mai Tai please! But then, the next morning I decided to read a bit more deeply and there is definitely more at work here and it deserves attention. So, we’ll give it just due, talk a little about the beloved SKX007 – it’s an elephant perching within the confines, and I’ll provide some thoughts on this “new” line and what it may portend.
Seiko introduced its “5” lineup way back in 1963 with the Sportsmatic. This is old news, but the 5 stands for the following: an automatic movement, a day-date display at the three o’clock position, water resistance, a recessed crown at the four o’clock position and a case and bracelet built for durability. We’ve even taken a look at a couple Sportsmatic models within #TBT, such as the 1967 6619-8230 and another model that was possibly used in the Vietnam War by a special forces group, the 6619-8060. But in 1968, Seiko introduced the Seiko 5 Sports line of watches meant to address the burgeoning trend of water sports such as skin diving, snorkeling, water skiing and the like. The first model was actually the 6106-8120 that you see above – apologies if you’re not a fan of the album in the background. Essentially, the watches were meant to survive more rigorous activity while also bringing in sportier styling elements such as bright colors, rotating bezels, etc. The Sports nomenclature was used on everything from light divers, field watches, chronographs and even gave way to movements like kinetic quartz.
It wasn’t always the case that Seiko 5 Sports watches were less expensive counterparts to functionally comparable regular Seiko line watches – more often known as Prospex today, but it seems to be the case now. Looking at today’s (or yesterday’s) lineup, for example, there are models that look like Monsters, but they’re not in terms of water resistance or they likely contain a lower spec automatic. Looking back, though, I’d invite you to take a look at an article I penned on the fabulous vintage Seiko Sports Divers. You’ll note that these debuted in the late 60’s and it was clear that Seiko was very, um, unclear on their direction at the time.
Some models changed from Seiko to Seiko 5 Sports as the line was established while others curiously remained as normal Seiko’s. Perhaps these were regional decisions and I’ve not decoded it yet, but there are some all-time classics within this subset of watches regardless of the inconsistent beginnings. Names like “Rally”, “Sushi Roll”, “UFO”, “Kamen Rider” and the “Regatta” are just some of the pieces that, for my money, gave the Swiss a proper beating at the time. And so, where does that leave us now?
With the revamped Seiko 5 Sports watches, Seiko tells us that it’s looking back on the last 5 decades of its Sports watches in an effort to bring us an upgraded experience, but with all the same traits that we’ve grown to enjoy. To dedicate the occasion, we also have the dawn of a new logo that will come to differentiate your Sports model from a normal Seiko 5. That logo is somewhat of a sideways “5” that’s shaped within the traditional Seiko 5 shield. Frankly, it looks a lot like the “Superman” logo and it’s been catching some guff on forums. My view? It’s a little odd, but much like any longstanding product that receives a refresh, I think getting used to the logo will simply take time.
There’s good news in the engine room as well because these Seiko 5 Sports watches are equipped with the 4R36 automatic. Gone are the Seiko days of relying on the “shake and set” method – ironically, a sales feature of early Seiko 5’s with their “magic levers” – to get things going as this watch can be hand wound and hacks. In fact, it’s the same movement that’s in the pricier Prospex Turtle series. But what’s somewhat surprising is the case shape that Seiko chose to debut the refreshed line.
Yes, the Seiko 5 Sports watches debut with an astounding 27 different variants and all use a case, handset, and indexes very reminiscent of the dearly beloved SKX007: a model that’s often credited as the gateway drug for budding watch enthusiasts. That’s kind of a wild choice because, on the one hand, Seiko is playing it seriously safe with this tried and true look. On the other hand, the SKX007 was never officially part of the Seiko 5 series, but that’s a topic for a later paragraph. There are a number of different aesthetic choices for the case including steel, rose gold coated steel and black hard-coating.
The dial choices include cream, black, blue, green, burgundy, orange, aged black, aged blue, aged green, black with red indices (!), black with blue indices, black with black indices, black with gold highlights, green with some sort of crackly topography, and what looks like brown with a similar surface. That’s a lot! Ditto for the bezels as there are myriad choices – sadly none contain a lume pip at 12:00.
Yes, there are 27 watches and they all fit into 5 different sub-sections called Sports, Suits, Street, Sense, and Specialist. I’m not sure how “sporty” those are aside from the first one, but Seiko felt the need to give some order to things.
The bracelet choices also range wildly on the new Seiko 5 Sports collection. We have an oyster style bracelet, mesh, nylon, and some sort of silicone/leather combination. Wild! Seiko chose Hardlex for the crystal and a screw-down case back that we’ve yet to see. You can bet that there’s no tsunami motif, though, as these watches are only water resistant down to 100 meters. Another nod to the lighter sporting intentions of this watch is the decision to forego the use of a screw-down crown.
Frankly, it’s the one omission that both surprises me and disappoints even though Seiko 5 watches don’t feature screw-down crowns. At 42.5mm in diameter, though, this size will please anyone who has ever held or considered an SKX007. What we also don’t know is whether the case contains drilled lug holes as this is common practice on recent Seiko’s. Then again, this is common practice for recent Seiko divers and these are clearly not true divers.
So what do I think about the new Seiko 5 Sports collection aesthetically (we’ll get around to technical merits and demerits at the end)? All in all, I really like them and with retail pricing between 280 and 340 Euros (let’s be honest, they’ll be less expensive on Amazon), they’ll sell these by the boatloads once they become available in September. The styling is Seiko-familiar and even addresses the “modder” market that loves to experiment with this case and all of its elements. I’m not a fan of the script “Automatic” above 6:00 and would have liked something a bit more technical looking, but it’s a minor point. Personal favorite? There’s an orange-dialed model that’s a fairly close reinterpretation of the 7548-700C from the early 80’s or the more recent SKX011 and I’d go in that direction.
Shifting gears, let’s talk about the SKX007 and its relatives. For all the questioning we get about whether the 007 is truly dead or not, I’d say that the introduction of the Seiko 5 Sports watches puts a final nail in the coffin for the old soldier. The 7S26 movement is done and that’s all the more evident by the fact that the more highly spec’d 4R36 is ending up in more accessible models now. But for all the reasons that it was time to send the old SKX’s packing, this was and still is a tremendously popular watch. They’re still on Amazon and still a popular favorite amongst collectors and newbies alike. And so, I’m here to say – and say it aloud – I don’t quite get the Seiko 5 Sports strategy. Yes, they brought us the case design that we know and love with loads of variants, but they brought it in a watered-down version. I mean honestly, this case design has been around for 40+ years as it debuted in 1978 on the aforementioned quartz 7548-7000. After that, the basic case design has done time in models such as the 7002, 7S36, 7C43, SBCM023, and that sampling eschews the vast range of mid-size pieces that used this general shape. One common theme is that all of them contained a screw-down crown and, if I am not mistaken, were ISO-rated dive watches. For $250 or so, every person could choose quartz or automatic and roll with a watch that could and still can, truly do it all – especially those quartz pieces. So, yes, I find this to be a bit of sacrilege concerning the case style, but perhaps Gerard is right and that the $200 mechanical diver is essentially dead (just don’t tell the Russians).
I’ll belabor the point a bit more. With the Seiko 5 Sports lineup, we get a hell of a lot more show, but less go and, to me, it all comes down to the lack of a screw-down crown. Ok, I think adding a lume pip at 12:00 is a no-brainer, but the crown strikes me as a misstep. Now, Seiko would tell us that original 60’s Sport Divers also lacked a screw-down crown and they’d be correct, but those watches didn’t pilfer a case that had always been associated with real divers. Here was an opportunity to take the SKX007, finally define it within a Seiko line – I think Prospex would’ve been more suitable – and give the people what they truly wanted with all kinds of variants and an upgraded movement. I’m far off from being a marketing expert, but it feels to me that Seiko actually downgraded the SKX007 in order to try and make watches like the “Mini-Turtle” and “Turtle” seem better and to keep from cannibalizing sales of these pieces. These new 5 Sports actually have everything else going for them aside from the crown and bezel pip – everything! Well guess what? Seiko offers loads of competing products at similar price points. Take a look at the $1000 – 1200 range and you have the 1968 Modern Reinterpretation models, the 62MAS Modern Reinterpretation models, and the Sumo! So, in the end, I’m sorry to say, but I don’t completely get it. So yes, I think it would have been better to launch a new series of SKX models with perhaps a lower number of variants (and, as Seiko does, make additional models as Special Editions) and then to relaunch Seiko 5 Sports with a different, new case style.
You’ll never hear me complain about more mechanical offerings at an attainable price point, especially with quality in-house movements as in the Seiko 5 Sports lineup. I think it’s great that Seiko is addressing the fan base’s interest in modding and in wishing for more variants. And honestly, some are downright gorgeous…that green! The fact that these watches will be available globally is also a real step in the right direction. I only wish they’d decided to offer a crown made for diving to make the watch more authentic and in keeping with what this case style has always meant for buyers. For certain, I’ll be excited to go hands-on with one and I’m sure I’ll end up adding one – or more – to the stable. I’m also interested to see what else Seiko adds to this lineup; let’s hope they bring back some cool 70’s shapes with moderate case sizes. I’m very curious to hear what the fans think of these new pieces and which you like best, so let us know below! See every variant in our gallery below with their reference numbers.
For more information on the Seiko 5 Sports lineup, head to the official new Seiko 5 Sports site.
Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became... read more