Finding The Best Seiko Japan Domestic Market (JDM) Watches Out There
There is something attractive about exclusivity. The simple principle of: “I have something that you don’t have” is highly attractive to many buyers. Ever too often, it’s often the result of marketing meetings, resulting in fabricated scarcity. But there is also true exclusivity. One of the best examples is the stream of watches that Seiko releases for their Japanese customers. Seiko’s Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) releases are renowned amongst collectors of the brand worldwide. Getting your hands on one can truly be exciting. Time to find some of the best JDM-releases the brand has released in the last 25 years.
Creating a list of great Seiko JDM releases is not that difficult. It’s harder to keep the list reasonable in length than it is to go completely overboard. As the brand has had a large focus on the Japanese market, we have seen quite an impressive list of Seiko JDM releases over the decades. That’s why we decided to make it a list of the more recent JDM-releases that have caught our attention. To make it a substantial list, we decided to list the best Seiko JDM releases from the last 25 years. So we’ll go as far back as roughly 1995 to come up with this list of some of the best Japan-only releases that have slowly found their way around the world.
1. Seiko ‘Red Alpinist’ SCVF007
The first watch on this list was a no-brainer for me for multiple reasons. I love Seiko’s Alpinist line of watches and the 1995 “Red Alpinist” are my favorites. They re-introduced the Alpinist line in 1995 after thirty years of absence. Seiko introduced three different models with the word Alpinist in red on the dial, hence the nickname, of course. The first is the SCVF005 with a black dial and chevron indices; the second is the SCVF007 with a cream dial. And the last is the SCVF009 with a green dial. These last two models feature Arabic numerals at the even hours. These new Alpinists have a unique look specifically defined by the four o’clock crown and a unique inner bezel compass.
Out of the three, the absolute winner for me is the SCVF007. Its cream-colored dial with the gold hands and indices look very classy on both the bracelet and a leather strap. Inside the 38mm case, Seiko used the Caliber 4S15. The automatic movement operates at 28,800vph, featured 25 jewels, can be hand-wound and hacks. It’s a perfect everyday beater that looks great on the wrist. These watches have always been popular with collectors but became even more popular after the Alpinist models became available worldwide. Finding one is tough, and expect to pay between €1K and €2K for one.
2. Seiko SARB033
The Seiko SARB033 and its white dial counterpart, the SARB035, have become famous because they offered maximum bang for the buck. I prefer the black dial SARB033 as it looks incredibly classy. The secret to the success of the SARB-models was their combination of very clean looks, incredible finishing, great movement, and all for an original price of under €400 when it was officially for sale in Japan from 2008 until 2018. The iconic looks of the watch remind us of some of the iconic Grand Seiko models and why some people refer to it as the “baby” Grand Seiko. The design and finishing of the case, the dauphine hands, the indices, and the bracelet look very clean and give the feeling of a lot more expensive watch than it was.
On top of that, the watch fits a great variety of wrist sizes because of its dimensions. The watch features a 38mm case with an 11mm thickness, 44mm lug-to-lug, and a lug width of 20mm. Inside the case, Seiko equipped the watch with the automatic Caliber 6R15. This famous movement operates at 21,600vph, features 25 jewels, and has a 50-hour power reserve. It has powered a string of Seiko releases that were far more expensive than the SARB033. Add a sapphire crystal and the 100-meter water resistance, and it is simply an impressive piece of kit, especially considering its original price. It’s what made the SARB033 legendary far outside of Japan and why many people want one. As a result, its prices have gone up drastically, and we expect to pay roughly between €500 and €800 for this gem.
3. Seiko Marinemaster 300 SBDX012
There was never going to be a list without a Seiko Marinemaster 300, of course. The model was introduced as we know it today in 2000 with the Marinemaster SDBX001. But it wasn’t the first time the Marinemaster name was used. Seiko also used it for the Seiko SBCN005 Transocean from the late ’90s. But it’s with the SBDX001 when the Marinemaster became the watch as we know it today. Together with the SBDX001, Seiko also introduced the SBDX003 that was part of the “Seiko Historical Collection The year 2000”. This limited edition of only 500 pieces was executed with gold hands and indices. Additionally, it did not feature the “Marinemaster” wording on the dial. This piece was a special homage to the legendary Seiko 6159-7001 diver. It’s a stunning piece that you can pick up between €3.5K– €5K.
While these two models represent the Marinemaster in all its glory, one model takes the gold theme a bit further. In 2015 Seiko released the limited edition Seiko Marinemaster SBDX012 to celebrate 50 years of Seiko diving watches. On top of having gold hands and indices, this watch also has gold numerals on the bezel insert. The result is the perfect mix of style and substance. Seiko’s top-of-the-line professional diver looks stunning in that color configuration. Additionally, you get the standard specs with its 44mm case, automatic Caliber 8L35. It was produced in a limited run of 1,000 pieces that all went quickly. Today expect to pay quite a bit of money for this watch as it tends to also go between €3.5K and €5K.
4. Seiko Prospex SBDC079 “Ginza Limited Edition”
From the Marinemaster to the Baby Marinemaster. Or Marinemaster 200 or MM200 or the Seiko 1968 Automatic Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation as it was officially named when it was first released in 2018. But as per usual, Seiko fans introduced their own name for the watch. Seiko did release some pretty great editions of the watch. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Prospex SPB105J1 ‘Dark Green Sunset’, a great limited edition. But there was also a JDM release that uses the same color configuration of a green dial and black bezel. It does, however, leave the gold details, and the dial is a touch lighter, making it look a bit more straightforward, and I love that.
The Seiko Prospex SBDC079 was part of the Ginza limited versions that the brand released in 2019. Only 300 pieces of the watch were released that sold out almost instantly. The story of these limited editions is all about Ginza, the place where Seiko was founded. The symbol of the city in the past was the willow. It is why the case back has willows engraved into it. On top of that, the dial color is inspired by the color of the willows. Our very own Mike Stockton managed to get a hold of one, which is pretty special. The 300 pieces were sold only at six different stores in the Ginza area. Trying to get your hands on one nowadays is not impossible, but rather expensive. The prices for the few pieces that are available are between roughly €2–€2.5K.
5. Seiko White Mountaineering Giugiaro Design SCED065
This next entry comes courtesy of our own Lex. When I asked him what his favorite Seiko JDM release was, he quickly came up with the Seiko White Mountaineering Giugiaro Design SCED 065. This could have easily been my pick, in all honesty. The watch is a reminder of the great partnership that Seiko and Giorgetto Giugiaro had in the 1980s. Add Japanese clothing brand White Mountaineering in the mix, and “stylish” would be the right word to describe the watch. In 1983 Seiko and Giugiaro partnered up for a series of spectacular watches that have become iconic amongst watch fans. Especially the Speed Master “Ripley” and the Speed Master “Bishop” have become iconic pieces.
The two companies also released the Riders Chronograph in the ’80s. It’s a quartz chronograph with a dial tilted 15 degrees, but the case also slopes downwards toward the wearer. So the 3 o’clock side of the case and bracelet is slightly fatter than the 9 o’clock side. The watch was created for motorcyclists so they could check their watch while riding. In 2016 Seiko released a tribute series of the Riders Chronographs as JDM models. This special version created with streetwear brand White Mountaineering was released in a limited run of 700 pieces a year later. As you can see, the combination of a full black watch with white details creates the ultimate contrast making it extra practical to use and giving it a cool look. The best thing besides its looks? You can still get these for their original price, just under €300!
6. Seiko SZSB006 ‘TiCTAC’ Limited Edition
Ever wanted to know what the love baby of a Seiko Alpinist and a Rolex Explorer looks like? The SZSB006 ‘TiCTAC’ Limited Edition is one of two collaboration pieces released with the Japanese watch store TiCTAC in 2019. The SZSB006 was one of two watches that were released to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the store. The first was this SZSB006, and the second was the dressier SZSB007. But the SZSB006 takes the first prize out of the two. While the Explorer meets Alpinist is the most obvious reference, the design, you could add the Omega Railmaster and Seiko’s SARB-series that I’ve discussed earlier. Somehow the combination of elements works very well for me.
The watch features a 40mm case with a black dial with fauxtina hour markers and cathedral hands also filled with the same vintage-inspired lume. The case shape and hands remind me of the Seiko Alpinist. The dial layout has a strong Rolex Explorer vibe. I do like that Seiko only used Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock. Inside the case, Seiko equipped the watch with the trusted Caliber 4R35. This automatic movement powers many Seiko models and operates at 21,600vph, has 23 jewels, and has a power reserve of 40 hours. Add the stainless steel bracelet, and it’s a very nice daily wearer. Two years after its release, the SZSB006 is still relatively easy to find. Expect to pay between €600–€800 for one.
7. Seiko Brightz SDGZ013 50th anniversary
The last watch on this list is the Seiko Brightz SDGZ013, released to celebrate 50 years of Seiko chronographs in 2014. This full titanium chronograph was released in a limited run of 500 pieces and takes design queues from Seiko’s legendary 6138-8020. In 2019 for the 55th anniversary, Seiko released a stainless steel non-JDM release that Mike talked about and featured the same dial design. While it’s not necessarily an original approach, it does show the iconic design of this dial configuration. The panda-ish dial design with a hint of orange looks very cool. The watch features a 42mm titanium case that is 14.7mm thick. The watch is 100 meters water-resistant. And despite its substantial size, it is very easy to wear because of its low weight.
Inside the case, Seiko introduced their automatic Caliber 8R48. It is a vertical clutch column wheel movement that operates at 28,800vph and has 34 jewels. The power reserve is 45 hours, and the watch can be hand-wound. It was introduced as Seiko’s top-of-the-line automatic chronograph movement, which is a big part of what makes this watch special. I love the details like the matte black hands, the black Seiko logo, and the white hands used for the sub-dials. The same goes for the almost stealthy date window executed with a grey date dial and black printing. As only 500 pieces were produced, these watches don’t show up for sale that often. Prices for one are roughly between €2.5K and €4K. Considering the iconic design, the movement, and the quality, still a much more affordable option than some of its Swiss counterparts.
These 7 Seiko JDM models are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more great JDM-models that have been released in the last 25 years. Other watches that come to mind are the Seiko Prospex “Tuna” SBBN015, the icy Seiko × Nano Universe SCVE027, the Daytona homage pieces SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 also created with Nano Universe, the SLA047J1 Island Green Limited, the Alpinist SARB017, and the Cocktail Time series that started as a JDM-series. And there are so many more worth mentioning. That’s why I am handing the mic over to you guys. What are your favorite Seiko JDM-releases of the last 25 years? Please let us know in the comments section below!
Please find and follow me at Jorg Weppelink • Instagram