It has wide, massive lugs, a Grand Seiko vibe, a mechanical hand-wound movement, a date with magnifier, and no lume, just the contrasting beauty of the sunburst dial and polished hands and indexes. Oh, and let’s not forget an attractive price tag. You might say these things make this Seiko Cronos Self Dater a perfect entry-level vintage timepiece.

The first Seiko Cronos watch, manufactured by Daini Seikosha, had a central seconds hand and a big applied “S” symbol. It was released in 1958 as a thinner, higher-performance alternative to the Marvel line produced by Suwa Seikosha.

Seiko Cronos Self Dater 718990

Waterproof Seiko Cronos models

Just a year after, in 1959, Seiko introduced its first “waterproof” wristwatch to the Japanese market, featuring a 50m water resistance rating. The Cronos Waterproof ref. J13028 was featured alongside the Laurel Alpinist. Market demand for water-resistant watches suitable for sports and outdoor activities grew, and Seiko had to keep pace. To give you more context, the brand’s first real dive watch, the legendary 62MAS, was introduced in April 1965. With the waterproof Cronos line, we have the so-called “pre-diver” line of watches. There are multiple models to discover, some featuring just “Water Proof” on the dial, “Water 50 Proof,” or “Sea Horse.” Mike showed his J13046 when he discussed Seiko dive watches on video with RJ.

Seiko Cronos Self Dater 718990

Seiko Cronos Self Dater 718990

Today, we have a slightly dressier version of the already rather dressy J13046. The case is equally chunky, but it doesn’t have a screw-down part on the case back. You must simply press it down hard against the case until it clicks in. It implies lower water resistance, and instead of “Water 50 Proof,” there is only a “Water Proof” signature on the dial. The “SW” signed crown stays the same.

What I like in particular about this watch is the additional line added under the beautiful Seiko Cronos branding. “Self Dater” refers to an additional dial aperture at 3 o’clock with a small but striking date disc. I love the round style of the wide, printed numbers, which are perfectly legible via the magnifier.

I am sure my watch still carries its original crystal, which is a great bonus. When looking at my watch straight on, you won’t see any imperfections on the crystal. At specific angles, though, you can see hundreds of tiny scratches that developed over the years. It is not impossible to find a replacement NOS Plexi, but I have no intention of doing so. I like it as it is.

Balanced attire

The sunburst effect on the dial is gentle, but you will see it if you look closely enough. It perfectly contrasts with the polished applied indexes, which align with almost microscopic printing at the bottom of the dial around the edge. You can read “Made in Japan” on the left side of the sixth index and the reference number plus “AD” on the right side. The hands are the same across all models, but the applied indexes offer some nice variation. I suggest studying them closely to find the ones that speak to you the most.

A hand-wound movement

The number of jewels varies somewhat as well, but with 21 of them, you get a reliable, good-quality movement. Seiko Cronos movements are known for their high standards and precision. I don’t miss automatic winding with this one. On the contrary, a pure, hand-wound movement underlines the dressy character of the watch.

Seiko Cronos Self Dater 718990

The case and wrist presence

Although the case is slightly less than 37mm in diameter, the Seiko Cronos Self Dater’s presence on the wrist is undeniable. That’s thanks to the wide lugs, which have a significant faceted treatment. It’s important to mention that the lugs have a 19mm spacing, so you should spend quality time selecting the right strap for this watch.

Last thoughts

Interestingly, I scored my Seiko Cronos Self Dater 718990 in Europe for a lowball bid. It has been with me for about five years now, but I do not wear it as much as it deserves, I had it on my wrist for the last couple of days, and I was pleased with how ideally crafted it is. Some of my watches feel tiny on me. This does not apply to the Self Dater, which has a vivid presence but still hides under the cuff quickly. If you know someone who wants to get on board a vintage-watch train, the Self Dater will make him or her happy. With a budget of just a couple hundred dollars, there are many worse choices. The Seiko Cronos Self Dater has the right balance of style, quality, and undeniable Japanese individuality. Happy hunting!