79A57BE2-0F50-4CEF-8C35-6823093A39D7-7574-00000754F3A51928.jpg

Seiko SRPE51

A Perfect First Seiko

 

I first heard of the Seiko brand as soon as I got interested in watches. Seiko is famous for having built one of the largest catalogues of any brand, offering watches at all price points, and pioneering new technologies. The very first Seiko watch I locked eyes on was the SKX013 model, which I discovered before they got discontinued.  Back then, I didn’t know much about the brand except that they had been around for what seemed to be a very long time.   

 

In many ways, the SRPE51 represents the best attributes of the brand: unique design, great specifications, availability, and reasonable resale value. It was the first Seiko I bought brand new, and the first watch I had bought in a brick-and-mortar store since 2006 (for my first in-store watch purchase, I got myself a Skagen at Macy’s in New York for what then seemed the enormous sum of $150)!

 

About the SRPE Collection

Nicknamed the “DressKX,” the new line of fixed-bezel SRPEs debuted in 2020, offering consumers ten different models: the SRPE51, SRPE53, SRPE55, SRPE57, SRPE58, SRPE60, SRPE61, SRPE63, SRPE65, and SRPE67. What differentiates each model is the dial color and the fact that it comes on a strap or bracelet, and it includes two-tone models in what looks like rose and yellow-gold (see pictures below). 

 

I never got to own an SKX, but I could see the great value proposition the lineup offered.  What made them popular was the unique design language, the ISO 6425 certification, the robust but utilitarian 7S26 movement, and their perfect sports watch proportions.  Another set of advantages: the SKX came in different sizes and color variations, something of a standard feature for all Seiko watches.  

 

The same is true of the SRPD collection that replaced the SKX. They all shared the same case size, but they came in different color variations and with unique dial designs thanks to Seiko’s many collaborations with fashion brands and video game production companies.

SRPE63K1.png

SRPE63

SRPE60K1.png

SRPE60

SRPE58K1.png

SRPE58

 

Specifications

The SRPE51 has a case size of 40mm, a 44.6 mm lug-to-lug distance, a 20mm lug width, and the case is 11.5 mm thick.  It is powered by 4R36 movement, which features 41 hours of power reserves, 24 jewels, hacking and hand winding, and a day/date complication. 

 

Finishing consists of alternating smoothly brushed surfaces and highly polished ones, especially on the fully polished side of the case. The top of the bezel is also highly polished, which in combination with the polished case sides creates a continuous, dynamic play of light both when looking at the watch straight on and from the side.  

 

The crystal is Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex, which is sturdy but not scratch-resistant the way a sapphire crystal is.  It’s clear, doesn’t create distortions (I like and don’t like distortions, depending on which watch we’re talking about), and it just works.  As we will see later on, the SRPE’s features—and Seiko models in general—just work.  

 

The lugs are drilled, which makes changing straps easy.  I did not change straps because I found the fully-brushed bracelet decent, despite the fact that it has hollow end links and Seiko’s famous pin-and-collar attachment system.  I personally do not mind the quality of the bracelet.  Again, it just works like it’s supposed to at this price point.

99F09B2D-980E-43B5-B86B-F2F293AAC1F9-7574-000007502651A1BA.jpg
 

Design

The dial design is effective and very much in the Seiko style, and that’s what I love about it.  The dial showcases three types of applied hour markers to make telling time easier: a triangle-shaped marker at 12, oblong markers at the 6 and 9, and round hour markers everywhere else (except at the 3 o’clock position, a space occupied by the day/date window). 

 

The latter is beveled, which is not as nice as being framed, but it shows that Seiko put some effort into their craftsmanship.  They could have left the date window simply cut out from the dial like other brands do.  The bevel creates a welcome, gentle visual effect that balances the applied indexes everywhere else, as it creates a counter-balance by being set into the dial as opposed to the applied indexes protruding from the dial.  

 

The Seiko logo sits at the 12 o’clock position, underneath the new stylized Seiko 5 logo and the word “Automatic” in script at the 6 o’clock position.  The dial is gray and has a superb sunburst effect.  Lastly, the fully graduated minute track was printed on the rehaut. 

12884F16-AB8F-4C9B-9424-F6D772D31A71-7574-000007500B531E10.jpg
5352876D-C409-42BA-854B-1325F5CB8FDE-7574-000007501CCABD00.jpg
 

The Heart of the Matter

The Seiko 5 line up has always offered quite a lot of value for the money you spend on it.  The SRPE51 can be bought  for as little as $220.  For that price, you get the famous five attributes of a Seiko 5: automatic winding, day/date complication, water resistance, the recessed crown at 4, and a durable case. It’s a great first Seiko, and that’s going to be the heart of the matter of this review.  

 

When I started looking at Seiko watches, I felt overwhelmed by the brand’s massive catalogue.  Seiko offers affordable watches in the $50–$100 price range and higher models (including the Grand Seiko) that cost $10,000 and up. That’s a very wide range for just one brand.  Imagine if Rolex offered entry-level watches next to an $8,500 Submariner; if I’m correct, that’s pretty unheard of.   

 

The advantage of such a huge catalogue is that it gives options for all tastes and budgets.  The disadvantage is that it can lead the customer to wonder if the brand is cutting corners in order to produce that many watches each year, especially the lower-priced models like the SRPE51 reviewed here.  Seiko, after all, is notorious for its poor quality control, and that has been a problem for me. 

 

I spent too much time reading and watching reviews highlighting the negatives of the brand (the poor quality control and the increasing number of expensive limited-edition watches). This aroused negative feelings about Seiko at first. The SRPE51 is not immune to the poor QC issues: the minute track on the rehaut is not perfectly aligned with the hour markers, and the date wheel is not centered.  

 

These undeniable shortcomings nevertheless failed to upset me too much since I only spent $250 for the watch.  I would be more upset, for example, to discover a misaligned bezel on a $1,200 SBCD101/SPB143, as is often the case (I looked at a new white-dial SDBC139 in a boutique, and it had a misaligned bezel too!). 

 

So what’s the heart of the matter here? Well, the more I read about quality control issues, the less I wanted to look at the brand.  This began to turn me against Seiko watches even though I had never owned one before, but after thinking about it some more, I realized that I had  started valuing people’s opinions too much instead of making my own judgment.  On a recent trip to a Seiko boutique, then, I decided to buy the SRPE51, a small step toward exploring what the Seiko 5 line is all about and determining whether or not it’s a good deal. 

 

Unlike Rolex, Omega, Jaeger-LeCultre, Patek-Philippe, and others, Seiko offers the unique opportunity to try out a new brand and get a taste for what it does best: in-house design and in-house manufacturing at what is truly a good price.  Honestly, $250 (or $220 depending on where you look) really is pretty reasonable, even for a first watch purchase.  

 

You may wonder, however, what are my thoughts about the watch? Well, it’s good. It’s really good.  

 

For the price you pay, you get a unique design, legacy, and great specifications. The watch wears superbly on my 6.5” wrist (16.5 cm) thanks to its short lug-to-lug distance and thin case.  It’s functional, it tells time well, and the movement is robust.  The SRPE51—and other similarly priced Seikos—is a great option for giving the brand a test run and seeing how you feel about it.  It seems that once I started to like it, I realized that it’s going to be a very long, positive relationship with the brand.

 
79A57BE2-0F50-4CEF-8C35-6823093A39D7-7574-00000754F3A51928.jpg

Conclusion

Owning a Seiko meant becoming part of this vast family of Seiko fans, and this gave me a good reason to look deeper into the brand and explore what it stands for.  I forced myself to see beyond Seiko’s superficial failings (poor quality control, for instance) and look at the positive features of the brand: Seiko’s long history of watchmaking and innovation, its unique and original designs, their in-house production of every single watch component, and their vast catalogue.  

 

The SRPE range sits perfectly between cheap, rudimentary watches and the more refined and expensive watches.  This makes it a true no-brainer for a first Seiko.

Video clips: