Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review of Seiko 5 Sports Automatic

Model # SNZJ55

Brand/Model:  Seiko 5 Sports
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet (photos for this review show the watch on an aftermarket leather strap)
Complications:  day/date display
Price:  MSRP:  $300 USD; Street Price:  $155 USD

Plenty of photos follow the review.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Seiko has a huge line of their venerable Seiko ‘5’ models as well as an extensive range of more deluxe Seiko 5 ‘Sports’ watches.  The Seiko 5 Sports pieces tend to be larger, have more complex case designs and other tweaks that fit with their higher prices.  But that being said, most of the Sports models are still quite affordable and represent a good overall value.

This brown-dialed Seiko 5 Sports kind of appeared out of nowhere.  Several months ago, I was browsing Seikos online and noticed this particular piece and since I didn’t currently have a brown dial in the collection, I was intrigued.  The orange accents and overall look of this watch sat well with me and that’s why it’s now in the collection.

This watch comes standard on a stainless steel bracelet, with the pushbutton, double locking clasp that seems to be omnipresent across most Seiko models.  The bracelet appears to be a solid link design, but upon closer examination, it is and it isn’t.  It’s one of those Seiko designs that actually is a folded link bracelet, but the links are one solid piece that gets folded over under great pressure and then polished on the edges, so all that is seen is a faint line where the fold is.  This works pretty well in most instances, but why they just don’t use real unfolded solid links is beyond me.

Anyways, I felt a tan leather strap would look perfect on this watch and that’s what I got, an aftermarket honey-brown perforated leather strap that compliments the watch to perfection.  All the photos in this review show the watch on the aftermarket strap that I installed.

This Seiko 5 Sports starts with a nicely finished all stainless steel case that is fully polished on the sides, with the tops of the lugs being brushed, along with a brushed fixed bezel with knurled edge.  The case measures 41.8mm without any of the crowns, 47mm with either of the two crowns included.  Both crowns are knurled and signed with the iconic Seiko ‘5’ logo and neither crown screws down.

The caseback is a screw down display type that is polished stainless steel, with printing on both the stainless steel outer edge and on the mineral crystal display back.  Case thickness is a rather thin 12mm; lug width is 22mm.

The watch is factory rated for 100 meters of water resistance.

The dial on this Seiko 5 Sports is a very pleasing shade of brown, sort of copper-like in some light, but more like tarnished copper.  It looks classy.  The inner rotating bezel is controlled by the crown at the 9 position.  The inner bezel itself is a darker brown color, with orange numbers and markers for the first 15 minutes, with white numbers and markers for the remainder of the hour.  An orange inverted triangle marks the bezel’s 12 o’clock position.

A note about the inner rotating bezel.  The crown that controls the bezel has no resistance to it whatsoever, it spins almost entirely on its own.  This causes the bezel to creep around the dial as you wear the watch, which can be very annoying, at least to me. 

This design flaw has been mentioned by other owners of this model.  Other than living with this flaw, I have wound some strings of elastic around the crown stem between the bottom of the crown and the case side.  The elastic is springy enough not to compress too much and has definitely added some friction to the crown, which is what is needed to prevent the creep of the bezel.  It also springs back enough so it hides itself completely under the crown, so you can’t see the elastic while wearing the watch.  Kudos to my watch friend Paul for suggesting this nifty fix.

Some owners have resorted to using dental floss, but with a resulting ugly tied end hanging out of the crown, which is totally unacceptable to me.  The elastic seems to be the fix of choice.  But here’s an even better idea.  Why doesn’t Seiko either make the crown screw down, so it locks the bezel into position or design the mechanism so it has enough internal friction on its own to prevent the bezel creep?    Or relocate the bezel crown so it doesn’t sit flat on your arm, where it easily contacts your arm and causes the creep.  I know it all has to do with cost, but this is a serious enough design flaw in my opinion to keep some people from purchasing this watch.  Seiko, are you listening?

Also, the location of the bezel crown at the 9 position on the case makes the case appear pretty large and somewhat unwieldy on the wrist, given that there is also the main watch crown on the other side of the case at the 4 position.  With the crown guards on both of these crowns adding additional visual bulk to the case, the look is at times unbalanced and ungainly.  Why not put the bezel crown on the right side at the 2 position, that would make more sense to me and also help eliminate the bezel creep previously discussed.

Now, back to the dial.  There are small white printed arabics on the dial at each five minute mark, with white hash marks between the numbers.  A larger applied marker is found at the 6, 9 and 12 positions, with inset lume.  The Seiko name appears at the top of the dial, with an applied ‘5’ logo and the wording ‘Sports’ directly below it.  At the six position, the wording ‘automatic’, ’23 jewels’ and ‘100M’ appear on the dial.  The dial is capped with a flat Seiko ‘hardlex’ mineral crystal.

The hour hand is white and infilled with Seiko’s Lumibrite luminous material.  The minute hand is orange and filled with Lumibrite.  The seconds hand is black with an infilled orange arrow tip.  This color scheme gives a bit of diver watch panache to this piece, even though this watch is not diver material.  Lume quality is very good, as is to be expected with Lumibrite.

The crown at the 4 position is used to set the time and adjust the quickset day and date display at the 3 position.  The day/date window is framed with a silver bezel, with the wheels being white on black for a cooler look.  The day wheel is bilingual, in both English and Spanish.  Alignment of the wheels within the window aperture is fairly spot on, as this can be a point of contention with Seiko 5s from time to time.  Overall fit and finish on this model is very good.

Inside this Seiko 5 Sports is the tried and true 7S36B automatic movement with 23 jewels and no handwinding or hacking capability.  While Seiko has brought out a hacking and handwind movement in some of their lesser priced models, it would be nice if they jumped on the bandwagon with Orient and Citizen (Miyota), both of which are including hack/handwind movements in a variety of pieces these days, more so than Seiko.

The 7S36 is nothing special to look at, but it should run for years.  Timekeeping has been fine, but since it doesn’t hack, I have not attempted to measure its daily variance.  Suffice it to say that it performs like a Seiko 5 should.

I’ve already discussed the bracelet on this model.  I am very pleased with the aftermarket strap I installed on this Seiko 5 Sports and it really makes this watch a pleasure to wear.  It’s a great weekend casual watch and is also something that should get some attention in a crowd with its unique brown dial and orange accents.  Overall, despite the bezel creep issue, this Seiko 5 Sports is a winner.

Pros:  nifty brown dial with orange accents, nicely finished especially for the price point, reliable automatic movement 

Cons:  no friction on bezel crown causes bezel to creep while watch is worn, no hacking or handwind capability, semi-solid bracelet is a head-scratcher

Verdict:  a unique look for a decent watch in the Seiko 5 Sports range, low entry price, looks better with an aftermarket strap 

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.




  1. Hello! I really enjoy reviews you posting here. And your potos is always nicely done. I'm glad that you describe not only luxury watches, but other original and interesting models like this Seiko. Thank you/

  2. Thanks for the extensive and beautiful review!