Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review of Seiko Flight Master Automatic Chronograph


Model # SBDS001

Brand/Model:  Seiko Flight Master
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  titanium case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, power reserve meter, chronograph timing in one second increments up to 12 hours
Price:  MSRP:  about $4,500 USD; street price around $3,500 USD



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

 

Watch aficionados always enjoy something different, and many times that means acquiring a watch that is not sold in the market they live in.  In the U.S., it could be getting a Tudor, or some other Swiss brand that is not officially sold in the states.  Many times, getting a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) watch fits the bill.  

Japanese watch companies like Seiko and Citizen make an entire range of very cool watches that are not officially sold outside of Japan proper, so getting a JDM watch can be a source of pride for many a WIS.  In my case, I wanted a Seiko Flight Master automatic chronograph ever since I first saw pictures of one many years ago and the stars finally aligned to enable me to purchase one.  Even though it’s not a Spring Drive or a Grand Seiko, I feel it’s one of Seiko’s finest pieces.

The Flight Master packs a lot of features into a relatively compact watch.  Loaded with a 12-hour chronograph, 48-hour power reserve meter and date display, along with a timing bezel with compass function, about the only thing the Flight Master lacks is a GMT hand.  But I’m not complaining.

The Flight Master sports a nicely polished and brushed all titanium case (I love the look of polished Ti) that measures 42.4mm without the longish signed screwdown crown.  With the crown included, diameter is 48.3mm. 

Case thickness is 14.9mm, lug width is 20mm.  The caseback screws down and is a display type, showing the intricacies of the 40-jewel column wheel chronograph movement.  The movement really isn’t decorated, but the finish level is acceptable and the rotor is signed.

Since the Flight Master is crafted of titanium alloy, the entire watch is fairly lightweight, but not too light.  It’s a nice balance of svelte and presence combined.  It does tend to sit a bit high on the wrist, but not in an annoying way and being titanium, it is not top heavy.

The Flight Master is factory rated for 100 meters (10 bar) of water resistance.

The 120-click omnidirectional rotating bezel sports Breitling-esque rider tabs at the 12 and 6 positions, with six small screws on the side of the bezel at each 10 minute mark, again, very Breitling-like in design.  The bezel itself is finished in black ion plate and is fully marked in white with either hash marks or arabics.  A small compass track with degree markings is located on the inside of the bezel between the timing marks and the crystal.  These markings are very small and pretty hard to see, if you need reading glasses, better bring them! 

A small lume pip is located in the center of the rider tab at 12.  Bezel action is a bit disappointing, rather loud and gritty feeling, not nearly as smooth and crisp as I would expect at this price point.

As a design element, Seiko has two black ion plated tabs that fold down over the sides of the case, between the crown and chrono pushers and on the opposite side of the case, on either side of the 9 position.  This design gives the effect of the bezel sort of snapping over the top of the case, with each of the four tabs being secured by a small screw.  An interesting if questionable detail.

The dial on the Flight Master is all business and a great example of clarity and legibility, given all the functions of this watch.  The hour and minute hands are silver with inset lume, as are the applied markers at each five minute mark (there are no markers at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions).  The dial itself is a perfect matte black.

The subdial at 9 is the seconds hand for the watch.  The subdial at 12 is the chronograph minute totalizer and the subdial at 6 is the 12-hour chrono totalizer.  Both these subdials have yellow hands, to match the chronograph’s center second hand, which is in yellow as well and makes it easy at a glance to read chronograph timing.  Nicely done!

A quickset date window is located at 4:30, with a proper white on black date wheel that aligns perfectly in the window.  The 48-hour power reserve meter resides between the 2 and 3 position and is very easy to read as it sweeps through a roughly 60 degree arc. 

Lume quality is excellent, as Seiko’s Lumibrite is always expected to be.  Small tasteful lettering directly below the power reserve meter, with just the wording ‘Seiko,’ ‘Flight Master,’ and ‘Automatic’ appearing on the dial.

The Flight Master has a mildly domed sapphire crystal that is slightly recessed from the top of the bezel.  The crystal has a very effective anti-reflective coating on it, it’s one of those watches that looks at times to be missing its crystal.  This helps in making the dial very easy to read in most all lighting conditions.

The main time and date setting crown, as previously mentioned, is fairly long, so it’s easy to grip and is signed with an engraved ‘S’.  The chronograph pushers have a positive, smooth feel to them and one unique aspect is they lock in opposite of most screwdown pushers.  When the pushers are screwed in against the case, the chrono can be activated.  To lock the pushers, you have to unscrew them away from the case.  This is opposite of how my other watches with screwdown pushers operate.  Nothing wrong about it, but an interesting feature to note.

Inside the Flight Master is Seiko’s Japan-made 40-jewel automatic column wheel chronograph movement.  It winds and sets well and all the chrono functions start, stop and reset as they should.  I was a bit disappointed in the daily accuracy of this movement at first, as it was running at +16/24 hours, although as time has passed, it has been getting better, currently at about +8/24 hours.  I would have expected more accuracy from the factory at this price point, but it could probably be regulated even tighter than it is now if need be.  Although the power reserve meter only goes to 48 hours, the Flight Master has returned a superb 53-1/2 hour power reserve, so no complaints there.

The bracelet on the Flight Master is solid link titanium that is polished and brushed.  End links are solid and the clasp is pretty much standard-issue Seiko, that is signed, with a pushbutton release and fold over safety clasp, although the deployant is a proper machined type.  There is no diver extension and five micro adjustment holes on the clasp. 

The bracelet measures 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 18.7mm at the clasp.  Sizing was straightforward and with the number of microadjustment holes provided, a good fit is all but assured.

Presentation for the Flight Master is typical Seiko Prospex series, a rather unexciting box emblazoned with the brand lettering in yellow.  I think a watch this special deserves a nicer box.

Overall, the Flight Master resonates with me because it is unique, hard-to-find and accomplishes so much in a well designed package that represents the capabilities of Seiko and their upper end series.  Ask most people on the street and they would scoff at spending several thousand dollars on a Seiko, but when you see the Flight Master in person and look at its craftsmanship, you know you have something special to justify the price.

Pros: lighter weight titanium design, super looking dial, excellent functionality, great in-house Seiko movement, added bonus of power reserve meter on a chronograph 

Cons:  fairly shallow water resistance rating, bezel action should be smoother, clasp could be higher grade to better match price point, uninspired packaging

Verdict:  a superb all-around chronograph with great quality and features, some could probably get by as having this be their only watch, an awesome high-end Seiko

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.

Excelsior!

-Marc




1 comment:

  1. Lovely review, can confirm most of it. The bezel on mine clicks very nicely in half minute clicks, no problem. I had two watches, as the first had some minor blemishes on the rotor I was not happy with. This one was about +8/24h hours, going form about 6-12. Got the watch exchanged with no problem and the new one is on +3sec/24h and I can not see any variations so I am very happy indeed. This watch is really great in terms of readability, the lume is just amazing!
    JL

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