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OK, I am a horophile.
Sounds like something rather nasty, but it's the posh word for someone who collects watches.
My first love will always be vintage pieces, preferably Swiss and especially from companies that no longer exist (more on that later), but Seiko watches have always held a special place for me and I have a reasonable collection.
Seiko watch company is one of the oldest established watch companies outside of Switzerland - the country most closely linked to old and established watch houses.
They are based in Japan and trace their roots back all the way to 1881, though the first wristwatches didn't appear until the 1920's.
Seiko have always been innovators and market leaders in the modern marketplace. Almost all of the components (from the steel case right down to the inner workings) are manufactured in-house, meaning that nothing is bought in ready made, Seiko control the quality all the way through the manufacturing process!
In the 1970's Seiko produced the first LCD watch. It was incredibly expensive, but other watch companies invested in the technology and LCD (digital) watches became the watches everyone wanted. The battery powered watches were more accurate and eventually cheaper to manufacture and sell than the complicated hand-wound watches. Sadly during this time known as 'the quartz revolution' countless smaller Swiss companies went to the wall, simply unable to develop quartz technology and finding their products suddenly very unpopular. Most were either being swallowed up by larger companies or disappeared altogether.
They are the watches I like to hunt down for my collection, hundreds of companies went under in that time and they are cheap and interesting.
Modern Seiko watches fall into three movement categories;
Most Seiko watches are battery powered. They are incredibly accurate and relatively cheap due to uncomplicated movements so are hugely popular. The only real negative is that since a lot of their watches are rated water resistant to 'x' depth, when the battery is replaced the seals need to be renewed and the watch pressure tested in a vacuum chamber. This turns a couple of pound battery replacement into a £30-£40 job.
An automatic movement is self-winding. There is a top-heavy rotor inside which will turn freely as your arm moves. This rotor is attached to a pivot which in turn winds up the mainspring (the part that makes a watch tick). Therefore, the motion of your arm powers the watch - clever stuff!
(a mechanical watch works in almost the same way but requires winding up daily as it doesn't house the self-winding rotor).
Very clever, but automatic watches require servicing and re-lubrication every 5 years or so, which can be an expensive job - £100 and upwards.
Seiko's own invention, the 'kinetic' movement, utilises technology from both of the above.
It is an automatic movement, but instead of powering a mainspring (which will hold charge for up to 40 hours before stopping), the rotor powers a rechargeable capacitor which stores energy for up to 6 months!
Therefore after a single days wear a kinetic watch can be put back in the box and left motionless for weeks on end and will still be keeping time when you next want to wear it. No chance of the battery running out and no fiddling about re-setting the time as you need to with an automatic when it stops.
The design is ingenious and has kept Seiko at the forefront of watch development.
The only issue is that the capacitor can slowly degrade - holding slightly less charge over time. A replacement or upgrade is simple though, and costs around £15.
This, the Sportura, is part of a relatively new line by Seiko. They produce several ranges of 'specialist' watches; the Sportura being aimed towards (naturally) the sporting market!
There are several versions of the watch around now. I own two; the black and orange SNA481 which is a quartz powered chronograph and the black and red SKA511P1 which is an kinetic divers style watch.
The kinetic is superb, it looks amazing, feels nice on (although it weighs a ton) and has never lost a beat. The steel case and bracelet have had some real abuse, yet show very little wear and the bracelet hasn't pulled in the slightest.
The glass, as with all Sportura watches, is Sapphire crystal and therefore almost impossible to scratch or damage
If I have a complaint about it, it's the size. At 44mm it's just huge - it barely goes under a shirt cuff!
The chronograph (split second timer) is a better size at 40mm - perfect for me!
It runs the 7T62 movement (a Seiko 'in-house' development) which comprises of analogue time and sub-dials for seconds, minutes (timer) and an alarm. The alarm is a bit fiddly to set, but once you've learned how to do it you'll never forget. I massively prefer the older 7T32 movement with a separate pull-out crown to set the alarm, but Seiko have only ever put the newer 7T62 in their Sportura.
Again it doesn't show many signs of age around the case, although the bezel has chipped in one corner and can't be replaced.
The strap, however, is a mess! The watch is about 6 years old and has been worn very sparingly - maybe once a week - but after 2-3 years the leather strap wore through! Despite the thickness of the leather between the lugs where it meets the case it has ripped all the way through and is now sat in a box, unwearable.
As is often the case with Seiko, the strap is a customised two-piece which can't be replaced with an off-the-shelf unbranded strap costing under £10, it has to have a replacement from Seiko at a cost of almost £70! (I've spotted one on Amazon actually, but it's still £40+).
This, along with the obscurity of replacement parts like the screw-on fixed bezel, is why it drops a star.
The reason Seiko watches are so special to me?
My late father wore a yellow dial chronograph bought in the mid 90's which he was extremely proud of. After he passed away in 2006 I shunned my more expensive watches and wore it with equal pride. The following year, my girlfriend (now wife) bought me my Sportura chronograph as her first Christmas gift to me. Knowing I was into my watches she was a little worried that it might be the wrong one, but she hit the nail right on the head!
I swap and trade my watches with frightening regularity (I once traded one out before it had even arrived!), but these two will stay with me forever.
Overall, the Sportura is a great little piece of kit for the money. Prices new range from £200 for an entry-level quartz chronograph like mine, to £700 for a top of the range kinetic chronograph.
Don't worry if you'll never use the functions - my dive watch has never been tested with more than a bit of rain and I've only used my chronograph to time parking meters.
Buy a watch because you like the look of it, not for what it does.
Personally, I'd recommend spending the little more (usually £20 or so) and plump for a steel bracelet on it as my experience of the leather straps isn't great. If this was a daily wearer I'd be surprised if the strap lasted a year!
(Most models have a bracelet option, but there are one or two limited editions which are released without options - just strap or just bracelet).
As the range has been around since the mid/late 1990's there are lots on the second hand market. Expect to pay at least half the retail price for one, as they aren't killed by depreciation like some Seiko watches. Even so, a mint condition pre-owned model with box & paperwork for £100 is an absolute bargain. I own some really nice watches and these two never fail to draw attention and attract compliments.
Thanks for reading!