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A brand to trust
Member Name: kojak123
Advantages: Varied, stylish, huge back-catalogue, cutting edge technology
While most are positive, often glowing in fact, I've noticed that a few are a little down on the old Seiko brand.
Seiko watch company have been around forever and a day.
They were established in Japan in 1881, a fact I discovered after buying a limited edition dive watch on a run of 1881 pieces. I enquired why such a ridiculously random number for a LTD edition, and was sent away feeling suitably stupid.
The name Seikosha was adopted as a name in the 1920's, translating as House Of Exquisite Workmanship (wikipedia), and soon shortened to Seiko as the brand spread West.
While the vast, vast majority of watchmaking houses were based in Switzerland (something to do with the climate; low humidity and high pressure I recall), Seiko were a none-Swiss powerhouse keeping up with European design, technology and reliability despite a poorer economy and almost no experience in the industry.
They became known as expert clockmakers throughout the 1890's and well into the new century, and when the idea of wristwatches gained popularity just before World War 1 (soldiers were converting pocket and fob-watches to home-made wrist watches for ease of use in the trenches), Seiko were again at the front of the field, introducing their first line in 1913.
Seiko literally kick started the Quartz Revolution.
The quartz (battery) movement was a dozen years and millions of pounds (or dollars) in development, and Seiko were the driving force behind it.
In this incredible technological breakthrough it was discovered that a quartz crystal, when the correct voltage from a battery was passed through it, would resonate at precisely the correct frequency to regulate and power an electronic oscillator module, which in turn moved the hands of a watch.
The outcome was a cheap* movement which held an accuracy never before seen in a mechanical wristwatch. It signalled the beginning of the end for many hundreds of small watchmakers, and a lot of established firms simply went out of business when demand for a well made mechanical wristwatch dropped off entirely!
A good many of these were bought up by larger companies who stayed afloat either on their name (Rolex, Longines etc) or because of their sheer size.
*Cheap technology to produce once the design was in place, but in order to re-coup some of the money spent in research and development the first quartz watches were horrendously expensive. Records show that in the first week of release 100 Seiko 'Astron' watches sold, at a price of $1250 each.
Given that this was 1969, the equivalent price now would equate to ten times as much!
At least 70% of Seiko's current offerings are now quartz movements. I have owned probably close to 100 Seiko watches and a large proportion have been battery powered. They are cheap, easy to maintain and easy to repair.
In most of their quartz watches, if the module (movement) fails, it's a quick and easy job to replace the entire unit and have a brand new movement in the old watch. On a few occasions I've even hit e.bay to find a donor watch to steal a movement out of in order to bring an old one back to life. A lot of the parts are interchangeable and they tend to stick with a good design once they've developed it, so second hand parts are generally plentiful. The chronograph watches I collect for instance used the same movement for over 15 years, between the late 1980's and early 2000's.
The battery watches are bread and butter to Seiko, and you know exactly what you're getting when you buy one - an affordable but high quality watch.
Automatic watches are rather more complex and therefore more expensive to produce than quartz, so Seiko use these movements in very few ranges.
An automatic movement is self-winding. A top heavy rotor turns inside the watch, moving each time your arm moves and winding the mainspring. The mainspring (when taut) will power a series of gears which allow the hands to move. When kept in reasonably frequent motion (worn daily), an automatic should never stop. The spring will hold a reserve of between 24 and 48 hours, so will continue to run even when taken off and left stationary. Once it's back on a wrist it begins to wind back to full charge.
I have owned a few Automatic Seiko watches, but none quite as good value as the Seiko 5!
Seiko 5 stands for 5 features - 5 levels of value; Shock resistant, Water Resistant, Self Winding, Day display AND date display.
These watches are so cheap I often wonder how Seiko make a margin on them! Aside from the complicated diver and timer watches, almost all of the '5' range is under £100, and some as cheap as £50.
These watches are incredible value, I can't stress that enough, and I always keep at least one in my collection. They are good timekeepers and really stylish pieces which I'm comfortable enough to wear to the pub as they are an impressive spec without having a high-end name on the dial. A few have glass 'display' backs too, so you can actually see how your watch works which I love! Always a talking point while out and about.
I sang the praises of Kinetic in my Seiko Sportura review, but I'm going to do it again!
These movements are a 100% Seiko exclusive and seriously clever technology.
They utilise the best bits of both of the above movements, so the rotor powers a rechargeable cell rather than winding a mainspring. This means that instead of a power reserve of a few hours, a watch can be left stationary for up to 6 months without losing time! The watch powers down and goes into a sort of 'standby' mode when left still for a while, then as soon as it detects motion it re-sets the hands and date to the correct time and continues ticking!
In the negative reviews I have read, the Kinetic seems to be one of the big losers. This is because the rechargeable cell loses some of its potency over time. A brand new watch has a 6 month power reserve which diminishes slightly over time but will take at least 20 years to lose all storage. The older watches had a 1 month reserve, which did fade rather quickly. A five year old watch might only have managed to hold a few days charge before stopping. Seiko quote approximately £100 for a repair on these, and there lies the problem for the people who think they've bought a maintenance-free watch which will last a lifetime, and so write a one star review.
Fortunately, there is a capacitor upgrade available for around £12-£15 which will put your old kinetic back to 100% again. It is almost as easy to fit as a new battery and does basically the same thing, but not many people know about it (Seiko don't advertise it oddly enough) ;-)
As I've said before, my Sportura divers watch is a Kinetic and I love it - never had a single issue - but I also have a few others, including a couple of standard dress watches and one with a very handy power reserve indicator. I'd always recommend these Kinetic watches, and I'd always look out for them second hand. Often they are sold as faulty or not even repairable, and 99% of the time it's simply because the capacitor has lost its ability to hold charge. A cheap and easy fix for anyone who enjoys tinkering.
Under the banner;
Seiko company actually put out watches under 4 different names. Seiko are the higher end pieces, with prices ranging from a wallet friendly £70 or so, to an eye watering £500,000!
Pulsar are one step below them, using cheaper case materials and often utilising the lower end of the Seiko movements for their range of watches. They are again very good watches on a budget, with prices starting around £40 and rising to £200 or so.
Lorus and Alba are the lower and of the Seiko company, usually found in small chain stores and catalogue shops, with prices as low as £15. Again, quality is generally good but the materials and manufacture are much cheaper than the main Seiko line.
Seiko were once 100% in-house manufacturers, and try to continue as such to an extent.
Some of the cheaper cases and dials are now produced in China and Taiwan rather than all within the borders of Japan, but the majority of parts, including almost all movements are made BY Seiko FOR Seiko and not made available for general purchase by smaller watch houses.
Their development budget has allowed them to capture a large chunk of the market, from the Quartz watches of the 60's and 70's, to the Kinetic watches from the 1980's which are still in production today, and the recent use of 'Spring Drive' technology, a system which doubles the power reserve of standard mainspring powered watches to 72 hours and sometimes more.
A lot of R&D goes into their new watches, and sadly there are a lot which we don't see on our shores. Many limited edition and technically advanced watches are developed for the Far East market and rarely make it to the UK, such as the Grand Seiko line and a lot of Spring Drive pieces.
Part of me things that the price (£1000-£5000) of these watches is high, but look past the name on the dial and it's easy to see that they are easily keeping up with developments made by industry giants such as Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe, all of whom ask tens of thousands of pounds from similarly advanced watches.
The thing which has always appealed to me about Seiko is the collectability factor.
First and foremost, I know that if I need to sell one of my watches there will always be a market full of buyers.
Secondly, because of the longevity of the company and the sheer diversity of their watch designs over the last century there are quite literally thousands upon thousands of different models to collect. Even if I stuck to a small corner of their catalogue, such as the Seiko 5, I would never in my lifetime see every model they've made.
Lastly, even though they might not have the prestige of a high end Swiss brand they have a special place in the hearts of the people who buy them. Most models have nicknames given to them not by the factory, but by the people who buy them!
I mean, what sounds better - the Seiko SKX781K£, or the 'Orange Monster'? The SHC061P1, or the 'Sawtooth'?
I love going through my watch box admiring the Sumo, the Black Knight and the Atlas - it's a mini phenomenon which I believe is unique to the Seiko brand and really brings the watches to life. The names conjour up images immediately.
I have always been a Seiko fan.
While my watch collection doesn't end with them, and I will always have a few nice and slightly more expensive Swiss watches, Seiko have always formed the heart of my collection.
Some of my watches are just fashion pieces, happily bought, sold and traded out on a whim, but some of my Seiko watches I hold very dear. My late fathers is the last watch I would ever contemplate selling, and the one my wife bought me is a close second. (I hear a rumour that another is due on Christmas Day) :-D
I would recommend this brand to anyone and everyone. They have something to suit every style, every budget and every occasion.
Second hand, they are incredibly good value. I've seen lovely looking quartz dress watches, Seiko 5 automatics and some of the retro digitals change hands for under £20 which is an absolute bargain!
The more expensive sport watches and the few models used in the James Bond films are a little more expensive but almost recession proof. £100 spent now would fetch you £100 or more back any day in the near future, they are as good as money in the bank!
For an amateur watch collector, a very small budget will build you a very impressive case of stylish, functional watches from the Seiko range, and again it's one of the safest places to put your cash!
I think I've rambled on enough now.
If anyone has any questions about Seiko drop me a line on YD and I'm always happy to help. For everyone else, I hope this has helped with your opinion of Seiko watches.
Summary: Varied, stylish, huge back-catalogue, cutting edge technology
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