When one starts venturing into mechanical watches, it’s hard to ignore the irresistible value of the Seiko 5. Tracing back its roots all the way back to 1963 in the form of the Seiko Sportsmatic 5, it was also Seiko’s first ever day-date watch. The number of versions out there is truly unquantifiable and the lack of recorded documentation of this product line makes it almost impossible to discover all the models out there. That’s also where the excitement lies where out the blue, you find something you never knew existed. Having experienced entry-level luxuries from Omega to Grand Seiko, I still find myself going back to the roots of it all and still be venerated.
The SNKL line is often less spoke about as compared to the cult following of the SKXs and SNKs maybe because it’s in the dressier range. Of late, I was really into white dialed watches having mostly black in the collection. That led to what is in for review today which is the Seiko 5 SNKL41K1.
Case: Stainless steel
Case Diameter: 37mm
Case Length(lug to lug): 42mm
Movement: Caliber 7S26C
Water Resistant: 30m
Lug Width: 18mm
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Looking at the the perfectly sized 37mm stainless steel case, the construction punches well above its weight in this price category. Personally, I feel this is one of the better designed Seiko 5 cases out there. The countoured edges mixed with largely polished surfaces and satin brushing on the lugs is quite pleasing. The wider flanks makes this wear true to size and the short lug-to-lug distance of 42mm would sit well on smaller wrists. The familiar crown at 4 o’clock sits recessed into the case which prevents it from digging in to the wrist. There’s not much details all round to admire but somehow it’s still very attractive to look at which can’t be put into words. It’s a simple understated watch much like how the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is.
The white silverish dial is beautifully executed with equally long polished applied hour indices. The lume dots are subtly applied on the inner part of the dial while the black minute markers are printed. The lumed dauphine-like hands are polished and it’s nicely proportioned. On the negative, the lume is usable but doesn’t last. The day and date window blends in well to the color of the dial that from a distance you wouldn’t feel it’s unbalanced. Seiko is famed for making really good dials and that can be seen in the SXNS series. Here, the SNKL41 doesn’t disappoint. In some angles, there’s a hint of sunburst effect that makes the dial a bit more interesting.
The movement inside is the familiar in-house caliber 7S26C. With no hacking and hand-winding features, it is as boring as it looks. However of all the Seiko watches in my collection, this rock solid movement has yet to fail me. It takes in all the knocks and bangs like a walk in the park. As of 2018, this movement is reportedly still in production but we have seen the newer Seiko 5s already using the upgraded 4R36 movements. So there’s no actual news that production has stopped for this movement but with so many of them out there, getting a watch to harvest the movement(as bad as it sounds) will not be an issue. Upgrading the movement is also a favorite mod and the most somewhat compatible replacement would be the NH36 movement which has all the features that’s missing.
Moving to the strap is a hit and miss. When I first held it, I cringed at how it felt. The folded links felt cheaper than it actually is and the squeaking sound didn’t help either. However after adjusting the strap length to fit my wrist and sort of overcoming the squeaking break-in period, it actually felt extremely comfortable on the wrist. There’s also a slight detail that a lot might miss but the design of the bracelet is what completes the watch. The lug width is 18mm but the corresponding link after the end-link is actually 20mm wide which blends in well with the case and tapers down to 18mm making the watch wear beefier.
The bracelet combines satin-finished surfaces and polished accents which pretty much resembles a lot of the Grand Seiko watches like the Snowflake SBGA211. It could be just me but the bracelet does appear to have a darker finishing and in some lighting almost makes it feel like it’s titanium. Aesthetically the bracelet looks great but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. Even if the stock bracelet is not your thing, this watch is versatile enough to go with most straps and would definitely look sharp on a leather. I have also seen this look great on an aftermarket jubilee bracelet.
On The Wrist
Needless to say, it wears perfectly on my 6.1 inch wrist. The case strikes a perfect balance between the beefier modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual and the vintage ones. The shorter lug-to-lug length of 42mm means that this will sit well on most smaller wrists. Compared with the Seiko 5 SNK809 which actually wears smaller(due to the lug design) even though the case width is the same, the Seiko SNKL41 when paired with the wider bracelet feels modern and is so versatile that it can be worn in both casual and formal environments.
One could see the close resemblance of the Seiko SNKL41 to some Grand Seiko pieces like the Snowflake, SBGR251 or the 9F quartz SBGX259. It also can be seen as an affordable alternative to the Seiko SARB035 or the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 114300 and its similar white dial variants. Taking nothing away from those great watches, there are some attributes that makes this such a compelling watch. The size, understated timeless design and price point won me over effortlessly.
One of the reasons why Seiko has such a cult following as a brand is that there’s something for everybody regardless of the price point. This $100 watch is proof that anyone can get into the hobby and for some, this could even be the perfect one watch collection.