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Finding the Perfect Seiko Arnie

An adrenaline-fuelled dive watch for everyone

Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whenever you hear that name, an image comes to mind of a cigar-chomping, gun-toting, thick-accented action hero on his way to fight an over-the-top villain, human or otherwise. One thing that doesn’t come to mind, however, is diving. Why is one of Seiko’s most iconic dive watches named after the Austro-Californian action star? Simply put, the Seiko H558-5009 (the reference # for the original version of this watch) was worn by Ahhhnold through his capers fighting mercenaries and, yes, getting to choppers. It took me a while to get around to watching these ’80s classics (coming from the UK, my family and I preferred the sharp suits and suave one-liners of James Bond to the bombastic American action heroes). People love and hate those muscle-fuelled thrillers for various reasons, and I can wholeheartedly say that mixed emotions have ruled my ownership of an Arnie; I have owned two thanks to over-eager selling and then seller’s remorse.

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As a fan of smaller watches (think <40mm), I was surprised to find myself looking at article after article about the 2019 update to this Hollywood-famous family of watches. There was something about the Ana-Digi setup that caught my eye, so I found one going second-hand on eBay
and decided to try it out.

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Seiko Arnie Specs

Case Width

47.5mm

Lug-to-Lug

50mm

Case Thickness

15mm

Lug Width

22mm

Water Resistance

200m

Strap

Rubber Strap

Crystal

Seiko Hardlex

Lume

Seiko LumiBrite

Movement

Seiko H851

Price

$525

The model I went for first was one of the more modern designs, the so-called ‘SafArnie’ (Ref: SNJ029), a play on the safari-style colorway and the fan nickname for the watch. Despite not possessing Herr Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilder wrists, I wore that saucer-sized watch every day for months. Over the summer, I worked as a bartender at an upmarket ‘glapmsite’ on the English coast. I served warm pints to despairing parents as their invariably mud-covered kids tore about under the tables. It received plenty of dings and scratches on the bezel and shroud. I loved wearing that SafArnie; the khaki and graphite coloring was an unusual mix, but it popped and made legibility fantastic. What I couldn’t get my head around, however, was the sheer size of the beast. And so, like so many of the watches we buy, it was listed on eBay and moved swiftly on.

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After that busy summer, winter came along and with it the air of university finals. All thoughts of action hero watches and the lifestyle they might inspire were placed firmly at the back of my mind. That was, however, until a certain global pandemic came along and wiped all my post-graduation plans off the board. Reading endless articles by various divers and dive-watch reviewers got me thinking that diving was a way to go and turn that blank slate into something new. At that time, the only dive watch I owned was my very beaten-up SKX, which had a cracked crystal and a crown that didn’t screw down fully…no way I was taking that diving. With talk of thick wetsuits and drysuits, I thought that perhaps the Arnie wasn’t too big. I went to eBay, and a few days later, another box arrived. This time I’d gone for the SNJ025 model, the sensible cousin with a black dial and bezel.

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Now I know that most people are excited when they first open up a new package, but when I opened the box of this new Arnie, I had a moment of heart failure. I could see the seconds counting up on the little digital screen, but the seconds hand was about 20 seconds behind the digits. With the initial panic over, I got to googling how to sort out the problem. God bless YouTube. An obscure video detailing how to manipulate the seconds hand individually using the pushers on the case.

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Problem solved!… Until I discovered that the seconds hand would stop running for hours. Since then, I’ve heard of this issue with Seiko’s solar movements, but at the time, I had no idea what was happening. As it happens, if a solar movement hasn’t been used or recharged for a while (like when sitting in the stockroom of a shop), the movement can get a little sticky. It took a couple of weeks of regular wear, but eventually, the watch warmed up enough that it’s been running flawlessly in the 18 months since I bought it.

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Now I know I have waxed lyrical about the Seiko’ Willard’ reissue, and it is my favorite watch in my collection, but the Arnie is my go-to travel watch. The ruggedness of the quartz combined with the ability to have a second time zone displayed is supremely functional when it comes to a watch fit for hopping from country to country. As it happens, the Arnie is most often the under-appreciated watch out of the collection I usually travel with. This toughness has only increased since I modified the watch. About six months after receiving the Arnie, I decided to swap out the composite shroud for a DLC steel shroud.

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It’s increased the survivability of the case, but when I bought the shroud, I was thinking about how beautifully it will chip and scratch over the watch’s lifetime. Plus, that extra weight gives off a feeling of adrenaline-fuelled ‘badassery’ every time I put the watch on. Of course, the Seiko Tuna range (those dive watches with the weird shrouds of which the Arnie is a close cousin) aren’t for everyone, but I think I am finally learning to accept that large case size. I’ve always been a mostly small watch guy, but now and then, I think everyone needs something bigger and quirkier. After selling my first, I should have known that the Arnie…would be back.

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