If there’s one thing Seiko knows how to do well it’s coming into summer with a hot, new watch. They did it 2 years ago with the SPB14x range (review here), a watch that I called Seiko’s Black Bay 58. Last year they released the new Alpinist reinterpretations to please the fixed bezel crowd. This summer, Seiko decided to cater to the affordable price segment with the new SSK00x Seiko 5 GMTs.
Not only is this a notable release because Seiko is expanding on the “5KX” line but because it is Seiko’s first GMT movement in the affordable price segment in recent memory. Fans of the SKX have been modding their watches with 12 and 24-hour bezels for years to get close to this complication, but now Seiko has given us an OEM option. This may look like an SKX on the surface, but there is more to unpack with this watch than just an extra hand. Let’s jump in
On the Wrist
When I first took the SSK001 out of the box I felt a substantial heft to the watch when compared to the SKX. I don’t have a 5KX to compare the 3 watches but when weighed against my SKX173, the SSK001 came in 10 grams heavier (both watches on a stock Seiko jubilee). It isn’t much but I noticed the difference right away. Perhaps all the years of wearing my SKX made me feel the difference. The extra weight comes from the movement as I can’t see where it would come from anywhere else.
If you’ve worn a 5KX or an SKX, there are no surprises here. This wears exactly like its Grandfather and the only difference is the extra hand and bezel insert. Speaking of the bezel insert, it uses the traditional GMT day/night color split that we’ve seen on almost every GMT. Seiko is using some sort of reflective material on top of the insert, which makes it look like a sapphire insert. The day/night color split plays some tricks on the eyes depending on the light. Most of the time, the bezel on the SSK001 looks completely black and every once in a while you’ll catch a glimpse of the gray lower half. I can see modders having a field day with this as I’d bet most SKX/5KX mod parts are going to fit this. I’d love to swap in a dive bezel and make this a GMT diver (the SSK001 has a 24-hour track on the chapter ring).
If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t tried on an SKX/5KX, I’ll give you the skinny on what you can expect from this watch. The 42.5mm diameter is complemented with a short 46mm lug-to-lug. This alone makes the watch feel much smaller than it is, which is part of the reason why the SKX was so popular. It has wrist presence without feeling like it does. The 13.6mm thickness is brought down to 11mm wrist-to-crystal thanks to Seiko’s thoughtful and classic case design. The stout lugs turndown just enough to keep the watch from feeling flat on the wrist. While none of this is new to anyone who has had an SKX in their collection at some point or another, the fact that Seiko was to do this and only add .35mm to the case height when adding a GMT movement is somewhat bonkers. The SSK001 also has a display caseback where the SKX did not. These watches are effectively the same height. Many brands take a dive watch and turn it into a GMT, often with the sacrifice of adding some thickness to the case.
Seiko 5 GMT Specs
The layout here is classic Seiko and while it is completely unsurprising, it is refreshing to see that Seiko didn’t jack this up with weird added elements or disproportionate numerals, GMT hand, etc. The 12 o’clock Seiko branding is what we’ve seen in the new 5 Sports models from the past couple of years. Seiko and the stylized 5 are present with Automatic and bold, red GMT text at 6 o’clock. The GMT text is a nice crossover from the SKX where DIVER’S 200m was in red at 6 o’clock. I noticed the dial has a slight texture to it. It is not gravely, but almost speckled. I can’t see it unless I am in direct sunlight or looking at a macro shot but I thought it was worth mentioning.
The handset is nothing new except for the…new hand. The GMT hand is red and the tip looks like a larger version of the minute hand. The way it contrasts with the dial will leave no question as to what hand you are looking at.
Modern GMTs using movements from Sellita or ETA have to combat the hand stack in which the GMT hand is on the bottom. Most watches use a short GMT hand unless you are Monta and use a kinked hand to get up and over the markers. Seiko seems to have thought of this when designing the movement. The GMT hand is still on the bottom and the markers are still applied, but it isn’t short or kinked. The entire stack seems to be elevated ever so slightly to get over the markers. A clever and obvious solution to a pesky problem.
To the chagrin of many, Seiko opted to add a cyclops to the date window. Although it feels very GMT Master, it works. If this is a watch meant for travelers on the go, being able to quickly read the date, especially if you’ve crossed a timezone where you advanced a day, is a nice creature comfort to have. Another departure from the SKX/5KX is that this does not feature a day/date; only the date is present.
If you’ve read one Seiko review that mentions LumiBrite, you’ve read it all and I don’t need to tell you how good the lume is. I will tell you where the lume is…or isn’t. The bezel is not lumed, just the hands and dial. This is to be expected from the Seiko 5 line.
When I opened the box and took the watch out, my bezel was misaligned. Of course it was, it’s Seiko! However, when I gave it a spin around to see how bad it was, I realized that Seiko had finally fixed their bezel alignment issues with this watch. How did they fix it? They gave this watch a friction bezel. No worries about misalignment here, just spin it clockwise or counterclockwise to line it back up. I never use GMT bezels to track another time zone because that is just pointless. With this said, Seiko has found a way to give themselves a new problem. The GMT hand is not properly aligned. While this is a bummer for sure and exposes Seiko’s ongoing QC issues, this could be more easily fixed than a misaligned bezel.
Case, Bracelet, and Movement
I won’t spend too much time on the case and bracelet as there isn’t anything novel here. The case and bracelet are direct ports of the SKX/5KX (more so the latter) and are everything you have come to expect from Seiko. The finishing is great, the jubilee is jingly-jangly, and the exhibition caseback gives you a view of the new 4R34 movement. One notable thing about the bracelet is that it has solid endlinks. Certainly groundbreaking, but it does give the bracelet a little more support.
Before anyone gets disappointed, it should be known that this is like the 5KX and has a push/pull crown. There is still 100 meters of water resistance which should be plenty for almost anyone, especially considering this is not a dive watch. Let’s not spend too much time on the things we already know about and focus on the real star of the show, the movement.
New Seiko movements always garner some attention. After all, they are true in-house movements and when they break into the affordable segment of watches, the attention is warranted. The 4R34 has everything you want from a 4R Seiko movement. Hacking, hand-winding, 42-hour power reserve, and reliability (I’m assuming on this last bit, but I think it is a good assumption). Seiko is no stranger to GMT movements as they have appeared in watches all down Seiko’s history and are found more commonly in contemporary watches like those from Grand Seiko.
The question that has been asked is what type of GMT movement this is. Before we get into that, I believe the use of the term “true GMT” is snobby, elitist, and doesn’t properly describe anything related to how a GMT movement operates. The terms we should be using are traveler/flyer GMT and caller GMT. A traveler/flyer GMT describes a movement in which the main hour hand is operated independently of the GMT hand. The traveler/flyer part of this comes from where someone traveling to a different time zone would want to adjust the main hour to reflect their current timezone and the GMT hand would reflect their home’s timezone. A caller GMT, which is what we have with the 4R34 allows the GMT hand to be operated independently of the main hour and minute hand. A caller GMT also allows the date to be adjusted in the same crown position that the GMT hand is. Someone calling into different timezones would use the local/home hands differently than a traveler GMT. The GMT hand would reflect where they are calling. Of course, use a GMT, traveler or caller, however you like. These are the traditional methods in which these two GMT movements are used.
SSK001 VS SKX
How does this watch compare to the SKX? We need to know, right? It is a comparison that many are going to make. I’d wager that the comparison to the SKX will be made more than to the 5KX. To put it simply, if you can’t see the dials (or the cyclops) you likely won’t be able to tell the difference.
When I was taking photos of the two watches, I noticed that the SSK001 actually sits a touch lower than the SKX…just a touch, barely enough to mention it. But, I’m mentioning it.
I’m only throwing this section in because I’m sure the modders out there will want to know if the watches are similar enough that parts are interchangeable between the two. I’ll leave the 100% true answer to that to the professional modding companies to determine, but I’d say get your wallets ready.
Seiko knows how to divide their fans like no other watch brand I can think of. From making those who believe Seiko is a budget brand feel alienated with $1,000+ Prospex models to launching the 5KX and not making it a true SKX successor; they know how to drive you nuts. Seiko is also a true darling of the watch industry. This watch costs $475. Four hundred seventy-five dollars! For a GMT with a new, in-house movement, on a bracelet, and the reliability that Seiko brings to the table, this is insane.
I’m sure there are going to be some people upset with this watch for some reason or another, but I can’t think of any reasons to dislike this watch. The SKX’s case is a classic for a reason and I don’t blame Seiko for using it in every way possible. If you want a GMT that is affordable and simply a great watch, this is the way.
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