For better or worse, Seiko made a splash last year with the release of the new Seiko 5 Sports or 5KX collection. The collection, heavily inspired by the cult classic SKX, was met with mixed reviews. When I reviewed the watch, I felt it was not quite a replacement for the SKX but somewhere in between the previous Seiko 5 generation and the SKX.
This summer, Seiko launched the first addition to the new Seiko 5 collection with a model that resembles an SKX, but mostly is not trying to be one. As I go through this review, I will be making some comparisons to the SKX but only because their case shapes are similar, not exactly the same. Looking at photos of the SKX007 and this model, the SRPE55, you can see the similarities, but this shares only some of its DNA instead of being a clone. Let’s check it out.
On the Wrist
When I first unboxed the SRPE55 and put it on, I knew immediately that this was not just the Seiko 5 Sports dial put in an SKX case. The case is 40mm, which is slimmed down from the SKX, and is also marginally thinner, mainly due to the lack of a dive bezel. When put together, these elements make for a great-fitting watch in a package that does not feel bulky like a dive watch might.
The dial is sparse with minimal text and logos. This combined with the applied markers and SKX-esque handset makes for an extremely legible watch. There are no distractions here; nothing to get in the way of the wearer reading the time or checking the day and date. I’m having a hard time thinking of a modern Seiko that is this well-executed in terms of being minimalist and still looking like a tool watch.
With that said, this is a tool or sport watch, not a diver. Where the “5KX” was masquerading as a dive watch with its dive style design, this watch is truer to itself. Our partner on the site, Everett, nicknamed this the “Dress KX” and while it is certainly catchy, I’m not ready to call it a dress watch. This watch feels like a simple tool watch, more akin to a field watch than a dress watch. I have no doubt that a leather strap could easily be fitted on this watch which would go incognito while wearing a suit; it would look equally as awesome on a NATO-style or rubber strap.
Thankfully Seiko decided to give the SRPE55 100 meters of water resistance. This made me feel comfortable doing just about anything with it. I had no issues getting it wet or submerging it in water. The beefy crown guards made me feel secure enough to not have to worry about the crown popping out accidentally.
Seiko 5 SRPE55 In Motion
As I mentioned above, there isn’t a lot to talk about on the dial. There aren’t numerous complications or a bezel action to discuss. However, Seiko in their mad laboratory executed the elements that are present on the dial perfectly.
Numerous applied elements on the dial add depth that makes them pop out beautifully. One of my favorite applied logos has always been a Seiko applied logo. For whatever reason, those 5 letters look fantastic when applied to a dial. Seiko did that here as well as bringing in applied markers.
The applied markers are simple yet slightly decorative at 12, 6, and 9. Those familiar with Seiko divers like the SKX will recognize their shape immediately. The triangle with an elongated point at 12 and the two elongated circles at 6 and 9 allow for instant orientation and add a touch of flair to the dial. As one would expect on any Seiko 5, a day/date complication is present at 3.
At first glance, you might say this handset is carried over from the SKX/5KX. That’s only 2/3 of the way true. The hour and second hand have been carried over, but Seiko has made a change to the minute hand. The minute hand appears to be slightly longer, reaching out toward the end of the dial and has a slightly different arrow shape at its tip.
The markers and hands are filled with Seiko’s LumiBrite lume and will glow just as fantastically as any other Seiko you have seen. If you’re not familiar with Seiko lume, it will glow brightly at the slightest touch of light and last for hours.
Even though the dial takes cues from its bigger brother, the SKX, it is easy to see the comparison that many are making to other watches. The Tudor Black Bay 36/41 seem to be the most popular comparisons. This makes the SRPE55 a great budget alternative to those watches.
Case & Bracelet
When I first saw this watch announced I thought it was simply a bezel-less 5KX. That is not the case (pun intended). Seiko made an entirely new case for this model. While it is undoubtedly SKX/5KX-inspired, there are a few differences.
The case has been slimmed down from 42.5mm to 40mm wide and 13.5mm to 11.5mm thick. The SKX always had a slight cut-in where the case met the wrist, but because of the slimmer profile that cut-in seems even more dramatic. This creates an incredibly thin-wearing watch that won’t overwhelm your wrist.
The lug-to-lug distance is comparable to the SKX/5KX at 44mm. Even though that dimension hasn’t changed much, the wearer wouldn’t notice too much of a difference because the SKX/5KX case had a relatively short lug-to-lug to begin with. The crown guards have been carried over and have always been one of my favorite things about the SKX case. The bottom crown guard has a little swoop to it that adds some flair.
By now I’m sure you have noticed the obvious change from the 5KX: the fixed bezel. Seiko has fitted a fixed bezel on to the SRPE55. There is a heavy chamfer around the edge of the bezel and although the whole thing is polished, the top of the bezel sometimes appears brushed. The bezel is slightly less wide than the case so the transition from bezel to case packs plenty of depth.
A welcome change to the case is the 20mm lug width. I was never a fan of the 22mm lug width of the SKX case; it never looked right to me. 20mm fits perfectly here and looks great with the rest of the case dimensions. Drilled lug holes have been carried over from the 5KX.
Unfortunately, the bracelet that is fitted inside this 20mm lug width is somewhat of a letdown. The Oyster-style bracelet itself is about what you would expect from a previous Seiko 5 generation. It is a little stiff and squeaky. The clasp is awful. My biggest gripe isn’t that it is stamped; it is that it only has 2 micro-adjust positions. This is unacceptable when Seiko has entire catalog of 3 micro-adjust position clasps. Whenever the inevitable aftermarket bracelets come out, I will be first in line.
After spending some time with this watch, I concluded that if Seiko were going relaunch the Seiko 5 line, they should have started with this watch and not the 5KX. This watch makes so much more sense in the Seiko 5 line than the 5KX. Not that the 5KX doesn’t belong in the Seiko 5 line; Seiko has always included dive-style watches in the 5 line. It doesn’t make sense to start with the 5KX.
This watch looks and feels more like the Seiko 5s I have been accustomed to over the years with a few welcome upgrades. The 4R36 movement and larger crown are the biggest upgrades from previous generations of Seiko 5 models. The push/pull crown also feels more at home on this model than it did on the 5KX. There were droves of Seiko fans who went ballistic over the fact the 5KX had a push/pull crown. They wanted an SKX replacement and the inaugural Seiko 5 launch wasn’t it. If Seiko had started with this model and introduced the 5KX later, I think fans would have been more lenient on Seiko (although knowing Seiko fans this is somewhat doubtful). The 5KX would not have come across as an SKX downgrade but rather an evolution in the line.
Everett’s Take on the Seiko 5
Seiko is a business. It’s actually, like… a really BIG business. Thus, it makes sense that Seiko makes big-business decisions. At the end of the day, big-business decisions consider only the bottom line. Although the game is sometimes long, and sometimes short, it’s always played to increase the figure at the bottom. So, when Seiko announced that it was (finally) discontinuing the beloved SKX, it should not have surprised anyone that it would do something to fill the void. It’s our fault, not Seiko’s, that we fully expected Seiko to replace the SKX with yet another Cinderella loss-leader.
Say what you will about Seiko’s marketing of the SKX (“Were you even trying, Seiko?”). If Seiko can pivot the cult status of the SKX into a watch that is cheap to make, is going to sell a bazillion copies, at something close to new-and-shiny MSRP, we should expect it will do exactly that. And, yet, it still feels like the 5KX was a bit of a, “piss-on-my-back; tell-me-it’s-raining” Effort. I don’t want to argue that the 5KX shouldn’t exist (because it should!), but I do think that Seiko could have thought this out better.
Why not soften the blow with a watch that isn’t pretending to be a dive watch? Give us a watch that is not a just a pretender, but a sensible variation. A watch with perfect proportions (40 and 20, say what??), without any natural claim to a screw-down crown, or an ISO rating. Give us a watch that just… makes sense?
That brings us to the current contender: the watch that I like to call the DressKX. This is what Seiko should have led with. As Will points out in his review, folks were offended (OFFENDED!) that the Seiko Sports “diver” models looked just like the SKX but had a lousy (LOUSY!) push-pull crown and a display back (A DISPLAY BACK!). On the other hand, these new models are really, truly, beautiful watches, and carry none of the baggage attributed to the 5KX.
Folks are still going to complain, because that’s what watch people do. They (we) will complain about the date window, the size (“Why not 38? WAHHH”), the logo, the 4 o’clock crown, and on and on. The worst of the complainers are going to say silly things like, “But… but… it looks like a generic SKX mod!” All of these folks miss the point, which is that this beautiful watch presents a unique option for a Seiko fan: something old and beloved reimagined into something (actually) new.
With this new version, Seiko has given us another iteration of that beautiful curvy SKX case, but in a watch suited for everyday wear. I say again, this is a dang SKX case, with a super clean polished bezel, in a size that can pass as a modern dress/sport watch! And, while the modders love to do things like putting sterile Dave Murphy bezels on an SKX, this is not that. The bezel here is not just clean, but also has proportions which complement the dial and the overall impression of the watch. Sterile dive bezels are fun, but tend to leave a watch with a disproportionate face. Here, the 28.5mm dial is not fighting with a 6mm thick circle of steel. The clean dial is allowed to be the showcase, as it should be. This is an extremely well-thought-out watch, without aesthetic compromise.
Frankly, there is nothing else to say about the watch – just look at that thing. I’m crazy about it. I love it. I’m head over heels. It’s so many of the things I love about the SKX in a watch that doesn’t feel like a huge, cheap, compromise. That’s not to say it’s perfect, or that I can’t find things to complain about (cough… cough… bracelet), but this is such a major improvement over what we all expected Seiko to serve us that I’m inclined to just give praise where praise is due. If Seiko had just started here, maybe then in a year or so, when they release 7,000 versions of a dumbed-down SKX with dials straight from Mortal Kombat sprites, we would be ready for it.
When I first saw this watch announced and saw the 40mm case size, I knew I was going to like it. I already enjoy the SKX case and had a feeling it would be pretty hard to screw it up by making it smaller. The fixed bezel looks fantastic when combined with all the other elements on the dial. Seiko nailed it.
There aren’t a ton of budget-friendly options when it comes to watches like the Rolex Explorer and Tudor Black Bay 36/41. The simple dials and fixed bezels on those watches make them popular choice among those looking for a clean-looking watch that can fit into a variety of situations. The SRPE55 seems to accomplish that with ease and is several thousands of dollars less.
The words instant classic get thrown around a lot when it comes to watches. I don’t want to outright say that this watch is an instant classic, but it has all the makings of one. It’s affordable and has styling and wearability we haven’t seen from Seiko in recent years. Seiko has been pushing upmarket for the last few years and it is starting to appear that the new line of Seiko 5 watches is what consumers in the affordable space have been clamoring for from the brand.
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|Lug-to-lug Height||44mm||Lug Width||20mm|
|Water Resistance||100 meters||Lume||Seiko LumiBrite|