When you think of vintage-inspired watches, brands such as Tudor or Seiko may come to mind. It would be a stretch to say that Serica is one of the first brands to make that list. However, Serica has been making modern watches with modern materials that are heavily inspired by those from decades long gone. The Serica 4512 is undeniably a vintage-inspired field watch and helped make the brand one of the darlings of the microbrand world.
In 2021, Serica launched the 5303, the brand’s first dive watch. While I wouldn’t entirely call the watch risky, there are some elements which inherently create a risky launch for a young brand: an almost sterile dial, a funky bracelet, and a design that pulls from iconic watches. The launch of the 5303 has come and gone and the watch was a runaway success, proving that Serica knew exactly what they were doing. Let’s dive into the Serica 5303.
On the Wrist
Let’s address the elephant in the room, the bracelet. I normally cover bracelets later on in my reviews but it deserves to be talked about sooner. When I first received this watch and started sending some photos to friends, the first question everyone asked was, “How is the bracelet?” It is a…different bracelet. It’s not a straight-end mesh bracelet, but rather a mesh bracelet fitted onto a standard endlink that resembles an Oyster-style bracelet’s endlink. I was skeptical of the bracelet when I first saw it, but slowly the photos grew on me and I had no doubt it would be a comfortable bracelet. I was right.
The bracelet of the 5303 is one of the most comfortable bracelets I’ve ever worn. It is light on the wrist but carries a good amount of heft to it considering it is a mesh-style bracelet at its root. The tail of the bracelet slides underneath the clasp and there are indents in the tail that the clasp locks into when snapping it closed. They are close enough together that getting a perfect fit is well… a snap. I didn’t find that the tail slid out too easily or that it didn’t have the proper amount of flex to drape around my 6.75” wrist. Just like Goldilocks and that last bowl of porridge, it was just right. If the bracelet has been keeping you on the fence about the 5303, do yourself a favor and hop on over because it is great. Bravo, Serica.
Speaking of Goldilocks, the proportions of the watch are perfect for a dive watch aiming to fit somewhere between vintage and contemporary. Coming in at 39mm wide with a short lug-to-lug of 46.5mm, the 5303 feels right at home on my wrist (and likely any other size wrist). The twisted-lyre lugs turn down nicely and allow the watch to plant firmly on top of your wrist, which brings the case height of 12.2mm down to a wrist-to-crystal measurement of 10mm (which is fantastic for a 300m dive watch).
The 5303 isn’t what I would call an affordable watch, but it isn’t insanely overpriced either. At around $1,200 USD, I felt the 5303 hits slightly above its pay grade, especially with how it looks on the wrist. It could easily fall in the dress diver category as there are plenty of polished surfaces and chamfers to class it up a little. With that said, it still carries the weight and heft of what you want out of a tool watch.
The face of the 5303 made me think of Doxa in the way that the dial feels much smaller than you would expect from a 39mm watch. The bezel is wide (although it doesn’t appear that way) and trims down the dial in size. It’s compact without being too difficult to read. The legibility comes from the almost sterile dial and bold handset.
The top of the dial is free from any Serica logos or branding. Serica and Swiss are printed on either side of the 6 o’clock marker. The bottom of the dial contains the depth rating and S617, which is a reference to a French submarine (Serica hails from France). The markers between the cardinal positions are lumed circles with lines extending to the edges of the dial. This gives the 5303 a vintage feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s different, but it works.
The handset is built for visibility at night, day, or underwater. The broad arrow hour hand makes me think of the Omega Speedmaster 1957. This also offers an easy distinction between the hour and minute hand so there is no question as to what time it is or where you are when using the dive-time bezel.
While the bezel does contain a dive timer, it has another trick up its sleeve. It is split into two parts with the dive time bezel on the outside and 12-hour (or heures in French) markings on the inside. This dual-purpose bezel is extremely functional. I found myself timing pizzas and then spinning around to West Coast time for my 40&20 brothers. No matter how you use it, it never looks out of place or unbalanced, which I feel a lot of 12-hour bezels can. I also have to give props to Serica for using a 60-click bezel, which is a personal favorite of mine. It makes perfect sense on this watch and the action and grip are superb.
Case, Bracelet, & Movement
The case is executed and finished beautifully. It evokes all the nostalgia you want from vintage dive watches like the Omega Seamaster 300 Big Triangle with its twisted lyre lugs. The polishing is flawless and the contrast brushing on the sides of the case keeps the 5303 from being too flashy. The inner parts of the twisted lugs are brushed and pair with the endlinks of the bracelet. The bracelet looks and feels like something that could have been designed in the 60s or 70s.
As I discussed above, the bracelet is the secret star of the show with the 5303. It makes the watch. I tried the 5303 on some straps and while it works with just about anything you throw on it, the 5303 feels complete when it is on the bracelet. There aren’t many watches that I prefer on the bracelet over other straps, but the 5303 is one of them.
It seems that brands are finally starting to realize the importance of crown size, which feels like a ridiculous thing to say. After all, it is the primary way you interact with the mechanics of your watch. A crown that is too small can be difficult to operate, sucking some joy away from the watch. The exact opposite is true of the 5303. The large crown (8mm) is free from crown guards and is an absolute joy to operate.
We don’t often discuss movements as most watches we review are a variation of the widely available movements from ETA, Sellita, Seiko, and Miyota. The 5303 features the Soprod Newton movement, which (as I understand it) is the first watch to have this movement ticking away inside. It comes with a robust 44-hour power reserve and a 28,800 vph beat rate. Much like ETA and Sellita, Soprod offers different grades of movements and the 5303 has the top specced movement. The main benefit of this is chronometer-level accuracy. As this is a new movement I decided to give an accuracy check and over the course of a week, this 5303 only gained 10 seconds over 7 days. Not bad, not bad at all.
The Serica 5303 is about as complete of a package as you can get with a modern watch. Everything feels meticulously designed and executed, down to the packaging. The box for the 5303 is a vintage-style flip-open box with angled corners. Elements of the 5303, like the bracelet, feel like a masterclass in watch design.
I won’t go as far to say that the 5303 is a perfect dive watch; there’s no such thing. However, it is one of the best dive watches I’ve put my hands on. Before I started reviewing watches, certain watches always brought a smile to my face when I wore them. That feeling slowly dissipated as I saw more and more watches (a real problem, I know). The 5303 brought that joy back to watches for me. It feels different enough that it breaks away from any mold I’ve become used to without being too far out in left field. If Serica keeps coming up with watches like this, they’ll have a life-long customer in me.
Check out more dive watch reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the Serica website
Serica 5303 Specs
Mesh bracelet with fitted endlink
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal