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Authored by whitestripes

Today I’d like to share my review of the Seiko SARB031. I’m not an expert on the different lines Seiko currently has out, but I know on the low end they have the 7S26 powered watches, of which I have an SKX031 (modded by Harold with M-Benz hands and a Super Oyster) and a SKX007. I also have an old Seiko 5 my dad gave me in high school when he found out I was interested in mechanical watches… started the craze. On the mid-end, they have the new 6R15 movements, which are nice, handwindable, hackable movements, addressing the chief complaints of the 7S26 movement.

Most people are so used to the ubiquitous ETA movements handwinding and hacking that they see movements that lack such functions as inherently inferior. However, the 7S26 has an amazing track record of reliability, and manual winding is not that necessary because the “Magic Lever” automatic winding system is so efficient. Anyway, this review is about the SARB031 and the new movement, so enough about the 7S26.

I’ve been thinking about getting a proper dress watch for a few months now. Since I am a huge Omega fan despite not being able to afford any at the moment, I thought about getting a vintage Omega Seamaster in the classic style that the Seiko has, like this (photo not mine):



I came very close to buying a watch similar to that, either a Geneve or a Calendar… vintage SS seamasters can be found on eBay for under $300, so why would I spend more on a Seiko? The sketchy service histories and potential parts availability (or lack thereof) turned me off. I have no watch making experience nor have I found a watchmaker to my liking. Also, a lot of them had damaged dials (not that into the ‘wabi’ or the look of patina on a dial or movement, so that turned me off. Redials got very expensive.

Enter the SARB031:
[img]http://i399.photobucket.com/albums/pp73/whitestripes3570/CIMG0414.jpg

I found out about it on the forums, and it’s instantly classic look caught my eye. I have a fairly small wrists (6.5 – 6.75”), so 42mm is the largest I can take, and even the 007 looks a bit big and chunky for my tastes. The SKX031, however, is almost perfect for my wrists. So when I saw that the SARB031 was only 36mm in diameter, I thought it might be a bit small. However, the thin bezel makes the watch pretty much ALL dial. Dress watches should be small and be able to fit under a cuff, and IMHO they should not be huge and eye-catching in the bad way.

Check out how it looks on my wrist:


I think it fits the bill as a dress watch.

Case: It has a very elegant polished round case with interesting bevels that looks like they put some time in designing it. Simple, but beautiful in its simplicity. The straight lugs were a big attraction for me. They are not as common today, but the minimalist look is appealing and very dressy. One interesting feature of the lugs is that they are drilled through—making strap changes extremely easy but seems out of place on a dress watch. I am more accustomed to seeing them on tool watches where aesthetics takes a back seat to functionality. There must be, however, some rationale for Seiko’s use of drilled lugs, because they are still putting it on their current model Grand Seikos, like here (photo not mine)



Maybe it helps prevent those ever-present scratches on the bottom of the lugs during strap changes.

Crystal: Here is a central aspect of the watch, and a key reason why I chose the SARB031 above the other watches in the “mechanical” line, like the SCVS003, SCVS013, and SCVS001, which have flat sapphire crystals. While they are more scratch resistant, I absolutely LOVE a highly domed crystal. It might stem from when I had my Omega Speedmaster Pro, with its highly domed hesalite crystal. I loved the way the light caught it, the way it distorted the dial under extreme angles, the “warm” look it gave the watch. It also gave it that vintage look, and I felt like I was strapping a vintage watch on every time I put it on. You can tell I miss my Speedy, and it’s first on my list for when I graduate medical school.

[img]http://i399.photobucket.com/albums/pp73/whitestripes3570/CIMG0410.jpg

The Speedy had an acrylic curved crystal, which are cheap to come by and replace. The SARB031 comes with a curved Hardlex crystal, which is much more expensive to make. In fact, I don’t know of any watches in this price range, or even costing a couple times more that have a curved non-acrylic crystal. Only when you enter the high end of watches that you find curved sapphire crystals. The aforementioned Grand Seiko has one such crystal, and I’m not rich enough to know other high end watches with them. I LOVE the look.

A few people had concerns about the thickness of the watch, roughly 12.5 mm based on internet sources. That might be a bit thick for a dress watch, but I’d say roughly a quarter of the thickness is contained in the crystal, so it does not look bulky at all, but elegant. Unless your cuffs are far too tight, I don’t see a problem with this watch and dress shirts.

Dial:


The dial is beautiful, classic, and simple. A simple applied Seiko logo, and “Automatic, 23 Jewels” in a clean, neat font. A very nice date window and a unique date font (as compared to the ubiquitous ETA date font, and even in Seiko’s own 7s26 font). Very easy to read. It does not appear that the date window is beveled, but it’s cleanly outlined in a black border and does not offend the eye. Fits well in the dial. The dial itself has a subtle creamy sunburst pattern, and looks great in the light. This is my first white dial watch, and I simply love the look. Understated, not blingy, classy.

The hour indices are incredible! They are multi-faceted and flawless to my naked eye. The nice edges of each facet catch the light and gives it a bit of eye catching shine without going overboard. The dauphine hands are my favorite on a dress watch, very refined. There is a slight crease running down the middle of both hands, giving it a sophisticated look and aids in light catching. Despite the complete lack of lume on the dial, it’s legible in a variety of light conditions due to the highly polished indices and hands and the way they are cut. The seconds hand is simple and extremely thin. It’s not like you’re timing anything with this watch—just an indication it’s running.


Caseback/Movement:


It has a display back engraved with the serial number, “Made in Japan,” among other things. Apparently, it’s water resistant to 5 bar (50m?), but I will keep this thing far away from water. The movement is pretty nice, especially compared to the workhorse 7S26. The rotor is not engraved but stamped or printed or something. A nice touch is the Cote de Geneve (Geneva waves) on the rotor, giving it some decoration and looks nice. The movement has some beveled edges and looks nice. I am happy with the next step up after a 7S26.

As advertised, the 6R15B handwinds and hacks. The feel is not super silky smooth, and you can feel little clicks as it winds. I’ve played with some expensive watches where the winding is not so much ‘clicky’ as almost perfectly smooth. Not sure what that means for the movement, but I have 100% faith in the reliability of Seiko’s movements.

Strap:
The lugs are 19mm, a very odd size and makes finding straps a PITA. The stock strap is a black Seiko calf leather strap, with alligator print on the outside. Has a mild shine to it. It’s not a garbage strap, but it’s not a particularly nice one, either. Interestingly, the strap is very short as this is intended for a domestic Japanese market. Being Asian myself, my wrists are only 6.5-6.75”, and I’m on the 3rd or 4th to last hole! I’m usually on the 3rd to smallest hole on most straps, so it’s extremely short and those with larger wrists may want to take note. I’m satisfied to wear it on the stock strap, but if anyone has suggestions for another strap (I’m thinking just a flat black leather strap, maybe brown to change it up… a little thick but not too thick) I’m open to suggestions.

Clasp is not signed.


Overall Impression:
I am very happy with my purchase. I picked it up off the sales corner, and at the price it’s well worth the money, IMO. Even when new I think it’s a good deal for the watch based on its features, design, and merits. However, the lay person will look at the name and think it’s some $20 Wal-Mart watch. No doubt, some Swiss WIS will also snub their noses at a Seiko. However, while the Swiss WIS revere such watchmaking houses at Patek and VC for their in house movements, let’s not forget that Seiko is the ultimate manufacture, making everything in its movements, even down to the lubricating oils. It was among the first to make an automatic chronograph in the 60s, and was a leader in the quartz revolution. Seiko is a big hitter in the world of horology, as the cult following of their Grand Seikos will attest.

I think this is a perfect dress watch. I love the look and it’s acrylic crystal, as well as its unassuming size. This certainly lives up to its reputation as a "little Grand Seiko." I hope you enjoyed my very long review… I just had lots to say!


 
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