Treat your wrist to a collector-approved automatic timepiece without breaking the bank
The best Seiko watches offer an attractive option for horology enthusiasts with limited budgets. They’re beautifully made, famously robust, filled with history and fall into a much lower price bracket than the so-called “luxury” brands.
Seiko is one of the few affordable watch brands that has managed to earn the respect of collectors, aficionados and casual wearers alike, by consistently churning out classic model after classic model over the course of its almost 150-year life. It sits alongside the likes of Rolex and Omega in terms of heritage and legacy, and while it may not be as exclusive or prestigious, its timepieces were still deemed special enough to be worn by James Bond in a number of seminal 007 films.
If you’re looking for a “proper” watch but aren’t ready to part with the big bucks, a Seiko is almost certainly your best option. And with styles to suit all tastes, settings and budgets, there’s a model in the range for everyone. Keep scrolling for our top picks, but first we offer some advice on how to pick the right Seiko watch for you.
How to choose the best Seiko watch for you
What is an automatic watch?
Many of the best and most iconic Seiko watches are what we call “automatics”. An automatic watch is one that doesn’t use a battery for power, instead relying on the kinetic energy generated as the wearer moves around to wind the mainspring.
An automatic “movement” – the term for the mechanism that drives the watch – is often seen as a hallmark of quality, with watches housing them often commanding high prices. This is largely down to the fact that an automatic watch is quite complex to make and will continue ticking indefinitely as long as it’s well maintained.
What type of Seiko watch should I buy?
There are lots of different types of watches to choose from, and which model is best for you will largely depend on when and how you intend on using it. Seiko is best known for its dive watches, which make excellent daily drivers thanks to their robust build and versatility. The company also makes some fantastic dress watches, which are better suited to the office or special occasions, with dainty, elegant features that see them pair well with tailoring.
Are Seiko watches easy to service?
Authorised Seiko dealers are everywhere, which will make keeping your watch in tip-top condition extremely easy. The brand recommends that its watches are serviced roughly every three years – and, provided nothing major needs to be replaced or repaired, this shouldn’t cost a great deal of money.
Why do Seiko watches have nicknames?
For as long as there have been Seiko watches with uninspired alphanumeric names there have been fans coming up with catchier unofficial nicknames. This is the reason you might see models such as the SRPE15J1 being referred to as the “Cocktail Time”, or the SRPB51 talked about as the “Samurai”.
These nicknames are often based on a watch’s recognisable details. The Samurai, for example, is so called for its angular case edges that look as though they were sheared off with the blade of a Katana, while the Turtle gets its name from its rounded edges that resemble those of a turtle’s shell.
How we test Seiko watches
We get hands on with every Seiko watch we review. Our testers wear the watches daily to assess comfort, durability and the scratch resistance of the casing and crystal. We also go over every watch in fine detail, looking for manufacturing flaws or imperfections, paying close attention to the alignment of the indices, quality of the bracelet or strap and clarity of the crystal, for example. Only watches that meet our expectations make the cut.
READ NEXT: Best watches under £1,000
The best Seiko watches you can buy in 2024
1. Seiko 5 Sports: Best Seiko watch for everyday wear
Price when reviewed: £280 | Check price at John Lewis
In terms of sheer bang for buck, the Seiko 5 Sports is about as good as it gets in the watch world. It’s a burly dive-style watch displaying tons of character with versatile looks to boot. It was designed to replace the iconic SKX007, which was a favourite among enthusiasts before it was discontinued a few years back.
With Seiko’s famously reliable in-house 4R36 automatic mechanical movement, a durable build and timeless good looks, the 5 Sports is a lot of watch for a relatively small amount of money. Factor in the versatility and the fact that it looks equally at home on a shiny bracelet, a utilitarian rubber strap or a Bond-approved NATO band, and it becomes a highly enticing option for thrifty watch lovers.
We found it to keep reliable time from day to day, the water resistance is more than sufficient for swimming and it looks great with all sorts of outfits. If you’re looking for an affordable, reliable everyday watch, this could well be it.
Key details – Case diameter: 42.5mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic
2. Seiko Presage ‘Cocktail Time’: Best Seiko dress watch
Price when reviewed: £380 | Check price at Seiko Boutique
For those looking for a model that’s as happy slumming it with jeans and a T-shirt, as it is mingling with tailoring, this dressy option from the Seiko Presage line is perfect. It has a subtle, low-profile case with a slim silhouette overall, which makes it ideal for more dressy environments. The watch’s glossy green dial is eye-catching and quirky, but not obnoxiously so.
The watch is powered by Seiko’s 4R35 automatic movement, which is reliable, robust and offers a power reserve of 41 hours when wound. Arriving with a brown calfskin strap that’s fastened with a sturdy three-fold clasp, it looks just as good on a steel bracelet if that’s more your style. And at 41mm, the case is right in Goldilocks territory, meaning it will look great on most wrists regardless of size.
Key details – Case diameter: 40.5mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic
3. Seiko Prospex 1965 Modern Reinterpretation: Best Seiko dive watch
Price when reviewed: £1,150 | Check price at Goldsmiths
Prospex is Seiko’s dedicated line of dive watches, featuring the best of the Japanese brand’s sporty seafaring designs. Made in Japan, this particular watch pays homage to the first Seiko 150m dive watch released in 1965. It features a solid stainless-steel case, easy-to-read baton markers, 200m water resistance and a black uni-directional bezel.
Though it takes its design cues from the original, this newer version features a number of modern upgrades. Seiko wanted it to be more comfortable and offer a greater degree of visibility, so the case has been reduced in size slightly, the dial has been made clearer, and it comes with a 70-hour power reserve.
In our opinion, this would be an excellent option for anyone looking for a premium everyday watch that doesn’t quite stray into outrageous luxury prices.
Key details – Case diameter: 40.5mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic
4. Seiko Prospex Alpinist: Best Seiko sports watch
Price when reviewed: £690 | Check price at John Lewis
Designed for Japan’s mountain men who needed reliable timekeeping in treacherous conditions, this classic sports watch first hit the market in 1959. Admittedly, there are far more practical options out there today for those who spend their days in the wilderness, but from a purely aesthetic standpoint, the Alpinist is still one of the coolest watches in the sub-£1,000 price bracket.
This particular version still has many of the throwback details that made the Alpinist so popular, but with an increased power reserve of 70 hours, better accuracy and an upgrade from glass to sapphire crystal for increased clarity and durability. It’s certainly a difficult crystal to scratch, we would imagine – even if you were actively trying. On top of that, it features a date magnifier, LumiBrite paint on the hands and indices and an anti-reflective coating on the dial for maximum visibility.
Key details – Case diameter: 39.5mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic
5. King Seiko: Best premium Seiko watch
Price when reviewed: £1,560 | Check price at Goldsmiths
Grand Seiko used to be Seiko’s premium in-house line, but it went fully independent in 2017, attempting to position itself in the luxury watch category. When that move happened, it was replaced by King Seiko, which is now home to Seiko’s top-flight watches – like this reinterpretation of the 1965 watch of the same name. It has a 37mm angular stainless steel case with a stainless steel beads-of-rice bracelet and a simple, elegant black dial.
This subtle yet sophisticated timepiece is perfect for those who appreciate the Seiko brand and are looking for the absolute best it has to offer. The level of craftsmanship can be seen in the details, such as the delicately cut raised indices, the beautifully clear sapphire crystal, and the intricately patterned 12 marker.
Key details – Case diameter: 37mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic