on June 17, 2017
I am very happy with this little "Fleiger style" watch, particularly with it's dial, which compares to any that I have seen in the affordable watch space. The dial has a great deal of well composed detail, this is subtle and hard to see in photographs. In person this very inexpensive watch actually looks high-end.
It is indeed a small watch, 36.5 mm; be aware of that. It's cute as a button, and not much bigger. I have to adjust a bit after wearing this watch to a feeling that my other watches are clownishly large.
Of the 5 different models in the SNK80x series, I recommend this one. This model has a different "color scheme", not just a different colored dial. Notice the black outlining of the handset (the others all have monochromatic handsets). The slender ring between the edge and center of the watch, providing separation between the hours and minute numerals, is gold on this model, but black or white on the other models. The lighter dial provides a background that allows similar adjacent colors of the silver Seiko logo and golden '5" numeral to appear more distinctly, and this cream- light-beige tone also nicely complements the pale green color of the 'super-luminova' application around the dial and on the handset. These, and other little subtleties of the color scheme implemented for the SNK803, add sophistication to the dial that I don't find in the other models. The choice between the models is subjective, of course, and if only black will do, then by all means, get the black version. But the 803 model makes use of color in a way that adds refinement, and puts it over the top for me!
Note: many photographs of this model make it appear that the color is a darker, brownish yellow. The dial doesn't really shift in color as such photos suggest. The first photo of the listing is pretty close to the comparatively light, creamy-beige, actual color.
I like the stainless steel case. It has an interesting multi-layered construction, with the top part having the sand-blasted finish and the bottom (as well as the sides between the lugs) being highly polished. The round bezel formed out of the top section simulates a third layer. The case's sleek lines and tiered geometry contribute significantly to the SNK803's visual appeal.
This watch has Seiko "Super Luminova" (sic) applied to small pips around the dial, and on the hands. I think it's the same compound Seiko uses on other models; it's quickly responsive to charging by a light source, and glows very brightly at first. The initial light-show is very pretty. However, not much surface area is allotted for lume on this watch, so the brightness seems to fade a little faster than on models with more copious amounts of SuperLume, such as Sieko's dive watches.
This is a "Seiko 5 Sports" watch. "5 Sports" is actually a specification for 5 features - i. automatic movement, ii. Day, iii.Date, iv shock resistance and v. water resistance. The basic idea is that Seiko 5 Sports models should be rugged and suitable for outdoor activities. The low cost of these SNK80x models makes them attractive as 'beater' watches, and I've watched reviews on Youtube from people who who attest to the outstanding durability of this watch, after having worn them for years while working in physically demanding, outdoorsy professions
However, water resistance on this model may be a little questionable. It's specified as "water resistant" on the case-back, which I think corresponds to 30 Meters. This is the most minimal water resistance level, just above "not water resistant at all". Seiko is pretty good about testing and actually meeting their specifications, including those for water resistance, but I've heard some reports specific to this model that suggest it may not represent Seiko's best (as far as making the case water resistant).. It's not designed for extended submersion under water, etc. Also - the canvas strap doesn't seem very compatible with aquatic adventure; seems likely to get mildew.
...speaking of the strap, I have trouble understanding all the bitching and moaning about it in other reviews. I think it's a pretty good strap, It looks good with the watch. But I haven't had the watch long enough to know how it holds up or whether it becomes uncomfortable.
This watch contains an "un-adjusted" Seiko 7S26 movement. This movement's strong point is that it continues to run reliably, just about as accurately, for a very long time before requiring service - typically well over 12 years. Up to 20+ is quite possible. Some people claim to have Seiko watches from the 60s (with very similar movement inside) that are still running beautifully without ever visiting a watch maker (50+ years!).
Accuracy varies; unregulated movement, so a bit of a 'crap shoot'. The movement is very similar to those used in many newer, mid-tier Seiko 5s, (the 4R3x) but for some reason the 7S26 seems to have somewhat less consistent time-keeping. Most are quite decent, but there are some stinkers, as Seiko QA will allow them as far off as -35 to +45 sec/day. ~85% of these will be accurate to within -20 to +20 sec/day, and most better than that. I base this on on my own collection, some research, and reviews I've read.
The movement has a power reserve of 43 hours. It's a good idea to test this shortly after purchase - once in a while there are problems with the rotor winding system, or mainspring/barrel assembly, resulting in limited power reserve -- these things are defects, cause for a return w/refund or repair under warranty. The "automatic" winding system should work well enough to get the watch completely would up after a day or two of full time wear. Swinging the watch gently and not too rapidly from side to side, face up, parallel to the ground, about 200 mm from side to side, can wind the watch up fully in a little over 5 minutes, I've found.
The 7S26 movement does not support manually winding with the crown, nor 'hacking', which means the second hand stopping when the crown is fully extended. These are convenient features that Seiko neglected to add to this entry level movement.
I've gotten used to it, as I have couple models with 7Sx6 movements. I'm willing to take a couple extra minutes to prepare these for wearing. Most people probably aren't as picking about making sure the watch is wound before setting the time, but I like to try to keep the watch as acurate as possible, and find just shaking it a few times isn't going to give the watch enough power to run optimally (till it's been worn for quite a while), so I 'wind them up' for a while by the method just described.
It's actually possible, also, to set the watch accurate to the second, even without hacking. If you rotate the crown a little bit backwards and stop, it will "pin" the second hand (stop it's movement). You have to continue putting a little pressure on the crown in the reverse direction till the real time catches up to the second hand. This doesn't work if the watch is almost fully wound. Sometimes the second hand starts going backwards - this is OK, and speeds up the the process of synchronized with time. It doesn't hurt the watch. Called "back hacking" it's a common practice.
Final thoughts: I think the true value of this watch exceeds the MSRP of $185.00. I was lucky enough to notice it listed on sale, brand new, for $33.00 USD. I couldn't resist at that price.
I honestly think it's a more attractively designed piece than most of the other Seiko watches in my collection, some of which cost me 10x more!
The low prices typical for the SNK-80x line are a bit weird. If one compares other small, 7S2x based Seiko 5 Sports watches ranging in price between $60-125 on Amazon, though most have good qualities, it's difficult to find one even in the same ball park, as regards distinctive detail and beautiful composition of this watch. Why is this Seiko's least expensive automatic watch?. I don't think there is a good answer to that question. It should not be!
Is this the best watch for under $120.00? It's on the 'short list'. For those willing to pay around $100.00 or a bit more, I think some other brands also offer great value:
Swatch's Sistem51 -- movement is windable but not hackable, very accurate with huge power reserve of 90 hours. I have some hesitation about recommending Swatch though - the company seems to make a deliberate effort to make sure you 'only get what you pay for', as Swatch would prefer that you move on to one of the high end brands they own, Tissot, Hamilton, Mido, Omega, etc. So one often finds the Swatch models tend to be a little incomplete somehow -- toy like, fun, not entirely serious products. 'You have to pay more for that, you know...' Still, I think they goofed a little with the Sistem51 movement. It's much better than people think, with comparable accuracy and much longer power reserve than almost any Swatch group luxury watch. Swatch accidentally made some watches that really provide the consumer a lot of value, watches that are better, at least in some respects, than other models costing much more.. If you get one of these, you might not be left hankering for something, as Swatch intends, but instead find yourself pretty damn satisfied by what you got...They compounded their error recently by coming out with the Irony versions in stainless steel cases, and also having some models with good bands and bracelets. Oh my! The Irony models are about 3x the price of the SNK80x. I got one recently, and I love it.
Invicta's Pro Diver series, (43mm models, around $115, have high quality super-lume, & generally better build quality compared to the less expensive 8026 & like variants around $85) I also like the new automatic I-Force autos. . Invicta automatics consistently have hacking, winding movements; in fact the Seiko 4R35 /6 A movement, which is a step up from the 7S26 in this SNK803.
For $65.00 or less, the only remotely comparable wrist watch would be an Orient '3 Star'. These are similar in size to the SNG80x, and excellent little watches, but I've not seen one with the elegance of the Seiko SNK80x. Orient's in-house movement is very good though, probably more precise than the Sieko 7S26. The Orient movement is based on an earlier Seiko caliber, the predecessor to the 7S26, to which Orient made modifications intended to improve accuracy.
Some might mention Vostok; OK, but I think they look like old bottle caps. If you are into DYI projects, as is definitely required to convert them into something that's not hideous looking, or if you don't mind that they are hideous looking, a Vostok might be of interest . But I am not even slightly tempted to buy one!
To my eyes, for watches between $50-$85, the Seiko SNK80x is like a Swan among ugly ducks. This is subjective I know. I'd go further, I think SNK80x's attractiveness outshines everything (I've ever seen) under $100-$110. It's one of the most reliable watches available. Being a beautiful piece, and at the same time such a robust tool watch makes it very attractive to me and possibly to others looking for a great watch on a budget..
Watch hobbyists have a saying, you hear it all the time: 'You can never go wrong with a Seiko'. This statement is meaningful. Their products have consistent high quality, at all price points. The quality is subtle, in the materials used, in the finishing of the case, the quality of the crystals, the long lasting brightness of the substance applied to hands and markers to illuminate the the watch in the dark, and the distinctive approach taken to each model, making it unique and in it's own way, unlike any other. The high quality is hard to see in on-line photographs, and Seiko watches almost always seem a lot nicer when you "meet them in person". I think this is part of the 'you can't go wrong' stuff. If you kinda like the on-line photos of a Sieko, but maybe aren't sure, you are not going to be disappointed with the actual watch. You will often adore it, immediately when you actually see it, and at the least not be disappointed.