The Seiko 5 Sports SRPD95 continues the tradition of the Seiko 5 as gateway drug. The first 5 was introduced in 1963 to lure young buyers into the brand, to set them on the path to more expensive and elaborate timepieces. Every 5 model had to have five features: automatic winding, day/date display (in one window), water resistance, a recessed crown at 4 o’clock, and a durable case and bracelet. Baloney. The only thing 5’s share is a brand name. What really connects them . . .
value for money. The Seiko 5 stands for stylish looks, a reliable mechanical heart and build quality above their price point.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, Seiko introduced the new Sports 5’s to the U.S. market. The new line divides into five families: Sports, Suits, Specialist, Street and Sense. In reality, Seiko launched one watch with 27 different variations across five categories.
The Sports Style are classic dive watches that play on colorways drawn from Seiko’s SKX, SRP and Marine Master divers. The Suits are an upscale take on the dive watch, with Milanese bracelets, textured straps and vintage styling elements. Specialist and Street watches have a modernized dive watch look. The Sense collection includes textured dials and new, unique colorways (as above).
Why base 27 timepieces – an entire line of entry level watches – on a more-or-less standard dive watch? RF may see dive watches as a dead genre walking but they have a universal style beloved by enthusiasts at every price point. That means they sell.
The Seiko 5 Sports SRPD95 hails from the Suits family, equipped with a simple black bezel with a textured rubber strap. The dial boasts a metallic sunburst design in dark charcoal with faux-vintage lume plots on the applied indicators and hand set and a white rehaut adding contrast.
Your $295 buys you a lot of quality details. Applied logos and markers aren’t generally standard fare at the lower end of the market. The 5 Sports got ’em, topped by a new stylized 5 logo. The Seiko 4R36 movement sets the foundation for the SRPD95’s value proposition. Born in 2011, it hacks and handwinds with a 41-hour power reserve. It’s robust but accuracy is less-than-stellar at +45 and -35 seconds per day.
All the new 5’s share the same stainless steel case; here it’s found highly polished. Unlike a lot of lower-end Seikos, this SRPD95’s hand set is perfectly aligned with the indices. The pull-out crown is tight and highly tactile. I can’t see much difference in quality to the more expensive SBBN031 Marine Master Professional “Tuna” from my collection (above left). The SRPD95’s new textured rubber strap would please a fetishist – I wouldn’t mind swapping it onto another of my Seiko divers.
Unfortunately the SRPD95’s hands and dial are blessed/cursed with a faux patina effect. I’m not going to engage in the ongoing FP debate. I’ll just say that this watch’s vintage lume combines with the tall white rehaut to create a dial that looks a little cartoony. If Seiko was trying to create a “dress diver” like the Tudor Black Bay priced for the first time buyer, they ended up with a caricature rather than an homage.
The neo-futuristic script chosen for the dials’ “Automatic” branding is straight out of Tomorrowland. Though the SRPD95’s unidirectional rotating bezel is tight and precise, it’s a typical lower-end Seiko cast or metal injection-molded piece. There’s no getting around it: the rounded-off coin edging looks cheap.
At nearly 43mm wide and over 13mm thick, the SRPD95 is definitely here to party. It never fails to make its presence known, even on my 8+ inch wrist. Suit Style? None of the new 5’s are going to pair well with professional office attire. In fact, they’re uncomfortable under a properly fitted shirt cuff.
Who wears a suit to work? The new SRPD95 complements the modern office wardrobe: well-fitted chinos or denim, sport shirts, Patagonia vests, that sort of thing. After work, the watch accommodates athletic activities, remaining accurate and reliable. It’s a great watch for the money – but so are other similarly-priced Seikos. And that’s a problem for the SRPD95 and the rest of the new 5’s.
Seiko’s SRP77x “Turtles” (as above) use the same movement at the 5 Sports models. Thanks to their screw-down crown, they dive 100m deeper than the 5’s. The Turtles also offer a cleaner, more elegant neo-vintage style in a wide variety of colorways. Comparing real world prices, will customers step up and pay a $150 price premium for a real dive watch? Will the SRPD95 lead customers to buy Turtles, cannibalize Turtle sales or both?
Seiko is counting on the new 5’s to realize an old strategy – bringing style-minded watch enthusiasts into the fold. Buyers who’ll move into upmarket Seikos as their taste evolves and income level increases. Seiko’s hoping this brand loyalty will insulate them from the smart watch crisis‘ impact on the low- and mid-priced market. Is the Seiko 5 Sports SRPD95 a great landing at the wrong airport? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, let’s hope we get an even greater 5 range expansion. A vintage-inspired 5 field watch? Modestly priced automatic chronographs that borrow styling from the spectacular Kakumes and UFOs of the 70’s? A line of dressy 5’s that brings ultra-clean Grand Seiko style to the masses? Watch this space. Until then please tell newbies that the SRPD95 – or any new 5 – is more interesting and attractive than an Apple Watch.
Seiko 5 Sports SRPD95
Price: $295 (Street Price $188)
Case diameter: 43mm
Case Thickness: 13.4mm
Movement: Seiko 4R36 automatic movement
Water resistant: 10 bar
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * *
Upscale details are outweighed by faux patina and clumsy dive watch dimensions.
Legibility * * * * *
Enormous lume plots applied to a dark dial; if you can’t tell the time on this you need more help than Warby Parker can provide.
Comfort * * *
Relatively light with a pleasing case shape but tokudai in every dimension; if it was a person it wouldn’t be allowed to fly coach.
Overall * * * *
Seiko paid attention to the details of a cheap watch. How great is that?