Wearing an expensive watch in public makes you a target. Violent criminals will stop at nothing to relieve you of your timepiece. Including murder. Bottom line? Save your best pieces for special occasions. Wear a daily beater. Just for fun, let’s assume you prefer a mechanical movement for under $300. So . . . Seiko vs. Timex. Which one’s the better bet?
Seiko vs. Timex – Brand History, Movements
Timex is a portmanteau of Time magazine and Kleenex. Disposable by name, disposable by nature. Back in the ’60’s, when one out of every three watches sold in America was a Timex, they were powered by cheap, mostly British-made pin-lever movements. Not designed to be serviced. Ironically, Timex were sold as anything but disposable. “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” – right until it doesn’t.
Today’s Timex is a Dutch-owned multinational. China’s Tianjin Seagull Watch Group makes their mechanical movements. Japan’s Miyota (a subsidiary of Citizen) makes their automatic (self-winding) movements. Both companies manufacture reliable, reasonably accurate and durable mechanical movements.
Seiko – “exquisite” in Japanese – began life in 1895 as a pocket watch provider. Like Ball, Seiko made their bones as their country’s official railway timekeeper. In 1924, Seiko-branded mechanical wristwatches hit the scene. In 1969, Seiko’s Astron introduced the world to quartz watches. Horologically speaking, the world was never the same again.
Though Seiko were the architects and instigators of the quartz crisis, they continued making mechanical movements. As labor costs rose and mechanical watches came back into fashion, the Japanese watchmaker expanded manufacturing to Seiko-owned factories in Singapore, Malaysia and China.
Seiko designs and builds a huge range of calibers at a wide range of prices. Timex does not. If we’re comparing like-to-like sub-$300 mechanical watches . . . there’s not a lot in it. That said, there is a huge red flag waving over Timex.
“Your TIMEX® watch is warrantied against manufacturing defects for a period of ONE YEAR from the original purchase date.” Seiko covers its mechanical watches with a three-year warranty. Register your watch with Seiko and it extends to four years. What does that tell you about quality?
Seiko vs. Timex – Style
Napoleon was one the first Western military commanders to say “f*ck strategy.” Let’s crush the enemy by sheer weight of numbers. Since Timex’s Dutch owners re-invigorated the mostly moribund brand, they’ve used a similar stratagem, unleashing a tsunami of inexpensive, quartz-powered models. Automatics? Not so much.
Timex’s watchfinder page serves-up 20 sub-$300 automatic timepieces (four are out-of-stock). With the exception of Snoopy on a Harley, the scissors-handed DENHAM and the elegant, “wait listed” Waterbury, they’re all demure dive watch wannabes. Even slick videography can’t hide the blah.
Oh wait. The Marlin line has 21 sub-$300 autos in stock (seven on waitlist). They range from the aforementioned Snoopy, to four MLB-branded watches, to some early-brand-faithful minimalist timepieces (the best of which are out-of-stock).
Seiko’s watchfinder page restricts choices to New/Limited mechanical timepieces. While there are plenty of other Seiko automatics out there, somewhere, the web page offers just six sub-$300 autos. Five of the six are funky square-cased wristwear. The sixth (SNKN48 below) is as fake gold as you wannabe. Actually, more.
Oh wait. Several members of the Seiko 5 Sports line hit our price point, including one Field Specialist Style watch (e.g., SRPG39), two Field Street Style pieces and seven Field Sports autos (SRPH29 above).
Other Seiko automatics enter our option list via discount. Amazon sells the automatic (with manual winding) Seiko 5 Sports SRPD85 Seiko 5 for $189 ($335 list). So there is that.
Seiko vs. Timex Comfort
If you’re thinking about buying a Seiko or Timex sub-$300 daily driver know this: all the metal bands suck. Both brands’ cost-saving metal bands are cheap, light, nasty, scratchy, stamped-steel crap.
If comfort is a priority, either live with a metallic hair shirt on your wrist, buy your chosen watch on a leather strap (if available) or swap the base metal out for rubber, leather or synthetic. There’s a world of replacement choices, but they’ll all push you past the $300 mark.
The Winner – Draw
Because Seiko’s automatics have a vastly superior warranty and a more prestigious brand family (including Grand Seiko), I’m going to give them the History, Movement win. While I personally prefer Seiko’s autos’ overall look to Timex’s often gimmicky mechanicals, Timex gets the Style win for their more varied choices. I reckon both brands offer the same level of on-wrist comfort, or lack thereof.
It all comes down to personal preference. At this level, you’re not buying a brand per se. You’re buying an individual watch. Rest assured, both Seiko and Timex mechnicals are a safe choice – especially compared to the risk of being attacked for your luxury timepiece.