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Review: Seiko 5 SNK803K2 Military Beige

Review | Under $1k | 06.08.2011

Photo credit: Zach Weiss

I first became aware of the Seiko 5 series while aimlessly meandering the watch pages of Amazon. At the time, I was happy to have found some humorously cheap Timex’s to buy and fool around with…I guess I was just having one of those “I need to buy something” moments. Regardless, when I came across a set of very nicely styled military automatics, made by Seiko, that cost just under $100 dollars, I knew I stumbled upon something great. Fast-forward a week, I received my Seiko 5, unboxed it and was immediately pleased with what I saw.

Case: Sandblasted Stainless Steel
Movement: Seiko 7S26B 21 Jewel Automatic with Day/date
Dial: Beige w/ Black Markers and Luminous Dots
Lens: Hardlex
Case Back: Display Back
Strap: Beige Double Layered Nylon w/ Steel Buckle
Water Res.: 10atm (100m/300f)
Diameter: 37 mm
Thickness: 11mm
Lug Width: 18mm
Warranty: Store Specific

In true military watch style, the design of the Seiko 5 is very purposeful.  The face is clean and legible. The markings are broken into two rings, the outer indicating minutes, the inner for hours and at the 3’ position you have a slot for the day and date. Everything is sized well, spaced well, printed nicely… It is an easy watch to read at a glance. There even are small dots of Lume at the outer most edge adding to low light visibility. The model I purchased has a beige face, which I chose over the black, green and blue, as I felt it would be a more unique accent within my wardrobe. The body is stainless steel with a sandblasted finish that adds a nice matte sheen to the surface. Once again, as a military watch, the matte finish feels very appropriate.  The minute and hour hands are Lume filled classic diamond shapes and the second hand is long and thin with a red tip at the business end, and a Lume dot at the opposite side.

The build quality of this watch, however, is what really stood out to me when I first held it. For a seemingly small watch, 37mm, it has a substantial weight to it…50 grams to be exact. Plus, at 11mm thick, it is stout and sturdy. The crown is small and set at an angle, making accidental dislodging very unlikely. The crystal is Hardlex, Seiko’s proprietary hardened mineral, which psychologically at least, adds some durability. The movement, which is visible through the case back, is an unadorned auto that looks like it is task oriented and not meant to be pretty, like an engine on a winch. The overall effect is that strapped to your wrist is not a fussy piece of jewelry; it is a tool for time keeping.

The strap that comes on the watch is a light beige double-layered nylon with leather/pleather reinforcing around the sizing holes that resembles a 2 buckle Zulu strap. It is simple, seemingly durable strap but it lacks nice finishing.  The light khaki/flesh tone coloring is extremely boring, especially against the beige face. I have since paired the watch with both classic olive army green and “Bond” black and grey colored NATO straps, and have been very pleased with the result. With the army green band, you complete the image of the robust military watch; the two earthy tones play off each other for a nice effect that looks great with jeans and patterned shirts. The Bond strap has a more subtle impact on the watch. The cool grey and black emphasize the warmth of the beige in the face while the strong stripes add a graphic contrast to the simplicity of the dial. This is my preferred arrangement for work attire, though it still goes nicely with casual dress.

The Seiko 7S26B movement has been fine so far. No noticeable accuracy issues. The rotor is quite loud and sounds more like a pepper mill than a timepiece, but as I said before, this watch is not dainty. Frankly, the fact that it has a little growl kind of seems appropriate. The day/date function is always great to have, and the Seiko’s happens to be bi-lingual (Eng/Span on mine), which is just cool. Granted the first day it was in Spanish, but that was an easy fix.

After wearing this watch for the last couple of months I can hands down say that if you are looking for a military styled watch you will be very pleased with this purchase. Does it have the authenticity of a Laco Flieger or a Mil-Spec Marathon? No, of course not, but it is an extremely well styled homage to the real thing…and perhaps, a more wearable alternative. Oh… and did I mention it was only $89?

  • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ Speedmaster

    The Seiko 5 is an affordable classic.

  • http://www.harrybishop.ca Harry Bishop

    I have this model (which I call “sand” color), plus the khaki green, plus the blue, all on the nylon straps which are great as they are double thickness rather than just a nato strap. Plus as well I have the black on stainless. Yes you can tell I enjoyed this watch! :-)

    I purchased the green first and find I wear it the most often, the sand/beige second. It’s not quite as interesting in the other colors which I wear less often.

    $88 is a good price, I managed to get most of mine for less just by keeping trying again and again on eBay with some high-volume vendors I knew would warrant what they sent.

    Glad you enjoy it!
    Cheers from Canada
    Harry Bishop

  • SteveW

    I too just bought the black strap / face. Great watch. Great price.

    Love the offset crown and light feel.

  • hosain

    hi sorry to bother you but could you tellme if the reinforcement on the nylon strap is pleather or real genuine leather for religious reasons I cant wear real animal leather so could you please help me out maybe the manual or box says the product info. I have bought one before but I am now unsure wether I can wear it or not thank you

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Hi,
      Thanks for the comment. I looked at the box and unfortunately there is nothing indicating whether it is or isn’t real leather. My gut says it isn’t, but I know that you probably want to make sure. My recommendation… find a nice all nylon 18mm strap, they are usually under 20 bucks, and put it on the watch… I personally think the watch looks much better with different bands that contrast the face more.

      Best of luck,
      Zach

  • Jared

    I purchased a silver face Seiko 5 about a year ago. My inspiration were all of J Crew’s Timex watches on NATO straps; I just couldn’t see paying J Crew in the neighborhood of $150 for a quartz Timex…especially when I was able to find similarly styled Seiko automatics for under $100. (Nothing against J Crew, I actually love their clothes.)

    I agree with your review, I really enjoy my Seiko 5, and J Crew’s NATO straps go perfectly with the 18mm lugs! That watch is a great, cost-effective was to scratch the “need-a-new-watch” itch.

  • koush22

    Would it be possible to replace the band with a leather strap?

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Yes, it is very possible. Just make sure you find an 18mm strap and have the right tools, i.e. a spring bar tool like this one Japanese Spring Bar Tool“>here

  • Peter Mead

    I’ve had this watch for 2 weeks now and agree with all of the above but wanted to make two addtional observations. 1. The watch accuracy is relative to its use, but is very accurate for an automatic overall. For the first week and a half, it was exactly three seconds behind my iPhone. In other words, spot on. I was wearing it to bed as well. Last night I took it off and laid it flat and this moring it gained four seconds…overnight. Tonight I’m going to take it off and lay it on its 9 o’clock edge and see what happens. 2. It has thin (whimpy)lug pins. Yesterday I was at the rifle range shooting a Remington ’03-A3 (WWII high powered rifle) and the recoil and the contact with the sling caused the pin on one side to pop out. Couple that with the fact that it is marginally water resistant and you get a military “looking” watch. That said, it is still a wonderful watch if worn within its designed expectations.

  • Peter Mead

    Oh, the other thing is that you mention that it is water resist to 100m. That would be nice! but it is actually only 30m. That’s why I said in my previous post that it is marginally water resistant.

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Thanks for your comments and for pointing that out! Sorry for the mistake, I’ve corrected the info. But, yeah…any watch in this price is definitely a “looks-like”…The SNZH53, for example, doesn’t have a screw-down crown, which is absolutely necessary in a functional diver, but the look is so great one can forgive..well, I can. I haven’t had issues with the springbars coming out myself, though I haven’t put them under any stress akin to firing a rifle. That being said, they can be tricky to catch with a springbar tool, since the shoulders are very thin. At least spring bars are cheap and easy to replace.

      Thanks again,
      Zach

  • John

    In response to this model being a military ‘looking’ watch: I would think that anyone looking for a decent diver probably would not be considering a watch in the 80-100 dollar range. 30m is far more water resistance than your average person will ever need. Also, I can attest to the durability of this watch as I accidentally dropped mine from about 4 feet up onto concrete and it hit the ground case first. Not only was there no discernible damage but it functions like the day I bought it. Overall, considering price, I find this to be a decent and rugged timepiece. I am tempted to put mine through a battery of stress tests to see just how much it can take. (I found mine for $60 btw)

  • Brian

    Is this watch better suited to a 16mm band? I just bought two 18 mm NATO straps and they feel a little tight going through. Is it supposed to be that way to prevent sliding?
    There are way fewer colors to choose from in the 16 mm size.

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Hey Brian,

      I always use 18mm straps with mine. Sometimes the straps are a little tight depending on the brand, but that’s better than loose, and there are many more options at 18mm.

      Thanks,
      Zach

  • Q.

    Can you wind this watch apart from wearing it, or does it only wind while you wear it?

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Hi Q,

      It cannot be manually wound, but you can put it in winder.

      -Zach

  • D-Man

    Did you have to buy those extra straps? Or did they come with them?

    Anyway, I might consider buying this watch soon.

  • http://johnprgn@yahoo.com John T

    I bought the black dial version with the black nylon strap. I love the look of the watch, but I did not care for the look of the black strap on the watch and put on a Di-Modell Montana leather strap in brown. It is a great looking combination; they were made for each other. Today, I got a green, red and black striped Nato band from DeBeer, just for a change now and then. It also goes nicely with the black dial version. Different strap, different look. Now I am tempted to buy the beige dial version. More so than some other styles,these watches look great with different styles of bands.

  • http://URL Bobby C.

    This model just might be the best bang for the buck in the entire watch world. Great review and a shining example of why this site rocks!

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

      Thanks Bobby! And yeah, the 803′s and other seiko 5′s are hard to beat.

  • http://URL J J Carter

    I tried this one, but returned it to Amazon. At 37mm it didn’t wear with enough ‘presence’ on the wrist and I felt the hands were too short to fill the dial as I like. The very beige face a strap also limited what clothing it would go with.

  • http://URL Jawan

    I got mine at just over 60 bucks off a crazy sale and all i can say is “thank you Lord!” On appearance alone and everything else aside this watch has taken away my IWC Mk XV craving.

    Good review Zach. Thanks for your wide coverage of German brands.

    Cheers!

    B

  • http://URL MT

    Anyone have a bund suggestion for this watch? I’ve found several that would accommodate the 18mm lugs, but not the 37mm diameter. I’m hesitant about going beyond a 42mm bund. Thanks!

  • http://URL Scott

    I have one of these. It keeps good time, but I’m a little put off by the metal-on-metal noise from the rotor.

    At the price,Seiko can’t be spending a lot of time on quality control or set-up, so I’ve been wondering if it would be worth it to have a repair person go over the watch and lubricate and adjust it.

    It already keeps time as well as some of my more expensive automatics, so maybe some TLC would help it last longer.

    What do you think?

    • http://URL Boyd

      I have several watches that powered by 7s26 movement (low-end automatic movement). All of them make noise when the rotor is moving. I don’t think the noise makes any problem to the movement. I used them for several years without any problem, still running strong and accurate. If you’re serious about the rotor noise, try 6r15 movement JDM watches. They’re superior than 7s’ movement. And far more expensive, too.

      Sorry for my bad English.

    • http://URL Toby

      Ive had a Seiko snk031 with a 7s26 movement I bought off ebay from overseas that I wore constantly for well over 8+ years probably closer to 10 years. I wore it at work, fishing, hunting, changing my oil, when changing out flats, etc… A little over a year ago I busted one of the spring bars pretty bad. Other than that its still in good shape, and Ive never had to do a thing to it.

      Looks like Ill be picking up one of these watches as well, I just wish Seiko made them with a white face.

  • http://URL Bob

    I love this watch!

    I used to have the SEIKO SNDA65 which have powerfull looks but it is way too heavy for me and have the feeling of hitting everything in the way.

    This is a perfect eveyday watch. I just wished it would be a little bigger for better time reading purpose.

    The price tag of $60 is amazing!

    I am just curious is there a Japan version as well as a Malasyian version of this same watch? I think i recall some picture of Japan Movement but i might be wrong. I have the Malasyan one by the way.

    Sorry for my bad English.

    • http://URL Wade

      Did you figure out the difference between the Japan and Malasiya versions?

    • http://URL Wade

      Zach did you ever find a difference between the Japan and the Malasiya versions? I’m looking at getting the black version of this watch, but will the movement be Malasiya or Japan? Labor is much cheaper in Malasiya… Are the movements the same? Does it matter? Should I get the black (it looks beautiful in your photos), or go with another color that is Japan made?

      Thank you so much for running such a great website!!!! I check here every day! And thanks in advance for any info you have!

  • http://URL TSellers

    I saw Marathon mentioned in this review and thought I should comment. I got a Marathon as my first Tritium timepiece. Within a couple of months it started to fog up if I was wearing it in a moist environment such as hiking while in the rain. When I inquired about sending it in the CSR was leaving on holidays for a month and after that I simply never bothered to get it done under warranty. Eventually some of the sunken numbers on the bezel lost their paint. I bought a Nite watch next, with a white face. The orange Tritium hands on it are not as bright as the Marathon’s green hands, and the grey numbers on white background do not stand out as much as I’d like. Also the Nite is bulky and heavier than I’d like. Although both the Marathon and Nite still run fine, I plan to grab one of these. I have been trying to decide between this model, an SNKK29 (which does not seem to have much for reviews, maybe it is new), or the similar looking but larger SNZG07 (which seems to be thinner in spite of it’s wider case, but has larger lumabrite markings).

  • http://URL Ben

    Got the green version of this watch a couple days ago, after mulling it over for some time. I needn’t have worried! I’m incredibly pleased with this watch. Design-wise, the face is very handsome and legible. I would like a little more brown in the paint on the face, but the color is still quite a nice, muted, military green. The red tip on the second hand is a sharp touch, and the date window pops well due to the white wheel background. I also really like the quirky bilingual day option: I have mine set en español right now, just for fun! The strap that shipped with the watch was actually pretty cheap-looking due to the styrofoam-weight plastic hardware, but I traded that out for a dark-red and sand NATO with metal hardware and love the final effect. Movement wise, the watch has been keeping perfect time (+/- 10 sec) for the last couple days, though of course that may settle in one way or the other after a few more weeks of wear. I agree with the above review: the movement seems purpose-built for getting a job done. It’s not fussy at all. Rather, it feels very substantial and sturdy. The crown turns smoothly to set the time and gives a nice firm “chunk” as the day and date snap by during adjustment. I have noticed the rotor grinding a bit on mine, too, but it’s not really that notable during normal activity, unless I’m really paying attention. Overall, an excellent watch: I’m proud to have added it to my collection.

  • http://URL rnzmnby

    are you able to wind the watch using the crown?

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