The Seiko 5…
In 1968, the Seiko watch company had a great idea for a watch that would surely appeal to a mass market. The company decided to make a watch that had 5 key attributes: 1) Automatic winding, 2) Day / date displayed in a single window, 3) Water resistance, 4) Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position, and 5) Durable case and bracelet. The watch was originally titled the Sportsmatic 5, but all watches that have these very basic characteristics are considered “Seiko 5’s”.
From the start, the Seiko 5 was designed to reinvent watch performance and to bring to the 1960’s generation a watch that belonged to the age and that fitted into their lives. As perhaps never before, the Seiko 5 needed to be a watch that could go anywhere and everywhere and therefore it had to be very durable. To be durable, the watch needed to be impervious to water and shock.
Water resistance was built in as standard to every Seiko 5 watch, and metal bracelets were used so that, from “buckle to buckle”, the watch was resistant to water and sweat. Shock resistance was assured with two Seiko inventions. First, the mainspring was made from “Diaflex,” an unbreakable alloy, and the “Diashock,” system was created to protect the movement from shock within the case.
Legibility was the next vital attribute. Today, it’s taken for granted that day and date are presented in a single window but, in fact, this was an idea built into the Seiko 5 to enhance the legibility of the dial. The genius was to create a unique system that allowed both day and date to be shown in one plane.
The final challenge was to create a distinctive look that defined the brand. Thanks to the extraordinary Seiko invention of the ‘Magic Lever,’ the winding efficiency of Seiko 5 is very high, and the wearer rarely needs to use the crown. So the designers made it smaller and hid it under the lip of the case at 4 o’clock, giving Seiko 5 its signature look.
Inside these watches beat several different movements. The 7S26 features 21 jewels while some improved versions feature 23 jewels (the 7S36, for example). The caliber 7S25 automatic movement is featured in watches where only the date is displayed. All of these movements beat at a rate of 21,600 bph (beats per hour).
There are currently many versions of this great watch in the marketplace. They range from basic “beaters” to sports watches…
I own a black-faced Flieger and it’s been a steady companion around the house, in the yard, on walks, and while fishing.
The Seiko 5 does a lot of things well and that is its genius. In fact, if I was asked to wear only one watch that was reasonably priced (< $150, and some can be found as low as $50), this would be the one.
And besides being easy on the wallet, most Seiko 5’s are also easy on the eyes, light on the wrist, and feature luminescent hands and dials. What you won’t get with a Seiko 5 are features like hacking, manual wind, extreme water resistance via a screw down crown, or a bezel.
For fly fishing and general fishing use, I prefer the Seiko Monster, which I posted about in this blog some time ago. The Monster is essentially a Seiko 5 on steroids, and features incredible ruggedness, reliability, and superior water proof qualities, at an albeit higher price. It is a not-so-distant cousin of the Seiko 5, though much heavier on the wrist.
For everyday use, reasonable cost, and a great all-rounder of a watch, it’s hard to beat the Seiko 5. And even if you do slip on the Monster for on-water fly fishing duties, you’ll be glad to have the humble Seiko 5 when drinks are served back at the lodge…