I’ve seen many basic Seiko 5 models and there are just too many to choose from. Some retain the classic vintage look while others come with interesting, sporty designs.
If there’s one thing I know about Seiko, they have myriad models of Seiko 5s that many of them have short production market life spans. Seiko does produce their best selling designs for years and drop those that aren’t profitable. Therefore they move on and introduce new models to keep the market fresh.
I don’t really collect modern Seiko 5s and it’s not often that a particular model grabs my interest. But this one did. It’s the SNKE01K and is fondly dubbed as the “Poor Man’s Grand Seiko" or PMGS for short. What’s so interesting about this watch?
Well, for starters this particular Seiko 5 has a mild resemblance to the 9s55 caliber, SBGR023 Grand Seiko automatic which is considered a very fine watch by international horology standards. The SBGR023 is one of the flagship models from the 9s55 Grand Seiko line.
Each movement is hand assembled and meticulously regulated at the factory in six different orientations. No other Seiko-made watch (other than the even higher grade Credor) goes through such rigorous quality testing such as the Grand Seikos.
Of course, being an inexpensive, basic watch the SNKE01K doesn’t have the level of refinement and finesse of the Grand Seiko. Apart from the entry level, unregulated 7s26 movement, the SNKE01K has lumed hands and dial markers. Grand Seikos normally do not have any lume as they are designed as pure dress watches and they don’t have a day-of-week calendar display.
In spite of the apparent differences from the breathtaking SBGR023, the Seiko 5 SNKE01K does have a bit of that "Grand Seiko look", which startled me and quite a few SCWF members when the first photos of the SNKE01K were posted in the forum. For this reason, this particular watch earned the nickname the "Poor Man’s Grand Seiko". 🙂
Let’s see the visual differences between the SNKE01K and the SBGR023.
The chromed dial markers and hands of the SNKE01K look like the those from the SBGR023. GS photo courtesy of "Cafe".
You can see that the differences between the two watches are like night and day. Observe the highly chromed applied index markers and hands of the Grand Seiko on the left. Not to mention the level of refinement, fit and finishing of the SBGR023. No way an entry level, mass produced 7s26 movement can match the quality of a hand assembled 9s55 movement.
I’m not going to do an in-depth comparison between these two watches as it’s so obvious that they are different in so many aspects – let’s start from the retail price difference itself, which is a whopping USD3,200! 🙂 It will be definitely an unfair comparison so I’ll just focus on the similarities between the two.
Typically of Seiko, the company doesn’t just launch one particular model and call it a day. At least, not for the Seiko 5 range. It’s not cost effective to produce a caseback design for just one model so they release several models at one go.
Here some photos of the SNKE01K’s siblings. They are also available in the “J" variants (Made in Japan for the Arab countries market) with a slight price premium over the regular “K" versions.
From left to right: SNKD99K, SNKD97K and the ion plated black SNKE03K. Photos from Chronograph.com
Look and feel
The SNKE01K is a small watch by my standards but falls within the typical Seiko 5 dimensions.
The watch dial is plain black, without any semi-matte finish on it. I have to remind myself when I wear this watch, that this is NOT the SBGR023 Grand Seiko and it’s nowhere near it. The minute markers on the fixed bezel somewhat ruins the otherwise elegant look of the SNKE01K. It’s fine on the black anodized SNKE03K but somehow it doesn’t quite cut it with the dressy SNKE01K.
A pretty photo of the SNKE01K on its original Seiko 5 bracelet (borrowed pic)
The bracelet links are of medium quality (I’m not implying that they are bad) and they are of the folded link type, as with all basic Seiko 5s. Unfortunately Seiko decided that this watch should have a semi-integrated bracelet, which precludes the straightforward fitting of aftermarket leather straps.
Actually, I never got to size the bracelet for my wrist because a savvy forum member in SCWF had a brilliant idea on how to upgrade the factory issued bracelet (thanks, “Ultraman Pat"!) 🙂 He found out that the 22mm solid link bracelet for the 1st generation Seiko Atlas models could be substituted instead by removing the end pieces.
True enough, it worked like a charm. My SNKE01K immediately felt substantially heavier on the wrist but on the flip side, the watch now feels “bracelet-heavy". It feels like I’m more conscious of the weight of the bracelet than the Seiko 5 itself!
My SNKE01K on my Seiko SKZ211K’s solid linked bracelet (left) and with the original Seiko 5 bracelet (right)
As you can see above, the bracelet matches with the one on my SKZ209K. 🙂
Like most Seiko dress watches, the lume of the SNKE01K is on the poor side. You really need to charge the lume with an ultraviolet light to get this watch to glow to its maximum brightness. Because the sparsely applied lume material, I find it a bit hard to read the time in total darkness.
Here are a two lume shots of this watch. Nothing to shout about, really. Adequate is more a befitting description.
The caseback is of course, the typical clear display type which Seiko has adopted for its Seiko 5 range since 2002. What I didn’t realize was the serial number on the SNKE01K series is no longer printed on the glass back but along the stainless steel rim of the caseback.
I had a hard time finding the serial number until I finally realized it wasn’t printed on the glass. 🙂
Here are the measurements of the SNKE01K:
Diameter: 36.5 mm (w/o crown), 39 mm (w/crown)
Bezel diameter: 35.5 mm
Lug-to-lug: 40.5 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Lug width: 10 mm
Bracelet width: 20mm, tapering to 18mm
Some less-than-exciting photos of the SNKE01K on my wrist:
Caliber: 7s26A, 21 jewels (7s26B from Oct 2006 onwards)
Caseback type: 7s26-
Movement: Automatic, non-hacking
Beat rate: 21,600 bph (6 beats/sec)
Loss/gain: Less than 40 sec/day
Power reserve: About 42 hours
Calendar: Day/date, dual language (Eng/Roman)
Crown: Non-locking type
Construction: Stainless steel
Crystal: Hardlex glass, flat profile
W.R. rating: 50m
Luminous material: LumiBrite™
Movement Singapore, cased in China
This is one of the nicer looking dressy Seiko 5 models but I don’t think I would buy this again.
Why not? Well, it’s just that I’m so used to wearing larger sized timepieces and this one almost feels like a ladies’ watch on me. 😉
The SNKE01K is however, worth a look if you’re into classic-looking modern Seiko 5s.
What I liked:
Has a slight resemblance to the SBGR023 Grand Seiko
Elegant, chromed Dauphine-styled hands
Good value for the money for a basic Seiko 5
Twin push button bracelet clasp
Acceptable finishing for this sort of watch
What I didn’t care for:
Numbers on bezel appear to spoil the character of this model