When it comes to Seiko’s entry level automatic movements, most people will readily think of the well-liked and reliable 7s-caliber automatics that are found in the garden variety SKX and limited edition SKZ divers and of course, the popular Seiko 5 family of affordable watches.
The 7s26 is perhaps the most widely known movement in the 7s-family and is extensively used in the base line Seiko 5 model. The Seiko 5 Sports and Seiko 5 Superiors are adorned with the slightly upmarket 7s36 movement, which has 23 jewels – two more jewels than what the 7s26 has. Limited production run 7s-caliber divers such as the SKZ203K Yellow Monster and the SKZ201K Seiko 5 40th Anniversary diver’s watches also use the 7s36.
So what’s interesting about the 7s55?
The 7s55 appeared towards the later part of the 1990s and it was the shortest-lived member of the 7s family.
In essence, the 7s55 is mechanically similar to the date-only, 23-jeweled 7s35 caliber but fitted with a decorative “Tokyo Stripes" oscillating rotor with red inscription for aesthetic purposes. As with the other 7s family calibers, the 7s55 is a fully automatic movement, with no auxiliary hand winding or hacking feature and runs at the standard 21,600 beats per hour.
Unfortunately little is known about the history of the 7s55 movement as not many of them were made, compared to the mass produced 7s36. The bulk of 7s-caliber movements, prior to the end of 2006 were manufactured by the Seiko Instruments factory in, Singapore.
Above: Comparison of the 7s55 (left) with the plain looking 7s36 (right). Borrowed images.
The 7s55 was never used in any other Seiko model and it wouldn’t have made sense for a decorated movement like that to be used in a solid caseback diver’s watch, where it cannot be seen.
Models that used the 7s55 caliber
The 7s55 debuted in a select range of Seiko 5 Superiors, which I call the “SLX-series" from their model reference numbers. All other Seiko 5 Superiors used the cheaper 7s36 day/date movement.
Only six variants were made: the SLX001K, 003K, 004K, 009K, 011K and 012K in stainless steel and gold tone guises with glass display backs to showcase its lovely rotor.
Above: SLX001K, SLX003K and SLX004K (top row). SLX009K, SLX011K and SLX012K (bottom row)
The SLX-series Superiors were cased at Seiko’s overseas production facility in Hong Kong while the movements were specially assembled in Japan. They were made available in small quantities to the Southeast Asian market. Contrary to what some have to be led to believe, these models were not exclusive to Japan although some Japanese collectors managed to get hold of the 7s55 Superiors.
The SLX-series Superiors were divided into two distinct designs: one with a subtle polygonal bezel edges, a date magnifier, Dauphin-styled hands, a larger crown and a plain stainless steel bracelet. The other design lacks a date magnifier but has a softly serrated bezel and baton-like hands. Both designs came in silver, black and silver dial with gold accents.
An unusual trait in the SLX Superiors is that they had regular bracelets which allows fitting of aftermarket leather straps. Seiko 5 Superiors made in 2003 onwards tended to have integrated bracelets, which I don’t really prefer.
The SLX-series Superiors were a hit with Seiko collectors and they were snapped up quickly. Due to its scarcity, the SLX Seiko 5 Superiors have earned its title as a collector’s item. A popular watch forum website in Thailand, Siam Naliga succeeded in getting their Seiko to issue them with a customized, Siam Naliga official watch based on the black dialed SLX003K.
Made only to a mere 200 pieces and individually numbered, this limited edition SLX003K ensured a place in the Seiko Collectors’ Hall of Fame.
Above: Photos of the elegant Siam Naliga SLX003K watch. Note the inscription on the dial. Images from Siam Naliga.
I’ve never really given thought to buying a Seiko 5 Superior but if I absolutely must have one, the black SLX003K would definitely be my choice! 🙂
Will Seiko reintroduce the 7s55 in the future?
That would certainly be wishful thinking! Many years had passed since the 7s55 was discontinued and Seiko made no attempts to release additional models using this caliber. I don’t know why the Japanese watch company pulled out the 7s55 from production in a very short span of time, but I guess the movement was more expensive to make compared to the more common 7s26 and 7s36.
I doubt very much that Seiko will reintroduce the 7s55 caliber as they already have rolled out their recent 4R15 movement, which debuted in their SRP-series mid-priced automatics in 2008.
There’s not much point in the 7s55 caliber making a comeback. For one thing, from the marketing perspective, the 4R caliber fits in between the flagship of the 7s-caliber family – the 7s36 and the more upmarket 6R15 movement, found in higher priced Seiko Premier, Spirit and Alpinist ranges. Having too many calibers in the entry level segment would confuse consumers and
For another, the reintroduction of the 7s55 movement would probably compete with Seiko’s 4R15 caliber. Seiko could have reissued the 7s55 long ago if they wanted to but they didn’t. I guess it wasn’t feasible for them to do so for marketing and cost reasons.
Above: Table showing the entire 7s caliber family and its attributes
The movement table above summarizes the features of the 7s caliber family. The 7s26 and 7s36 continues to power the Seiko 5 family of watches and 7s-caliber divers today. The date-only 7s35 debuted with the SNM001K, Seiko’s first automatic dress watch that didn’t belong to the Seiko 5 family. It is also used in the SNM-series divers such as the stainless steel Samurai divers and the North American “Landmonster" 200m divers.
Oddly enough, Seiko opted for the 7s25 instead of the 7s35 for its highly regarded but discontinued Ti Samurais. The 7s25 was not fitted to other models other than the SBDA-series Samurai divers. At the time of writing, it’s not known whether Seiko will reuse the 7s25 in their future models.
More pictures of the SLX-series Superiors
Here are some additional photos of the 7s55 Seiko 5 Superiors for your viewing pleasure. All photos depicted belong to their respective copyright holders.
As you can see, much attention has been given in the fitment and finishing of the SLX Superiors. The solid linked bracelet is top notch and resembles the upmarket kind used in some Japan market Prospex and Brightz models.
It’s a shame that Seiko decided to stop production of these fine looking Seiko 5 Superiors as I would have bought one if I had the chance years ago. Unfortunately for die hard enthusiasts, Seiko runs a business to make profits and to please their shareholders, not to please Seiko WIS folks.
The SLX Superior is one of the examples of highly desirable models that appealed to a select few of discerning Seiko watch lovers, not the masses. Models that don’t have high global demand are likely to be discontinued as the company sees it fit. Now you know why the evergreen SKX007K diver is still made to this day, despite being introduced way back in 1996!
Present owners are likely to hold on to their prized 7s55 Superiors as they recognize the high collectability status of these timepieces.
Top: Selected models of the SLX-series Superiors. Images belong to their respective owners.