There is no denying it, the Seiko 5 SNK809 is one of the most popular wristwatches ever made. The guys at Seiko have managed to push millions of these automatic manual timepieces over the years.
Now this may not be that exclusive watch that’ll make an entire room weak in the knees whenever you stretch your hand out for that cuppa joe, but numbers don’t lie.
For its’ price point, this is one of the most reliable automatics there is.
Seiko 5 Military – Let’s Talk History
Before we start dissecting this bad boy, let’s get an idea of just where the Seiko 5 series came from.
Back in the early 60’s, Seiko set out to design an affordable automatic. So the management and design team probably met up in a cigarette smoke-filled conference room with slightly stale snacks in one corner and spelled out the 5 pillars they’d create their new watch around: an automatic mechanism, decent water resistance, day/ date complication, crown at 4 o’clock, and a durable case & strap.
And the Seiko 5 watch was born!
Fast forward five decades later and the SNK809 stands out as the best-priced automatic made by a major brand. Powered by the time-tested 7S26 movement, this timepiece graces the wrists of millions as their daily beater watch.
So let’s take a closer look to see just how much bang you get for your buck as we begin our Seiko 5 review.
Seiko 5 Automatic 21 Jewels – First Impressions
The SNK809 is definitely not what you’d call a stunner…
Or beautiful even…
It’s that watch you can wear all-year round without people ever noticing you only have that one watch.
And that there is what makes the design direction pretty special.
It has a black dial with white printed Arabic numbers marking the hours on the inner circle and minutes on the outer circle.
You’ll find the day/ date complication at 3 o’clock, which can either be set in English or Spanish. The dial is pretty much a flat affair with the exception of the 5-minute marker bumps on the outer circle and the immediately recognizable Seiko 5 logo.
Night time visibility on this Seiko never really gets as much credit as it should; it’s pretty good!
Granted, it only lasts for a while after the sun goes down, but the silver-toned luminous hands allows you to easily tell time in the dark.
The sweeping second hand also has a red-accented tip for better visibility, and pairs beautifully with the red day complication.
One of the unique design touches of the SNK809 is the placement of the crown.
Like the badasses they are, the designers chose to place it at 4 o’clock and not 3 o’clock like every other wristwatch out there.
This slight change in position is a bit unsettling at first, but quickly becomes one of my favorite things about this watch.
And it serves a functional purpose too.
You know how normal crowns dig into your wrist whenever you bend your hand up and down?
Well, with it at 4 o’clock, this will never be a problem.
We’re also huge fans of the brushed stainless steel finishing on the top of the case and the lugs. The matte look gives the watch a premium feel, which for a moment makes you forget that this watch costs under $100.
And unlike highly polished stainless steel that easily showcases fine scratches, matte helps keep those imperfections on the down low. One of the many reasons why this is such a great daily wearer.
If you’re a mechanical lover, you’ll let out a shriek or two the moment you flip the SNK809 over and catch a glimpse of the exhibition case back.
Nothing is more satisfying than watching the gears and levers of a manual timepiece working in beautiful synchrony. It might not look as intricate as some other watches, but the 7S26 movement in this is still a sight to behold.
But if there’s one thing that puts a blemish on an otherwise decent design, it’s the strap.
The Seiko 5 ships out with a black canvas strap that look as basic as they come.
Simply put, it isn’t a looker.
Luckily, the 18mm lugs allow you to easily change it. If you’re going to go down this route, opt for a dark brown Seiko 5 leather strap. The contrast of color between it and the black dial will give you butterflies in your tummy!
How it’s Made
Let’s remember this watch is priced at under $100; normally going for $60 online. So you shouldn’t expect some Lange-level quality when buying it.
But the SNK809 continues to impress with its solid build that rivals far more expensive timepieces. It has nice weight to it and feels great on the wrist.
As expected, Seiko has used Hardlex, designed in-house, to cover the dial. Apart from sounding like a rap rock band from the early 2000’s, Hardlex offers great scratch resistance and will keep things nice and clear much better than regular mineral crystal.
It doesn’t come anything close to sapphire in terms of keeping scratches at bay, but manages to get the job done quite commendably.
And what the canvas strap lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in durability.
The holes are reinforced with vinyl and the entire strap exudes a ruggedness that seems capable of handling whatever you throw at it. The canvas design is a perfect complement to the water resistance, rated at 30m. That’s 99ft for everyone holding on to the Imperial System; let go already.
In other words, you should never be worried about little splashes of water or rain.
With a water resistance of 99ft, you can confidently even go swimming or snorkeling with your automatic without a care in the world.
Doing so might require you to service your watch more often, but the cool cred you’ll get when pairing your Seiko with your speedos will more than make up for it, right?
The 7S26 automatic winding movement combines simplicity with reliability. It’s fitted with 21 jewels and beats at 21,600bph. With a standard deviation of -20/ +40 seconds a day, the 7S26 isn’t the most accurate of movements but is pretty reasonable for its’ price point.
Like all automatics, the SNK809 requires regular wear for it to keep going, and has a power reserve of about 40 hours. But even with constant wear, you’ll have to reset the time every couple of days to account for the deviation.
How to Set
The most foolproof way to go about setting the date and time is to start working from the previous date.
So pull out the crown to position 2 (midway position), turn it clockwise until the previous day’s date appears, and then anti-clockwise until the previous day of the week appears in the language you want.
Now pull the crown to the furthest position and turn it clockwise until the date and day roll over to the next one. The time is now set in A.M.
Continue advancing the hands until the correct time is set. Push back the crown completely, log into all your social media accounts, and brag to everyone about being the second coming of Einstein.
Should you get it?
The Seiko 5 SNK809 is a total steal for its’ price.
For about $70, you get an automatic that is well-made, and despite its let-down straps, isn’t horrid-looking either.
If this is your first foray into automatic manuals, then there is no better place to begin than this baby.
The black canvas strap gives it an unofficial feel that will go great with all your casual outfits.
Change up the strap with a leather one maybe, and you get a wristwatch that will be a nice complement to that tailored suit.
It really is a versatile gem.
One of the most convenient things about owning a Seiko 5 is just how easy it is to find someone that can properly service it.
The 7S26 is a pretty common movement, so you’ll never be left with a $70 paper-weight because you couldn’t find somewhere to fix your watch.
Now, if you’re blessed with extra-large hands or forearms, you might find the standard 37mm case a bit tiny. But the guys at Seiko understand that yes, you never miss forearm day in the gym, and they’ve come up with the 42mm SNZG15.
It has identical specs to the SNK809 and adds 5mm to the diameter, which really does make a difference. And this extra size will cost you just an additional $35 or so.
SNK809 continues the Seiko 5’s tradition of affordable functionality. While not in any way glamorous, this timepiece has a certain charm and character to it that makes it deserving of any collector’s watch box.