Monday, November 17, 2014

Watch Review: Seiko SARB035

The Seiko SARB series is well-known among watch aficionados as one of the greatest value propositions among entry-level mechanical wristwatches.  It offers a handsome range of watches with a classic, subtly Japanese-influenced aesthetic, and automatic, in-house (thanks to Seiko's vertical integration) movements roughly at the $500 price point.  Only the SARB series' limited availability as a JDM - Japanese Domestic Model - limits its global position as one of the most attractive entry points into mechanical watch collecting.

The SARB035 is a cream-dialed offering that tips the scales at a little over $300, depending on currency conversion rate at the time of purchase.  Its 38mm diameter positions it well between the dress watch and everyday watch categories, as it looks just as at home when paired with a t-shirt and jeans as it does sliding under the cuff of a dress shirt.  The front crystal is sapphire, while the display back is Seiko's proprietary hardlex, meaning that the crystals are unlikely to suffer scratches from daily wear, unless you tend to be rough on your watches while they're off your wrist.

While the SARB035 comes with the dependable, solid-end-link bracelet that defines the SARB line, its 20mm lug width means that you have the widest possible options when it comes to aftermarket straps.  (Contrasted with the extremely hard to find 19mm width you'd have to deal with on most modern Grand Seikos, the SARB035 only looks like an even better choice.)  I opted for a shiny aftermarket cordovan strap that I got at the same Yodobashi Camera where I picked up the SARB035.

The the slightly iridescent cream dial and intricate fraction-of-a-second painted indices really play up a strongly appealing vintage vibe, as does Seiko's font, hands, and applied indices selection.  The watch looks on par with automatics in the several thousand dollar range, and offers similar performance with its 6R15C movement, which offers an impressive 50-hour power reserve and usually performs far more accurately than its rating of +25/-15 secs/day.

Image courtesy WatchUSeek Forums.
 The only thing that might give some buyers pause about the SARB035 or the SARB series in general is the lackluster fine adjustment for the included bracelet.  With only two fine adjustment positions in the clasp and one-size links, I've found myself in the unfortunate position of being in between adjustment sizes for both the SARB035 and SARB045's bracelets.  Too tight is never an option, and I can't abide bracelets that shift up and down the wrist like a bangle, which is why I opted for the aftermarket strap.  A minor annoyance for those who intend to wear this watch with a fine leather strap to complement its vintage vibe, but a potential deal breaker for those who intend to use the bracelet and find themselves stuck between adjustment sizes.

With only that small caveat, the SARB035 is a solid value proposition and great entry point into mechanical watches for those who can gain access to this Japan-only beauty.

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