The Seiko 5 is a venerable name in the watch world. Intended for someone looking to step up from an inexpensive quartz watch to an entry-level automatic watch, 5s bank on their value-for-money proposition.
The SNZG15 reviewed here is one of the larger versions of the 5, and is also among the most popular automatic watches on the market. It is obvious why so many people would jump on the SNZG15 bandwagon, with its long list of features and a price that means you won’t agonize over every bump and scratch. This is a sub-$200 watch that, on paper, compares favorably to some watches costing in excess of $1000. But does it really stack up to some of those expensive luxury watches? Let’s find out.
The large round stainless-steel case and fixed bezel are bead-blasted, giving them a dull, matte finish. This is a popular case style for military watches, so it fits the SNZ’s field watch theme. Seiko uses its proprietary Hardlex material for the dial window, the same material used on much more expensive Seikos.
The SNZG15 measures 42 millimeters wide, making this a much larger model than the SNK line of 5s, which measure in at a very-small 37 millimeters. Rated as water resistant to 100 meters, you can swim and splash but not scuba dive with this watch. The screwed-down skeleton caseback offers a glimpse of the automatic movement. If this is indeed your first automatic watch, this is a great feature as you can study and familiarize yourself with its inner workings.
The SNZG15’s black dial is good looking, in a modest way. A large outer chapter ring shows the hour and minute markers, and is situated higher than the rest of the dial, creating a two-tiered effect that gives the dial a nice depth. The sword-shaped hour and minute hands are rather blunt, but easy to see at a glance. The second hand includes a red arrow tip, for a small dab of color on the dial. Clearly legible Arabic numerals displaying the 12- and 24-hour times sit within the outer chapter ring.
Impressively bright lume adorns the hour markers, hour and minute hands, and even the tiny arrow at the tip of the second hand. Below the 12 o’clock numeral, the “SEIKO” brand name is applied. Under that sits the “5” shield logo, also applied. Day and date is displayed at the 3 o’clock position, white-on-black, except for on Sunday, when the lettering is red.
Band & Straps
The canvas strap that comes on the SNZG15 uses a buckle closure, with holes reinforced by a stitched-on strip of vinyl. You will not confuse this with a strap that comes on a $1000 watch. It’s thin, stiff quality belie this watch’s economical price. For a reasonable amount of money, however, a higher-quality band can easily be swapped in to vastly improve this watch. The 22-millimeter lug width and a case and dial design that go great with almost any style of band means there are countless options out there for you, so I would encourage you to look around if you also find the band a bit lacking.
The Seiko-designed 7S36 movement is the real ‘piece de resistance’ for the SNZG15, if you ask me. Seiko has created a gem of a movement here, with unmatched reliability and accuracy for its price. It’s nothing flashy, with no apparent efforts at decoration or complex complications, not that you would you expect anything fancy at this price point. Rather, the main appeal of this movement is its reputation as a dependable workhorse.
This movement provides a nice, smooth sweeping motion for the second hand, although at 21,600 bph it is still on the slower end for automatic watches. There is no manual winding feature, so it relies on your arm movements to keep its charge. Also, it does not include a hacking capability, so perfect synchronization will be tricky. The power reserve is rated at 43 hours, although your experience may vary, with some owners reporting that their SNZs tend to die overnight.
For those looking for an inexpensive mechanical watch, the SNZG15 seems to tick all of the right boxes: nice automatic movement, quality crystal material, good water resistance, and attractive design. And while you will get all of those things with this watch, it isn’t a perfect substitute for that $600 Hamilton; a few details here and there will remind you that this is a relatively inexpensive product. When compared side-by-side, just about anyone would be able to tell that materials and craftsmanship on this watch are at least one rung the luxury timepiece’s. Considering that it is currently available for under $120 through multiple retailers, however, I still have to agree with the majority opinion that this is an outstanding deal for an entry-level automatic watch.