Could the Seiko SSB031 be a budget Omega Speedmaster? Well, let’s see; it has a black dial sporting 3 sub-dials, a simple bracelet, and it even has a tachymeter on the black bezel. Of course, this Seiko doesn’t have the same attention to detail or high-end parts as the Speedmaster, but that’s forgivable since it’s price tag is several thousand dollars less than the Omega’s. It would seem, then, that this watch could indeed serve as the poor man’s Speedmaster. This isn’t a blatant copycat design mind you, as the SSB031 uses plenty of original features and design elements to set itself apart from other similar pieces. A sporty-but-classy design with some exciting functionality make this a very interesting watch.
The SSB031’s 40-millimeter stainless-steel case is characterized by a large bezel with a tachymeter scale for measuring speed in white numerals. This ion-plated fixed bezel has a shiny black finish that goes great with the black dial. The case measures 47 mm from lug to lug, so this is a watch that should fit just about any wrist.
The case sides are polished, making them susceptible to accumulating fingerprints. I really enjoy how the fluted chronograph pushers emit a satisfying click when pressed down. The crown does not screw down, but the SSB031 is still rated as water resistant to 100 meters – suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not scuba diving. The screwed-down case back has a very simple design; just the Seiko name stamped in the center, with some basic information such as the movement type and water resistance rating around the edge.
Hands and hour markers are luminescent, use LumiBrite so they glow very well. The three sub-dials include the following functions: a seconds counter at 6 o’clock which serves in place of a second hand, a 24-hour dial at 3 o’clock, and 60-minute chronograph timer at 9 o’clock which shows the accumulated time the chronograph has measured when running. The date window is crammed into the 4:30 position at a slightly awkward angle. Because it is printed white on black, it can be hard to distinguish from the other markings on the busy dial face.
The white applied markers, which have a stainless-steel outline, appear to be well made and complement the look of this watch nicely. Accent marks at 12, 6, 3, and 9 o’clock positions match the red chronograph hand. Speaking of the chronograph hand, I feel I should reiterate this point: this is not a second hand, it is only used for the chronograph (stopwatch) function. With 5 ticks per second, this chronograph function emulates a mechanical watch movement. Note that if you intend to heavily use this does not include a split timing function. The chapter ring, the angled part of the dial containing the second and sub-second markers, is very deep. While this means the case has to be slightly thicker to accommodate it, I think this deep-dish look is fantastic on this design and is totally worth any added bulk it creates. The dial window, like so many Seikos, uses Hardlex crystal.
Here’s where things get really interesting: The SSB031 uses what is called a mecha-quartz movement, the caliber 6T63. As the name implies, this is a quartz movement that borrows features from mechanical watches. For example, while normal quartz movements tick once every second, the chronograph hand on the SSB031 moves 5 times per second, as fast as many automatic watches’ second hands.
To use the chronograph function, press the top pushed to start the timer, and use the bottom pusher to snap the chronograph hand immediately back to the 12 o’clock position, another function reminiscent of a mechanical movement. This is a very appealing function that might entice some mechanical watch purists to at least take a second look at this watch. This movement uses a battery with an estimated life of 3 years.
A 20-mm stainless steel band comes standard on the SSB031. With hollow end links and a brushed steel finish, this bracelet has a lightweight, cheap feel to it. While it should be a comfortable band for most wearers, it doesn’t quite match the heft and grandeur of the rest of the watch. It also features a dual push button deployment clasp and two micro-adjustment holes for finding the right fit.
So, while the SSB031 does a decent impression of a watch that costs several thousand dollars, it also includes many interesting features and functions that make it an appealing watch in its own right. The mechanical-style chronograph function in particular is a superb feature that few name-brand watches in this price range can match. Currently, some outlets are offering this model at a fraction of the suggested $425 retail price, so it is possible to find this watch at an outstanding bargain. If you are in the market for a stylish and technical timepiece, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this Seiko a try.