Seiko SNZF17 Review: The Best Budget Bond Watch

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Whenever we hear the name Seiko, we just assume that it comes with a quartz movement. Well, even I’m guilty of being a stereotype. After all, Seiko is the first brand to bring the quartz movement in the wristwatches.

However, Seiko’s Series 5 is an exception here. Seiko tried to take on the big boys (read Rolex) with their own automatic watches in 1963.

Rolex Submariner series became an instant hit in the ’50s. After the massive success of the first bond movie Dr. No, everyone started fantasizing about owning a Submariner too. Seiko saw a new market building up.

Thus, the Series 5 came to be to let everyone have the opportunity to own a “Bond watch!”

Later, Seiko officially became the Bond watch in the Roger Moore era. Still, the popularity of the Series 5 didn’t plummet. Even in 2020, people are buying Seiko Series 5 watches.

Among the Series 5 collection, Seiko SNZF17 “Sea Urchin” holds a special place. Due to the uncompromising durability and perfect price to performance ratio, Seiko SNZF17 is the most popular model.

So, let’s talk about this evergreen watch in today’s detailed Seiko SNZF17 review.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Watch

Seiko SNZF17

Is this your first time buying an automatic watch?

If so, there’s a good chance that you’re opting for an automatic watch after hearing all the praises about the automatic movement!

An automatic movement doesn’t draw power from any battery or solar energy. Rather, it uses a rotor that moves along with your wrist movement. The rotor then winds the movement.

That’s why you don’t have to wind the movement manually for usage. The automatic movement also has a power reserve tool that keeps the watch moving for a certain time.

Typically, a decent automatic movement has 38 hours of reserve power.

While checking the quality of a watch, the movement holds the highest level of importance. Apart from the movement, you should put focus on the following elements –

  • Case and bezel material
  • Type of band/bracelet/strap and material
  • Type of clasp in the band
  • Case window protection (crystal)
  • Water resistance rating
  • Chronograph and multifunctionality
  • Luminosity

But as I’m reviewing this unit, I’ll focus on 5 things –

  • Precision – How accurate is the movement? Does it gain or lose time?
  • Build Quality – Which materials are used to build the watch? Is the finishing quality decent enough?
  • Looks – Whether the watch complements a sporty, casual, or formal looks?
  • Price to Performance Ratio or Value Proposition – Is the pricing justified?
  • Comparison Against Other Automatic Watches – What are the probable alternates in this price point?

Features & Benefits of Seiko Series 5 SNZF17 “Sea Urchin”

Benefits of Seiko Series 5 SNZF17

First, let’s talk about the Seiko Series 5. I’d call the Series 5 to be the automatic watch design for the everyday man. Durability, affordability, and the luxury of the automatic movement are the main inspirations behind the collection.

However, to become an official Series 5 watch, a Seiko watch needs to have the following 5 traits –

  • Automatic movement
  • Day/date display
  • Higher water resistance rating to become a pseudo-diver-class watch
  • Screw down crown
  • Durable case and bracelet

As you can see, these are the common and desirable features that we expect from a budget level watch.

However, there’s a big downside of the Series 5 watches. All of these watches follow the design template of the Rolex submariner. I know it doesn’t matter that much but Series 5 will always be seen as a Submariner Homage.

I think this is the biggest letdown of this series.

But that didn’t stop people from buying it. This series is Seiko’s one of the most successful and highest sold collection.

Okay, now, let’s jump to our main focus today – the details of SNZF17 Sea Urchin.

Seiko SNZF17 Movement Review

Movement

The good thing is that Seiko doesn’t outsource the movements from third-party Swiss sellers and try the shady “Swiss made” marketing policy.

In fact, Seiko uses their in-house 7S36 caliber in this automatic movement. It’s an entry-level caliber that Seiko mainly uses in the budget watch collections.

There are both positive and negative sides of the 7S36.

Why don’t we start with the positive notes?

The best thing about the caliber is the price-to-performance ratio. Like I said, it’s an entry-level option that mainly competes against quartz movement. You can find this caliber somewhere around $60 to $80 price point in the retail market.

However, the caliber offers a 21,600Hz vibration rate per hour. As a result, the second hand ticks six times per second.

That makes the 1-tick-per-second quartz movement look like a peasant!

More: Check our detailed review of The Best Automatic Watches Under $200 here

With a full-winding, this caliber would last for 41+ hours, which is again a better number than the typical 38 hours reserve power.

To make the caliber more accurate, Seiko has implemented the Diashock technology in this caliber. Also, 4,800A/m magnetic resistance sounds like a good number in the paper.

Overall, at this price point, it’s quite hard to find a better option.

That’s why, Seiko started using the 7SXX (mostly 7S26 and 7S36) in most of their Series 5 models after the release in 1996.  

In fact, the low-end 7SXX caliber is Seiko’s bestselling caliber. Apart from the watches in the Series 5, you can find this caliber in many entry-level automatic watches.  

However, the 7S36 also comes with a number of drawbacks.

The biggest letdown of the caliber is that it doesn’t allow manual hand-winding and hacking. In the early days, these two features weren’t that popular among the users. But it’s getting more and more popular among the newer users of this age.

That’s why, Seiko is slowly shifting towards the upgraded NH36/4R36 calibers that allows hand-winding and hacking

Here’s the summary –

Specification of 7S36 Caliber

  • Basic Type: Automatic
  • Caliber Model: 7S36
  • Jewel Count: 23
  • Caliber Size (Diameter): 27mm
  • Vibration Rate: 21,600 bph
  • Power Reserve: 41+ hours
  • Shock Prevention: Diashock
  • Hand-winding: No
  • Hacking: No

Case

Durability is one of the most important parameters of the Seiko Series 5 collection. They want to maintain a tough image.

So, the obvious choice of material was stainless steel. I’ve gone through all the manuals and booklets but Seiko doesn’t specify the type of stainless steel in the case. It could be 316L surgical grade but I’m not sure.

Seiko opted for an average sized case here with a case diameter of 41mm without the crown. And, the lug-to-lug distance is 46mm.

The size complements all wrist sizes, thinner and thicker ones.

The bezel features the iconic Submariner style unidirectional rotating design. This design is still in fashion, and a lot of people favor the design choice. The black aluminum bezel feels premium and elegant.

Also, they wanted to incorporate dive-style features. I think the 120-click ratcheting bezel does the job perfectly.

Overall, the case tries to celebrate the classic looks that will never go out of style. However, at the same time, you can call the design a bit boring!

It doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

More: Casio F 91W Review: The King of the Common Man’s Watch!

Dial

Dial

Seiko has gone for the undying design choice here. Yes, you’ve guessed it right – the dial is heavily inspired by Rolex Submariner.

You can identify the dot-and-baton design in just seconds.

Right on top, on the 12 o’clock marker, sits the “SEIKO 5” logo with the title “SPORTS.” Then, on the bottom, on the 6 o’clock, Seiko has added some notable features. It says –

  • WATER 100M RESIST
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 23 JEWELS

Again, Seiko has borrowed these ideas from Rolex.

However, Seiko didn’t compromise with the quality. The black background of the case feels polished and premium. To protect the dial from external damages, it’s covered with their Hardlex crystal.

Almost all of their watches feature the Hardlex crystal, which basically scratch resistant mineral crystal.

You must be wondering about the lume now!

Yes, the markers and the hands have lume. It’s one of the lovable features of Seiko Sea Urchin. The neon green lume is very strong and you can track the time in the dark quite comfortably.

Bracelet

Bracelet

There’s no easy way of saying this but the bracelet is a big letdown for me!

It’s an Oyster style link bracelet that is made of stainless steel. On paper, the specification sounds great.

But the links are not made solid stainless steel but they are hollow inside. So, the bracelet feels light and flimsy. It somehow makes the watch feel cheap.

Well, at least the link connectors are solid.

I would rate the bracelet B- due to the clanky feel!

But I have a solution here! You can always replace the link bracelet with the high-quality NATO or Zulu straps. I sometimes think Seiko Series 5 is the perfect watch for a nylon strap.

More: Mulco Watches Review: Want to Make a Fashion Statement?

Other Features

Other Features

Again, Seiko has disappointed me here. Seiko SNZF17 is a basic watch that doesn’t have anything out of the box.

There’s a day-date display on 3 o’clock marker and the caseback features an exhibition-style skeleton face.

That’s it!

You can count the 100m water resistance rating as an additional feature. Still, 100m resistance in a dive-class watch is a joke!

I don’t call any watch below 200m WR rating a true dive-class watch.

Still, you can take this watch in swimming pool sessions without any hesitation.

More: Akribos XXIV Men’s Chronograph Watch Review: Stylish Budget Chronograph

Product Specification and What to Expect

Feature Type Seiko SNZF17 What to Expect?
Movement Automatic Premium movement option, more accurate than mechanical or quartz movement.
Caliber Seiko 7S36 Seiko is using their in-house caliber which tend to remain very accurate.
Country of Manufacture Japan/Malaysia The Japan-made variants tend to perform better as users have complained against the Malaysian plant’s QC process.
Case and Bezel Material Stainless Steel with Aluminum Very sturdy, can withstand the toll of regular usage.
Case Diameter 41mm Suits both thinner and thicker wrists.
Water-Resistance 100m.(330 Feet) Suitable both swimming and snorkeling but not good enough for dives.
Dial Protection Hardlex Decent quality, will protect the dial against scratches.
Weight 150g.(5.29oz.) Has a moderate weight. You’d feel the watch in your wrist but it shouldn’t bother you.
Luminosity Hands and Markers Great visibility in the dark.
Strap Modified Oyster Link Bracelet Feels a bit clanky and rattles often. You can replace it with NATO or ZULU straps.
Clasp Double Push Button Fold-Over with Safety Sturdy and reliable

Social Proof: What Other Customer Says?

It’s really hard to find a negative Seiko SNZF17 review online. Some people have pointed out a few issues but don’t get bothered much because of the price.

Take a look –

Customer Review 1
Customer Review 2
Customer Review 3
Customer Review 4

Best Alternatives to Seiko SNZF17

You can find a great number of alternatives to this watch. After all, there’s no end to the Rolex Submariner watches in the market.

Orient Men’s Japanese Automatic / Hand-Winding Stainless Steel 200 Meter Diving Watch

Orient Men's Japanese Automatic

The first alternative is the Orient Ray II. If you’re into the watch industry, you should know that Seiko is the Orient’s parent company.

In terms of design, there’s little to different between the two watches. Both of them are dive-style Submariner homages with silver and black color combination. Even the form-factor of the two watches are identical!

However, Orient’s F6922 caliber offers a bit more!

It comes with hacking and hand-winding abilities that our SNZF17 lacks. Also, it offers 200m water resistance.  

So, is it a superior option?

No!

Orient Ray II offers -15 to +25 seconds accuracy. Where Seiko SNZF17 offers ±10 seconds accuracy.

If you have a lower budget, Orient Ray II is a beast of an option!

More: How to Remove Watch Crystal? The Step-By-Step Guide

Invicta Men’s 8926OB Pro Diver

Invicta Men's 8926OB Pro Diver

This option is even cheaper! Invicta brings the dive style watch with Japanese automatic movement with 200m WR rating just around $80!

Invicta Men’s 8926OB Pro Diver could be one of the cheapest dive class automatic watches in the market and extremely popular among the users.

I know, the pricing seems to good to be true.

Invicta uses Seiko NH35A caliber which offers hand-winding and hacking!

I really don’t understand how Invicta could make profit selling such a great watch at this price point.

More: Tissot PR100 Review: True Swiss Budget Champ

Conclusion

Okays, that was my take on Seiko SNZF17 review. This watch has been a massive success for Seiko and the sales figures also support that fact.

It’s a reliable and tough watch that will serve you for the years to come.

Another thing, I know the Orient and the Invicta is offering more feature-rich watches at a lower price point. But Seiko Sea Urchin is far superior watch in terms of build quality.

If you have any question regarding the watch, just let me know in the comments.  

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