Seiko SNZH53 Review: The Best Entry-level Automatic Watch?

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Whenever we hear the word “automatic watch,” we can only think of a premium watch with a hefty price tag. In the world of quartz movement, the idea of having a watch with tiny mechanical parts that don’t have to manually wound seems fascinating.

Also, premium brands like Rolex and Omega have set the standard too high. That’s why an average buyer stays miles away from the automatic watches.

With a heavy sigh, they “settle” for a quartz watch!

What if I tell you that you can own a high-quality automatic watch that is even cheaper than a lot of quartz watches?

Yes, Seiko has done the impossible!

Seiko Series 5 has been blessing the world with top-class automatic watches since the ’60s. In the recent years, the SNZH series has been the talk of the town.

SNZH53 is especially popular among the users compared to the other models – SNZH55, SNZH57, and SNZH60. All four models have the same internal and external components, the only exception being the color and design choices.

If you follow the watch market, you should know that many other players compete in this price segment. Brands like Invicta, Orient, Citizen, and many others have various automatic watches to compete against this watch.

So, why are people calling it the best entry-level automatic watch?

Let’s dig deeper into the Seiko SNZH53 review details and determine if this watch is actually the budget king.

Things to Consider Before Buying an Automatic Watch

Seiko SNZH53

In most cases, an average user doesn’t do extensive research about an automatic watch’s caliber quality.

The reason is simple.

When we are buying an automatic watch, we assume that the watch is very superior. After all, automatic movement is a class apart from the quartz and the mechanical variant. Then, it gives you a sense of elegancy.

Here’s the sad truth – not all automatic movements are the same!

For example, the Caliber 3255 (from Rolex) stands miles apart from Seiko 7S26. Actually, I shouldn’t even compare these two calibers under any circumstances. Even Seiko 9S61 (found in Grand Seiko) is far, far superior.

Why?

Is it just because of the brand value?

No, there are a lot of factors that determine the quality and the value of an automatic movement caliber.

The most important parameter is the accuracy.

Seiko 7S26 offers an approximate accuracy of -35 to +45 seconds per day. Compared to that Rolex 3255 has an accuracy of ±2 seconds/day and Grand Seiko 9S61 has -3/+5 seconds/day.

Then, comes the issue of jewel count and reserve power capacity. The additional features also play significant value in determining the price and quality.

So, from now on, you take these factors in mind while shopping for an automatic watch.

I mean, the material and dimension of the case, type of strap or bracelet, and crystal material on your watch definitely have roles to play. But those are generic factors. To be labeled as a high-quality automatic watch, the movement quality is the MOST important parameter.

Features & Benefits of Seiko SNZH53

Benefits of Seiko SNZH53

Let’s focus on the topic of the day now – the Seiko SNZH53 review.

Before we begin with my Seiko SNZH53 watch review, you should understand that we’re looking at an entry-level automatic watch, not some top-of-the-line high-end timepiece.

We’d compare SNZH53 with the likes Seiko SNZF17, Citizen NH8389-88LE, Orient Ray II, etc. In short, any watch above the $200 mark, doesn’t cut into my consideration today.

That being said, let’s dive in –

Movement: Is 7S36 Still Relevant in 2020?

Movement

Seiko has used its bestselling 7S36 caliber here. After the explosive start (in a good way) in 1996, Seiko is still using this beast of a caliber in many collections.

You can find the same 7S36 series caliber in SNZH, SNZF, SNZG, and even in their Recraft series. Technically, it’s an upgraded version of another massively popular 7S26 caliber.

But in real life, I don’t find any difference, other than the two additional jewels.

So, how does this 24-year-old technology perform in 2020?

Pretty well!

It has a jewel count of 23, a vibration rate of 21,600 bph, and DiaShock technology to prevent against external shocks.  

More: Seiko Recraft Review: Rocking the Retro Design!

Overall, you can’t complain. The caliber is still quite reliable and has a fame for the bang for the buck image.

If I want to be nitpicky, I would complain about the absence of hacking and hand winding capability. It’s not that a lot of people use (or need) hacking or hand-winding features. But the lack of this feature kind bugs me.

Then, you’ll have to deal with the somewhat poor accuracy of -35 to +45 seconds per day.

One of the biggest competitors, Citizen, another Japanese giant, competes with their in-house Miyota 82XX calibers. The specification list of these two calibers are basically identical. Even the watches fall under the sub-$200 price point.

But Seiko’s calibers are far more robust and will serve you for years to come. Seiko 7S36 even beats the ETA 2824 caliber that you can see in the $500-watches.

Considering all the factors, I am quite confident Seiko 7S36 is still a very good option for the entry-level automatic watches. It fights neck and neck with other popular calibers.

Here’s the specification summary of 7S36 –

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: How Much Tough Seiko SNZH53 Actually Is?

Case

You want your entry-level watches to be tough, don’t you?

It’s really not fair to ask for a cheap watch to be strong. Then again, you’d probably use this watch as your daily driver. That’s why durability becomes a major deciding factor.

And, when it comes to durability, you should prioritize the quality of the case the most. Because you can always change the strap and the crystal, but the case always stays with your watch.

So, what does this bad boy uses as the case material?

316L surgical grade stainless steel!

The name sounds really tough, doesn’t it?

Because, it IS!

316L surgical grade stainless steel the best option you can find for your watch case. The bezel, the case, and the crown have polished tone. But the top of the lugs has a brushed tone. This unique composition gives the SNZH53 a premium feel.

Seiko also deserves compliment for adding a skeleton-style exhibition case in the back. Now, you can peek through the beauty of that 7S36 caliber. Plus, if none of your friends have an automatic watch, you can obviously show-off the design.

The dial protection window and the clear caseback have Hardlex crystal. Though it sounds very impressive, it’s basically mineral crystal.

I would say that this is the only drawback of the case. Clearly, sapphire is a superior choice and some watches in this category come with sapphire crystal protection.

If you are really bothered with the hardlex protection, you can always change it manually in your home. You can check my step-by-step guide to change the watch crystal.

Overall, the case offers desirable durability and robustness that you’d expect from your daily driver watch.

Kudos to Seiko!

More: Sekonda Watches Reviews: The British Budget Standard

Dial

Dial

Sadly, this is where things get a bit boring for Seiko SNZH53!

I understand that Seiko has gone simplistic design philosophy here. The design neither feels minimalistic nor appealing. Somehow chooses a road in between.

For example, the bezel has minute markers that are almost close to the Rolex Submariner design but not entirely. The dial uses batons as the hour markers with simple line-bars as the minute/second marker.

More: Tissot PR100 Review: True Swiss Budget Champ

It’s a classic choice that has been in the market for decades now. Even the sword-style hands and the 3 o’clock day/date display is too common.

Overall, the design feels too safe.

It would never stand apart from the crowd.

However, there are three features that I really loved –

  • Midnight blue dial background
  • Curved crystal on top
  • Extremely well-light Lumibrite coating on the markers and hands

Still, these three can’t save the watch from the dreadful generic design principles.

The good news is that SNZH is very well-known for its modding capabilities. There are a lot of enthusiasts who love modding their SNZH53.

So, if you’re not happy with the design choices, you can always choose that road and make yourself a custom watch.

Bracelet

Bracelet

There’s nothing too special about the bracelet here. It’s a standard Oyster-style link bracelet made of stainless steel.

There’s a push-button foldover clasp with safety, which again is a standard choice.

If you’re like me, you’d also think of having a nylon strap with this watch. I personally believe that Seiko Series 5 is one of the best options for my nylon strap collection.

With just a simple change, the overall look of the watch transforms drastically. But keep in mind that the lugs are slightly bent.

More: Seiko SNZF17 Review: The Best Budget Bond Watch

Product Specification and What to Expect

Feature Type Seiko SNZH53 What to Expect?
 Movement  Automatic  Premium movement option, more accurate than mechanical or quartz movement
 Caliber  Seiko 7S36 Seiko is using its in-house caliber, which tends 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  316L Surgical Grade Stainless Steel  Very sturdy, can withstand the toll of regular usage
 Case Diameter  42mm  Suits both thinner and thicker wrists
 Water-Resistance  100m.(330 Feet) Suitable for both swimming and snorkeling but not good enough for dives 
 Dial Protection  Hardlex Decent quality, will protect the dial against scratches 
 Weight (Approx.)  165g.(5.82 oz.)  Has a moderate weight. You’d feel the watch in your wrist but it shouldn’t bother you
 Luminosity  Lumibrite  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 Foldover with Safety  Sturdy and reliable 

Social Proof: What Other Customer Says About Seiko SNZH53?

Do you remember the title? I asked whether Seiko SNZH53 is the best entry-level automatic watch or not?

How did I jump onto such conclusions?

It’s because of the extreme popularity of the watch. People have showered SNZH53 and SNZH55 with heavy praise. SNZH55 is basically a black variant of the same watch with all the same components and form factor.

Mainly, the durability and value proposition are the key factors for the watch’s uber popularity.

Here, check out some of the feedbacks of the real buyers and users –

Social Proof 1
Social Proof 2
Social Proof 3
Social Proof 4
Social Proof 4
Social Proof 5

Alternatives Options of Seiko SNZH53

Sub-$200 price point is a very competitive market segment. There are tones of good brands that fight against each other for market share.

At the same time, this is the most popular price segment for the consumers too. Not everyone can buy a thousand-dollar watch as a daily driver.

Is Seiko SNZH53 good watch?

Yes, but the competition is severe.

So, it’s only normal to feel overwhelmed with options in this price range. I’ve picked out two particular watches that compete with SNZH53 directly.

One is from Citizen, the biggest rival of Seiko and the another one is from Invicta, the US-based brand that is rigorously moving ahead in the market.

Check out the specification comparison between the watches –

Alternate #1 Citizen NH8389-88LE

Seiko SNZH53
Parameter Citizen NH8389-88LE Seiko SNZH53
 Movement Type  Automatic Automatic 
 Caliber  Citizen 8200 Seiko 7S36 
 Case Diameter  46mm  42mm
 Bandwidth  24mm 22mm 
 WR Rating  100m. 100m. 
 Weight  186 grams 186 grams 

Alternate#2 Invicta Men’s 8926 Pro Diver

Invicta Men's 8926 Pro Diver
Parameter Invicta Men’s 8926 Pro Diver Seiko SNZH53
 Movement Type  Automatic Automatic 
 Caliber  Seiko NH35A Seiko 7S36 
 Case Diameter  40mm 42mm 
 Band width  20mm 22mm 
 WR Rating  200m.  100m.
 Weight  151 grams 165 grams 

Conclusion

Now that my take on the Seiko SNZH53 is done, let revisit the main topic again – can we call SNZH53 the best in the class?

Yes!

You might argue seeing Invicta 8326 Pro Diver with the NH35A caliber. Yes, 7S36 is no match for the newer generation NH35A but Invicta cuts corner in many other sections.

Invicta can’t match the build quality and the durability of the Seiko. And, Seiko offers better brand value.

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