Seiko SRPE51 Review: Classic SKX Touches, Modern Dress Watch

I wasn’t ready for the new Seiko 5. My new SRPE51. I didn’t know when I purchased it that I’d suddenly realize why I never connected with the iconic SKX. I didn’t want a bezel. I didn’t want the weird handset, with that odd minute hand situation. I didn’t want alignment issues. I didn’t want a thiccboi. Maybe I should’ve known better. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered with the three SKXs I’ve had (two stock, one modded).

You see, I’ve always tended toward cleaner watches, even with my divers (like my Mido Ocean Star and Omega SMP 2254.50, the latter which I’ve described as a ‘dress diver’). So how could I have been so surprised when the new, fixed-bezel Seiko 5 SRPE51 came along? How did I not anticipate the love?

Same SKX Case Style with Some Changes

What I did love about the SKX was the case. That’s what we all love about the SKX (that and the price). And the new Seiko 5 SRPE51 has the same case but scaled down to 40mm with a 44mm lug-to-lug. Plus, it’s a full 1.5mm thinner (by my measurement; some sites are saying it’s 11.5 compared to the SKX 13.5, but my calipers show 12mm — so the other sites are wrong). The dimensional shift alone makes it a far more wearable watch. It sits easily on the wrist, without standing out like Uluru in the Outback.

The fluid sides are polished and feature a single thin bevel abutting the top of the case, which flows from lug to lug. At 4 o’clock, the ridged crown is nestled between crown guards that flow organically from the case. The crown is an easy-to-use push-pull, and as such you’ll find only 100m water resistance. That’s more than enough for most activities, though I’ll likely swap to a less aquaphobic piece for my seaside adventures (though I did brave the treacherous depths of my son’s intense bath times).

The biggest visual shift away from the SKX and the other new Seiko 5s is the lack of a bezel. In place of the oft-misaligned bezel, Seiko has attached a fixed, polished one that complements the rest of the polishing on the case. It is the most overt signal to the buyer, the wearer, and the watchfam writ large that this is not a dive watch.

If it weren’t clear, I like the change—I love the change. I think it ties the case together: look at how the polished tops of the crown guards finally have a friend to play with, instead of some itinerant, everchanging rotation of numbers that always seem a little off.

Admiring the Radiant Grey Dial

Thanks to the lack of a rotating, chunkmonster bezel, the dial feels open and airy, like it can finally breathe. Under the classic Seiko Hardlex mineral crystal, the SRPE51 features a radiant grey dial, bursting from the center in resplendent magnificence. The new Seiko 5 SRPExx series is available in a number of dial colors, but the grey called to me for its subtle beauty and versatility.

‘Automatic’ appears in script at 6 o’clock and a polished ‘SEIKO’ is applied at 12 o’clock, while just below is printed the controversial Seiko 5 logo: a skewed ‘5’ in the shape of the old Seiko 5 badge that used to occupy the same space. I’ve never understood the opposition to this. I think it’s decidedly modern looking, and that the old badge was stodgy and inelegant; I welcome the change as both an improvement and a sign of progress for Seiko.

A color-matched-but-not-radiant chapter ring encircles the dial, and that difference in texture gave me pause upon very close examination — I like continuity and fluidity and matching. But it’s only something you notice when you’re looking too hard, looking for issues. During everyday time-telling glances, it blends in perfectly. Further, I don’t know what else you would put there — it’s too wide for a polished insert, and black or white would be too discordant. So, grey it is.

The indices are unchanged, with a 12 o’clock triangle, capsule plots at the cardinal hours, and rounded plots for the remainder. They all shine brightly as ever with a generous application of Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite lume. What has changed is the handset, chiefly the minute hand. I complained about the hands on the SKX and the new Seiko 5 divers being a weak point for me.

The minute hand goes thick-thin-arrow, like some heavenward street sign on a plinth. Well, the SRPE51 and its comrades do away with the bulge and replace it a with a slimmed down minute hand crowned by a slimmer arrow. The effect is balance and grace.

One issue I’ve always had with the SKX and Seiko 5s (and any other watch that uses it) is the counterweight pip on the seconds hand. When the lights go down and the mood is right, and you need the exact time, you’ll see the seconds pip tracing away, displaying the time exactly 30 seconds behind the actual time; the pip is opposite the indicating end of the seconds hand.

While legibility is beyond reproach on this watch, for the sake of clarity and reading accuracy, the seconds hand should feature a more traditional lollipop, on the proper end, so when you’re reading the watch in the deep recesses of your parents basement after a 12-hour Fortnite marathon, you’ll be able to tell exactly what time it is, without confusion—or math.

As ever, the day and date are featured through a 3 o’clock cutout. I’m a date window snob, and I hate to rationalize things by saying they are classic etc. But this is and I am able to overlook it. Objectively, it’s not the best display, but it’s far from the worst, and who can argue with the blue and red weekends on the day wheel?

The 4R36 Movement: A Welcome Upgrade

One of the best things Seiko did when they came out with the new Seiko 5 line — the SKX replacement — was to upgrade the movements. The old SKXs feature the reliable but lackluster 7s26. While the 4r36 isn’t a really higher quality movement, it does feature hacking and handwinding.


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As much as I loved flailing my watch about like an idiot just to get it going and setting it to the minute but not the second, I’m happy to have a fully functional mechanical movement on my wrist again. The 24-jewel 4r36 is visible under a screwdown exhibition caseback (with various details printed onto the glass). If you needed your horologic voyeurism fix, here it is.

The Bracelet? Still Jangly

While the new Seikos are available on bracelet or a NATO strap, the SRPE51 comes with the former. The bracelet on the whole is quite jangly, unaided by hollow endlinks that don’t fit the watch perfectly. On the plus side, the sizing links are secured with simple split pins, making adjustments a snap. At the end of the day, I don’t need that much out of a bracelet, other than to size well and stay closed. This does both. And if you need more, I’m sure the aftermarket hordes will come out with some sturdier alternatives.

For my money, the drilled 20mm lugs are a big improvement over the 22s on the other watches in the Seiko 5 line (and the Seiko SKX). I’ve got way more 20mm straps than 22s, and always feel like anything beyond 20 looks large, even if in proportion to the case. Also resolved for the new Seiko 5 SRPE51 and the other new models is that the lug holes are the standard thickness shared by almost all other watches, as opposed to the jumbo lugs found on Seiko’s divers.

This means easier strap changes with less worrying about straps just not fitting those thick lugs. And a lot more versatility for the watch itself; unlike other members of the Seiko 5 family, the new 5’s can work on just about any type of strap, from dressy leather to rugged NATO. And I take full advantage of that.

One more thing to mention is the clasp of the bracelet. The standard Seiko flip-lock clasp features only two microadjustments, effectively allowing half sizes of each link, but half the number available on Seiko divers. It’s a final reminder that this watch is built for comfort, not for speed. Or diving.

Final Thoughts on the SRPE51

Some will gripe about the lack of screwdown crown and bezel, the 100m water resistance, and the clasp. But those people are missing the point. The new Seiko 5 SRPE51 is not a dive watch. Its whole raison d’être is to move away from that, to offer something new. And in that, it is a resounding success.

There’s not a lot to dislike here. It’s highly legible, has moderate water resistance, great styling, and is eminently wearable. It’s not a go anywhere, do anything watch, but it can go most places and do most things.

And at $275 (cheaper if you look, I’m sure)*, I don’t know if it gets much better. Mark my words: Along with the black and blue dialed variants, Seiko 5 SRPE51 will become one of the most recommended starter watches out there.

Mike Razak( Contributor )

Mike became obsessed with watches in 2015 after spending an inordinate amount of time finding the perfect wedding watch (the Frederique Constant Slimline Automatic). He prefers a well-executed date window or none at all, and strives for a diverse collection with limited overlap. When not fretting over which watch to wear with which strap, he works as an emergency mental health clinician in Northern Virginia, where he lives with his wife and son.


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