In horology, like life, it’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone. We get locked into tunnel vision of what we think things should or shouldn’t be. If you follow me on Instagram it will become immediately apparent that “sport” tool watches get the majority of my wrist time.
We are going to break down that wall with the Seiko SUP880* that has earned it the moniker “Tanko”. But there’s a twist! Thanks to a little help from my wife, we will also be looking at the women’s model, the Seiko SUP250*: the “Lady Tanko”.
The “Tanko” nickname comes from the obvious homage to the iconic Cartier Tank. The squared shape and straight flanks extending to the lugs give the Cartier that name because it resembled a WWI tank.
The modern Cartier Tank Solo comes in three sizes. The 38.4 x 27.4mm “Large Size” size Cartier Ref. WSTA0028 is actually more of a “Medium” and is easily gender neutral. The Seikos* are a little more gender specific on wrist in terms of presence or lack thereof. The men’s version of the Seiko SUP880 Tanko is 38.4x28mm making it slightly smaller than the Cartier Tank Solo XL.
The Seiko SUP880 is only 6.3mm thick. This is a change from the chunky tool watches that many of us are used to. The odd thing is that it could be hard to get used to the straight lugs. There is no lug curvature off the flanks whatsoever. Despite being 38.4mm lug to lug, the flat shape makes the watch wear slightly larger.
The “Lady Tanko” SUP250 does not share that trait. It’s small. Really small. Think about the dimensions (31×24.4mm) of the classic women’s / “small” Cartier Tank Solo (Ref. WSTA0030). That should give you a better idea.
The Lady Tanko is only 6.1mm high. Don’t expect wrist presence to come from size. Wrist presence will come from the rectangular shape and bright gold color. There are many Submariner homages. How many Cartier Tank homage watches are out there? How many of those are intended for women? The list quickly gets very short.
The crowns on the SUP880 and SUP250 are both Cartier styled. The tip of the crown on the Seikos is actually black instead of Cartier’s signature blue.
The faux-gold plated case works better on the SUP250 to help the small case pop. It can be overwhelming at times on the SUP880. It’s a very bright and polished tone that will really stand out from brushed steel.
The dials can be discussed together. They are very similar; the Lady Tanko SUP250 is scaled down of course. The design characteristics remain the same. The visual weight of squared and circular shapes are often misleading to the eye. If you have a squared shape and a circle, both with equal surface area, the squared shape will usually appear the larger of the two.
The design language is the same in the SUP880 and SUP250. Both dials feature a white background. The white is broken up with some subtle pin-striping. This is the feature of the dial that acts as part of the movement (more on that in the movement section) The vertical strips are a nice touch that classes the watches up a bit.
I’m a big fan of the black Roman numerals. Seiko is known for their mastery of precision printing on uneven surfaces. The Seiko “Tanko” is no exception. Both the logo and the indices are razor sharp. They could have easily snuck “Seiko” into a leg of one of the Roman numerals, but they didn’t. That might have crossed the delicate homage line.
One of the things that I would change would be to omit the raised gold hour indices. It is a little too much. By trying to “class up” the watch, the extra touch of gold slightly cheapens it.
Another thing that separates the Seikos Tankos from their Cartier inspiration is the lack of heat-blued hands. The hands are black feuilles (leaf style) with no lume.
Both the Seiko SUP880 and the SUP250 use the V115 in-house solar movements. There is no battery to change every year. There is nothing to wind. There is no “Seiko Shuffle” to get it started. Simply let it charge for eight minutes in direct sunlight and it’s good to go for 6-7 months.
How does it work? Think of the dial as an amplifier. It focuses light onto a solar panel that is sandwiched between the dial and the actual movement. The energy from the light is converted into electricity stored in a rechargeable battery attached to the movement.
These movements are incredibly slim. The height from the bottom of the movement to the top of the second pinion is only 3.8mm. The V115 is a two-hand movement. Despite the lack of a seconds hand, expect a “tick” when the minute changes.
Both the Seiko SUP880 and SUP250 come on black calf leather straps. The leather is soft and supple for this price point. The black leather straps are stamped with a croc-ish pattern.
One of the issues that I had with both straps was the uncommon size of the lug widths. The men’s strap is 23mm wide and the women’s version is 14mm wide. Despite the right amount of taper, they are both uncommon sizes. It’s a shame and a wasted opportunity.
This stands out most predominantly with the women’s SUP250. If you look at mainstream brands that are popular with women such as Cartier and Michele, you will notice the large variety of colored straps that are offered as accessories to any of the watches on their websites.
As a society we are becoming less and less formal. A bright color leather strap on a gold watch can modernize something that would otherwise be seen as “stuffy”. More strap options would also add to the overall versatility of the SUP250.
Imagine the women’s Seiko SUP250 on a mint green or fuchsia soft leather strap for a fun summer night out and you get the idea.
With the SUP880 it is a little simpler. A brown leather strap option would be just fine. This would be a potential “dress watch” for most men. Not their “daily driver”. Men have it a lot easier with clothes. Are you wearing black or brown shoes? Done.
With the Seiko SUP880 the most difficult adjustment for me was the gold color. My four year old son asked, “Daddy, are you wearing a ladies watch?” It’s not that the watch is feminine; he’s used to me wearing chunky steel tool watches. If this watch came in stainless steel I could see it sliding into my regular rotation for a welcome departure from my normal preferences. Don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone every so often.
My wife struggled with wearing the Seiko SUP250 watch. She liked that it was very comfortable and the time was easy to read. Her challenge was how to fit it in with her daily personal style. She was caught between feeling like she was wearing a Deco-style “estate” watch and a throwback that was somehow ironic-millennial.
The thought of couples watches has always intrigued me and I struggled to understand the concept. If you asked me as a recently married man back in my late twenties, I would have told you how lame and cheesy the idea was and would have laughed it off. Almost a decade later I can tell you how hard and rewarding marriage can be. Anything that brings couples closer together is hardly something to laugh at.
Greg is a long-time watch lover based in upstate New York. Greg is a supply chain professional by day and private watch consultant by night. Greg brings his own style to the TBWS website as a contributor by blending bits of humor into technical assessments. You can follow his cycling and snowboarding adventures on Instagram as he pursues the perfect 3-watch collection.