Editor's Note: First, I won't be interrupting this review as often as I did Ben's first review, as a nod to the feedback in the comments. Second, Andrew and I have been going back and forth about a 20 point scale for watches and this is, as he writes, a beta. Please drop some input on the effectiveness of the scale here in the comments.
The Seiko 5 Sports SNZG15J1 represents a good balance of real quality and reasonable price (“SNZG15” for short in this article). It is a simple three-handed watch, with a day and date complication. These functions are powered by Seiko’s in-house 7S36 automatic movement, which is a reliable but unremarkable automatic movement. The unpretentious military field watch design is a great EDC choice, with easily readable hourly Arabic markers on the dial.
Here is Crown & Buckle’s video review of this watch on a bracelet (Model designation SNZG13).
Here is their written review.
Here is my video review of this watch on a nylon strap (SNZG15, J1 version which is made in Japan). Here is the watch itself:
Because the wristwatch has many complications, or secondary levels of instrumentality, developing a scoring system which encompasses all watches risks inadequacy. Consider the scoring in this watch review as beta testing for now.
The field watch design featured in the Seiko SNZG15 came into prominence during the 20th century world wars. Simple timekeeping and reliability are the purpose of the field watch, with rugged movements and instrument-like dial design. The SNZG15 makes no innovations on this concept but executes it well in a modern size (42mm case, 12mm thickness, 22mm lug width). For the simple watch it is, it does what it does well.
This category is admittedly problematic, as provenance can refer to the history of a specific watch (ex. this Daytona was owned by Eric Clapton, etc.). For our purposes, this category will encompass the legacy of the model or family of the watch generally speaking. The SNZG15 is part of the Seiko 5 family. Here is a great overview from Seiko on their “5” family of watches, and here is Gear Patrol’s article on Seiko 5.
The SNZG15 embodies the daily-wear, sports-watch approach of the 5 Sports family. The Seiko 5 family has been around for decades and while there is a huge variety in the line, the core concepts of a reliable movement, durable case, and useful day/date complication (and price as discussed below) are the reasons for their sustained popularity. The set of features of the 5 family has long been recognized in the watch community. On the other hand, it is not historic in the way an Omega Speedmaster Professional (for example) is indisputably considered.
Fit and Finish (Case/Dial): 2
The 42mm case and crown is bead-blasted which makes the watch appear smaller and follows the military-themed design. The bezel is fixed and is part of the case. The crown seats well in its small indentation in the case. That said, it appears somewhat small given the proportions of the case. The threaded display caseback is more of a novelty for first-time mechanical watch owners as the movement shown is very plain with just the watch’s technical information stamped on the movement.
The dial, chapter ring and day/date wheels are printed flawlessly with crisp typography and good details (military time, minute/seconds indices) for a watch in this price range. The applied “5” Shield is attractive to my eyes. Seiko’s proprietary Lumbrite lume is an industry standard, but on this model it is just applied to the hands and prominent chapter ring surrounding the dial. The lume application is applied evenly on the watch reviewed. The Hardlex crystal is better quality than comparable mineral crystals. Fit and finish overall are easily as good as many $500 Swiss field watches. Some collectors maintain that Japanese Seikos (as is the watch in this review, indicated by the J1 designation) are better than those made in Malaysia and China. I have failed to see a difference when comparing entry-level Seikos.
Fit and Finish (Strap/Bracelet): 1
Frankly, the SNZG15’s nylon strap is pretty uncomfortable until it is broken in and is probably too thin for the watch. The strap holes are reinforced with a stitched vinyl piece. The buckle is stainless steel and is bead-blasted to match the case. It does fit my 7” wrist without any issues. Fortunately there are many aftermarket options given the watch’s 22mm lug size.
The automatic 23 jewel Seiko 7s26c has a beat rate of 21600 BPH, which means that the seconds hand has a nice but not entirely fluid sweeping motion and lacks the distinct ticking of a quartz watch. The power reserve is about 40 hours IRL, and the accuracy of the 7s26 is not great at -20 seconds a day/+ 40 seconds a day.
The movement can be tuned to be more accurate of course. The timekeeping is likely the result of mechanized assembly and broad tolerances; the movement is completely lacking ornamentation. This is a fairly rare example of a mechanical movement which may never need service (although regularly maintaining it is always recommended). Lore abounds on the internet as for this last claim.
Functionality refers to how this watch achieves its intended design objectives. It is a simple timekeeping watch and it does this well. It has decent water resistance and could probably be worn swimming but no more than that. As the lack of a handwinding option and the average power reserve in the movement suggests, it is meant for regular wear. If it is not regularly worn, it will need to be stored on a watch winder or it will need to be reset when worn again. This may be considered an imperfection from a collector’s perspective as the inevitable resetting can be pretty uninspiring.
The watch wears smaller than many 42mm watches thanks to the rounded fixed bezel and well-proportioned lug width.
The caseback protrudes from the back of the case. This coupled with the thin nylon strap causes the watch to flop a bit on my 7” flat-topped wrists, but not more than a dive watch in this size. It is a casual watch and is too big in my opinion for formal wear.
The SNZG15 is probably as durable as any mechanical watch on the market. There are many stories on forums of Seiko 5 watches of similar configuration being worn in military conflicts and for many decades without any attention to servicing the watch. It does lack extreme water resistance, a threaded crown, or magnetic shielding, all features found on higher-end sports watches.
This scoring category is included because some of the watches which I will be reviewing will be highly multifunctional. From an EDC perspective, I want some way to give extra points to watches that are highly multifunctional. Watches like this will establish a baseline.
Another category possibly bordering on the subjective, this watch has no egregious aesthetic flaws and is a handsome if somewhat plain watch.
It could easily be mistaken by a non-watch person as a Timex, but the field watch design is venerable to collectors.
Overall Score: 14 out of 20
The SNZG15 is an understated and well-executed entry-level automatic watch. The movement is unrefined and it can only serve simple timekeeping-related purposes, but does so adequately. The handsome overall appearance and wearable size means that it won’t be totally forgotten amidst the higher level watches which inevitably will land on your doorstep as your interest grows in mechanical timepieces. Seiko is a well-regarded watch manufacture and this is a very solid choice in this price range. Few watches indeed would score above a 10/20 at a $100 price point.