Last year around August, after I’d spent the summer dressing up for my engineering internship, I decided that I wanted a new watch; not just any watch, as I’d owned a sporty Garmin GPS watch for a couple years that I was wearing every day, but a classier, analog watch.
I started with generic Google searches, and then I began investigating the many Timex offerings…but something just didn’t seem to click — nothing I’d seen appealed to me as a dressy-casual watch in my price-range ($200>).
I don’t recall exactly how I discovered (or more accurately, rediscovered) mechanical/automatic watches — but I think it came from a Google search for “sweeping seconds hand.” For those that don’t know, a mechanical watch is one whose movement (the inner workings — not the actual movement of the hands) is driven and powered by a small coiled-up spring. An automatic watch, is a mechanical watch where rather than having to wind the watch by hand, there is a small weight in the watch that spins as you wear it and move your arm, and that spinning weight winds the watch throughout the day.
I’d stumbled into the realm of wristwatch horology; suddenly I knew what I needed — something with tons of tiny moving parts to tick on my wrist. One’s initial impression might be that such a device would be needlessly expensive, and often, they are. Rolex, Omega, and Tag Heuer are all instantly recognizable brands making high-quality mechanical time pieces at a price most people consider ridiculous, unattainable, or a waste of money, but there are brands that go beyond that — into the realm of the price of a luxury car, or even a small house.
But! There are also brands and watches offering really affordable mechanical watches. After more googling, I found the Seiko SNZH53 — a Japanese watch with an automatic movement, and a STUNNING blue face.
(Referenced here, is a photo from Amazon, showing the watch’s stock bracelet.)
I ordered the watch from a grey market (not “authorized,” but significantly cheaper than MSRP) dealer with reasonable reviews, named Jomashop.com. The watch arrived with a tiny scratch on the left side of the crystal, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to go through the inconvenience of sending the watch back (and I’ve no idea if it was poor quality control from Seiko, or poor shipping & handling from Jomashop). As customization is one of the most fun parts of watch collecting, and I didn’t particularly like the stock steel bracelet, I ordered a deep, dark brown strap from a local Florida strap company called Crown & Buckle, and below, you see the final combination. (Additionally, I really recommend C&B if you need any watch straps: they’re reasonably priced, local to Florida, make some of their products in the U.S., and have FAN-FLIPPING-TASTIC customer service. I emailed them asking about the delay in shipment of the strap I’d ordered, and they refunded me half the cost of shipping AND the strap, because they’d forgotten I ordered express shipping instead of normal.)
Overall, for about $180, including both the watch and strap and shipping, I got: A watch from a reputable and storied brand that has (with a couple exceptions due to this user) kept pretty stellar time, and has about a day and a half of power reserve when you take it off before its little gears stop whirring and you have to reset it; a watch that, with my chosen strap, looks at home with a variety of outfits, including flip flops or sandals, boots, and dress shoes, that fits my pretty small wrists/hands (it’s 42-43mm in diameter and about 13mm thick); a watch with a day and date complication, which is handy, and I think looks better than just a date; and “most” importantly for me, a spinning dive bezel! (A dive bezel originated to help SCUBA divers keep track of their time underwater, but now, it’s just a useful feature for plebs like me. You spin the arrow to point to the minute or hour hand, and then as the hands move with the time, they point to the amount of time elapsed — super easy, and fun to play with!) It also features reasonable quality luminescent hands and dots, and a 100m water-resistance (technically meaning it can’t be marketed as a DIVE watch, but that it’s perfectly resistant to rain and hand-washings, or even showers or a quick submergence).
Especially now that I sorted the time-keeping issues after I dropped it (…), and despite some moderate wear and tear from wearing it frequently (I scratched it on the concrete at swim practice, demonstrating one day…), it’s still one of my favorite pieces of every day carry (EDC) gear, and anyone looking for a dressy-casual watch that’s relatively cheap, unique, and reliable, look no further.
(Oh! and as a post-script, in later watch research, I ran across several Omega Seamaster watches — new and vintage — that only further cemented my opinion on the fantastic good looks and value this watch offers.)