June 8, 2022
by Tom Roth
Economies of scale are a funny thing. Industry consolidation can reduce the redundancies created by many firms, all spending resources to accomplish basically the same goal. During the Quartz Crisis of the 1970’s, this forced the hand of many watch firms, leading in many ways to the industry landscape of the watch world today. Critics say consolidation like this leads to stagnation and creative decline. If all the big brands are owned by a handful of companies, is there really that much incentive to innovate? The new Seiko 5 Sports GMT line seems to indicate that there is.
In a moment when the world is reeling from record-breaking inflation, wallet-busting energy prices, and just a general feeling of un-grooviness, the Japanese watchmaker has pulled back the curtain on a sub-$500 automatic GMT movement that leaves us pinching ourselves.
First, some context. As many watch aficionados are aware, the simple math behind watch movements is this: generally, the more it does, the pricier it gets. Want a double-tourbillon perpetual calendar with chronograph functionality? Get ready for that second mortgage. Need a simple three-hander that needs a battery change once a decade? Casio’s $99 GA-2100 has got you covered. So it’s no surprise that since the days of the SKX line of legendary dive watches, Seiko’s entry-level lineup has kept it simple. The movements in these watches—first the 7S, then the 4R—became beloved for their reliability, robustness, and the fact they were so darn easy to work on. In fact, they were clearly labeled with a “+/-” indication clearly engraved on the movement so more adventurous owners could regulate them at home! On the back of this foolproof design came wave after wave of variation, with Seiko waking up to the customization game that watch modders had been quietly playing for years.
Next month, the Seiko budget line enters a new generation with the 5 Sports GMT. Thanks to the all-new Caliber 4R34 movement, the fan-favorite collection adds a brand new GMT complication to the mix. Thanks to the 24-hour rotating bezel combined with a 24-hour chapter ring, the watch actually becomes a triple-timer with the hour hand indicating one time zone, the chapter ring indicating a second, and the bezel (rotated accordingly) indicating a third. As with other 5 Sports models, the crystal maintains its Hardlex construction but now features a date magnification. Those still mourning the demise of the SKX series will welcome the 5-row bracelet design. Based on early images, the crown appears to be push-pull while the case appears identical to the existing 42.5mm 5 Sports case. Excitingly, the movement is accounted as just 0.1mm thicker than the current 4R36 movement found in other 5 Sports models, making cross-compatibility with other parts possible (but not yet guaranteed). As for color, Seiko has played it safe, offering just three variants in black, blue, and orange, but if the rest of its catalog is any sign we can expect many more versions before too long.
aBlogtoWatch is excited for these new watches, but we’re equally excited for what it means for watchmaking on the whole. While it’s way too early to tell, could this inspire other brands to develop budget movements with a GMT complication? What other doors does this open up? Consider the 5 Sports GMT the opening act. We’re excited for the rest of the show. To learn more about these new releases, please visit the brand’s website.
Model: 5 Sports GMT
Water Resistance: 10 bar
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Crystal: Hardlex crystal with date magnification
Movement: Seiko Caliber 4R34
Frequency: 21,600 bph
Power Reserve: Approx. 41 hours
References: SSK001 (black), SSK003 (blue), SSK005 (orange)
Bracelet: 5-row bracelet with polished middle rows.
Availability: July 2022