There is a very distinct pleasure associated with wearing a high-end Seiko sports watch such as this reference SNR027 Seiko Prospex Spring Drive GMT. These days, Seiko produces a range of products in the $1,000 – $6,000 range, which most novices might easily mistake for simpler timepieces, only to later learn that they are hardly “kid’s watches.” The watches are higher-end because of the materials, finishes, and machinery inside the cases. Design-wise, these Seiko models are classically functional, often without much pizazz. In addition to serving as a form of “stealth wealth,” high-end Seiko tool watches (Prospex LX collection) like Spring Drive-equipped Prospex models are also highly versatile in how and when they can be worn — if you know how to style them, that is.
That last remark was a bit of tongue-in-cheek feedback for Seiko because I find that, many times, the brand sells watches with “starter straps” that are just begging to be replaced. The picture’s mint-green nylon NATO-style strap I placed on this SNR027 is, indeed, produced by Seiko, but it isn’t the stock strap Seiko paired with this watch. The stock strap is a nice-quality fitted black leather strap that comes on a deployant clasp. Forget for a moment that I don’t find deployant clasps on straps particularly comfortable, to begin with. The problem with the strap is that, from a fashion and thematic perspective, it doesn’t match the watch. Black leather straps are dressy and meant for rather civilized activity. I don’t really understand why you’d pair this with a sports watch meant to get hot, dirty, wet, and generally to be outdoors. For me, the SNR027 was instantly transformed into just one of many Seiko high-end Prospex watches to a truly enjoyable and wonderful wearing experience simply by changing the strap. It isn’t that there is something magical about NATO-style straps (though some people might disagree with me there), but rather that an otherwise incredible timepiece can be held back until it is paired with a strap that is correct for you. Thus, Seiko’s stock strap is a good start, but for me, the Prospex Spring Drive GMT really comes alive on a sportier strap. Even one’s Seiko’s rubber diving straps would pair great with this model.
Unlike other Spring Drive GMT watches that are more intended as travel watches, the SNR027 follows the legacy of the Seiko Landmaster and is an outdoor navigational model. This means it has a bi-directional navigational compass bezel, as well as a GMT hand that has a design inspired by a compass needle. What I particularly like about pairing the SNR027 with a green-hued NATO-style strap is that the strap better matches the color of Seiko’s Lumibrite luminant material. Note that other similar Seiko Prospex LX models sometimes use a white-colored, (versus green-colored) luminant material.
Seiko released the SNR027 as part of a collection of black-coated titanium Prospex LX watches that came out a few years ago. I previously reviewed the Seiko SNR031 of the same collection, which is a diver’s watch version of the Spring Drive-based Seiko Prospex LX family. Both are going to have similar wearing experiences even though they have some obvious styling and functional differences. Most people are not accustomed to titanium Seiko sports watches, as most are in steel, so the combination of the scratch-resistant black coating and the lightweight titanium case makes for a great wearing experience, even though the cases are hardly on the petite side.
The Seiko SNR027 case is 44.8mm-wide, 14.7mm-thick, and has a 50.9mm lug-to-lug distance. It also has a water resistance rating of 200 meters. That is important to note because while the Seiko Prospex LX divers have 300 meters of water resistance, most of the Prospex LX GMT watches only have 100 meters of water resistance. That makes the SNR027 (which in my mind I still want to refer to as a “Landmaster”) an interesting design and performance mixture between Seiko’s diving and travel sports watches (as the SNR027 is an “adventure watch”).
Seiko has gone back and forth over the years between including its vaunted Spring Drive movements in the Seiko brand. Spring Drive was launched and featured in Seiko, then seemingly phased out while Spring Drive was relegated to the Grand Seiko brand. After a while, Spring Drive returned to Seiko, while Grand Seiko also featured Spring Drive, but with slightly different calibers designed exclusively for Grand Seiko purposes (in watches that are now sometimes double the price of even a Seiko LX). I personally love Spring Drive movements and am thrilled to see them being more widely featured in high-end Seiko products.
For those who don’t know what Spring Drive is, I will give you a very brief primer. Spring Drive is a special technology developed in-house at Seiko that attempts to merge the best of mechanical watches and the best of quartz watches into a single, cohesive mechanism. This more or less translates into a mechanical-driven movement with a quartz oscillator, which replaces the traditional balance wheel-based regulation system. The slowly unwinding mainspring is used to generate a small electric charge, as opposed to feeding an oscillating wheel with an escapement. That small electric charge powers a much more precise means of controlling the time. That takes accuracy from about 5-10 seconds per day to about 15 seconds per month. Thus, Spring Drive offers all the romance of an automatic mechanical movement, with the accuracy of a quartz-based movement.
Inside the SNR027 is the Seiko caliber 5R66 automatic Spring Drive GMT movement that indicates the time, date, and has an independently controlled GMT hand. The dial also features a power reserve indicator for the three days of total power reserve once the movement is fully wound. Don’t forget that one of the main allures of Spring Drive movements is the gliding seconds hand, which sweeps even more smoothly than the seconds hand of a more traditional mechanical wristwatch movement.
Compass-bezel luxury sports watches are among the least common, which is why I think the Seiko Prospex SNR027 has a charming niche appeal to it. Sure, you can get a more standard GMT or diver’s form of this black titanium Prospex piece, but the added personality you get when this watch is paired on the right strap is unparalleled. That said, if you simply can’t get into the slightly quirky looks of a wristwatch that is inspired by classical cartography, Seiko has a lot of other options for you. Does the bezel have a use? Yes, actually. I won’t get into it in much detail, but if you use the GMT hand, a visible placement of the sun, and the rotating bezel, you can use it to find north. Once you find north, you can further use the bezel for navigational assistance — though if you actually need to use your wristwatch to find out where north is in a survival scenario, you’ve got a lot of other problems on your hands, as well, that you’ll need to deal with aside from how to use your wristwatch properly.
The quality of Prospex LX watches is undeniably above that of lower-end Seiko Prospex watches. From the fit and finish of the case to the design of the dial, this product easily stands out when compared to its several-hundred-dollar-priced cousins. Again, the dial isn’t flashy, but under the AR-coated sapphire crystal, it uses almost ideal contrast and proportions for an excellent reading experience. There is also the case design, which, while simple, is masculine and brimming with Seiko brand DNA (if you know watches, that is).
Some people still scoff at the notion of paying a few thousand dollars for a Seiko, but the size of that contingent is shrinking. Seiko really does an excellent job with product exclusivity (these products aren’t always easy to get) and keeping customers happy (retailers like to boast about how few people return their Seiko watches). The excellent tool-watch-wearing experience is just part of what makes these Prospex LX watches “stick” on your wrist since they are so useful and versatile. If you haven’t checked one out yet, I’d recommend it. Price for the Seiko Prospex LX Spring Drive GMT reference SNR027 watch is $5,000 USD. Learn more at the Seiko Luxe website here.