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Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

When Seiko introduced its retro-themed Recraft series last fall, the enthusiastic response to it, I believe, came as a bit of a surprise. Then again, outside of the Grand Seiko line, contemporary Seikos hadn’t so much embraced the vintage aesthetic of the ‘60s and ‘70s that turned many of us into full-on Seiko collectors/obsessives/fanboys; as such, the Recraft’s old-school vibes proved immediately compelling and infectious. I expressed my enthusiasm for this move when I wrote a news story for aBlogtoWatch about the Seiko Recraft collection, but my excitement wouldn’t be fulfilled until I’d actually worn one on my wrist.

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While Ariel has recently waxed rhapsodically about the nostalgia induced by the optimistic futurism of the Seiko Recraft’s quartz-based “Kinetic” models, the ones in the collection I had my eye on were the models known as “Automatic.” In particular, I had my eye on the SNKMN97 reference. From the images I found on the Internet, I fell in love with its luminous emerald green dial and bold styling. I had to experience this one on the wrist, and – thanks to our friends at Arizona Fine Time, who provided us the SNKMN97 for review – I got my wish.

I have to say, wearing the SNKMN97 Seiko Recraft Automatic for a number of months clarified that my anticipation was well founded: I love this watch – it hits so many sweet spots. At the same time, I appreciate that it’s not a mere reissue or re-imagining of a previously existing model, but a totally new creation – albeit one that embodies the true spirit and fun of vintage mechanical Seikos.

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I have trouble being objective about this watch; I can’t find much to dislike about it. For one, the pricing is genius: the official MSRP of the Seiko Recraft Automatic SNKMN97 is $235 (!). This is, to my mind, an incredible bargain for a true mechanical watch, not to mention one with a bit of unexpected style and wrist presence. Now, don’t expect this to be, say, a Kari Voutilainen for that kind of money; that said, what you get for your $200 proves well beyond satisfying. Let me count the ways…

Right off the bat, the first thing you notice about the Seiko Recraft Automatic SNKMN97 is its dramatic dial, which is nearly 40mm itself (the case diameter in total tops out around a healthily contemporary 44mm). Wow. Pure ‘60s vibes – from the modernist gold-tone hour markers to the gorgeous psychedelic sunray ripple of the green dial, as well as the striking orange seconds hand (vintage Seikos often had vividly colored seconds hands, naturally) and classic inner seconds track. Wow. So bold. I kind of wish it didn’t have the day-date complication and was just a solid wash of green, but still… wow.

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Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I feel like Seiko is a little underrated in the quality of its dials. I personally own some spectacular examples among my many vintage Seikos, and the Seiko Recraft has totally owned the spirit of them here – the depth and shimmer of it is amazing, and draws you to check the time more often than you’d think necessary! Then again, this is a Seiko, and you are getting the benefits, even at this price point, of the entire historical legacy of the brand and its genius at industrializing the smallest, most satisfying details. As a result, things that might be not considered in another brand at a similar price are presented in their most sublime form. The hands are legible despite skeletonization, the gold tone popping against the green, and they’re the right size, too (something, again, even more expensive brands/watches don’t always get right).

The proportions of the cushion case (another classic vintage Seiko element, recalling the brand’s beloved divers and chronographs of the ‘60s and ‘70s) fit the wrist perfectly; despite the large dimensions and prominent wrist presence, this is an incredibly comfortable wear, and just looks balanced. The quality of the satin brush finishing and contrasting polished surfaces also punches well above its weight. The lightly tapered oyster-style bracelet with signed buckle feels more substantial than one might expect and looks great – it’s an organic part of the whole watch. It’s just so much more of a timepiece than you’d expect for such a low cost; then again, Seiko products are typically great across all price points. A $200 watch like this bests many watches that cost five or six times more in style, execution, finish and engineering.

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Balanced, bold design, better finish and materials than one might expect… So where does this particular Seiko Recraft skimp? Well, for one, both the crystal and the exhibition case back are mineral crystal, not sapphire. But at least there is an exhibition case back, and one that reveals the workings of a true automatic mechanical movement. The movement, in fact, is the only truly retro piece of the Seiko Recraft Automatic’s puzzle. It’s the venerable 7S26 movement – a 21 jewel mechanism that was featured in numerous Seiko models for many decades, both entry level and mid-tier. Personally, in the past, it was not my favorite Seiko caliber: I found it a bit rattle-y and ungraceful compared to its genius workhorse predecessor, the 6309, which created an incredibly durable and efficient engine with ingenious engineering. However, experiencing the version of the 7S26 in the Seiko Recraft Automatic is a revelation.

I don’t know if Seiko has specially regulated it in the Seiko Recraft Automatic SNKMN97, but the 7S26 here seems more solid and reliable; it’s kept absolutely rock-solid time over many months, and despite its strictly industrial finish (or lack thereof), I truly enjoy gazing at it through the clear caseback.

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The day/date function is remarkably fluid and easy to use: then again, I’ve found I prefer the ingenuity and ease of Seiko’s date functions versus the clunky versions offered by many of its Swiss competitors. Still, I would’ve naturally preferred the movement that replaced the 7S26 – the clearly superior 4R36, a hacking and windable automatic movement that can be found in the latest versions of Seiko models like its classic “Monster” dive watch. However, using the 4R36 would’ve inevitably increased the Seiko Recraft Automatic SNKMN97’s price, and keeping this cheap and cheerful is perhaps what’s so great about the entire Seiko Recraft concept. It’s a truly democratic timepiece – if this is your first automatic watch (and it’s priced to fill exactly that niche) its in-house movement, however dated, is nothing to be sneezed at.

Seiko Recraft Automatic Watch Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Sometimes I feel a little silly about how much joy this Seiko Recraft Automatic SNKMN97 has brought me as it has lived on my wrist over the past few months. I have more expensive watches. I have more complicated watches. I certainly own more rare, less mass-produced timepieces. I just can’t get over how much heritage went into the execution here. And I love that it’s not precious. I don’t think of the Seiko Recraft as a beater, per se – it’s too individual for that distinction. But I appreciate that I can wear it everywhere and not worry about it, and then look down and see this eccentric, special creation on my wrist and smile. Price is a very reasonable $235, and thanks to Arizona Fine Time (who carries a lot of Seiko watches other US authorized dealers do not) for supplying this review unit. seikowatches.com

Necessary Data
>Brand: Seiko
>Model: Recraft Series Automatic SNKM97
>Price: $235 USD
>Size: 43.5mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Of course!
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: The Seiko Recraft Automatic SNKM97 is perfect for both the seasoned Seiko collector, as well as a great introduction to automatic watches for the mechanical-watch novice. Really, it’s just a fun, enjoyable watch for anyone.
>Best characteristic of watch: The spectacular dial, along with the authentic (but not slavish) retro-vintage styling. Surprising quality/value for the price – it’s rare to get a mechanical watch this good at this cost.
>Worst characteristic of watch: While I was refreshingly surprised that the 7S26 movement is not the liability I thought it would be, I still would’ve preferred the more updated 4R36 mechanism featuring hacking and both manual and self-wind options.

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Comments

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  • EranR

    Totally agree. I personally just bought the SNKN01 – that’s the black dial (or rather, anthracite with bluish tint?) version of the this Recraft automatic, on leather. The case and dial are truly works of art. Only problem with the SNKN01 is legibility – the hands need to reflect light to be seen, they become almost invisible in conditions where most watches are perfectly legible. But you know what, I have other watches to wear for poorer lighting conditions and the Seiko is such a beauty I love it. And to think I got it (second hand but unworn and as new) at about the same price as the plastic low-end thing which is the Swatch Sistem51… how on earth would these two timepieces have even the same number of digits on their price tag?

  • IanE

    Would be nice in dark blue.

  • Wickets

    i got the snkn37 (blue dial) model this past saturday.  excellent watch except for the very lacking lume.

  • warrusty

    I have mine on a light tan leather strap. Yes, the ability to hack and hand wind would have been nice, but man, what a bargain!  The dial is more vivid in person than in the photos shown.

  • AlanHarris2

    I purchased one for my Dad at-I kid you not-bedbathandbeyond.com. With the use of their readily-available 20% off coupon and the discounted price it cost around $120. Talk about a bargain!

  • DG Cayse

    AlanHarris2 Smart Shopping Rocks !

  • DG Cayse
  • IanE

    DG Cayse IanE 
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Grinnie Jax

    Very cool looking piece, I’m even a bit amazed how good it looks for its price. Definitely put it on my list!

  • thornwood36

    A very well put together watch. Always love the open back. I love the “retro” look of it. I would be very happy to wear this as an everyday watch, ticks all the boxes .

  • Borys Bozzor Pawliw

    If Seiko can sell at this price and make a profit their beancounters are happy with, either the Swiss are ridiculously inefficient  at watch manufacture or they are truly having a huge laugh at the buyer’s expense…

  • mark20mt

    I totally agree Matt, for the price its a no brainer and it looks good on my wrist. I have a different model than the one reviewed here – SKNKN01. Whilst I have more expensive timepieces, this one is a joy to wear. The case and dial and the glass have a nice shimmer. Its the best you can get for the money and Seiko produce timepieces that last.

  • Duroay

    I own 3 of them, fantastic watches. My only complaint is zero luminousity. I had 2 of them modified with hands from jake at Dagaz watch. Here is one I had hands installed on.

  • LapYoda

    I’m glad Seiko has introduced these Recraft watches – the styling is great and the price is awesome.  At last Seiko is selling a line in the US that has the design appeal of their JDM offerings.  For a nearly 44mm watch, it seems to wear quite well.

  • Grinnie Jax

    Borys Bozzor Pawliw The funny thing – Seiko even doesn’t have to invest into promotion, mass media, etc. People are recommending their watches within forums, blogs, among friends gathered for beer and its enough!

  • warrusty

    warrusty  The watch takes a beefy 24mm strap.

  • DanW94

    Seiko and Orient (which is owned by the Seiko group) have really captured the market on these well made and affordable mechanical watches (100 – 400 dollar range). Does anybody know of a Swiss made watch that can compete with these in terms of price?

  • mark20mt

    DanW94 Mondaine comes close but its slightly more expensive, although it doesn’t break the bank

  • Grinnie Jax

    DanW94 Actually there is one Swiss brand making nice cheap watches – EDOX and their child Claude Bernard. I have tried some on and felt that they also have adequate price/value ratio (usually sold on Ashford from 150 usd). But I still consider Orient Star I bought for just 300 usd unbeatable in means of finish, it is almost as good as Grand Seiko!

  • Borys Bozzor Pawliw also seiko sells these at about -50% wholesale…and with no direct retail channels.

    so…a swiss selling at 3x the pice, at 100% retail price and DIRECTLY to consumers makes…you do the math!

  • Naysayer

    SNKM97, not SNKMN97.

  • DanW94

    Grinnie Jax DanW94
    Thanks for the input, I’ll check them out. I was actually looking at a German brand,  Autran and Viala, nice looking watch, but their offerings in this price range have a Ronda quartz.  Most mechanicals in this range have a distinct Chinese flavor to them.  Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that but I’ll stick with Seiko.

  • Grinnie Jax

    DanW94 Grinnie Jax as for Germans, I believe some kind of true “German Quality” starts with Archimede/DEFAKTO and blossoms with Stowa 🙂

  • Brandon Sparks

    Dig mine! I fell for the vintage vibe hard and had to scratch that itch 🙂

  • DanW94

    Grinnie Jax DanW94
    I digress a bit here but if we talk German, I’ll take a Glashutte Original any day!  I like the Limes watches also, very classy but a bit out of my range.

  • Grinnie Jax

    DanW94 Grinnie Jax I won’t argue: GO is my grail too! If take ones a bit less out of my range – I find Muhle and NOMOS very attractive as well.

  • Brandon Kidwell

    Goes great with leather too!

  • It’s nice, and I’ll probably end up with one. Then I’ll scrap the bracelet right away and make something more appropriate. Green ostrich shin with a contrast stitch would really be an eye catcher, but brown gator stitched emerald would be an excellent daily wear combo.

  • Antonio RS

    “I would’ve naturally preferred the movement that replaced the 7S26 – the clearly superior 4R36,..”…i had still not finished to read the whole article when i was already thinking about commenting about that point ahahahah…, because i had checked before the watch features… I don´t understand…this is a really nice looking watch, and with the 4R36 it would have a better rate price-quality-valor…and would be a more serious and interesting purchase…

  • Antonio RS

    …actually, i think i would purchase it with the 4R36 movement…

  • Howie Boyd

    Great review, so true that Seikos deliver so much bang for the buck.

  • 24fanatic365

    Only $149 shipped from Amazon. That’s hard to beat any way you look at it. An Automatic with an in-house Seiko movement on a bracelet for that kind of money is pretty crazy. Who cares if the crystals are mineral glass? Not this guy! And they have a goldtone version, as well, if that turns your crank. Thanks for the review, Matt.

  • Aaron Thompson

    Only $149 shipped from Amazon. That’s hard to beat any way you look at it. An Automatic with an in-house Seiko movement on a bracelet for that kind of money is pretty crazy. Who cares if the crystals are mineral glass? Not this guy! And they have a goldtone version, as well, if that turns your crank. Thanks for the review, Matt.

  • Neil C

    Superb value, and a beauty.

  • EricMiller5

    I bought mine about a year ago at a local watch/cigar store here in Scottsdale and I love it. I don’t often wear it because I have several high end watches but this one captures what i remember of my bothers watch looked like in 1973 when i thought everything he had was cool as hell.  This design is great, its comfortable and the only thing it is missing is even the smallest amount of lume.  I really like to see what time it is in the middle of the night for some reason.  Only paid 165 for it and I cannot recommend it enough

  • Tekky

    EranR They’re two very different beasties.  I have the green Sistem 51 on right now.  And I own three real vintage Seiko automatics – BellMatics.  One is a tribute to the past.  The other is the future, evolved from today.  The tribute is all old-tech, heavy metal, from a time men had A watch.  The other is a fashion accessory, one of ten in your bureau, that pushes technology and pays homage to the era when an automatic watch was a borderline luxury item instead of being the troglodyte’s calling card of refusal of the higher accuracy and reliability of quartz.

    Be glad we live in a time and place where you can choose between both or, more likely, not choose at all and simply buy both.

  • Amin Sabet

    Very enjoyable review!

    “I kind of wish it didn’t have the day-date complication”

    I find myself thinking this so often lately.  Most watches would look better without the date!

    • Dan Finch

      On this vintage one, the day/date is a must!

  • Antonio RS

    …do you know if they have it in blue dial? 😀

  • spiceballs

    Duroay  very nicely modded

  • neotrooper

    Duroay +1 on the lume. Love the dial design- and the lack of lume is what has stopped me from picking one up. Great mod- shame on seiko for not including it!!

  • gojiB

    i bought this exact same model when the whole recraft series was introduced in ABlogtoWatch. I have to say, the recraft and the sistem51 i own combined gets almost 3-4 times more wrist time than my high end pieces… they’re just absolute fun to watch. I also have the luxury of acquiring the original seiko which the recraft was based on… which is an absolute gem of a watch as well!

  • EranR

    DanW94 Christopher Ward watches are Swiss Made, and their automatic models are great value. While prices I think start officially at 500 GBP for ETA/Sellita based (>1,000 for their in-house calibre) there’s the occasional discount or clearance. Recently got the C11 MSL in black PVD with vintage lume, which is very high quality piece, for under 400 dollars.

  • kunokephalos

    I want one. Amazing how good this looks compared to lame reissues of vintage models from many of the big beasts. An absolute bargain. I was looking for something similar in the Tissot Visodate but I found that it was less attractive in the metal than in the photos.

    • Reprobus Marmaritarum

      So, I got one, and put it on a Hirsch Robby strap with orange lining to match the seconds hand. Awesome.

      • josh michael

        must be nice to have $80 for a watchband.

        • Reprobus Marmaritarum

          Sometimes you just gotta treat yourself, right?

    • Marcin Suszczewski

      I in fact bought a Visodate some three years ago… and then sold it on. the watch simply disappointed me. the hands were plain and the whole watch sort of awkward on my wrist. just ordered the Seiko. it is supposed to arrive next week. yikes 😉

  • Julian Rowland

    Same here I adore the 4R36. I have 4 in my collection.

  • Omegaromeo

    Father’s Day – it’s mine!

  • egznyc

    Seiko sure does seem to deliver superior value for the money. Good looking watch, assuming the green works as well or better in person as on paper or screen. Thanks for the review.

  • josh michael

    I like mine..$137 on EBAY…free shipping…no tax!!

    • Dan Finch

      Just got one for $69 on eBay!

  • josh michael

    Nice, but wish it was battery powered…I change watches depending on what I am doing so I do not damage it, and if you don’t shake this every so often, it stops and you have to reset it…a real pain!!

  • josh michael

    my loses 2 min a day

    • Dan Finch

      Nice! Mine is at -3 sec/day///

  • A_watches

    if only a bit smaller and with hacking!

    • Dan Finch

      Yes, Seiko was always a smaller watch, and this is meant to be vintage after all…
      So a 41mm with hacking and crown winding, please!

  • Axel Cielovaniglia Felisari

    Hello everyone and thanks for the hospitality. I would like to ask for your help to find a steel strap for this model (snkm97). Can anyone help me please? Thank you

  • STEVE ENGLISH

    I have to say, my first ” adult watch ” was a Seiko 5 my Dad sent me on his third tour in Vietnam 47 years ago. It was just a basic dress model. The hardlex crystal hadn’t been invented yet and watches at that time just said ” water proof “. I wore that watch for ten years. It never left my wrist. Swimming, surfing, shower, snow skiing, everything. Never skipped a beat !! Seiko is in my opinion the absolute best watch you can buy for your money. They are over engineered in every regard. You will get tired of wearing it long before you ever wear it out !! I own this recraft and it brings back so many fond memories ! It is also dead on accurate ! Something I can say was never the case with any of the over priced Swiss watches I thought I couldn’t live without twenty some years ago. Simply put…Seiko rocks !!! Nuff said !!

  • Joe Deats

    What an amazing watch, Seiko continues to impress me with its talent. That watch has such an impressive fit and finish and it’s less than 200 bucks locally. My collection of Seiko’s seems to grow almost like magic as they continue to offer watches that are built well, look amazing and are priced like a friend is selling it to you.

  • Max Yankel

    Just bought it new for $79 on Amazon, looks great

  • Dan Finch

    You have to love this new vintage watch collection. No wonder Seiko has a hit on their hands! But the perplexing thing is the huge size. Why Seiko, why? Is is supposed to be a vintage design, not an Invicta! 44mm is just too big for most folks. They also missed an opportunity by not installing the hacking, windable movement. But it’s surprisingly accurate, losing only 3 or 4 sec a day.

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