When first jumping into the world of watch collecting, the idea of complications can prove, well, complicated. Although there are several solid bargain three-hand options for those looking for their first mechanical timepiece, once one begins adding functions to that basic design, prices have a tendency to rise aggressively. GMT models have long been some of the worst offenders for this, and despite their popularity, the entry-level GMT market has historically been disappointingly sparse. Seiko’s highest-profile launch of the summer aims to blow the affordable GMT market wide open, and in old-school Seiko fashion the watch delivers value in spades. Our aBlogtoWatch team has a chance to review this piece thanks to Watch Nation, the sole supplier for this model in the UK, which graciously provided our team with a sample. The new Seiko 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 has already established itself as one of the most talked-about releases of 2022, and delivers a truly accessible mechanical GMT experience fit for new collectors and veterans alike.
Any enthusiasts who have handled the three-hand Seiko 5 Sports line, or the SKX dive watch series that preceded it, should find the 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1’s case familiar. For this new series, however, Seiko brings a raft of more premium-style touches to the familiar form. Like so many Seiko designs, the 42.5mm-wide stainless steel case wears far smaller than the numbers would have you believe, with a wearing experience that feels far closer to 40mm than over 42mm. As with the three-hand 5 Sports line, this largely comes down to the rounded, dramatic undercut case sides, which minimize the watch’s actual contact patch on the wrist, while the polished finishing of the case sides helps to visually mask the effect. Beyond these case sides, the rest of the case is almost archetypical for Seiko sports watches, with a tall, heavily knurled rotating bezel, short rounded brushed lugs, and a sizeable 4 o’clock crown with flowing asymmetrical guards.
The bezel insert, on the other hand, moves the 5 Sports GMT past standard Seiko 5 territory with a striking new visual flavor. Rather than the familiar aluminum dive bezel insert, the 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 uses a 24-hour insert topped with a transparent ring of Hardlex mineral glass crystal. While Hardlex (as opposed to more premium sapphire crystal) will likely continue to be a point of contention among enthusiasts, the insert does a solid job of imitating the deep and glossy look of the classic bakelite GMT bezels of the ’50s and ‘60s. With that said, the glossy, reflective look is not without its drawbacks. The SSK005K1 uses darker gilt text against a gray and black backdrop, and thanks to the way mineral glass interacts with light, the gray half of the scale can be difficult to read at certain angles. Seiko adds another visual flourish to the familiar formula with the addition of a cyclops date magnifier atop the crystal at 3 o’clock. Although the date window below may not fully fill the magnifier like Rolex’s famous cyclops lenses do, this does make a notable improvement in date legibility at a glance and easily sets this model apart on the wrist from its three-hand brethren. Around back, Seiko fits this case with a mineral glass display caseback, and rates the watch for a respectable 100 meters of water resistance.
When compared with its classical and reserved series stablemates, the Seiko 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1’s dial is undoubtedly the boldest in the new collection. The fine-grain sunburst dial surface is rendered in a blazing, almost traffic-cone orange, immediately standing out on the wrist and tying this model in with a long legacy of orange dial divers and sports watches. While not the most dynamic or detailed sunburst finish in the world, Seiko’s dial finishing does punch above its price point here, and the pairing of this color with a gold tone rendition of the brand’s classic Roman sword and arrow handset brings out the warmth and playfulness of the color palette. In contrast with these main timekeeping hands, Seiko renders the applied diver-style indices and the arrow-tipped 24-hour hand in gloss black, which does help to quickly differentiate between complications on the fly. Beyond the colorway, the 24-hour scale on the rehaut, and the addition of a GMT hand, this is still very much a modern Seiko 5 however, and the dial successfully carries over the same sense of fun from the broader three-hand Seiko 5 Sports family.
The in-house 4R34 automatic GMT movement inside the Seiko 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 is the newest variant in the 4R family but maintains essentially the same architecture as the familiar three-hand 4R36. Like the 4R36, the 4R34’s finishing is basic and straightforward, with heavily grained brushed bridges accented by broad perlage on the mainplate. The 4R34 also inherits the 4R series’ conservative accuracy ratings — Seiko itself claims the movement is accurate to +45/-35 seconds per day, but our test sample delivered a far better -4 seconds per day with daily wear. Other than this impressive accuracy, the 4R34’s performance is more or less par for the course for an entry-level mechanical movement, with a 41-hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate. Although the inclusion of a GMT function at this price point is notable on its own, the 4R34 may prove divisive among enthusiasts for being a “caller” rather than a “traveler” GMT, with a quickset 24-hour hand function.
Seiko pairs the 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 with a jubilee-style bracelet in stainless steel. This ties in well with the more upscale visual touches of the bezel and crystal, giving the 5 Sports GMT a somewhat more refined look on the wrist than its three-hand counterparts. The use of solid links throughout is also a major benefit, giving this bracelet a feel of solidity on the wrist that contrasts with the jangly quality of many bracelets at this price point. Seiko’s decision to use female endlinks is another major benefit here, giving the watch a more compact stance and allowing the design to wrap around the wrist with an impressive level of comfort. The finishing, however, is where some cracks may begin to show, particularly with the brushed outer links. These rounded links use vertically brushed tops and polished sides to match the case sides, and several links show notable “overflow” where the polishing extends into the upper surfaces of the link. This may be unique to our example, however. The stamped folding clasp is another carryover from other models in the Seiko 5 series, and while it performs well enough, it does feel decidedly lightweight and soft-edged when paired with this more intricate bracelet design.
By bringing a robust and capable mechanical GMT design to a democratic price point, the new Seiko 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 has already earned well-deserved respect in the enthusiast community, but its more premium touches also help it to stand as one of the most impressive and flat-out fun releases of summer 2022. The Seiko 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 is available now through authorized dealers (and exclusively through Watch Nation in the UK). MSRP for the Seiko 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1 stands at $475 USD as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: 5 Sports GMT SSK005K1
>Price: $475 USD
>Size: 42.5mm-wide, 13.6mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a daily-wear beater with personality, or during days with multiple international calls.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Enthusiasts of all stripes looking for a genuinely affordable mechanical GMT, new collectors looking to dip their toes into mechanical complications.
>Best characteristic of watch: Reasonable pricing, handsome design, impressively robust and capable movement for the price.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Mineral crystal bezel insert can cause legibility issues at certain angles, imprecise bracelet finishing with flimsy clasp.