January 13, 2021
by Ariel Adams
I came to this review with some previous high-end Seiko GMT watch experience. In a few ways, this Seiko Prospex SNR033 is the spiritual successor to the Grand Seiko SBGE001 watch (review on aBlogtoWatch here). The SBGE0001 is one of the best daily-wear GMT watches Japan has ever made, and when it was originally released over a decade ago, it was under Seiko’s Grand Seiko brand. Since then, a lot has changed.
Grand Seiko has formally split off from the Seiko brand as a sister company. And the price point at which Grand Seiko sports watches used to be is now inhabited by higher-end “Seiko Luxe” watches that fill this space, as Grand Seiko price points have moved even higher. The SBGE and SNR033 have the same movement and overall features; they differ in terms of style and case materials but are clearly close relatives given they share things such as having a sapphire crystal cap over the bi-directional rotating GMT bezel. This was a very exotic feature when the SBGE001 originally came out, and today still remains a rare and expensive treat to find on a daily-wear sports watch. Such sapphire crystal inserts make for the strongest scratch protection you can find.
Pretty much all of the engineering focus on materials on the outside of the SNR033 is for longevity and durability. While the SBGE001 was in steel, Seiko later decided it should focus a lot more on titanium. Later SBGE watches were produced in titanium, and the SNR033 is in fully hardened titanium, including the 44.8mm-wide case and the matching bracelet. While Seiko has always paid homage to Rolex in one way or another with these watches, its nods to Geneva are merely in the color palettes here (black and blue bezel), and no longer anything related to the look of the watches. These Prospex Spring Drive GMT watches are entirely Seiko in design DNA and poise — which I think is a very good thing.
The Prospex SNR033 is not the most exciting watch as represented in pictures. Something about the Seiko marketing shots makes it feel like all right angles and bold features. In person, the way the angles of the case reflect with the light, as well as the sheer depth of the dial, allows for the design to take on a new beauty that requires an in-person experience to best be appreciated. The design also took a few days to grow on me. After that, I was hooked. There is no getting over the watch’s bold proportions. Either you love its bold looks and size, or you don’t. Seiko has more classic-looking GMT watches for people who feel the SNR033 is too much. Prospex fans will probably love it.
The 100-meter water-resistant case is also 14.7mm-thick and has a lug-to-lug distance of 50.9mm. Given the titanium case and bracelet, I have to say that even this bulky timepiece wears extremely lightly. The bracelet design is, again, something you need to get used to, but its masculine style and simple appeal help it endure. Seiko has a few versions of the SNR Spring Drive GMT, but this one with the black and blue dial, deep blue metallic dial, and sports red GMT hand feels like the right mixture of alert sportiness and timeless versatility. This is a watch for pilots or other aviation-industry professionals.
Inside the watch is the in-house-made Seiko Spring Drive caliber 5R66 automatic movement. Spring drive movements are complicated to discuss, and we’ve done so many times before in various articles on aBlogtoWatch over the years. Visually, spring drive movements have a seconds hand that glides (as opposed to sweeps) in choppy little motions around the dial. This is because the hand never actually stops being pushed forward by the gearing system. The movement does not have a traditional mechanical regulation system, but it does have a traditional mainspring to power it. The unwinding of the mainspring generates a small current that powers a quartz oscillator regulation system. This hybrid of mechanical timepiece and quartz regulation system allows the movement to have a power reserve of three days with an accuracy of approximately -/+ 15 seconds per month. On the dial, the 5R66 movement features the time, date, GMT second time zone hand, and power reserve indicator.
What I love about today’s higher-end Seiko Prospex watches is that they use some of Seiko’s most advanced movements and feature housings designed to look brand new for as long as possible. You could easily wear the Prospex SNR033 for a decade and not find that it looks much different from than when you first purchased it. I also think the sheer volume of Seiko brand personality in the watch offers a wearing experience that many watch lovers will enjoy as a Seiko timepiece that can grow from a model that costs just a few hundred dollars.
Price-wise, the Seiko Prospex SNR033 feels appropriate for what you get, but it means that Seiko (or Grand Seiko, for that matter) are no longer lower-priced alternatives to European luxury products. The Seiko of today is priced within the same arena as the Swiss Made watches it once competed with more from afar. The price, for example, is just $400 shy of an entry-level men’s Rolex, and more expensive than plenty of other watches with a Swiss Made automatic GMT movement in them. No, you aren’t going to find a similarly equipped Swiss watch at the price of the SNR033, but the point is that Seiko now positions itself within the same price region as brands that, just a few years ago, didn’t feel the competition from the East biting so close to their heels. The hipness of Japanese watches in the high-end space is coming on stronger and stronger. Price for the Seiko Prospex SNR033 Spring Drive GMT watch is $5,500 USD. Learn more at the Seiko Luxe website here.
>Model: Prospex SNR033
>Price: $5,500 USD
>Size: 44.8mm-wide, 14.7mm-thick, and 50.9mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a daily wear travel piece when some activity, as well as socializing, is necessary. The SNR033 very much wants to be a versatile timepiece.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lovers of luxury Japanese watches who want a modern-looking everyday sports or travel watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent legibility and view into the dial. Masterful ability to polish and surface materials by Seiko for both beauty and long-term durability. Movement continues to shine as original and interesting.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Watch is on the larger side (though comfortable). Bracelet would be better with a modern micro-adjustment system.