I wore a Casio or G-Shock watch exclusively while I was in the military. I wasn’t alone in that regard, just about everyone with a watch was rocking a Casio. Aside from the bells and whistles they offered, the appeal of these watches was their accuracy, toughness, and affordability. Not to mention they were the just about the only brand of watches available at the PX. However, when I finished my enlistment I began seeking some mechanical timepieces as a replacement. Though are digital watches are more sophisticated and practical, I wanted a timepiece that offered more horological charm along with a subtle touch of elegance. Like many enthusiasts, Seiko’s highly-renown reputation within watch communities caught my attention and I decided to pick up a Seiko SNK809 as my first automatic timepiece.

Specifications

-Case diameter (w/o crown): 37mm
-Case thickness: 11mm
-Lug width: 18mm
-Lug-to-lug: 43mm
-Movement: Automatic
-Caliber: 7S26
-Crystal:
Hardlex
-Power reserve: Approximately 40 hours

Seiko SNK809: Widely considered the best entry-level automatic watch

Seiko SNK809: Widely considered the best entry-level automatic watch

My thoughts and review

You might recognize the Seiko SNK809 as one the most popular watches offered by Seiko. There is nothing inherently extravagant about the watch at first glance, but the SNK speaks to the heritage of the Seiko brand. The Seiko 5 designation refers to the prestigious innovations that Seiko brought to the watch industry. The Seiko 5 refers to the five attributes that made it stand out during the 1960s: an automatic movement, the day and date display in a single window, water resistance, a recessed crown, and a durable case and bracelet. However, what makes the SNK so appealing to consumers today is its price range. You can find the SNK809 and its other color models for about $50-100 from various retailers. For that price, it’d be difficult to find a better automatic timepiece than what the SNK offers.

Seiko SNK809: Widely considered the best entry-level automatic watch

There are a few features that make this timepiece stand out. The watch features an aesthetic dial which isn’t flashy but instead adds to its versatility. I enjoy the look of the larger minute markers being on the outer rim of the dial while the hour markers are inside, right at the tip of the hour hand. The red tip second hand adds a nice little flair that is eye-catching. The SNK has its unique look and with the right strap, it can go nicely with most outfits and occasions. The hardlex crystal that is used is Seiko’s own toughened mineral glass. Hardlex is one of the best mineral glasses available and receives much deserved praise for its scratch-resistance and durability. I myself am a big fan of how well hardlex holds up.

Seiko SNK809: Widely considered the best entry-level automatic watch
The author’s Seiko SNK809 with an aftermarket leather strap

One gripe I hear now and then is regarding the size of the watch. The SNK has a diameter of 37mm which may be considered as too small of a watch by some people. How much does watch size actually matter though? A smaller watch might make the dial a bit harder to read, but I wouldn’t say the dial on the SNK is so small that it should be considered too small of a watch. Put it this way, US servicemembers in World War 2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were all wearing much smaller watches than the SNK while they were closing with and destroying the enemy overseas.

As great as the SNK is, it is not without some shortcomings. My biggest gripe about the watch is that it offers poor lume, so be wary of choosing this watch if you need one for use in low-light conditions. Another potential issue for some is that the SNK is a non-hacking watch which means the second hand can’t be stopped by pulling out the crown. This can be frustrating for users who are adamant about precision timekeeping but keep in mind that this is an entry-level automatic watch, and automatic movements are generally less accurate than their quartz counterparts. Lastly, the nylon strap is of poor quality, but this is hardly a con as aftermarket straps are so widely available and even considered preferable over most stock straps. After all, every great watch collection deserves an excellent strap collection as well.

Seiko SNK809: Widely considered the best entry-level automatic watch
Unfortunately, the Seiko SNK809 offers poor lume

The verdict

The good
-Amazing price for an automatic Seiko
-Hardlex crystal is highly scratch-resistant 

The bad
-Non-hacking movement (can’t stop second hand)
-Nylon strap is mediocre
-Poor lume

I can only speak highly about the Seiko SNK809. Though the watch may have a few cons, these are easily forgivable when you remember that a brand new SNK sells for around $50-$100. For that price, I can confidently recommend the SNK as an entry-level watch for a newcomer or as a beater watch for those with a more expensive collection. Seiko also offers the watch in several different colors: beige (SNK803), green (SNK805), and blue (SNK807). No matter who you are, if you don’t have a Seiko in your watch box, adding an SNK would be a good start.

All photos courtesy of the author, Matt Jin