Seiko SNK809 // Best automatic watch under $100? 
The Seiko SNK809, from the Seiko 5 automatic watch lineup, is a popular field watch in the market today. But does this watch possess the style versatility and quality needed in a professional watch? In this review I will break down this watch with the following categories to help you decide if this watch is right for you.
Find the Seiko SNK809 here (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/2JN7UvM
- Model overview
- Movement detail and accuracy
- Value and Verdict
- Spec recap
If you’re ready then let’s jump right in to the review!
The video review that accompanies this written review can be viewed below, or on the WATCHSPEC Youtube channel.
1. SEIKO SNK809 MODEL OVERVIEW
Seiko is one of my favorite watch manufacturers. They have such a rich history, and their Japanese engineering and quality practices allow them to produce quality and luxury in their timepieces at a price point other manufacturers cannot. A great example of this is in this Seiko SNK809 automatic field watch, part of the Seiko 5 series watches.
The “Seiko 5” series was started back in 1963 and is named after the 5 key attributes built into each Seiko 5 watch:
- Automatic winding
- Day/date complication in same window
- Water resistant
- Unbreakable mainspring (Diaflex)
- Shock resistant (Diashock)
With a heritage spanning 55 years you know these watches are well regarded and respected.
Variations inside the Seiko SNK family are:
- SNK803 – Beige dial/strap: https://amzn.to/2MnPDDr
- SNK805 – Green dial/strap: https://amzn.to/2MoQK5V
- SNK807 – Blue dial/strap: https://amzn.to/2l64HsX
- SNK809 – Black dial/strap: https://amzn.to/2JN7UvM
The SNK809 applies stainless steel case with matte finish and measures at 37mm diameter and 11mm thick. This size wears very nice on small to medium size wrists but will appear small on those with large wrists. A word to the wise, however, on a gentleman’s progression into watches… men start out thinking “masculine” equals BIG watches. I’ll tell you from my own personal experience that as you grow you will come to better appreciate the well-fitted smaller watches and move away from the bigger, chunky-style watches. Just something to consider. Also, at this size the SNK809 is a great option for women as well who wear a larger watch as a statement piece.
This is a field watch or military watch style with the arrow showing at 12-o’clock, the dial showing the Arabic hours (every hour) on the inner ring and the Arabic minutes (every 5 minutes with tick mark at every 1 minute) on the outer ring. The addition of this thin-lined inner ring gives the dial a unique “coolness” factor that I really love. It also provides a usable function to the watch which I will discuss in the “4. USABILITY” section.
It’s a must to mention the applied (raised) “SEIKO” brand emblem and “5” emblem on the dial of this watch. Applied features on a watch are such a classy touch that, to me, makes a huge impact on the elegance of a watch. It is something that catches your eye whenever you look at the time, especially when it reflects the light. What a nice touch.
Seiko also keeps the dial clean by minimizing the additional text, writing only “automatic, 21 jewels” above 6-o’clock.
The day/date window is positioned at 3-o’clock with white text on black background to match the rest of the dial. There is a nice surprise every Sunday to see the standard Seiko-Sunday red text – another nice touch to spice up the watch. The day can be set to either English or Spanish language.
The hour and second hands do not follow the traditional field/military style but instead Seiko chose to apply a more elegant and refined elongated-diamond shape that increases the luxury feel of the watch. The second hand on this Seiko SNK809 is the real attention-getter when I look at the watch. It has a lollipop shape with circle on the counter-balance side, and the red accept on the pointer side transforms this watch from looking too monochromatic and one-dimensional to a dynamic sporty feel.
Seiko gives the SNK809 the Seiko Hardlex. Hardlex is an upgrade from acrylic glass – toughened mineral crystal glass developed by the Seiko, and is highly resistant to knocks and scratching. Hardlex is what is found on most Seiko watches. It is not as durable as sapphire crystal, but you will not find that on any watch even close to this price range. The Hardlex does not apply an anti-reflective coating, which is not an issue on the SNK809 due to the small distance between glass and dial. The only downside of Hardlex that needs to be mentioned is the smudge-resistance is poor. You will find yourself wiping the glass regularly to keep that pristine appearance. If you can look past that, Hardlex is a quality glass, especially at this price point.
The crown on the Seiko SNK809 is located at the 4-o’clock position as was standard of all the Seiko 5 line in the beginning (though they have now have 3-o’clock positions on some of the more recent Seiko 5 models). It is unobtrusive but is still visible. This crown size also differs from the traditional field/military watch which have larger easy-to-use-in-the-field size, and instead the SNK809 crown follows more of a dress watch to achieve more of a sophisticated look. Overall this works well for the watch appearance in my opinion.
Seiko applies a 18mm wide two-piece black ZULU-style canvas strap with extra reinforced material around the buckle tang holes and matte stainless ZULU loops. While this strap is durable and works well with the color scheme of the watch, it really pigeonholes the Seiko SNK809 as a tool watch only; not the professional look many of us desire. Luckily, there are countless inexpensive replacement straps and bracelets available, and anyone can change a strap by themselves. You can see by my photos that I have replaced this strap (which I swapped on the day I unboxed it) with the purpose of increasing the class of the watch. I highly recommend upgrading the strap to transform the SNK809 from a tool watch to a much more sophisticated watch that grab people’s attention. I personally installed a two-piece light brown leather band that immediately upped the sophistication a few notches (pun intended).
If you are interested in this leather band, you can find it here (affiliate link)(updated 8/23/2018 – original product no longer available, now showing alternative option): https://amzn.to/2MKleSR
There are several characteristics that drive watch comfort in my experience. Those are case diameter and thickness, crown size and position, weight and band. At 37mm case diameter and 11mm case thickness, the SNK809 is unobtrusive in all regards. This allows the watch to easily slip under your dress shirt cuff to prevent bunching and you won’t find yourself accidentally banging it into doorways as you might with thicker watches. Also, with the crown being small and recessed, you won’t even notice it when you bend your wrist toward your watch. The band being canvas offers no opportunity to tug on your arm hair like a metal bracelet might so overall it is quite comfortable. Lastly, with a weight of 2.2oz. / 62g – equivalent to a stack of 11 U.S. quarters, it plenty lightweight to be comfortable but still noticeable on the wrist, which is personally critical to me; there is something manly about feeling the weight of a watch on your wrist and consciously knowing it is there.
4. MOVEMENT DETAIL AND ACCURACY
Part of the Seiko 5 line, an automatic movement is a must. Gears, pinions, springs – as a mechanical engineer this is my favorite part! Equipped with the caliber 7S26 movement, first introduced in 1996, this movement has proven itself as a winner over the test of time (20+ years and still ticking – yes, again, pun intended). This movement is used in countless Seiko watches including, but not limited to, the legendary Seiko SKX diver watch line. This movement has good aspects and some bad… let’s break it down.
- The accuracy – while listed as accurate within +40/-20 seconds per day most see results within +/- 15 seconds per day (mine is running approximately -10 seconds per day). This is under the “bad” section but this really is a personal preference depending on how particular the user. I make sure to reset my Seiko SNK809 to the correct time every one to two weeks.
- No hacking – the second hand continues to move when the crown is pulled out to set the time. While many won’t care about this, as an engineer I like precision, meaning I want to set my watch down to the second.
- No manual wind – to kick start a dead watch or to top off the watch’s charge you will not be able to wind the crown to load the mainspring. The only way to charge the SNK809 is to swing it from side to side.
- Day/date switch over – This movement does take a long time to switch over the day and date, as it usually begins at 11:00PM and does not complete until as late as 4:00AM. While I don’t care about this at all (as I am ideally sleeping at midnight), I know there are those out there that look for a snappy change-over exactly at midnight.
- The Diaflex unbreakable mainspring – special alloy material developed by Seiko, prevents breakage by overwinding
- The Diashock shockproof – an isolation feature built into the design to help protect the movement from unintended impacts
- The “magic lever” – allows winding by both clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the winding weight.
- Includes the day/date complication control.
- 21 jewels – 21 contact points of moving components apply jewels to reduce friction and improve accuracy and durability
- 21,600 beats per hour (6 beats per second) – the movement and second hand actually moves six times per second for aesthetically pleasing sweep
- 40 hour power reserve – when fully charged, the Seiko SNK809 will continue beating for 40 hours after being placed in your drawer or countertop (please note that the lower the charge on an automatic watch, the lower the accuracy of the timekeeping)
- The case back – Yes this is a part of the case and not of the movement, but the clear glass screw-down case back allows you to view the movement as it works. Seeing the 7S26 beat away inside the watch, just as a heart beats inside a human being, is just such an awe-inspiring experience. Knowing this technology was developed by the human brain is simply inspiring to me as a mechanical engineer.
- Regulation possible – if accuracy is poor on your SNK809, you can adjust this yourself with the right tools (or the help of your local trusted watch service shop). To learn how to regulate your watch on your own, please follow the link below to the WATCHSPEC Learning Series that will walk you through the process. WSLS Ep.01: Watch regulation MADE EASY!
In my opinion, this the category where this watch really shines. Ask yourself: what is the main purpose of a wristwatch? To tell time of course! The layout of this watch provides the easiest and fastest readability of time of any analog watch I’ve ever owned. The reason is that inner ring I mentioned up in the “2. STYLE” section. With this, it is so simple to see that the hour hand points to the numbers inside the ring (with hour numbers listed), and the minute/second hands point to the outer ring (with the minute/second number listed). At even the slightest glance you can read the time. It’s wonderful.
Second is time and day/date setting. With the smaller crown it may be a bit more difficult for some to adjust the time but it is not something that I have even noticed in my use over time. As with most analog watches with date, the push-pull crown has three positions:
- Full out: set the time
- Middle: set the day (counter-clockwise) and date (clockwise)
- Full in: locked/set
Note: please make sure to set the time/day/date when the watch is OFF your wrist to prevent any detrimental loading of the crown shaft.
Next is the band. The canvas strap offers a wide range of adjust-ability for all wrist sizes, but that is not what I really wanted to talk about here. I have already recommended that the strap be replaced. So my message here is that the strap is secured to the housing by spring bars. To remove these in your strap replacement, you simply compress the bar using a tool of your choice (even a butter knife works) to pull it free from the housing. The housing does not offer access from the outside by drilled holes (which would allow you to push the pin end to compress), so instead you need to pry the pin from inside the lugs using the pin’s ribs located at either end. Overall, this is a simple process.
The water resistance on the SNK809 is listed at 30m (100ft). While that may make it sound like it can be used as a dive watch (or at least a snorkel watch) – I highly recommend that you treat it as being protected from the water it will experience when washing your hands or getting caught in the rain. That is because there is no seal or gasket applied to the crown area. I don’t recommend it be worn underwater, as water can possible enter through the crown shaft and corrode the internal components over time. If you are looking for a watch to be worn underwater, I recommend a dive watch or at least a watch rated to 100m water resistance minimum. I also do not recommend you wear ANY watch (even dive watches) in the bath or shower, as no watch is truly designed for or tested to high-temperature, high-humidity type conditions.
Finally is the luminescence (or “lume” for short), which is the glow-in-the-dark paint included on a watch to allow the user to
read time in the dark. The Seiko SNK809 applies LumiBrite, a Seiko-developed luminous paint which will illuminate ten times longer and show higher intensity than conventional luminous paint. It is also completely free of radioactive substances. The Seiko SNK809 applies a small dot of lume at each hour marker, inside the hour and minute hands, and inside the lollipop circle in the second hand’s counterbalance. I really like the touch of lume in the second hand as this is a way to ensure the watch is functioning even in the dark. Also, the lume in the hour and minute hands is very easy to see. The lume in at the hour markers is small but still legible. The only negative I can say about the lume is there is no orientation-defining feature on the dial; All the hour marker dots are exactly the same so it can be difficult in the dark to find which marker represents 12-o’clock.
6. VALUE & VERDICT
As I mention above, the Seiko SNK809 is a quality timepiece following the Seiko 5 line principles, with style and comfort to boot. Believe it or not, all the quality contained in this Seiko 5 automatic watch is priced at less than $65 at the time of this post (follow this affiliate link to check the current price: https://amzn.to/2JN7UvM). This price allows a buyer to replace the band (which again I recommend) and even gives the freedom to modify the watch. This watch is one of the most modifiable watches in production today with replacement dials, hands, bezels, glass, etc. available all over the internet. For my use, this watch exhibits versatility that most other watches just don’t have: it acts as a solid tool watch with the easy-read field-type dial and durable movement, but it also dresses up so well (with my leather strap). Click on the images below to get an idea of how it wears on the wrist (for reference, my wrist measures 7in / 18cm).
I don’t recommend all products I review (and you may want to explore other options if you have large wrists) but the Seiko SNK809 is definitely a wristwatch I recommend to those looking for their first automatic watch, those looking for an automatic watch with exceptional value, or anyone looking to expand their collection to include a sporty-yet-professional wristwatch option. Especially at this price point, you won’t find anything better!
Years ago, I put in the time to study this watch and weigh all the options for myself and I chose to buy it for myself. I have not regretted it once. To be honest, if I were to lose my SNK809 today, I would go out and buy another. That’s how much I respect this timepiece. As I’ve built my collection over time, I’ve acquired nicer and higher quality watches, but I find myself wearing this watch more and more often due to the Seiko 5 core values built into this watch.
FINAL VERDICT – THE SEIKO SNK809 IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Find it here (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/2JN7UvM
Extra… for anyone interested in the leather strap I shown in my images, you can find a similar strap here (affiliate link)(updated 8/23/2018 – original product no longer available, now showing alternative option): https://amzn.to/2MKleSR
|Watch style||Field / military|
|Back||Screw-down with glass (skeleton)|
|Bezel||Fixed, stainless steel|
|Markers||Hour + minute/second, Arabic numerals, white text|
|Day/date||3-o’clock position, white text on black background (except SUN red), English + Spanish|
|HANDS||Types||Hour + minute + second|
|Location||Hour markers, hour + minute hands, second hand lollipop|
|Material||Canvas with stainless steel ZULU loops|
|Type||Two-piece ZULU strap|
|Escapement frequency||21,600 beats per hour (6 beats per second)|
|Accuracy||+40/-20 seconds per day|
|Power reserve||40 hours|
|Manual wind available||No|
|WEIGHT||Overall weight||2.2oz / 62g|
|WATER RESISTANCE||Rating||30m / 100ft|
Love it or hate it? Please let me know your comments on this Seiko SNK809 in the comments below.
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- How do the style and features of this watch align with what you’re looking for?
- What is your favorite aspect of this watch?
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