In the Golden Age of GMT Watches, Does the Seiko 5 Sports GMT Reign Supreme?
It may not be the "Golden Age of Flight," but 2022-23 has been dubbed by some as a golden age of GMT watches. We've been treated to a slew of great releases in both "caller" (adjustable GMT hand) and "flyer" (independent jumping hour hands) variants. Furthermore, a number of affordable "flyer" movements have recently arrived on the scene, like the Miyota 9075 and ETA C07.661. These watches in particular are coming in with retail prices below the threshold that has been established in the past, leading to a sort of democratization of travel/GMT watches. But one watch, firmly in the affordable "caller" category, truly demanded the attention of the Seiko fans and the watch community
At SOTP, we've been fortunate to experience a number of excellent GMT watches through either ownership or extended test drives. Recently that includes, but is not limited to: Rolex GMT Master II 16710, Tudor Black Bay GMT, Seiko Presage Sharp Edge GMT, Rolex Polar Explorer II 16550, Oris ProPilot Rega Fleet LE, Norqain Freedom 60 GMT, and the Seiko SSK005. This isn't to say that we are the GMT experts, but rather that we feel confident in understanding and evaluating which GMT watches work for us. And it's probably one of our favorite complications, so there's that.
Which brings us to the Seiko 5 Sports GMT Series (SSK001, 003 and 005). Released in June 2022, but leaked for weeks beforehand, people had plenty of time to react. We won't belabor the specs, as you've likely encountered them in person or written elsewhere, but this is a 42.5mm, 13.6m tall, SKX inspired Seiko with a newly developed 4R34 GMT movement. Watches with a 24-hour format hand for tracking multiple time zone have typically been reserved at a certain price segment of the market. Here was a venerable brand, developing an affordable GMT movement in a beloved format, and all for under $500 USD. That has to take the GMT cake, right?
As people took delivery of the Seiko 5 Sports GMT (actually available in stores to purchase shortly after the formal announcement), it was obvious Seiko had a hit on their hands. They were highly anticipated, well received and quickly lionized. The feedback was something along the lines of, "Amazing they added GMT functionality and only added 0.1mm thickness" and "Yes please, I'll take 3!" Throw in excellent bi-colored bezels, 100 meters of water resistance, solid end links on the bracelet... and do we need to remind you they are listed at $475?!
The friction bezel, rather than a ratcheting one, is a nonfactor to some while leaving something to be desired by others. Personally, I noticed some negative performance in hot temperatures, with the bezel simply not wanting to rotate, and find myself still craving a satisfying click. The SSK001 in black is classic GMT aesthetic, while the orange SSK 005 feels quintessential Seiko. There's a lot to love. Despite the constant reminder that this case wears smaller than the dimensions would suggest (and it's true) the fact remains that this is not a moderately sized watch for those who play in the sub 40mm sandbox.
There's no denying that Seiko fans, as well as those looking for in-house GMT functionality from a respected manufacturer, have elevated this one to near cult status already. How many "best of at xyz price point" or "top watch to recommend to a new collector" lists have you seen this on? So, as we get ready for Watches & Wonders and the deluge of new watch releases throughout the spring and summer, the question is: will we see anything in the GMT category that usurps 2022's darling?