A Truly Underappreciated Watch? – Seiko SNKL23 Review

“The Value Proposition: A Seventy-Five Dollar Watch That Looks Like A Million Bucks” – Hodinkee

I am pretty sure that you are sick of hearing this overused statement, which was made by Hodinkee back in August 2015. To spare you from further agony and misery, those that have no idea of what I am talking about can visit this link: https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/a-seventy-five-dollar-watch-that-looks-like-a-million-bucks

The Seiko SNKL23 that we have in hand today was actually owned by none-other-than Vincent here at Shikaiseki. However, I purchased it from him back in March 2021. Perhaps I will ask for his opinion on the age-old question later on: does the SNKL23 look like a million bucks?

Your trusty Seiko 5 that you can always rely on

Just to refresh your memory, the ‘5’ in the Seiko 5 series refers to the following five traits:

  1. Automatic movement (7S series)
  2. Day and date function
  3. Water resistance (albeit only 30 meters)
  4. Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position
  5. Stainless steel case and bracelet

In comparison to the first Seiko 5 article that I wrote on the SNXJ89 (https://shikaiseki.com/2019/05/16/seiko-5-the-ultimate-value-seiko-snxj89-review/) which focused heavily on the concept of value, this review will be simple and straightforward.

As always. we start off with the basic specifications of the watch:

  • Case diameter: 38mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 46mm
  • Case thickness: 10.6mm
  • Lug width: 18mm
  • Movement: 7S26 (visible via a see-through caseback)

The specifications suggest that the watch will wear very comfortably with a common lug width of 18mm, which I would say suits well with the case shape and the dressy nature of the watch.

FYI, the scratch on the dial was made by Vincent (hehe)

Moving onto the design of the watch, you immediately realize why people praise this watch so highly. The black pinstriped dial, with a smooth, circular dial of the same color inside of it, reeks of quality the moment you first have it in your hand. This is complemented by the beautiful dauphine hands which has your trusty Seiko lume in it. Considering the dressy nature of the watch, having lume on the hands and the dial may seem odd. However, this is not the first time we’re seeing this – the Seiko SNXJ89 was in the same situation. Lume aside, we also have the typical Seiko 5 logo applied to the dial, with the day and date window nicely framed in silver. The whole dial is protected by Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex crystal.

The stainless steel bracelet, which is often considered as the victim of budget constraint in the Seiko 5 lineup, is seen yet once again right here on this watch out of the box. Quality aside (the folded bracelet), the jubilee-esque bracelet with two stripes of polished finishing once again complements the watch as a whole. I think we are seeing a trend here – the SNKL23 is certainly a looker.

Pairs well with a dark brown leather strap

One interesting thing that I have noted while owning and wearing the SNKL23 is the watch seems less dressy, more casual with the stock bracelet, and instead more dressy with a leather strap. Usually, it is the opposite for most watches. I know a lot of people would disagree with me (including Vincent), but hear me out here. Perhaps the reason for this is the emphasis given to the dial depending on the strap or bracelet. As the bracelet has its own slight shine, the attention given to the dial is reduced, while a plain leather strap gives greater emphasis to the dial.

Unfortunately no true outdoor shots due to the lockdown 😦

Despite the attractive dial, there are certainly downsides to this watch. Firstly, the outdated movement. Although the 7S26 movement is a reliable and proven workhorse, perhaps an upgrade to its core with the addition of hacking and handwinding would be ideal. Seeing that the new Seiko 5 Sports SRPD series (the “new SKX”) got a movement upgrade to the 4R36 movement (from the 7S26 movement in the SKX line), watch enthusiasts’ desire for a movement upgrade in the original Seiko 5 line would only continue burning.

Could look like a plain black dial in certain angles or lighting situations

However, we need to take into consideration that the Seiko 5 lineup (excluding the SRPD line) is mostly sub-$100, and the use of the 7S26 movement is a big factor to why these watches are so affordable. In addition, this is an old lineup of Seiko 5 that we are talking about. Hopefully Seiko will consider giving it a movement upgrade, however I honestly doubt it will happen unless the whole line is revamped together with a price increase. Other than the outdated movement, the bracelet, as mentioned above and previously in the SNXJ89 article, is the only other downside of the watch.

So, can the SNKL23 be worn as an everyday watch? I would certainly say yes, but try keep in on the stock bracelet to make it an everyday watch, as explained above. If you want to make it dressy, an alligator strap would make it the perfect budget dress watch. All in all, the SNKL23 is one hell of a watch that would be a staple in your collection, and I think everybody with any budget deserves to have one in their collection.

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