How often have you heard “Oh, it’s nothing exciting – just a Seiko”? Perhaps because of a range that spans everything from everyday sub-RM 500 quartz tickers to haute horlogerie stunners like the Credor Eichi II, people mistake breadth of range for lack of innovation and interest. Big mistake. Not only is Seiko one of the few truly manufacture watchmakers (even developing their own alloys and lubricants), they’re every bit as historically significant as brands that collectors feel are more upstage.
Back in the late 1960s, Seiko was one of the first makers to develop an automatic chronograph, something we take for granted today. But look at who they were up against and where they started; their racemates were the Le Locle stalwarts, Zenith (1865) and a collective from heavyweights Buren, Breitling and Heuer. Seiko, on the other hand, only started making its own watches in the early 1920s and produced its first automatic as late as 1959. Yet within ten years they were nose-to-nose over the line with Switzerland’s finest.
Now the Japanese maker is about to launch a limited edition Speedtimer watch with another new automatic chronograph movement. Alongside it is an unlimited auto chronograph running the same movement. This is the cal. 8R46 which just like its granddaddy uses both a column wheel and a vertical clutch system.
Column wheels and vertical clutches are cool. They’re smoother to use than coulisse movements because the movement hammers are already cocked and ready to activate the chronograph works – so there’s less effort shoving pushers and the whole thing feels less mechanically stressed. Vertical clutch movements – around since the 1940s – get the chrono seconds hand stepping away smartly with no fuss or stutter because the gears are always engaged. That lack of stutter means they’re slightly more accurate too.
Seiko have made sure these two automatic heritage watches are all about the chrono function. Decent, big pushers, clear dials and that accurate, 28,800bph movement. If you know your vintage Seiko stopwatches (now there’s a VERY deep rabbit hole), you might spot some similarities between the SRQ035 and the original 1964 1/5th stopwatch. A plain white dial and the numerals at each 10 second marker make it a cinch to read at a glance. After all, there’s no point in a chrono where you have to squint to see what it’s reading. You might spot the way the chronograph hand curves slightly as it meets the rehaut. Again, that’s all about accuracy of reading. And those big pushers? Yep, look at the 1964 1/5th stopwatch and they’ll seem very familiar indeed.
What’s under the bonnet? Seiko have developed a new 34-jewel movement that’s part of their 8R series. This is the cal. 8R46. There are definite similarities with the earlier cal. 8R48 but the new watch loses a sub-dial and gains a date at 6 o’clock. The power reserve is a decent 45 hours.
You can choose to wear your Speedtimer on its new stainless, tri-fold, button-release bracelet designed for it or a black leather strap (both come with the watch). Seiko have limited the SRQ035 to just 1,000 watches worldwide, but it’s just RM 800 more than its unlimited sibling, the SRQ037. So if it floats your boat, best have a word with your local dealer pretty briskly.
The SRQ037 (which is destined for the Prospex range) shares a case, bracelet and movement with the SRQ035, but the design is intended to echo Seiko’s first chronograph wristwatch, the 1964 Crown Chronograph. If you don’t know the watch, Seiko’s back catalogue is always worth a nosey – you’ll see similarities between the Crown Chronograph’s beveled hour markers, sharp hour and minute hands with colored Lumibrite, chrono pushers and the markers on the outer dial ring.
If you’re looking for something a little more wallet-friendly ($675), the new series also includes four new solar chronographs running the quartz cal. V192. That’s the same movement Seiko used in the Ref. SSC761 Black Series chrono back in 2020. The V192 is a solar-powered chronograph movement (no batteries to change) with a centre 1/5th sec chrono, small running seconds at 9, a 24 hour hand at 3 and chrono minutes at 6. The dial at 6 also functions as a power reserve indicator for the solar store of the movement. It’ll have no problems giving you the time accurate to within ±15 seconds per month.
These four new chronos are a tad smaller than the autos (the autos are 42.5mm diameter and just a gnat’s over 15mm thick) at 39mm. You get your choice of dial colours; white, navy, gold or black and they’re all – like the automatics in the series – easy to read, partly because they’re sandblasted to cut reflections and improve contrast. That legibility is helped along by a curved sapphire glass with an anti-reflective coating on the underside. There’s a handy tachymeter bezel that picks up the colour of the chrono hands (red on the SSC815, white on the other watches) too.
We can see this new series of watches doing well. They’re solid, well-made watches in Seiko’s best tradition. The new column wheel/vertical clutch movement is a peach and, even if you’d rather not run to RM 12,800 you can still get in on the action with one of the quartz models.