Seiko has recently presented the new Recraft line of affordable dress watches. The collection comes in different color variations and features stainless steel and gold-toned versions. The main selling point? The finely crafted, mildly oversized cases, of course! Also, the in-house Caliber 7S26 self-winding movement. It is the same inexpensive, bullet-proof mechanism that also animated their Seiko SKX781 Orange Monster diver.
The thing that surprised me the most was how affordable it is: an entry-level version in plain steel costs meager $190 USD! I mean, less than two hundred bucks for a great Japanese automatic?
Are you into “classic cushion” style? Have you never before owned a mechanically-powered timekeeper? If both answers are a firm “yes,” the Recraft could become a perfect “gateway-drug” purchase.
I am not talking only about the buying price. When you buy your first mechanical watch, you often forget that, like a car, it needs to be taken care of. You need to change the oil. You have to regulate the balance wheel. You have to be gentle with it. It’s a fine mechanical device, dammit!
Unlike some Swiss mechanisms, the Caliber 7S26 is extremely robust and reliable. It is also (sort of) more forgiving. The mechanism will withstand the level of abuse and neglect that would make your normal ETA 2824 movement die before its first scheduled maintenance.
But the reliability comes with a price. Compared to mid-range Swiss mechanisms, the 7S26 is definitely not as refined and, well, not as impressive. It doesn’t look crude, but it is rustic. Also, there are a couple of technical features (or, rather, a lack thereof) that may put you off this device. For example, there is no manual winding: you will have to actually wear it (or shake it for some time) to get it ticking. This can be a problem (or at least an annoyance) if you don’t plan to wear the timekeeper on a daily basis.
Then, there are no hacking seconds. The seconds pointer doesn’t stop obediently at twelve o’clock when you decide to adjust the time. This too may become a source of irritation to those who have already got used to good European watches.
Featuring styling from the 1970s, the new Seiko Recraft jumps on the same bandwagon as other major players. From Longines with its Heritage 1935 pilot’s watch, through the American brand Shinola, and all the way to premium-priced giants. Even Omega likes to spice-up their timeless design with NOS versions of calibers discontinued before you were even born! What’s different in Seiko’s approach here is that their new offering comes at a fraction -like, 1/10th!- of the price of a normal vintage-styled Longines.
For example, sellers on Amazon.com currently offer this chunky beauty at less than $170 US dollars with free shipping, can you believe it?
Still, unlike its many sources of inspiration, this new watch is too massive for me to consider it a real “tribute.” Measuring more than 43 mm in width (setting crown not included), the watch takes a lot of real estate on your wrist. The chunky profile of the case doesn’t do a good job in mitigating the problem. Neither do the massive integrated lugs that make the timepiece look even larger. So, beware.
What I really like here is the dial.
An affordable watch that tries to look like a modern luxury timekeeper usually fails, miserably at that. The production process is too expensive. There are too many corners that you need to cut to make a watch as affordable as these. All these cuts are usually quite visible even to an inexperienced observer. Classic timekeepers from 1960s-1970s are easier to pay homage to. They were more simple in their exterior design. There didn’t have to be as daring. Using today’s machinery, even a “lifestyle” brand like Fossil or Invicta can make a convincing tribute to a vintage watch with some profit.
Seiko wouldn’t be Seiko if they didn’t get this approach and make a real candy out of it. A simple sunburst dial? Check. Traditionally crude applied hour-markers? Check. Rustic hands? You bet. It two words, the Recraft SNKM97 absolutely nails the feel of a watch from the seventies.
All you need to make this beauty truly shine, is a vintage Datsun 240Z retrofitted with an American V8 engine. A nice pair of jeans crafted from Japanese Selvage denim is optional.
See also: Longines Heritage 1973 Chronograph
Photos: Seiko, eBay, uhrforum.de
Build quality: 4/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
Seiko Recraft Automatic (Ref. SNKM97) specification
Price: $190 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber 7S26, Made in Japan
Number of jewels: 21
Movement frequency: 21,600 vph
Power reserve: 38 hours
Movement decoration: Skeletonized oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, day of week
Case: Stainless steel
Bezel shape: Round
Dimensions: 43.50 mm x 43.50 mm
Case height: 11.40 mm
Lug width: 23.00 mm
Hour markers: Applied, luminous
Hands: Open-worked, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet