Introducing They're Back! Seiko Brings A Series Of 36mm Field Watches To The Seiko 5 Sports Collection
Up until about 2018, if a non-watch person asked you, an enlightened "watch person," what (mechanical) watch they should buy, there's a pretty good chance you'd direct them to a Seiko 5, more specifically the SNK 800 series, a simple collection of 36mm watches from Seiko that, at the time, sold for $65, give or take. The SNK series was cheap and functional, with an aesthetic somewhere between a pilot and a field watch that had broad appeal. Then, in 2019, Seiko introduced its new Seiko 5 Sports collection, discontinuing its previous line of Seiko 5 models.
At long last, Seiko has revived this classic form with the new Seiko 5 Sports Mid-Field Collection, a quintet of 36mm field watches. The collection looks similar to the larger 39mm SRPG series Seiko introduced last year, but the steel case has been shrunk a few millimeters. The first trio in the Mid-Field Collection is the SRPJ81, SRPJ83, and SRPJ85, a line of field watches with Arabic numerals and black or cream dials. Seiko also added another duo of references, the SRPJ87 and SRPJ89, with a dial layout that's closer to a pilot's watch, and calls to mind that old SNK series. At the time of publication, Seiko has only made the release available in markets outside the United States – after conversion, the retail price is about $290.
With the new Seiko 5 Sports Mid-Field Collection, what you see is basically what you get. The watches measure 36mm in diameter and 12.5mm in thickness, with 44.4mm lug-to-lug, a mid-sized companion to Seiko's existing 39mm field watches. To me, these are about the perfect dimensions for a field watch, and I'd point to any number of classic field watches with similar specs that might agree with me (oh hi there, Explorer 1016; Hamilton Khaki Field, you're here too?!).
The first trio of watches has a familiar field-watch layout: Arabic numeral hour markers (with smaller 24-hour numerals below), day and date at three o'clock, and lume-filled hands and indices. The SRPJ81 has a black dial with white accents; the SRPJ83 has a sandy-colored dial with black accents, and the SRPJ85 has a textured black dial with warm (yes sure, "fauxtina") accents. The first comes with a steel bracelet, while the others come on matching canvas straps. Finally, Seiko's also added two more references to the Mid-Field Collection: The SRPJ87 and SRPJ89. These watches have the same dimensions as the others, but use sunburst dials that have a layout that's closer to a traditional pilot's watch.
All five references use Seiko's 4R36 caliber, an automatic movement with 40 hours of power reserve that's been reliably serving in many of its entry-level models since 2011. Finally, the Mid-Field Collection has 100 meters of water resistance.
Retail price as these watches are announced in non-U.S. markets sits around $290. It's a lot for an entry-level field watch from Seiko, though this price will likely drift downward as more hit the market. Currently, it's in the same price range as the more robust Seiko 5 Sports divers, though these two watches have a different appeal to different subsets of people. The SNK 807 might not have been the first watch I bought, but it was certainly one of the first three. I hope that what the old SNK 800 series was for so many – an easy entry point into mechanical watches – this new SRPJ series can also be. While once upon a time those SNKs could've been found for under $100 all day, every day, I have no illusions that the SRPJ series will ever be that cheap. But, these watches are better looking, have an updated movement, and it's 2023, not 2013. Even an SNK 80x will run you about $150 nowadays on your favorite internet behemoth that offers next-day shipping.
I'm glad that Seiko is back to offering a relatively cheap field watch at 36mm, and these look decidedly more sophisticated than the previous iteration. It's an important space in the market that's been left relatively unoccupied since the discontinuation of the SNK 800 series (though Timex and others have come to serve it admirably). If a non-watch friend comes to me asking for a watch recommendation with a budget of "a few hundred bucks," now I know where to send them again, relatively confident that they'll nod along and say "oh yea, that's a nice looking watch." And more often than not, I know they'll be back in a couple of years with a bigger budget.
Model: Seiko 5 Sports Mid-Field Collection
Reference Number: SRPJ81, SRPJ83, SRPJ85, SRPJ87, and SRPJ89
Diameter: 36mm (44.4mm lug-to-lug)
Lug width: 18mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Color: SRPJ81 (black); SRPJ83 (sand); SRPJ85 (black); SRPJ87 (silver); SRPJ89 (green)
Crystal: Hardlex (mineral)
Lume: Yes, LumiBrite
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Nato-style strap; steel bracelet on SRPJ81
Caliber: Seiko 4R36
Functions: time, day, and date
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour
Pricing & Availability
Price: ~$290 (listed for £260 in the U.K.)
Availability: International markets, coming soon to the U.S.
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