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The Seiko SARB033 - Why I Will Never Sell The 033...

Category: Articles | Date: February 28, 2018

After recently being discontinued, Tim sits down with one of his favourite watches and goes over some of it's impressive features...

Let’s take it back a couple of years to when I started at WatchGecko in 2016. I was a few months into my new job, everything was all new to me, from listing products online, to seeing how our straps get packed up and taking the first steps towards online marketing. Out of all of the unknown, there was one thing that was pretty clear to me. I needed to get myself a ‘proper’ watch.

I’d spent most of the early days wearing an old Casio watch that had been admired since I was young which my Dad gave me years ago. Another watch that’ll always be in the collection, but for an office environment surrounded by other watch enthusiasts, I needed something affordable, versatile, well made and also something I can keep for (hopefully) my whole life…

Check out our range of watch straps for the Seiko SARB here!

After weeks of searching online, watching countless review videos, comparing and learning information on different popular options it was between a handful of watches. The likes of the Hamilton Jazzmaster, Seiko SARX045 and the SKX of course were all possibilities.

After taking advice from my new colleagues, I finally settled on the SARB033. There were many things that attracted me to this decision including these four main points:

  • Seiko’s brand history and heritage is hard to ignore
  • A simple yet effective watch design
  • An unbeatable price (something which we’ve all come to expect from Seiko)
  • The large versatility of the piece

Fast forward nearly two years and a countless amount of wrist time and pictures taken, I feel I’m in a pretty good position now to give a comprehensive review of the Seiko SARB033 (with a few words on the 035).

Seiko released the SARB line as Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) watches only, meaning for us not residing in Japan, it can be tricky to get your hands on one. After sourcing one from a well known seller based in Japan and an impatient 3 weeks wait, the watch arrived in the UK and more importantly, on my wrist. Seiko and other Japanese brands are known for ‘keeping the good stuff for themselves’ when it comes to watch releases and after only a short time on the wrist, I understood why.

 The details in detail…

The watch comes in at 38mm, with a 11mm thickness and 44mm lug to lug. All this adds up to a fantastically easy to wear watch on most wrist sizes. Add on top of that the 20mm lug width and it makes this watch a perfect daily piece, perfect for regular strap changes. The watch has more of a dress aesthetic but’s its actually a surprisingly versatile piece. Throw on an Italian Handmade leather strap and you’ve got the perfect everyday watch, dress it up with a quality animal print strap and you’ve got yourself a solid dress watch.

The watch is powered by the Seiko 6R15 automatic movement which has manual wind, hacking and a fantastic power reserve of 50 hours. This leads on to one of my favourite things about this watch. With 50 hours of power reserve, the SARB can sit comfortably in a rotating watch collection without needing winding again . Similar to the Rado Captain Cook, you can easily leave this watch a few days or a weekend and come back to it still ticking…

Next up, I have to talk about the subtle details Seiko have nailed with the SARB line. The first thing that you can’t miss is the indices and hands. Not only are they both highly polished, but they also have subtle chamfering and angles throughout, resulting in a watch that catches the light perfectly. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve looked down at my wrist to see the SARB shining, looking like a watch 3x, 4x 5x it’s price tag.  Much like the hands, the date window cut out also get’s the polished treatment which is a contrast to the applied Seiko logo which has a simple flat satin finish. The SARB really makes the most of the real estate it has with the seconds tracking being on the edge of the dial. Again, small details like this are more and more positives for the watch.

Even more positives…

The case comes with details you’d expect on a £500+ watch. The case combines polished and brushed surfaces perfectly with the top of the watch being vertically brushed and the edges and sides being polished. Flip the watch over, and you’re greeted with a display case back. Who doesn’t love a display caseback right?  Similar levels of finishing can be seen on the standard bracelet also. The bracelet has flashes of similarity to the ones found on the Grand Seiko lines (much of the reason this watch is so popular I believe is down to it’s uncanny relationship with the Grand Seiko’s) including the polished ends of the links. Yet again, another plus for the SARB and more proof it certainly punches well above it’s weight. Overall attention to detail on the SARB is impeccable, a big plus in my book.

The SARB035 deserves an honourable mention…


The SARB line also includes a lighter dial model known as the SARB035. This is an identical model to the 033 I went for, apart from of course the dial colour. My initial thoughts was that the white dial was the one I wanted. After further research I found out that the 035 actually is more of a cream / white dial and not a pure white as first expected. At the time of purchase this was enough to put me off the 035 and go with the black, timeless option.

After a new colleague joined the team and picked herself up the SARB035 I managed to get some hands on time with both watches together. Although the 035 is nicer than I expected in person, I do still feel I made the right decision going for the 033. Much like the 033, the 035 still has all the qualities the 033 shares, most importantly the ability to punch above it’s weight and many other more expensive pieces…

Plenty of options when it comes to strap changes…

Seiko watches normally lose a few points when it comes to their metal bracelets and there is just one keys feature I felt was missing on the SARB. The standard bracelet only comes with two micro-adjustment size options. Fortunately for you and me, here at WatchGecko we offer a wide range of metal straps which look great on the SARB. A personal favourite is our Solid 3 Link D Profile I’ve recently fitted the watch to. As soon as the strap hit out website the first thing I thought of was my SARB and brought it in the following day for it’s new set of wheels. Alternatively, on one of our handmade leather straps look perfect on the SARB. A personal favourite is our lovely Chocolate Brown Simple Handmade Leather. It’s a perfect thickness for the watch case and once the strap is broken in, it just gets softer and softer the more you wear it. Similarly, the Highley leather strap is a new addition to the site which is a very nice classic style strap, a little more dressy with the continued stitching down each side of the strap.

If I was forced to be negative about the SARB, I’d only be able to call out a few things. The first would have to be the bracelets lack of micro-adjustments (again not a problem for me based on where I work!) and two would have to be the news that the SARB line as we currently know it has been discontinued.

This news is still fairly new to the general public which has resulted in the remaining stock of models selling out fast and the price of the 033, 035 and 017 shooting up.  Many people have concerns if this means the end of the SARB line for good. Based on the huge popularity of the SARB (especially the Alpinist and it’s extensive historical relevance) I don’t see this as the end of the road. If an updated range of the SARB watches is released it’s a fair assumption to make that I won’t be the only one eager to get their hands on one asap…

Saying that, I really am splitting hairs with those negatives. The watch is a fantastic choice, whether it’s your first true watch like myself, your evening choice of watch or it’s another for the collection I can’t help but feel this is another knockout model for Seiko. And based on the huge popularity and sales over the past 10 years of this model, I’m not the only one who shares this opinion…

22 comments on “The Seiko SARB033 - Why I Will Never Sell The 033...”

  • Tim
    Tim
    - Reply

    I love the look of the bracelet on the Sarb033. Where did u get the end links for it? On your web site? Do they fit perfectly for it? The stock bracelet has a lot more problems then the micro adjustments and those pictures look really good.
    Thx
    Tim

  • Proenski
    Proenski
    - Reply

    Also a fan of the 033 and 035 and it is a true "strap monster". Personally I don't find the bracelet that bad apart from the lack of micro adjustments (minor issue) and hollow end links (major issue).

    I very much like the bracelet shown here but why, oh why don't you have solid end links for it?? This is what most watch enthousiast want and why Strapcode alternatives are so populair for example. A bit disappointing to be honest.

  • Steve Tackett
    Steve Tackett
    - Reply

    Great article. I have been fighting the urge to buy a SARB033. Probably shouldn't have read this. Now I've got one on order.

  • Ken Albin
    Ken Albin
    - Reply

    I studied watches for more than a year, looking for that perfect one that is understated, screams 'quality', and was within my budget. I got lucky by purchasing the SARB033 one month before they announced discontinuing them. The prices are already up $50 from what I paid. This is a watch that I will be using the rest of my life. The 6r15 in it runs -4 sec/day without being regulated. It is the classiest watch I have seen in the under $600 category, and its quality beats most watches considerably more expensive than that. Thank you for posting your review. It is spot on and was one of the ones I used as the basis of buying the watch. People had better grab one of these while they still can. They will not be sorry.

  • Gordon
    Gordon
    - Reply

    Hi Tim,

    In the 5th photo from the top where the SARB033 is on the blue strap, which model strap is that one please?

    Cheers,
    Gordon

  • Emmanuel
    Emmanuel
    - Reply

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for this great review.
    Which color is the Highley leather strap model on the Sarb ?
    Should I buy other item to change my sarb original métal strap ?
    Regards
    Emmanuel

  • Izi
    Izi
    - Reply

    Hi Tim,

    Enjoyed your review. Really good insights after 2 years of ownership. I'm in the fence between this and the sarx035. I'm ok on the price jump of the sarx as it has the AR coating and more refine bracelet. However, what i am concerned about right now is the size. Is there a significant difference between both watches in terms of how it wears on the wrist? Should just rather buy the sarx instead?

    Thanks

      • Gordon
        Gordon
        - Reply

        Hi Izi,

        I was in Japan again earlier in February and had the chance to compare both the SARB033 and SARX035 together with my Grand Seiko SBGV005.

        For reference my wrist is 6.5" and both watches wear perfectly fine, and will slip under a dress sleeve easily.

        Case size wise the SARX035 is closer to a modern Grand Seiko, whereas the SARB033 is closer to the 60's era GS's.

        Shape of the case needs to be considered too - the lower part of the case side closer to the wrist on the SARB033 curves inwards, thus makes it hug much closer to the wrist than the SARX035. On the other hand, the SARX035 has a straight down side, so can make it feel and look a little chunkier than need be.

        The SARB033 I've over time grown to live with the AR coating as it doesn't hinder day to day usage. However, I've gone the modding route and going to be installing an aftermarket AR coated crystal in the next few weeks when I get some spare time.

        Bracelet was my biggest concern. I fixed that with Watch Gecko's Solid 3 Link Oval metal bracelet with the polished centre links. I've had a fair number of people checking out my SARB033 and also mistaking it for a Rolex since then. I'm really happy with that choice so much that the Genuine Frog QR strap that Tim recommended earlier now swaps between my SARB065 and GS instead.

        Ultimately, I chose the SARB033 as I already have the GS, so the SARX035 is way too similar to that to justify.

        The SARX035 is simple dressy, but the SARB033 is elegant and more versatile with strap or bracelet options in my opinion - much better suited as a daily wear.

        Cheers,
        Gordon

  • Janus
    Janus
    - Reply

    Hi,
    Do you know where can I buy this watch? Maybe a more trusted source, japan perhaps?

    Thanks!

  • Marco
    Marco
    - Reply

    Hi, which jubilee bracelet should I have to buy to fit my Seiko Sarb 035? And which couple of ends? Thanks for your precious reply, Marco.

  • Lucas
    Lucas
    - Reply

    May I know do you guys sell jubilee strap that fit sarb033? H

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