After recently being discontinued, Tim sits down with one of his favourite watches and goes over some of its 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...

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 Seiko SARB033 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

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...

The Seiko SARB033 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

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.

The Seiko SARB033 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

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 its 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 its weight. Overall attention to detail on the SARB is impeccable, a big plus in my book.

The SARB035 deserves an honourable mention...

The Seiko SARB033 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

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.

The Seiko SARB035 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

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...

The SARB fitted on our Geckota Kirkstead Bracelet - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The SARB fitted on our Kirkstead Bracelet - It's worth noting here I am using the Seiko centre link, curved end and pin to hold them altogether from the standard Oyster bracelet to get a solid fit.

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 Kirkstead I've recently fitted the watch to. As soon as the strap hit our website the first thing I thought of was my SARB and brought it in the following day for its 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.

The Seiko SARB033 on Geckota Vintage Highley Leather - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

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...

The Seiko SARB033 on the Geckota Kirkstead Metal Bracelet - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The SARB fitted on our Kirkstead Bracelet - It's worth noting here I am using the Seiko centre link, curved end and pin to hold them altogether from the standard Oyster bracelet to get a solid fit.

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...

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