HANDS-ON: The Seiko 5 SKX Sports Style GMT delivers an automatic GMT for under $1000D.C. Hannay
Here’s something I didn’t see coming: an entry-level automatic GMT watch from Seiko has just dropped, and it’s packing some serious GMT-Master vibes. The three colourways remind me of the modding community from the SKX message boards back in the day, where home tinkerers would modify their Seiko divers with aftermarket two-tone bezel inserts and handsets. It appears that Seiko is listening to enthusiasts after all this time, because the new Seiko 5 SKX Sports Style GMT is a great bit of fan service, and a budget-friendly way to add an automatic GMT to your collection.
Much like the time-only versions that have been released over the last couple years (known by watch nerds as the 5KX), the new GMT takes its inspiration from the classic (and now discontinued) SKX case shape. The smooth contours and lack of hard edges continue in the new series, and anyone who was a fan of the O.G. SKX will find plenty to like in the new models. The 316L stainless-steel case’s dimensions are largely the same, at 42.5mm in diameter with a lug-to-lug measurement of just 46mm, making for good wearability on a wide range of wrists. Seiko did a good job keeping the case height reasonable too, at 13.6mm, just 0.2 thicker than the time-only version, considering the added functionality of the GMT movement. I suppose the case could be thinner by utilising a closed caseback, but I suspect that the audience for this watch will welcome the see-through display back, as many of them will be novice collectors, eager to see the automatic movement ticking away.
One notable difference from the original SKX is the lack of a screwdown crown, limiting the water resistance to 100 metres. People may bitch and moan about the 100 metre water resistance, but honestly, a) You’re most likely not a professional diver, and the rating is more than adequate, and b) The Rolex GMT-Master also happens to be rated to 100m, so maybe this isn’t the issue that you think it is. As it stands, the water resistance is perfectly serviceable for most people’s needs. The crown remains in its familiar spot at 4 o’clock. The bezel retains its grippy two-row texture, but there’s something new going on with the 24-hour insert. Available in three bicoloured versions to complement the dial choices, they come in a Rolex-adjacent black/blue, or black/grey, but notably, instead of being rendered in anodised aluminium, the inserts are made from Hardlex, the very material that Seiko uses in their proprietary crystals. It’s a durable choice, and an interesting alternative to the ceramic found on higher-priced watches.
About those colourways, you have three versions to select from: Black/grey, a Batman-esque blue version, and a bold orange, evocative of many classic divers. The blue and orange versions get a nice sunray treatment, and the black goes for a no-nonsense flat finish. Dial text is similar to the time-only watch, with ‘Seiko’, the Seiko 5 logo, and ‘Automatic’ script all present, augmented by the ‘GMT’ signifier above 6. There’s an additional 24-hour track on the chapter ring, complementing the 24-hour scale on the bezel. Unlike the original printed markers on the SKX, the new watch sports applied indices filled with that legendary Seiko LumiBrite. Lume also lights up the traditional Seiko broad dive-style hands as well, and notably, the orange version’s hands are gold PVD as opposed to the silver of the other two.
The GMT hands stand out, courtesy of some high-visibility colour choices: Red for the black and blue versions, and black set against the orange dial. The crystal is Seiko’s Hardlex, a material more durable than mineral crystal or sapphire, but less scratch-resistant than sapphire (but still very good). One other thing to mention: The date window foregoes a day indicator as on most Seiko 5s, but adds a very Rolex-like cyclops. Whether you love it or hate it is a matter of taste, but it does add a bit of retro appeal to the overall package.
The GMT movement is based on Seiko’s Caliber 4R architecture, dubbed the 4R34, and should be as durable as any, given the company’s reputation for some of the most robust mass-market movements available. It has 24 jewells, a beat rate of 21,600 vph, and a 41-hour power reserve. Finishing is bare-bones, with a logo on the rotor, and…that’s about it. To be expected at this price point, but it’s nice for those new to the hobby just to be able to see the movement in action. As far as travel functionality, the 4R34 isn’t a true GMT, but what’s known as a caller movement, which adjusts the 24 hour hand by pulling the crown out to the first position. Again, at this price, it works just fine.
The bracelet on the classic SKX models was a rattly, jangly affair, which I always thought was part of its cheap and cheerful charm. Well, the new Jubilee-style five-link bracelet is a good sight more solid-feeling in the links, but the look is much the same. Same bracelet, less rattle! It’s secured with a folding push button clasp with foldover lock. It’s perfectly functional, and the Jubilee style provides Batgirl vibes at beer prices. And if you prefer Batman, you can always switch it out with an Oyster-style bracelet of your choosing.
With its take on classic GMT style, added travel watch functionality, and rather good value, the new Seiko 5 SKX Sports Style GMT is as close to a sure thing as it gets. All three colourways are tasty, but my preference is for the non-flashy black/grey, although I suspect the blue-on-blue Batman version will be the runaway hit. The case’s wearability recalls why we all loved the SKX, and the GMT movement makes it the perfect travel companion. The Seiko 5 SKX Sports Style GMT will be available in July of 2022.
The Seiko 5 SKX Sports Style GMT pricing and availability:
The Seiko 5 SKX Sports Style GMT will be available from all Seiko boutiques and retaillers for $875 AUD.
|42.5mm x 46mm x 13.6mm
|Black SSK001/ Blue SSK003/ Orange SSK005
|Jubilee style steel bracelet
|Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT