THE TOP WATCH REVIEWS OF 2021 – The Seiko SPB217J (#29) THE TOP WATCH REVIEWS OF 2021 – The Seiko SPB217J (#29)

THE TOP WATCH REVIEWS OF 2021 – The Seiko SPB217J (#29)

Fergus Nash

Editor’s note: There were a lot of watches released in 2021 and the Time+Tide team endeavoured to review as many of them as we possibly could. Here we count down the Top 30 reviews of the year by web traffic in our best radio DJ voice: at number 29, it’s the Seiko SPB217J.

It’s always hard to call something a bargain over $2000AUD, and as Seiko’s releases in the upper price brackets balloon, the line between Seiko and Grand Seiko grows ever so slightly blurrier. The SPB217 from Seiko’s Presage Sharp Edge series is one such watch with loftier aspirations, but has no trouble taking the fight to the top of the range. With a fantastic set of specifications and features, this beguiling GMT is surely an unsung hero of modern-day Seiko.

The dial

Photos may not do this watch justice, but on this dial Seiko have created a truly trippy 3D effect. Not only does the light shimmer across it in a similar way as a sunburst finish, but individual peaks and troughs of the triangular texture appear to morph into different patterns depending on how it’s viewed, from complex pinpoints of sharp angles to star patterns, or simple bedazzlement. The pattern breaks for the applied logo to have a neat frame around it, and again at 6 o’clock for the sunken pointer-date subdial. The gauge to the left of the dial is the power reserve indicator, kept simple as to not draw too much attention, yet balances out nicely the printed text at 3 o’clock.

Seiko SPB217J is an an unsung hero of modern-day Seiko

The metallic sapphire blue of the dial compliments the deep silky blue of the coated steel bezel that appears like ceramic, and is offset with grace by the rose gold elements of the GMT hand and the AM section of the chapter ring. The indices are sharp, as you’d hope they would be, with intense facets for more flashiness, bringing the glamour back that you’d expect from the Presage line.

The case

Seiko SPB217J is an an unsung hero of modern-day Seiko

Unlike a lot of Seiko cases, the Presage’s Sharp Edge series isn’t very familiar to the fanbase. Although it’s extended and aggressive lugs are definitely full of the Seiko DNA, with many comparable features to the long-lauded 44GS case, this is a relatively new design to go along with the bold, fresh watch. It’s 13.7mm thick and has a diameter of 42.2mm, and the 49.2mm lug-to-lug length combined with the outstretching end-link on the bracelet means that it does wear larger than most Seikos, but the steep angle of those lugs helps considerably. The case finishing definitely does justice to the Sharp Edge name, not because it will actually scratch you, but because its brushed surfaces meet its mirror-polished sides with utter precision, and light glances off the steel
and glossy bezel like a precious jewel.

The movement

Through the display caseback of the SPB217, you can see it uses the calibre 6R64 — a Traveller’s GMT movement that hasn’t been on the scene very long. Not only does it grant the ability to track a second time zone with the 24 hour GTM hand, but you’re also able to independently move the regular hour hand in one hour increments for simple adjustment when travelling. A complication like this isn’t just practical, but its very existence just makes you want to plan extensive journeys across countries purely to play with it. The automatic 6R64 has a power reserve of 45 hours and a beat rate of 28,800vph which truly marks it out as an upgrade from Seiko’s usual array of movements, and though it has hacking and hand-winding, of course, there is no quick-set date function.

The bracelet

Seiko SPB217J is an an unsung hero of modern-day Seiko

Along with the movement, the bracelet is another clear step up from the budget end of the Seiko ladder. The end-links are solid, as is the milled clasp with security pushers, and each link is wonderfully articulated. The finishing is sublime, with the edges of the centre links being high-polished and stepped from the brushed section, giving some subtle flare, and helping define the geometry of the watch as a whole.

The verdict

Seiko SPB217J is an an unsung hero of modern-day Seiko

At $2150AUD, it’s a pleasure to call this watch a value-for-money buy. Were the SPB217 to have a Grand Seiko logo on it and cost twice as much, it would easily still be a convincing choice. The only complaint I can fathom for this watch is the lack of quick-set date, however it’s a small sacrifice to make for something as wearable and as attractive as this. With both looks and substance, the SPB217 is a rare luxury bargain.