For over a century, Seiko watches have endeared themselves to collectors of all stripes, who dig their sturdy make, sleek design, and approachable range of prices. But the historical significance of the Japanese brand extends beyond its cult-favorite status. If you’ve spent any time reading about watches you’ve probably come across mention of the “quartz crisis,” the period in the 1970s when battery-powered quartz watches—which were far more reliable than traditional mechanical watches, and much cheaper to produce—put the old-school Swiss watch industry on notice.
The result of this upset was a new era of bold luxury watch designs like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, and the arrival of quartz-centric brands like Swatch, which treated watches more like collectible accessories than fine jewelry. What you may not know, however, is the name of the watch that tipped the first domino: the Seiko Quartz Astron. Released on Christmas day in 1969, the Astron boasted the world’s first quartz movement and was 100 times more accurate than any other watch on earth. It also marked the moment when Seiko officially hit the big time.
Seiko has been around since the 1880s, but after 1969 they became a major global force in both quartz and mechanical watchmaking, creating the world’s first titanium diver’s watch and the world’s first TV watch (without a doubt the coolest way to watch Knight Rider in 1982). These days, Seiko continues to push forward on those parallel tracks, introducing the world’s first solar-powered GPS watch while also producing stylish re-editions of groundbreaking mechanical watches from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Then, of course, there’s the Seiko 5 Sports, a.k.a. the biggest cheat code in affordable watches. With a huge range of looks, including divers and GMTs and a solid automatic movement for under $500, there’s a good reason that the Seiko 5 is perennially among the most popular watches in the sub-$1000 bracket.
The upshot of all that is, if you can’t find a Seiko you love, you might not be looking hard enough. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started.
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