In today’s augmented reality packed with screens, infotainment, streaming services, social media, and electronic dependency, you need a mechanical watch. No, I’m not being a luddite fuddy-duddy—cut me off from my beloved screens and see how nasty my attitude becomes. Still, some purely mechanical interaction once in a while does the soul good, and it’s no secret cars and watches have a long history of going hand-in-hand. However, you might not be familiar with the Seiko 5 Sports line.
More about the Seiko 5 Sports in just a moment, but first, some context: I wear a mechanical watch almost every day, but not for the sake of telling time. Crazy, I know. Look, even in 2020, most mechanical watches will run out of power after 48 hours of non-use, struggle to keep up with a $10 Timex in terms of accuracy, and require more devoted brainpower than something that ticks away with a battery does. But just like classic cars—or sports cars in general, for that matter—it’s not about transportation, but the experience; mechanical watches are totems, with good timekeeping as a happy side effect.
I’m not about to break into an interminable treatise on the horological hobby. I just think we all need a break from the synthetic and a pause from the plugged-in, and a small capsule of gears, gems, hairsprings, and levers on your wrist is a great amulet to keep yourself grounded. Think of a mechanical watch as an analog to a manual transmission—bonus points for one hooked up to a car made before 2000. Watch dies? Better wind it up and re-set the time. Stuck in a meeting? Stare at the smooth sweep of the seconds hand to literally pass the time. Looking for something to hand down to your kids or to merely accompany you through life? Even the most pampered daily (wrist) driver will have some patinated battle-scars in a few years.
The good news is, you don’t have to spend a mint on a new Rolex Daytona or one of the many permutations of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak to develop that indescribable fascination with minutiae machinations. However, if you’re just starting out, you don’t want one of those to begin with; you don’t buy a Porsche 911 GT3 as your first car, do you? Well, maybe you do, but you better believe that indulging in such a manner of sprinting-before-crawling spoils you rotten.
Instead, try Seiko’s (relatively) new line of Seiko 5 Sports divers to get the ball rolling—or the seconds sweeping. Think of Seiko as the Honda of the watch world, so that makes the Seiko 5 Sports family equivalent to the Civic Si or the Integra GSR. Or, maybe you’d rather think of it as the Mazda Miata of watches. Either way, the analogy sticks; clean, unpretentious design and badge meets rugged, reliable construction, with a healthy portion of fun, all for a price that can’t be beat.
For $200-$300, your new Seiko 5 Sports will be the perfect companion for, well, whatever. Its rugged and relatively chunky construction means you can bounce it off the pit wall or scuff it on your Jeep’s rollover bar, and the lollipop second hand will keep on sweeping. If you manage to crack the mineral crystal, a cheap replacement is a trip to eBay away, as is an entirely new movement if your watch grenades, unlikely as that may be. The Seiko 5 Sports line doesn’t have the 200-meter water resistance and screw-down crown of its pseudo-pro-grade SKX big-brother, but 100-meters of water resistance is more than enough for casual beach swimming, rain, hand washing, showering, and, when the fancy strikes you, reef diving.
Picky about mixing-and-matching colors? No problem. Between the 2019 release of the new Seiko 5 Sports divers and the more recent bezel-less variants of the same watches, there are a staggering 38 individual colorways and strap combos to pick from. Hey, buy a few—the price is more than sweet enough to justify it.
If you need even more parallels drawn between your automotive enthusiasm and mechanical watches, the Seiko community is rife with owners who hungrily modify their watches. Start frequenting forums, and you’ll find a freighter’s worth of aftermarket hands, crystals, bezels, dials, and even date wheels to inspire you. Want to show it off? Go to one of the many watch meetups held in major cities around the world.
Finally, if you don’t vibe with the design of the Seiko 5 Sports line, it’s all good. There are thousands of other brands and styles to be had. The Seiko 5 Sports are simply a great starting point, but it doesn’t matter what mechanical watch you strap to your wrist—it only matters that you start somewhere.