Seiko SNK361 Review - This Beautiful Rolex Alternative Is Just 2% of The Price
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If you’re new to horology, you may think that nice watches are reserved for those willing to spend 4 or 5 figures. I don’t blame you either. Take the Rolex Oyster Perpetual for instance. It’s an incredibly versatile watch, with has a classic design and top-tier finishing. A watch that would look at home on almost any man’s wrist. For one in decent used condition, you’re currently talking upwards of £5000.
To some, this may seem like chump change, but to many of us that’s a hell of a lot to spend on anything, let alone a watch that I might not even use every day.
If the last one sounds familiar, then keep reading. You see, I’ve hunted down a watch that fills that same void but is only 2% of the price. It’s not a counterfeit watch or a 1 to 1 clone with a different brand name stamped on the dial.
Instead, it’s got its own identity whilst sharing many of the properties that make the Oyster Perpetual so revered.
Meet the Seiko SNK361. Some of you may recognise this one, as I’ve alluded to it in previous posts but today, it’s going to steal the spotlight. You see, this is one of my very favourite affordable watches and I can’t believe it’s not seen significantly more coverage online.
I’ve seen a few outlets praising the similarly styled Seiko SNXS line-up but this one seems to have flown under the radar until now, despite being a more compelling and well-rounded package. We’ll briefly compare the two later, but let’s see what my pick offers for starters.
The watch arrived in typical budget Seiko packaging. It will protect the watch in transit, though predictably isn’t as elaborate as the boxes provided with luxury watches.
Upon opening the lid, the narrative changes. Undoubtedly this SNK361 looks much more expensive than the £100 price tag would suggest. It’s affiliate-linked throughout this article if you want to pick one up, hopefully, they don’t discontinue this Seiko any time soon, as they have with other popular models.
Seiko 5 History
For those of you who are new to watch collecting, Seiko 5 is essentially Seiko’s entry-level automatic series of wristwatches, which typically fulfil the 5 criteria that you can see below:
1. Diaflex (unbreakable mainspring)
2. Diashock (shock resistant)
3. Automatic winding
4. Day/date complication
5. Water resistant
This range is often lauded as offering some of the best value for money and often look dramatically different from one another, with a near-infinite variety of shapes, sizes and dials.
Having tried numerous versions over the past couple of years, I think the 01V0 case used with the SNK361 is arguably the best-looking of all of them. Not only is there an immediate similarity to the likes of the Oyster Perpetual, with the prominent shoulders and high-shine bezel but this also offers faceted flanks that house alternating brushed and polished sections, which you won’t find on some of the alternative Seiko 5 cases, where the designs are more simplistic.
This is the first area where the 361 emerges ahead of its SNXS rivals in the quest to become the best budget Rolex alternative. You see, the SNXS models have an inferior case style, named the 0480, that has a basic glossy finish throughout which looks notably less sophisticated; especially given the way it clashes with the brushed stock bracelet. The 0V10 case is not only more reminiscent of the original Oyster from above but, crucially, has thicker and more curved sides that allow the watch to sit better on the wrist. You’re not left with that floating UFO aesthetic propagated by the bulging rear on the 0480 case, something that promptly turned me away from those models.
Surprisingly, even though the flanks of the case are thicker, the SNK361 itself is thinner overall than the SNXS series, with a 10.6mm thickness, accompanied by a 37mm diameter and a 41.8mm lug to lug size, which combine to make the watch wear much like a 36mm Datejust. As such, this piece is going to suit those after a smaller watch with reduced wrist presence; vintage proportions, if you will.
Compared to other watches on the market, the level of finishing here is adequate, though not fantastic. I’ve seen more precision with the likes of the Casio Edifice line-up, though those pieces do have quartz movements, which inherently frees up funds for other areas. Still, it’s fine and is easily carried by the remarkable dial, which we’ll examine shortly.
To the rear, you get a glimpse of the automatic Seiko 7S26 movement that keeps this watch ticking.
While far from a horological game-changer, this entry-level mechanical offering still showcases more finesse than the basic circuitry found in battery-charged modules. While this movement lacks hand-winding or hacking capabilities, it still makes for a suitable first automatic for those yet to try one; especially at such an appealing price point.
The true USP of this SNK361 comes in the way of the dial. You’ve probably glimpsed it in some of the images so far and holy moly is this special for such an affordable watch. From the close-up shots, you’ll see the array of microscopic Seiko 5 crests inhabiting the entire black surface; a level of detail I’m yet to see matched at this price point.
Before receiving the watch, I had my doubts about the attractiveness of this unusual texturing, given my indifference to the symbol itself. However, the execution ensures it’s no gimmick, with the subtlety to remain hidden in the majority of scenarios, only emerging when the lighting is just right. Even if you’re not a fan of the emblem, this application undoubtedly gives a level of finesse comparable to some more expensive watches and serves as a fitting final hurrah for the outgoing Seiko 5 shield, which is in the process of being replaced by a more contemporary inked alternative.
If you’re after something with more pop to it, there are alternative colours available, such as blue and white, that retain the same miniature detailing; though I find black the most versatile, hence my decision to grab this one.
Outside of that, there are further design elements that clearly take inspiration from the likes of Rolex, including the near-identical baton handset and the simple, narrow second marks at the circumference. Here, it’s worth pointing out that the SNXS series offers dials that better match those on an Oyster Perpetual, with none of the aforementioned texturing and a set of hour markers that bear a more striking resemblance.
If you aim to create the ultimate ‘Seiko Perpetual’, then you can effectively combine the two by transplanting the dial from the SNXS into this SNK case. Alessandro at Timed Square did just that and the final result certainly looks closer to that famous design.
That being said, that doesn’t align with my objective. After all, you can just buy an affordable ‘homage’ that rips off the Rolex to an even greater extent and with better specifications too.
You see, I prefer the stock SNK361 as it gets just close enough to lean in on the versatile styling and elegance that makes the Oyster Perpetual line-up so popular, without selling itself short in an attempt to be a blatant carbon copy.
Obviously, this watch is not comparable in quality to a luxury watch, with only a Hardlex crystal and a rubbish 18mm bracelet that could do with being replaced at your earliest convenience. A couple of steel options are linked here for your convenience. Nevertheless, it looks fantastic and houses enough original flair to make it probably the classiest watch under £100 at the time of writing. Most of us can’t really afford a Rolex, but for a fraction of the price, this Seiko does a top job of filling that void and your friends will probably think that you’ve spent much more on it.
Should this piece be discontinued, look out for the SNKL45, which is the same outside of the dial and handset. It’s not as distinctive but is a looker in its own right.