Vintage Mechanical Seiko Watch review:Seiko Recraft Automatic (Ref. SNKM97)

The Japanese watchmaker has fairly recently presented a line of affordable dress watches. Coming in different color variations and featuring both stainless steel and gold-toned bodies, the new Seiko Recraft collection comes in an unexpectedly finely crafted (albeit, a bit too oversized) case and is powered by an in-house Caliber 7S26 self-winding movement: the same inexpensive, but bullet-proof job that also animated their well-known Seiko SKX781 Orange Monster diving watch.

Wearing the SNKMN97 Seiko Recraft Automatic for a number of months clarified that my anticipation was well founded:this watch – it hits so many sweet spots. At the same time, it’s not a mere reissue or re-imagining of a previously existing model, but a totally new creation – albeit one that embodies the true spirit and fun of vintage mechanical Seikos.

Surprisingly affordable, the 2014 Seiko Recraft series of automatic timekeepers may become a perfect “entry-level” watch for a person who never previously owned a mechanically-powered timekeeper. Equipped with an extremely robust and reliable Caliber 7S26, the device will easily withstand the level of abuse and neglect that would make your normal ETA 2824 go tits up even before its first scheduled maintenance.

However, compared to the aforementioned ETA model, as well as other mid-range Swiss made mechanisms, the 7S26 is definitely not as refined and, well, impressive. Despite the mechanism’s rather rustic appearance, there are a couple of technical features (or, rather, a lack thereof, such as no manual winding, which can be a problem if you don’t plan to wear the timekeeper on a daily basis) that may put you off this device.The absence of hacking seconds, too, may become a source of irritation to those who have already got used to good European watches.

Featuring styling from the 1970s, the new Seiko Recraft jumps on the same bandwagon as models from Longines, through Shinola and to Omega, but comes at literally just a fraction of the price. For example, sells this chunky beauty at less than $170 US dollars with free shipping, can you believe it?

Still, unlike its numerous sources of inspiration, this new watch is a bit too massive to be considered a real tribute. Measuring more than 43 mm in width (setting crown not included), the watch takes a lot of real estate on your wrist. The chunky profile of the case doesn’t do a very good job in mitigating the problem, and neither do the massive integrated lugs that make the timepiece look even larger. So, beware.

An affordable watch that tries to look like a modern luxury timekeeper usually fails quite miserably: there are too many corners that need to be cut to make a watch as inexpensive as it is and all of them are usually quite visible even to an inexperienced eye. The classic watches that were produced during 1960s-1970s, however, were quite simple in their exterior design, and, using today’s machinery, even a brand like Fossil or Invicta can easily make a very convincing-looking homage to a vintage watch.

The same goes to Seiko. With that sunburst dial, crude applied hour-markers and a bit rustic hands, the Recraft SNKM97 absolutely nails the feel of a watch from the seventies.All you need to make this beauty truly shine, is a vintage Datsun 240Z retrofitted with an American V8 engine.