Monday, March 26, 2018

Seiko Spirit Automatic SARB035 JDM – The White Knights of Seiko, A Review (plus Video)

My interest in dress or formal watches continues unabated. Today I was able to get another of the famous White Knights of Seiko, the Seiko Spirit SARB035. This design is not new. It was first made available back in 2009 under Seiko’s Spirit line. This is a line of formal dress watches less complex than the Premier line. As opposed to other models in the Spirit line, the SARB035 is completely mechanical. This is also a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) model i.e. made in Japan and sold only for the Japanese market.

Seiko is one watch brand that is synonymous with value-for-money timepieces at every price range. I have to declare up-front that I am one of the many Seikonistas that follow the brand closely and with a passion. Having said that, I do try to be objective but I guess, the readers will be the judge of that.

The SARB035 is an in-house made timepiece that is priced at YEN45,000 (MSRP in Japan). Made out of polished and brushed stainless steel, the watch casing has a diameter of 38.0 mm. It has a thickness of 11.2 mm and its lug-to-lug width is 45.0 mm. Lug width is 20.0 mm. The watch casing is paired with a stainless steel bracelet that starts at 20.0 mm at the lugs and tapers to 18.0 mm at the clasp. The clasp is signed and secured with a button lock.

Before I go deeper to review the watch, it would nice to compare this watch to something similar in design such as an SARX (under the Presage line) and a SBGA (under the Grand Seiko line). For this exercise I chose the SARX055 (see: and the SBGA011 (see: Both these watches are part of the collection.  

Spirit Line
Stainless steel
Caliber 6R15
MSRP: YEN45,000
Presage Line
Caliber 6R15
Grand Seiko Line
Caliber 9R65
MSRP: YEN580,000

Some observations one can find from the information in the table above are as follows:
·         Titanium is more than twice the value compared to the standard 316L stainless steel
·         The premium on Grand Seiko sub-brand and the Spring Drive Caliber to the overall price is extremely steep

The purpose of this exercise is just to take note of the various prices and to see whether the SARB035 is priced fairly or otherwise. I will revisit this issue as we go through the review stages.

As highlighted earlier, the SARB035 which is under the Spirit line is similar in appearance to the SARX055 in the Presage line as well as the SBGA011 in Grand Seiko line. Although the similarity does not come as a surprise since all are under the Seiko brand anyway, the fact that similar designed watches can be found in different price ranges speaks volume about Seiko’s marketing philosophy. 

Seiko recognizes the different market strata in terms of affordability. The brand makes it a point to service all strata with something that can be treasured. Creating a model (albeit different quality, material etc) with the same core DNA at many price levels makes it inclusive and delights a large swathe of the fan base.

The Case

Made out of 316L stainless steel, the case finishing is well made with a solid feel to it. The case has brushed and polished surfaces. The watch casing also has a display case-back. The dial window is protected by a flat sapphire crystal and the display case-back is protected by Hardlex crystal. Meanwhile, with slightly curving lugs, the watch hugs the wrist without any overhang. Coupled with the brushed finish and polished sides oyster-like bracelet, the overall package exudes quality.

The SARB035 has an off-white dial i.e. white with a subtle hint of yellow-cream which I like and comparable to the other timepieces I owned with similar designs. There are two sets of scales: on the sloping chapter ring is a sub-second scale while on the dial itself is a set of hour markers simply marked by rectangular indices with a central groove and a luminous (using LumiBrite) inner tip.

There is a small date aperture at the 3 o’clock position and framed with polished metal. The black on white background of the date wheel balanced the asymmetrical nature of the date aperture vis-à-vis the other hour markers.

In terms of texts, there are only four lines of the dial. On the upper quadrant is the brand logo in a polished steel cutout while on the bottom quadrant are the printed words “Automatic”, “23 JEWELS” and “Japan 6R15 –OOTO R2” in various fonts, styling and sizes.

The SARB035 is a three handed watch. The dauphine or sword-like hands have tapered tips. The minutes and hours hands are polished with a thin strip of LumiBrite in the middle. The seconds hand is like a needle with a diamond shaped thread hole which is rather cool.

The crown is located at the 3 o’clock position. It is a non-screw crown with a deep engraving of the Seiko “S” on top of it. This embellishment on the watch shows the level to which Seiko would do to incorporate high end styles not expected for a watch at this price. A thing to note is despite the non-screw crown, the watch has a water rating of 10 ATM or 100 meters.

Overall the whole package weighs in at 4.8 ounces or 136 grams.

On the right is the photo of the watch at night. The LumiBrite shines bright!

The Seiko SARB035 has a traditional and classical look to it. Simple, clean and un-cluttered; the SARB035 is a perfect dress watch.

The Movement

The automatic movement for the SARB035 is Seiko’s own in-house movement, the caliber 6R15. It’s the middle range automatic movement and has 23 jewels with 21,600 vibrations per hour or 6 beats per second. Power reserve is approximately 50 hours. It also comes with manual winding and hacking features. A date complication is also provided. The watch has a rated accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day.

The Purchase Experience

I got this watch from Gnomon Watches of Singapore. Paid USD379.00 or RM1,542.55. Couriered by DHL, the package came through customs without any taxes. It was also nice of Gnomon Watches to give a complementary signed polishing cloth and a nylon NATO strap with the watch.

The Wearing Experience

The watch wears beautifully. Very comfortable and looks like a million bucks despite its true price. It would not look out of place in an event full of extremely high-end watch brands.

Coming back to the comparison between the SARB, SARX and SBGA models of the White Knights of Seiko the overall experience of all the watches are the same: they exudes quality, value and the sense of quiet sophistication. There is an intrinsic premium that is common to all the three watches which, in my humble opinion, is priceless. To me, price that one pays for the SARB035 is cheap considering the perceived value the watch generates.

Below is a video of the watch on my wrist


The watch is well designed with exquisite craftsmanship and finishing. For this price, it’s a steal. For this price, it’s unbelievable.

Photo Gallery

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