I Bought My First Automatic Watch. Here’s What I’ve Discovered

This is going to become an expensive hobby...

I’ve owned watches for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had some form of time-teller on my wrist. I can’t remember the very first watch I got, but it was probably the basic digital Casio we’ve all owned at some point. But as soon as I entered my twenties and started earning my own money, I started to become more conscious of my appearance, clothing, and accessories.


I’ve always had a fascination with watches, and how brands manage to implement small design tweaks that make theirs instantly recognisable.

The only thing I don’t enjoy about watches is their price tag. That’s not to say they’re not worth their asking prices – I’m aware how much work goes into their production – but because I know it’ll be a cold day in hell before I can afford one.

It’s why I’ve always had to settle for watches on the much more affordable end of the budget scale, although I did have a ‘blowout’ (in my eyes anyway) when I spent £325 of my student loan on a TW Steel CEO Canteen…

Yikes.

Fast forward a decade and I find myself in Australia, working for a men’s lifestyle publication that places a heavy focus on watches. I’ve been exposed to new brands and new terminology, and it’s got me thinking more about watches and the ones I should be buying… Not to mention a good reason to replace my extensive Daniel Wellington collection.

I’ve always wanted to own an automatic watch. Not only because I would never have to replace the battery, but, to me anyway, I see them as a more premium offering and the pinnacle of watchmaking.

So, after learning a little bit more about the brands available in my budget, I settled on a Seiko 5 Sports – which, after doing some digging, appears to be the first automatic watch of choice for many a budding enthusiast. Specifically, I opted for the recently discontinued SNZF15J1 with a Pepsi-style bezel, which some Seiko fans call the ‘Sea Urchin’. And no, I wasn’t deliberately trying to imitate a Rolex on my wrist.

RELATED: The Rolex GMT-Master ‘Pepsi’ Alternatives We Can Approve

Refreshing.

Not only is my Seiko 5 my first automatic, but if memory serves, it’s also my first with a bracelet. I’ve always owned watches with either leather, rubber or NATO straps, but since owning the Seiko, I’m not entirely sure why. After having a few links removed, it fits perfectly on my wrist, and it’s lightweight so I barely know it’s there. It’s also immune from contracting a smell from sweat. I’ve owned smaller watches and I’ve owned bigger (here’s looking at you again, TW Steel) but the 41mm case of the Seiko is the goldilocks of sizes for me.

A quick search on Reddit proves I’m not alone in choosing a Seiko 5 to start off my collection. Take this /r/watches user, who gushes about his Sea Urchin (essentially the same watch as mine but with a clean black dial instead of a blue dial/Pepsi bezel combination). Like him, I feel owning this Seiko will kickstart a genuine hobby.

One of the main factors that drew me to this Seiko 5 was the price. I paid £133/AU$260 for it, which means I can wear it on a daily basis and not have to worry too much if it receives the odd knock. Obviously, I want to keep it in as good condition as possible, but it’s not as if I’ve got the equivalent of a house deposit on my wrist.

I work part-time at a café/bar, making coffee, smoothies, and cocktails, so there’s always a high chance of it being subjected to splashes and stains. But a quick wipe with a damp cloth and it’s fit to fight another day.

Finishing on the SNZF15J1 is adequate, if not heart-stopping – but are you really going to carry a loupe around?

For this kind of money, I’m also aware I’m not going to get the very finest materials – we’re not quite in the realm of haute horlogerie here – but I feel it’s a solidly built watch, considering the price, and have no criticisms to make, and I particularly like the see-through back so I can see the movement working.

Add to that a 40-hour power reserve, which means that if I do happen to leave it on my bedside table for a day or so, I don’t have to worry about it coming to a halt, and I can comfortably wear it to the swimming pool or in the sea thanks to its 100-metre water resistance. Also, I never have to worry about changing a battery – which is the main advantage of an automatic watch, after all.

The combination of owning this Seiko and working at DMARGE has definitely whetted my appetite for watches, and I’m now making it my mission to save up enough cash to spend on a higher-quality model one day. All I need to do now is come up with a shortlist, which is no easy task…

What's the difference between an automatic watch and a quartz watch?

An automatic watch is a mechanical watch where the natural motion of the wearer provides energy to wind the watch. A quartz watch is an electronic watch that uses an electronic oscillator regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time, and is powered by a battery.

Are automatic watches better than quartz watches?

It depends. Quartz watches tend to be cheaper and more accurate than automatic watches but require you to change the battery periodically. Automatic watches are usually more expensive, but they don't require batteries. Watch collectors tend to prefer automatic watches over quartz watches.

Are Rolex watches automatic or quartz?

All Rolex watches currently in production are automatic watches. Most luxury watch brands don't make (many) quartz watches.

What's the best automatic watch?

A hard question! Affordable watch brands that make automatic watches include Citizen, Hamilton, Orient, Seiko, Timex and Tissot.

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