10/04/2023
 6 minutes

Hidden Treasures: Exploring the Finest Seiko JDM Watches You Need to Know

By Jorg Weppelink
ONP-551-Hidden-Treasures-Exploring-the-finest-Seiko-JDM-Watches

Most of you will know Seiko. After all, it is the most famous Japanese watch brand and has introduced us to a string of inventions. Which ones, you ask? How about the first quartz watch, or the Spring Drive movements that combine the technology of mechanical and quartz watches. I also can’t fail to mention Seiko’s Kinetic watches or GPS-powered Astron models. And those are just some of the accomplishments in Seiko’s quest for excellence. Because that is what Seiko has been striving for for decades: making timepieces that excel in technique and accuracy.

What is a Seiko JDM watch?

Did you know that Seiko create a significant number of models exclusively for the Japanese market? These are known as “Japan Domestic Market” (JDM) models. Seiko JDM models can be in standard series production or limited editions, but they are always unique to the Japanese market. And it probably comes as no surprise that quite a few of them are special, limited-edition JDM models that watch fans outside Japan also want to add to their collection. They can often be recognized by their date wheel in Kanji script.

Buying a Seiko JDM Model

It’s not always easy to get ahold of Japan Domestic Market models. If you’re not physically in Japan or know someone who is, you might not be able to buy one. If the watch is offered online, you’ll have to navigate a Japanese website – and that’s easier said than done. Luckily, you can turn to Chrono24 instead. One thing you have to keep in mind when buying from Japan is that you’ll most likely have to pay taxes and import duties in your country. But if you’re after that one special watch, it could well be worth it. And who knows, you might be able to buy your favorite watch closer to home if someone has done the work of importing it for you.

The Best Seiko Japan Domestic Market Models

There are hundreds of different watches to choose from when it comes to Seiko JDM models, and not all will spark your interest. We’ve done a bit of the heavy lifting for you by compiling a list of our favorites. So, without further ado, let’s take a look the five best models that you can find on the Chrono24 marketplace.

Seiko SARB033

The Seiko SARB033 with a black dial has become a legend among watch fans. Together with the white dial SARB035 and the pink dial SARB037, they make for a great trio. These timepieces are often praised for their superior build quality and excellent finishing compared to similar Seiko models. Combine that with the iconic design featuring sharp dauphine hands, applied hour markers, and an Oyster-style bracelet, and they’ve earned themselves the nickname “Baby Grand Seiko.”

The Seiko SARB033 was available in Japan from 2008 until 2018 with an original list price of under $450. Watch fans around the globe agreed that what the watch offers is worth more than the list price, and it became quite a hit. You get a stylish watch with a 38-mm case that is a sleek 11-mm thick and water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft). It’s protected by a sapphire crystal and is powered by Seiko’s trusted in-house caliber 6R15. Current prices for a Seiko SARB033 are between roughly $550 and 1,300 – evidence of its popularity.

Seiko Spirit SARB033 - or the "Baby Grand Seiko"
Seiko Spirit SARB033 or the “Baby Grand Seiko”

Seiko Marinemaster SBDX012

The next model is another famed JDM model in the watch community. If you’re familiar with Seiko’s rich history of diving watches, you’ll recognize the design of the Marinemaster SBDX012; it’s a modern take on the famous Seiko 6159-7001 diver from 1968. This special JDM watch was released in 2015 to celebrate 50 years of Seiko’s prowess in this watch category.

For those who don’t know, the Marinemaster is Seiko’s top-of-the-line diving watch that was first introduced in 2000 with the Marinemaster SBDX001 – also a JDM release. But for this special SBDX012, Seiko graced the black dial with golden inscriptions, hour markers, and hands. The numerals on the bezel are also executed in gold, making the 44-mm watch a feast for the eyes. Inside the case, you’ll find the brilliant Seiko caliber 8L35, an evolution of the Grand Seiko caliber 9S55. All 1,000 pieces of this limited edition sold out quickly, but you’ll be able to find one for between $2,700 and 7,100, depending on its condition.

Another well-known Seiko JDM model: Seiko Marinemaster SBDX012
Another well-known Seiko JDM model: the Seiko Marinemaster SBDX012

Seiko SARB017 “Alpinist”

If you’re interested in Seiko’s storied history, I recommend reading about the brand’s Alpinist line. The first Alpinist model came out in 1959. As most of you will know, Seiko uses reference numbers for their watches and fans give them nicknames, but the Alpinist is an official name that has been part of the collection for a long time. The Seiko SARB017 with its green dial is part of that lineage and came out as a JDM in 2006. It was released alongside the SARB013 with a cream dial and the SARB015 with a black dial.

The aesthetics of the SARB017 turned out to be the most popular. They celebrate the Alpinist look of previous models (also JDMs) in true style. The watches all have a 39.5-mm case, sapphire crystal, and are powered by the brand’s caliber 6R15. The sunburst green dial with gold accents has plenty of vintage charm and, together with the cathedral hands, creates a beautiful version of one of Seiko’s iconic models. Prices start at roughly $710 and can reach $1,450 for mint-condition copies.

Seiko Alpinist SARB017
Wearing a Seiko Alpinist SARB017 is also wearing a piece of the brand’s history.

Seiko x Nano Universe SZSJ005

Seiko are known for creating great collaborative timepieces with Japanese retailers and brands, one being Japanese clothing brand Nano Universe. They have been working together for several years, and the results are spectacular. Two examples are the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006. If you like the Rolex Daytona look, but you don’t have Rolex money, have a look at these two Seiko chronographs that take after the famous Rolex chronograph.

My favorite is the SZSJ005 that resembles the famous Rolex Daytona Paul Newman. The watch features a 39.8-mm stainless steel case that is 11.7-mm thick and water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft). It comes on an Oyster-style bracelet and features the famous dial colors of the Daytona with a black dial, white subdials, and red text. As you can see, the layout is slightly different with subdials at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. The watch is powered by the Seiko 8T67 meca-quartz movement and originally sold for around $275. Expect to see prices between roughly $660 and 1,100.

Seiko Presage SARX055

The last watch on this top-5 list is another dressier timepiece. Like the SARB033, it has been labeled “Baby Grand Seiko,” except this model is more expensive than the SARB033, and the dial actually has a visual connection to the famous Grand Seiko SBGA011. But as it is a Seiko, it’s still more affordable than the Grand Seiko reference. The SARX055 has a 41-mm titanium case that stands 11.5 mm tall. It comes on a nicely executed titanium bracelet, making the watch much lighter than many of its stainless steel counterparts.

Through the display case back, you can get a good view of the Seiko caliber 6R15. The level of detail on the SARX055 is quite extraordinary. First off, the dial has a nice texture that gives it great depth. Secondly, the hands and indices are finished exquisitely. Lastly, and maybe the most impressive detail, the AR coating on the sapphire crystal gives you the feeling there is actually no crystal. It is a rather deceiving detail that many people love. The Seiko Presage SARX055 can be yours for between roughly $710 and 1,600, depending on the condition.

Another "Baby Grand Seiko": Seiko Presage SARX055
Seiko Presage SARX055: another “Baby Grand Seiko”

Finding Your Seiko Japan Domestic Model

That wraps up my picks of the many Seiko JDM timepieces strictly made for the Japanese market. But I would encourage you to dive deeper into the magic of Seiko JDM timepieces by researching them more online. There is plenty of info out there and who knows, you might find a special release that you didn’t know you were looking for. The only catch is getting your hands on it. But once you do, you’ll have a truly special addition to your collection and a great story to tell.


About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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