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Home Time, Anytime – Seiko 5 GMT Review

I recently spent six weeks in Brazil, my home country, being back for the first time in seven years. While I’m still on the process of writing up my impressions of my time there, I can confirm I came back quite homesick and nostalgic. Having not been back in so long, I only remembered half of what I was actually missing.

So then, it should surprise no one that I came back with a few souvenirs. I guess it just felt right to have one on my wrist that, while looking awesome, would serve its purpose of telling the time and also bring my memories back every time I looked at the GMT hand.

What’s a GMT, you might ask? The acronym stands for Greenwich Median Time, and is the “baseline” timezone from which all others are calculated in fractioned intervals. The watch complication that borrows the same name was created with travellers in mind, providing them with the ability to track two (or even three – we’ll get to that in a second) time zones at the same time. This is extremely helpful if you are constantly jumping from one timezone to the another or if you want to keep close track at what time it is in another location. The latter fits more of my use case. 

I had been eyeing a GMT watch for quite some time, but they were always a bit over what I could justify spending at those times. So then, I worked around this purchasing some (yeah, plural) World Time quartz watches that can basically jump timezones at the click of a button. So a few years ago, to shuffle all my plans, Seiko decided to take a case shape that I adore and chuck a newly-developed GMT movement inside of it. In mechanical GMTs, there is a fourth hand that does one full lap every 24h (so half the speed of the “normal” hour hand), and I wanted to use that hand to always track Brazil time so it would be the perfect excuse for me to get one.

I was craving a bit of colour in my collection, so my choice was the orange dial SSK005. You can also get it in black, blue, a combination of both and even yellow, but the orange felt like it was exactly what I needed. It reminds me of the vintage SKX011, but this time around the colour has a subtle sunburst effect that plays very well with the light. At 3 o’clock, you have a date window with a cyclops for magnification applied to the Hardlex crystal. At 12, you’ll find the applied Seiko logo and the 5 stylised mark. And then at 6, there are the printed writings for Automatic and GMT, quite small and unobtrusive. Surrounding all of that are the applied markers for the hours, mixing triangular, round and oval shapes which somehow all work together. Applied to the top of them is the excellent lume, expected from all modern Seikos at this point. 

The golden hour and minute hands give it a bit of bling and add interesting depth to the presentation, finally topped off by the GMT hand’s longer shape, with a black shaft and a long arrow shape that goes very close to the chapter ring, making it as easy as possible to read the 24h subtracks. 

The bezel insert is where another part of the magic happens. I tried to capture in some of the photos the day and night effect that it offers. By having the 6-to-18 portion of it made in a slightly lighter colour, it becomes easier to tell whether it is day or night in the region you’re tracking with the fourth hand. Differently than in other watches with this case, the bezel is now friction operated instead of ratcheting, and this is possibly the only thing I don’t love about this whole watch: there is a substantial level of inertia to get it to turn, making it difficult to the point you often under or overshoot an adjustment. At least the texture on the side of the bezel is pronounced enough to the point it is always easy to get a good grip. 

And by properly using this rotating bezel, you can then unlock the whole potential of the watch and track a third timezone. To explain that, let’s use my own example: I live in New Zealand (GMT +12h currently) and I want to keep tabs on the time in Brazil (GMT -3h). I initially set the watch to have the GMT hand show the actual time in Brazil, which rendered the bezel useless. But by setting the GMT hand to track actual GMT time (let’s call it London time) instead, I can use the rotating bezel to apply a time offset that can give me the time in any timezone instantly. If I want to know the time in Tokyo (GMT +9h), I just need to rotate the bezel to have the 9 marker at the 12 o’clock of the watch, and where the GMT hand points, is the actual time at that location. Very same thing with Brazil: if I move the bezel to the 21 position (for GMT -3), then I can always know if it’s still a proper time to call my parents and say hello. 

Flip the watch over and through the Hardlex exhibition caseback you see the movement 4R34. The 41 hours of power reserve might not be industry leading, but this movement family has proven itself through the years and there will not be a single watchmaker that can’t work on them. Derived from the 4R35, it exchanges a day complication for the fourth hand. Operating it is as easy as can be: the crown has three different positions; On the first, resting position, you can hand wind the movement, and having this is a big improvement over my 7S26 powered SKX this SSK is replacing. Pull the crown one step further and you get to GMT hand setting: moving it will circle the GMT hand in one hour increments, so that you can adjust that hand to cover for the new, secondary timezone you are monitoring. The third and final crown position is for adjusting the local time, which will move all three hands in sync. I say three hands because this movement features another very welcome feature called hacking, meaning the seconds hand stops, allowing for even more accuracy when setting it. 

The bracelet, an eternal Achiles’ heel with Seiko watches, is improved here. My old SKX has “the same” Jubilee inspired five-link bracelet so I now have experience with the old and new implementations. The flattened underside on the new one makes it more comfortable to wear, and the better end links make the whole assembly feel less jangly. Still not leading by any stretch of the measure, but it is far better. The folding clasp has a lock with a super satisfying engagement, and you get three levels of micro adjustment and tool-dependent end link removal. 

At 42.5mm of diameter, the wearing experience of the SSK005 is very satisfying. This dimension alone might be misleading until you realise it has a 46mm lug to lug distance, meaning that the bracelet starts tapering around your wrists as soon as the case finishes. At 13.4mm thick, it will hardly sneak under the cuff of a shirt, but this is based on a divers watch case, so it was to be expected. 

10:10PM home time, 10:10AM London time, and 7:10AM Brazil time. See, it’s easy!

Seiko have always been famous for building reliable workhorse watches that get the job done. Now, they have tapped into a clearly underserved market and provided a compelling offering that sets a new baseline for what an affordable GMT watch can offer. This movement has also been made available for third parties, and the market has been extremely quick at reacting to it; There is no shortage of micro brands using this to bring other watches with all sorts of cases and dials with the fan-favourite complication. 

Given I bought this piece while in Brazil, pricing doesn’t exactly come into the equation for my situation, but this watch can be found around the NZD $995 mark here in Kiwiland. Granted, this is not necessarily a bargain, but it is unheard of in the landscape of mechanical GMT watches from a mainstream manufacturer.

From Seiko’s official website

The GMT is, alongside the chronograph, one of the most popular complications for a mechanical watch. It suits those that are globetrotting, those that are keeping track of events or loved ones that are away, or those with an unending thirst for having something new on their wrist. And if you trace a Venn’s Diagram with these three categories, you will find yours truly at the very middle. 

Thanks for reading, and see you on the next one!

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