- Ever since I first held the Alpinist I knew it was going to be a permanent addition to my ever-growing collection
- Seiko SARB017 Alpinist Technical Specifications
- Discontinued in 2018
- WYCA Recommends Amazon
- Seiko Alpinist Aesthetics & Design
- Seiko SARB017 Alpinist Build Quality
- About Seiko’s 6R15 Automatic Movement
- The Alpinist is an Uncommon Watch, & You Want One
Ever since I first held the Alpinist I knew it was going to be a permanent addition to my ever-growing collection
I usually don’t like starting a review off on such a high note. I feel that it takes away from the legitimacy of the review, where bias and favoritism overrule objectivity. I’ve made exceptions before, and for the Alpinist, I’m happily making one again. The Seiko Alpinist is a genuine surprise to me. When I ordered it off of Amazon the photos made it look okay but nothing fantastic.
What arrived, and what I am currently wearing, is a timepiece that has really shattered my expectations. I’ve always known Seiko makes good watches, I just didn’t realize that they made inexpensive automatics this good.
Seiko SARB017 Alpinist Technical Specifications
- Model Number: SARB017
- MSRP: $469
- Case Diameter: 38mm
- Alternate Models: Options with a stainless steel bracelet available
- Movement: Seiko 6R15 automatic
- Complications: Date display
- Power Reserve: Estimated 50 hours
- Water Resistance: 20 atm / 200 m / 656 ft
- Crystal Material: Sapphire
Discontinued in 2018
In early 2018, Seiko announced that several lines were being discontinued, including the SARB017 Alpinist and the SARB065 Cocktail Time. However, you can still find the Alpinist for sale via numerous grey market sellers, including Amazon.Prices have fluctuated somewhat since the announcement, but the Alpinist is typically still found at an affordable price.
If you’re looking for something that is unique and offers great value, the Alpinist is hard to beat.
If you can find one for under $450, you’re getting a great price. Given their relative scarcity, the Alpinist may also become one of the only watches in this price range that actually appreciates over time.
WYCA Recommends Amazon
If you like what we do and want to support us, consider grabbing a watch from Amazon. Usually, Amazon offers a two-year warranty on watches bought from them. They also offer fair prices and fast shipping.
You should know that if you click on ads that WYCA receives an approximate 4% commission on the sale of the watch you buy. This does not change the price that you pay…
… but it does allow us to purchase camera gear ($5,000+ since 2013), software licenses (Adobe Photoshop, etc.), web hosting, and so on. Oh, and it lets us buy more watches, too.
Seiko Alpinist Aesthetics & Design
What I saw when I ordered and what arrived were not the same thing. I mean, sure, it was the right watch, but in person the Alpinist is stunning whereas in the photos on Amazon it looked drab and mediocre. The sunburst-green dial is similar to the sunburst-blue dial on the Hamilton Pan-Europ, and if you recall, I quite loved it there (as I do on the Alpinist).But what really strikes me is the case, and more specifically, how the case interacts with light. Like the Le Locle, the Alpinist turns light into silky ribbons that wrap around the case. It’s a decidedly upscale effect that takes an inexpensive watch and makes it look to be worth thousands.
It’s just fantastic.
The case, being mostly curved, refracts light brilliantly; it rolls up the lugs and wraps around the bezel. The tops of the lugs are a brushed finish, with the sides of the lugs, case, and bezel polished finely. This subtle two-tone imparts a touch of class without being boring. Too much polish can be too much; the Alpinist is just right.
Seiko fitted the Alpinist with a second “crown” at four o’clock, which rotates the internal chapter ring that borders the dial. The presence of the second crown makes the Alpinist stand out from most. In typical Seiko fashion, the chapter ring rotates smoothly and precisely.
At three o’clock is an engraved screw-down crown- this is the main crown that winds the watch and is used to set the date and time. From dead-on it is precisely machined and grooved, resembling a vault door from a Fallout video game. Seiko’s “S” is deeply engraved, brushed inside to contrast against the otherwise polished finish.
The image here doesn’t show the sunburst dial well, but it does show how the gold hour markers and Squelette-style hands (note: instead of being hollow, the hands are filled with lume) play against the green dial. It’s a combination I was unsure of when looking at it online, but again, in person the combination works brilliantly. I hope my photos do it some level of justice.
Sadly, when I was a little heavier (and had larger wrists), I bemoaned the excellent Seiko 5 SNK809 due to its 38mm case. Like the SNK809, the SARB017 Alpinist has a 38mm case. Now 40lbs lighter since the Seiko 5 review, 38mm is a great size for my (admittedly) diminutive wrists.
When the lights go out the Alpinist shines brightly. The lume is excellent – among the brightest I’ve seen – and it is intelligently applied to all hands. Telling time day or night is easy-peasy.
Having covered all the other bases, we’re left with just one: the caseback. I have mixed feelings here. On one hand, I love exhibition casebacks; there’s nothing that hammers home the horological beauty humming inside a mechanical or automatic timepiece more than an up-close view of the movement inside. On the Alpinist, the caseback is solid and engraved with its unique logo and model information. It’s no view of the movement, but it’s well done just the same.
The summation of all this is simple: the Alpinist looks fantastic, even better in person than it does in photos, and as far as I’m concerned, Seiko nailed it perfectly.
Seiko SARB017 Alpinist Build Quality
Fitted with sapphire glass and built with stainless steel, I expect the Alpinist to wear well. I am a little concerned about the polished lugs and bezel, but those areas can be polished if they display too much of the Alpinist’s life story.
Crystal, Case, & Dial
Sapphire is the ideal material to use for a crystal, and Seiko has wisely used it here. It’s flat and raised just a touch over the bezel. As expected from a sapphire crystal, the Alpinist’s crystal looks new despite the Alpinist joining me on more than one bike ride and run.
The case has also fared well despite its polish. A few hairline scratches can be seen at the ends of the lugs (not shown in photos as I do photoshoots as soon as I take delivery before I ever put it on), but otherwise it looks good. After somewhere around 40 hours of wrist time, it gives me confidence in its durability.
The dial is brilliant, and even under significant magnification from my camera’s macro lens, no imperfections or faults were found. Nice job, Seiko.
Strap & Clasp
The brown crocodile-grain leather was stiff at first, but it quickly released its tension and molded to my wrist. With 20mm lugs, the strap is smaller than most but appropriate for the 38mm case.
It’s comfortable to wear, though not as comfortable as the leather I’ve worn from entry-level Hamilton’s (like the one shipped with the Jazzmaster Open Heart). Like the Hamilton straps, the leather is wearing well and as expected. Overall, it’s acceptable for its price point.
The stainless clasp is also good, though it lacks any engraving. It’s a shame that it didn’t receive the same detail the crown(s) did.
About Seiko’s 6R15 Automatic Movement
The 23-jewelled 6R15, first introduced in 2006, is essentially a higher-spec 7S26 (the movement inside Seiko 5’s). In my Seiko 5 review, I praised the 7S26 for its simplicity and ruggedness. Here, the 6R15 inside the SARB017 Alpinist retains that ruggedness but adds some welcomed additions: hacking, hand winding, and a larger 50 hour power reserve.
The 6R15 beats at 21,600 bph, meaning that you’ll see the seconds hand ticking by. You won’t hear it though- the 6R15 inside the Alpinist is nearly silent unless the watch is right next to your ear.
According to toolwatch.io, the 6R15 inside this Alpinist is running at +4 seconds/day- excellent!
How to Set the Alpinist
- To set the time, unscrew the crown and pull to position 3 (furthest)
- To set the date, unscrew the crown and pull to position 2 (middle) – Note that the date will automatically roll over when the time passes midnight
- To adjust the chapter ring, use the crown at 3 o’clock
The Alpinist is an Uncommon Watch, & You Want One
The MSRP on the Alpinist is somewhere around $470, though you’ll find it on Amazon for around $360. At that price it’s a steal, delivering better value than some of the entry-level Swiss automatics I’ve reviewed. It’s made to last and is using a movement that is known for its durability and accuracy. A sub-$400 automatic accurate to within 4 seconds per day? It’s almost hard to believe.I appreciate its style and the craft of its manufacture; the dual crowns, each machined precisely, adds a unique feel that couldn’t exist without them. Similarly, the sunburst-green dial and gold hands and markers feel contemporarily classic- a feeling matched by its 38mm size.
I’ve reviewed a lot of watches to date. Some of them, such as the excellent Orient Bambino, hit the nail so squarely on the head that I sometimes think that I’ll never find another watch that delivers more on the value for money piece of the equation. Then the Alpinist comes along (not that it’s new), and I’m reminded that there are many gems out there to still be found.
The thing is, the Alpinist really is a gem. It’s good looking, comfortable to wear, versatile (you can take this thing diving!), and a stand-out piece in a crowded and competitive segment. I’ve already made it my mission to get my hands on a SARB065 Cocktail Time (update: SARB065 review is here!), because if it’s anything like this Alpinist, I’m going to love it.