Seiko SNKL23: A Watch Worth Your Time?

Jun 14, 2021
Seiko SNKL23: A Watch Worth Your Time?

The Japanese watch brand Seiko has been in the industry for as long as we can remember. They’re responsible for making timepieces that reach an extremely versatile demographic. One of their most versatile and iconic models is the Seiko SNKL23 — many enthusiasts used to talk about this model a lot. The most prominent thing about this almost classic watch is its startlingly low price.

Case in point: whenever I show my Seiko SNKL23 to friends and family, most of them think it’s worth a thousand bucks. It amazes them when they find out that this watch costs less than $200 USD. As a matter of fact, $150 USD is the highest known amount that people have paid for this watch. Even at this low price, some people feel that the watch wasn’t worth it. The $150 price tag caused quite a stir among Seiko’s audience, which eventually led to the discontinuation of this affordable timepiece.

Indeed, the Seiko SNKL23 is a watch that has received its fair share of praise and criticism from a broad demographic of wearers. Although some regard it as one of the best in its series, others refuse to acknowledge its reputation based on the negative reviews they see online. Because of this, it has brought confusion to many on whether or not to buy this timepiece. The purpose of this article is to help you in deciding whether or not this watch is worth it. Is it just another cheap run-of-the-mill watch, or is this your next favourite everyday watch?

Let’s take a quick look at what we know about the model so far.

Up Close with the Seiko SNKL23

Seiko SNKL23 on wrist
Photo by u/hughfeighgnut on Reddit

The Seiko SNKL23 is an automatic, entry-level luxury watch that belongs to the Seiko 5 automatic series. The Seiko 5 is one of the brand’s most well-known series and is the predecessor to the Seiko 5 Sports series. The watch fetched a price ranging from $75 USD to $150 USD before Seiko discontinued it. Although no longer produced, the sought-after model resurfaced online a few years ago. Various websites have users selling this specific model with prices closely resembling its former retail value ($100 USD-$150 USD). To this day, you can see this distinct Seiko watch sold on websites such as Amazon, eBay, and the like. 


It’s always nice to know if a watch can fit you well or not, so let’s take a quick overview of its dimensions. The Seiko SNKL23 features a diameter of 37.8mm and a thickness of 10.6mm. It also has a 45.3mm measurement from lug to lug, which will make the watch fit well on most people. Wearers with large wrists won’t have to worry about constriction, but the timepiece will look small-scale on them. Wearing the watch with some looseness is advised to prevent wrist hairs from being snagged.


Let’s start with the case at hand (get it). The brand donned their Seiko SNKL23 timepiece with a polished and pleasing round casing made of 316L stainless steel. This kind of light steel ensures the quality of the product and gives it a stylish yet flexible design for various occasions. The lugs are adequately made and complement the wristwatch’s overall look with their moderately curved sides, giving the timepiece a satisfying and even structure.

Fixed to the bottom-right side or 4 o’clock of the watch is an adorable little crown. There is a fair bit of awkwardness upon using the knob, but the miniature size gives the timepiece an enticing symmetry to its design.

A transparent caseback encloses the rear of the wristwatch and allows its wearers to see the mechanical movement that operates the timepiece. Unfortunately, the watch only has a low 30m of water resistance. Such low resistances make it unsuitable for activities such as swimming or diving. There are users online who claim that the watch still works even after a dip in the pool, but I highly do not recommend testing the waters yourself.

The timepiece has also gone through some rigorous brushing that further accentuates the sheen of the case’s steel. Overall, for a watch this affordable, Seiko has done a satisfactory job in creating the case of this wristwatch. I’m utterly fond of the casing that shelters the inner timepiece, and I think it’s one of the best cases Seiko 5 has yet to offer. 


The timepiece uses a layer of Hardlex crystal to shelter the face of the watch from scratches. The protection is not outstanding, but you can expect it to perform slightly better than the average mineral crystal used in other wristwatches of the same price. The watch would surely benefit from a sapphire crystal, but that would also affect the price value at our expense. 


If you wanted to know where the money goes in making this watch, it most likely goes to the dials. The face of the Seiko SNKL23 is a stunning and charismatic specimen of craftsmanship that makes this timepiece seem more expensive than it is. The attention to detail is remarkable and is not something you will be seeing in its competitors. 

On one’s first gaze at the watch, viewers are greeted with a seamless, obsidian-black plating that bears the slender and glossy alpha handset. It features index hour markers with luminescent nodes properly perched between the rods and the rim. With the addition of a small date window, the Seiko SNKL23 brings a classy and timeless appearance while also telling its wearers the precise time.

Aside from its already simple yet visually appealing aesthetics, the watch has a not-so-hidden feature that further boosts its uniqueness. Once this Seiko 5 encounters direct light, the obsidian-black plating reveals a grey-striped outer ring that travels around the rods and the date window. When no longer under exposure to light, the darkness of obsidian conceals the ring, and the plate returns to its smooth and solid black colour. Like every watch, the logo is stationed in the timepiece and offers a tidbit of luminescence.

Without a doubt, this is my most highlighted aspect of the Seiko SNKL23. For someone who’s an avid fan of the colour black, I like staring at the superb tones of my favourite colour accompanied by hints of protruding silver that encompasses the plate. The amount of thought Seiko has placed on this feature is exquisite and is something I would love to see in future Seiko 5s.


The particular Seiko utilises a mechanical and automatic movement with the old-fashioned calibre 7S26 accompanied by 21 jewels to prolong the mechanism’s efficiency. Like the Seiko SNKL23 itself, Seiko seized the production of the 7S26 for quite some time, so you will not be finding many modern watches of the same calibre. While the 7S26 is an efficient calibre, modern successors have been outclassing it for years. 

Despite this, the 7S26 does fit in well with the watch’s aesthetics. It’s simple, elegant, and still decently accurate in fulfilling its role. Seiko supports this model with their very own Diashock system, which will allow your timepiece to take a few hard hits without compromising the organisation inside the watch. 

The movement of the SNKL23 has a beat frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, which is enough for accurate time-telling. It has a 27mm diameter and is 4.8mm thick. It also comes with a power reserve of 41 hours — a standard amount of time for watches around this range. 

What bothers me about the watch is that the movement uses a mechanism that is non-hacking and non-winding. I’m not exactly sure why Seiko designed the model this way, but it would have been more convenient if the movement was adjustable. Then again, this could be another factor for the “pricing” of the watch.

Unlike any modern Seiko collections, the seemingly outdated watch was never introduced to a newer movement. Seiko’s newly developed mechanism called the 4R36 only came to the industry in 2011, which was already too late. You can find the 4R36 in a few dive watches from the Seiko Prospex and the gamer-centric Seiko 5 Sports.

There’s a chance a watchmaker can have the movement replaced for you, but make sure to prepare to shed a little more moolah.


The watch uses a stainless steel folded-link bracelet similar to the ones you see in many different kinds of folded-link watches. It is light, easy to wear, and fits decently enough to the timepiece. Its durability is a questionable trait, and you can tell that the money didn’t go there. 

Personally, it would be more fitting if the SNKL23 sported a leather or mesh-type bracelet, but hey, choose what you want — beauty is in the eye of its beholder. Fortunately, the bracelet, like most modern-day watches, can be altered. Feel free to try out different kinds of bracelets until you get what you want.

Bracelet aside, the watch in itself is a beautiful piece of affordable luxury that gives its wearers a sizable bang for their hard-earned buck. Finding a wristwatch as good-looking as this with the same price tag is by no means short of a daunting task.

Cheap or Affordable?

What’s the difference between something cheap and something affordable? These two words are commonly used interchangeably in all sorts of daily conversations. Yet, both these words don’t inherit the same connotations. When products are being referred to by audiences as cheap, it usually connotes that the product is tacky, low quality, and of low price. Some good examples of cheap products include knock-offs, fakes, and imitations of the original product. On the other hand, something labeled affordable implies that the product is made of adequate materials while being reasonably priced. In short, the word “affordable” gives products a better and more positive connotation compared to the word “cheap”. 

All brands are affected by this kind of labeling, and brands make it a point that their customers consider their low-priced products as affordable instead of cheap. Being labeled cheap would make customers think that the brand’s products are below the standard and would cause customers to seek better alternatives from competitors.

The same thing applies to watches. In actuality, deciding whether a wristwatch is cheap or affordable is crucial in making the final decision. In this market, a watch that is considered lowly priced can still cost as much as a month of groceries for someone else. When customers look for a timepiece, they would like to buy an affordable wristwatch that is also reliable. If they can’t find what they’re looking for in one brand, they’ll go to the other. That said, let’s see some substantial alternatives in case you’re not fond of this particular Seiko.

Seiko SNKL23: Other Alternatives

1. Seiko SNKL45


front view of Seiko Men's SNKL45 Stainless Steel Automatic watch

If the Seiko SNKL23 isn’t for you, no need to fret because there are other watches out there that fit the bill. If you’ve been to other blogs about this chronometer, they have probably recommended the Seiko SNKL45 as an alternative. This timepiece has a lot of similarities to the SNKL23, with the dial being its main difference. The dial of the SNKL45 is coloured with an identical shade of black but has a more plain design. The watch uses slim indices to indicate the hours instead of using silver rods. It also uses a Dauphine handset with a red second hand rather than an Alpha handset. Apart from the dial, everything else, from the case to the bracelet, is more or less the same.The watch runs on the 7S26 Caliber with 21 jewels that keep the mechanism from undergoing too much friction. Its casing has dimensions of 37mm, a thickness of 11mm, and a lug width of 18mm. The timepiece also has a beat frequency of 21,600 BPH and a power reserve that can last an estimated time of 41 hours. 

The SNKL45 is worth around $117 USD.

2. Seiko SNK393K


front view of Seiko Men's SNK393K Automatic Stainless Steel watch

Another model that is also closely similar to the Seiko SNKL23 is the Seiko SNK393K. Like the SNKL45, the most apparent difference is on the dial. The SNK393K makes use of small silver bars placed on most of the hour marks. On the 6th and 12th hour of the timepiece, Arabic numerals substitute the bars of the watch at 6 and 12 o’clock. 

Juxtaposed to the two previous watches, this one has a power reserve of 40 hours — not so dissimilar to the specifications mentioned earlier. This Seiko also uses a 7S26 engine with 21 jewels. It has a case size of 37mm and a thickness of 11mm. Hardlex crystal protects the dial, which is the same protection that covers the SNKL23.

The watch fetches a price between $115 USD and $100 USD.

3. Citizen BF2011 – 51E

front view of Citizen BF2011 - 51E watch

An alternative outside of the Seiko brand is the Citizen BF2011 – 51E. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the specs for the BF2011 are akin to the alternatives I’ve previously mentioned. One thing it can brag about is its water resistance. This watch from Citizen has a water resistance reaching up to 50m. It still isn’t suitable for swimming, but you can be sure that it has a better chance of avoiding leaks than the other three. This Citizen watch also comes with the downside of using mineral crystal instead of Hardlex. That would mean the resistance to scratches and damage is not up to par with the others.

This watch is the cheapest alternative, which fetches a price range of $88 USD to $100 USD.

Pick what you think is best for you

All three watches use the same automatic movement and have dimensions with almost consistent measurements. They each amount to a comparable price to one another, so the deciding factor will be the design you ultimately prefer. Whatever watch you choose is a good choice, and the money you pay for it is worth the investment.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, I think the Seiko SNKL23 is worth every penny. It is a versatile and dashing timepiece that anyone can use for any occasion. If you don’t like the wristwatch’s initial accessories, you can opt to customise your wristwatch to your liking, provided that you have money to spare. It’s a beautiful and significant piece of work that will bring anyone a good sense of prestige without breaking the bank.

Maybe if Seiko continued its production for an extended period, it would have adapted the 4R36 movement. Such a simple thing would surely boost the popularity of this Seiko watch. Since the 4R36 can be manually hacked and wound, the non-adjustable grievance is no longer present. I wish I could see this happen, but it’s too late for the SNKL23.

Although it’s not the most modern watch in Seiko’s catalogue, It’s one of the better pieces in that category with minimal disadvantages. If I had this Seiko as my first watch, I would be thrilled to wear it and adapt it to my everyday lifestyle. Having a $100 USD piece with a $1000 USD appearance is simply magical.


Have some spare money for another watch? Check out our review of the Seiko Flightmaster.


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