Hands-On Review – Seiko SZSJ005 & SZSJ006 Chronographs

The Skinny 

Diameter: 39.8 mm 
Thickness: 11.7 mm 
Movement: Seiko 8T67 Meca-quartz 
Water Resistance: 10 Bar 
Case Material: Stainless Steel 
Price: ¥27,500 JPY ($250.00 USD)

In March of 2020 Seiko released this collaboration watch with the Japanese clothing fashion brand/retailer Nano Universe. I think of Nano Universe as the Japanese version of Todd Snyder, the NYC-based clothier who has worked extensively to create collaborations with brands such as Timex and Champion. Seiko & Nano are clearly paying respect to vintage Rolex Daytona and Tudor Price chronographs with these models, though they are not anywhere near direct copies.

The release of the Seiko SZSJ005s I have in-hand didn’t get much attention in the United States as it was only available in Japan. The original press kit didn’t even mention a cream dial version, reference SZSJ006, which was announced a few months later in May of 2020. Press materials failed to disclose production numbers, and these chronographs sold out quickly. Occasionally one pops up on the secondary market for well above retail. Elusive indeed.

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005
The Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005 Photo: Greg Bedrosian

I kept my eyes open, and in late November 2020 I noticed that Seiko quietly released a second batch. I pounced. I wasn’t able to purchase directly from Nano Universe but I was able to purchase both versions from different Japanese resellers easily at a reasonable mark-up. Your experience seeking these out will likely be similar to mine, requiring diligence and patience.

The Case

The SZSJ005 with the black dial arrived first. Handling the case felt great as soon as I opened the box. Not all Seikos are created equal. The quality can vary and doesn’t always match the price point. These inconstancies are things that enthusiasts complain about, making Seiko a confusing brand for the average consumer.  When you handle enough Seikos you can tell right away which ones bring more value than you would expect at the price. The cases on these watches delivered that sense of value immediately, and I knew I’d landed in my Seiko sweet-spot.

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005 SZSJ006 Caseback
There is no indication of the quantity produced on the caseback. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 are sized right. The official diameter is in my personal sweet spot at 39.8mm. Well maybe not exactly. The the bezel’s diameter measures 39.8mm. The actual case size is 40.8mm. The 2mm discrepancy comes from the asymmetrical case which is not accounted for in the description. Seiko chose to design the case with a little extra flank near the pushers. It’s an odd choice because the design doesn’t act as a pusher guard as it does in the Speedmaster Professional.

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005 Chronograph
Note the slightly asymmetrical case shape near the pumpers. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Nitpicking aside, the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZS006 wear well. The size is in my normal wheelhouse for steel sports watches so they feel just right. A case height of 11.7mm combined with a lug to lug of 47mm is substantial without being overpowering.

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005 SZSJ006
The case shape is pretty straightforward. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

There are no odd angles on the case like you’ll find on some Grand Seikos and other Seikos like the Sumo series divers. The case is brushed on the flanks and slightly polished on the top. The attention to the case finishing is appropriate for the price point. The caseback sports the Nano Universe logo and reminds you that there is 100m of water resistance. What adds to the mystery of the Nano Universe collaboration is that there is no number for this limited edition run. There is no way to tell exactly how many of these were produced, or whether they were even an actual limited edition.  

The Dial and Bezel 

This section is the headline for the Seiko SZSJ006 and SZSJ006. It’s blatantly obvious that these watches’ dials are influenced by vintage (four-digit) Rolex Daytonas, specifically “Paul Newman” Daytonas. While the colors mimic the vintage “exotic dial” Daytonas, the layout is similar to the Tudor Prince Chronographs of the late 1990s. This blend gives these Seikos a unique blend of the 70s and 90s style that is classic enough to work in a blended format.  

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ006 Dial
The hour markers blend into the cream dial of the SZSJ006. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The dials are the only differentiators between the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006.

Seiko SZSJ005 Notes

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005
Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Black Dial – Safer everyday choice 

Tribute color scheme “The Other Paul Newman” 

White Date Wheel at 3 o’clock 

Hour indices appear longer with a lumed pip at the end 

“CHRONOGRAPH” in red seems thinned and blends into the dial 

Seiko SZSJ006 Notes

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ006
Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Cream Dial – The Enthusiast Choice 

Tribute color scheme “The Paul Newman”  

White Date Wheel at 3 o’clock 

Hour indices appear shorter with a lumed pip blending into the dial 

“CHRONOGRAPH” in red seems thinned and blends into the dial 

The Rolex Daytona has subdials positioned on the lower half of the dial in a “3-6-9″ position and no date window.  The Tudor Prince Chronograph has subdials at the “12-9-6″ positions with a date window. It’s hard not to love vintage Rolex colors in a vintage Tudor layout. One difference from the Tudor Prince Chrono is the absence of the cyclops over the date window. 

Seiko SZSJ005 Nano Universe
There is quality in the details on the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 Photo: Greg Bedrosian

As you move on to the steel bezel there is a big difference between the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 when compared to its Rolex and Tudor inspirations. “TACHYMETER” is engraved on the bezel at one o’clock as opposed to “UNITS PER HOUR” on the Rolex/Tudor at three o’clock position on the vintage pieces (one o’clock modern). Chronographs are always visually interesting because there are so many graduations on the bezel. The Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 are no exception.

The Movement 

The Seiko SZSJ005 and SZS006 are powered by the Seiko 8T67 Mecha-quartz movement. Mecha-quartz is a hybrid movement that is part quartz and part mechanical. They are still regulated by a quartz oscillator but the chronograph function moved by mechanical means. It actually pulls the chronograph seconds had backward. This is what gives the chronograph seconds hand the smooth “sweep” as opposed to the jumpy “tick”.  

When operating a Mech-quartz chronograph you will notice the crisp tactile “POP” when using the top pumper to activate the chronograph feature. You get that sensation again when stopping the chronograph complication.  When resetting the chronograph, the chronograph seconds hand snaps back to zero. There is no long reset like traditional quartz chronographs. It’s so rewarding and satisfying. At the end of the day, it’s the satisfaction that we are truly after to feel fulfilled.    

Seiko Meca-quartz 8T67 movement in the SZSJ005
Seiko Meca-quartz movements have the crisp traditional “POP” of mechanical chronographs.

The running seconds in the six-o’clock subdial is a dead giveaway to the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006’s quartz movement as its “jumps” while ticking. It’s a small price to pay for getting a watch with a chronograph complication that would be five to ten times the price it was mechanical. Seiko’s Mecha-quartz movement has been a game-changer in the enthusiast space allowing for new and affordable options that excel at both form and function.   

Seiko Cal 8T67 Movement
The layout of the Seiko caliber 8T67 Photo: Seiko Japan

Seiko recommends changing the battery on your SZSJ005 or SZSJ006 every three years. Seiko also recommends using a SEIKO SR936SW battery. However, you can use am Energizer 394/380 and it will be fine. This is important to me as I will be removing the batteries from these watches for long-term storage. The battery acid will eventually corrode and eat through the battery case. Ever open an old flashlight or R/C car? You get the idea. 

Bracelet 

With any watch in the sub-$300 MSRP area, it’s important to make sure that your expectations are properly set. By no means is the bracelet awful. It’s just not great. Seiko totally nailed the bracelet specifications. It’s 20mm and tapers to 16mm at the clasp. I’d call those proportions perfect. I was glad to find a safety lock on the clasp, if only for peace of mind.  

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ005 SZSJ006 Bracelet
Don’t get too excited about a bracelet on a sub $300 watch. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Despite the bracelet not being high-end by today’s standards, the classic three-link oyster style suits that Seiko SZSJ005 and SXS006 perfectly. The irony is that this budget Seiko bracelet is probably better made than the Rolex bracelets of the 1970s.  Still, if anyone knows what endlinks are compatible, I could be persuaded to swap out the bracelet for the Uncle Seiko equivalent.  

Seiko SZSJ006 Nano Universe
It’s easy to see why the Seiko SZSJ006 goes for a premium on the secondary market. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Paul Newman Homage Misses 

Alpha – Paul Newman Chronograph Watch: Horrible quality and poorly executed details and finishing. Expect this watch to last a month or two before becoming a throwaway novelty.  

Steinhart – Ocean One Vintage Chronograph: This one has 42mm wide and 18mm thick to fit the Dubois-Dupraz modular chronograph stacked on top of the ETA 2824-2. Way, way too big to maintain the vibe. 

Gevril – Tribeca: These are simply too close to the original. Like way too close. Despite the high build quality, the amount of money that these homage watches now go for continues to shock me.  

Omega – Speedmaster Legend 3559.32.00: Nothing says that Omega wants to be Rolex more than this watch. It’s a strange tribute to a legendary Formula One driver Michael Schumacher that pays respect to someone else.  

Conclusion: 

It takes guts to go against making something that is within your own brand that also pays homage to something else. The Seiko SZSJ005 and SZS006 are similar enough without being on the nose. It’s a fine line to walk that Seiko and Nano Universe handled beautifully.  Besides paying tribute to the Paul Newman Daytona and Tudor Price Chronographs they reflect a moment in time with Seiko that is fading into history. Compare these chronographs to Seiko’s current offerings and they are radically different. 

Seiko Nano Universe SZSJ006
The Seiko x Nano Universe SZSJ006. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The MSRP for the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZS006 is ¥27,500 ($250) in no way compared to the value that you actually get with either version. It’s not surprising that the SZSJ005 (black dial) trades for 2x and the SZSJ006 (cream dial) fetches 4x on the secondary market. Seiko and Nano Universe have moved on to the SZSJ007 (Tudor Black Bay Chrono homage). This leaves the Seiko SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 in unicorn land. Expect the prices for these two Japanese exotics to steadily climb.  

Seiko x Nano Universe SZSJ005 and SZSJ006
The Seiko x Nano Universe SZSJ005 and SZSJ006 Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Financial gain for me is irrelevant as these won’t be for sale. My plan is to save these to gift forward to younger family members for milestone events. Sorry kids, you’re getting Seikos instead of Rolexes – but as far as Seiko goes, these are next level and will still be rad in five to ten years.