Like The Godfather & Terminator franchises, it’s hard to beat the original.
Think about it – The Godfather Part II was palatable but Part III was, well, rather average to put it lightly. Okay, perhaps Terminator 2 was just as good as the first but the subsequent films were pretty sh*t, in my opinion. Now before you ask where this is going, let me tell you how it’s related to my take on the Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time.
First off, a little bit of a history lesson. The Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time was first introduced sometime in 2010 and was the result of Seiko’s collaboration with famed Japanese bartender, Ishigaki Shinobu. Aside from this piece, the collaboration also saw the birth of the SARB066 and SARB068. As nice as they were, the pair didn’t quite catch on as well as the SARB065. In fact, I think the Cocktail Time fully deserves to be given cult status.
In the years that it was on sale, it became one of Seiko’s most recognizable watches. Heck, when the brand pulled the plug on the SARB065 in 2017, they reintroduced the Cocktail Time in the Presage line not long after – such was the popularity of the original design. How does this make the SARB065 any more special than the current models, you ask? Well, for starters, there’s a certain glamour to being the first, the original, the real OG, if you will.
Aside from being the pioneer, another desirable (and somewhat annoying) trait of the Seiko SARB065 was that it was also a JDM-only watch. For those unfamiliar with the term, JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market. Because of that, you either had to travel to Japan or order one via a dealer to get your hands on it.
So how did you get your hands on this one, then?
Well, this is another one of my personal watches. I ordered it from a pretty notable online dealer who specializes in exporting JDM watches to non-Japanese clients. How much? Well, the sticker said ¥55,000 (RM1,970) but I vaguely recall getting it for closer to RM1,300 back in 2014.
I know what you’re thinking now. “A watch that looks like that?! For less than RM2,000?! HOW?!”
Indeed. How Seiko makes any money churning out such high-quality pieces at such affordable prices is beyond me. One thing is for certain though, I hope they never stop doing it. Of course, at such a price, something’s gotta’ give and the SARB065 is not exactly perfect. More on that in a bit. First off, let’s check out the main attraction.
Man, what a dial…
At this price point, it’s not often you come across one that just stops you in your tracks. It did for me, at least. I still recall the moment when I first set eyes on this watch and I knew I had to have it. Understand that watches are very emotional purchases to me. It doesn’t matter how technically complicated it is, if it doesn’t ignite that primeval sense of need in me, it’s a no go.
When it finally arrived, I remember spending hours just staring at the dial and toying around with how that sunburst guilloche effect caught and played with the light. The faint baby blue is just the right shade to lend it some character without jeopardizing its dressy credentials.
The only lines of text you get are the words ‘Automatic’ and ’23 Jewels’ printed on the dial while the Seiko badge is applied. Nothing on the dial is meant to overwhelm one another and the watch is all the better for it. A simple minute track frames the edge while the applied hour markers are highly-polished, arrow-shaped units. Markers 12, 6 and 9 are slightly larger to differentiate them from the rest while number 3 gets cut in half in favour of the date window. The latter features a black-on-white affair.
The hour and minute hands feature a gorgeous dauphine design and are meticulously polished. While a dress watch doesn’t exactly need lume, the SARB065 can do without it all the more so simply because of how effective the hands and hour markers catch light. All you need is the most minimal amount of light and you can tell the time with no trouble at all. As a final flourish, Seiko decided to throw in a dark blue (not heat-blued at this price) seconds hand.
Okay, dial very pretty. Understood. As for the rest of the watch?
Moving on, the entire surface of the stainless steel case is polished. Unlike my Seiko Presage SARX017, there is not a single visible surface that is brushed. For a dress watch, this makes sense but I gotta’ say, she picks up hairline scratches pretty easily as a result. The domed crystal is not made out of sapphire but Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex instead. If you’re viewing it from an obtuse angle, be prepared for some pretty trippy visuals.
Also, no AR (anti-reflective) coating to be found here. As for the lugs, the edges slope away from the case ever so slightly compared to the more angular curvature on the SARX017. Elsewhere, no crown guard is to be found while the knurled crown itself features a signed ‘S’ insignia.
At the back, the SARB065 features a screw-down exhibition caseback also fashioned out of Hardlex. Nothing much to say about the aesthetics of the 6R15 movement, though. Viewers get a pseudo Côtes de Genève motif on the rotor and that’s about it. It’s a famed workhorse movement however, so expect many years of uninterrupted service.
What about tech specs? Give me some numbers.
Sure thing! Let’s get measurements sorted out. The case measures in at 40 mm (excluding the crown) and is 13.3 mm thick. Lug to lug, the watch spans 47.5 mm and lug width is 20 mm. The watch weighs a total of 82 g. Got it? Awesome! Now let’s move on to the movement itself.
As mentioned, the Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time is powered by the same 6R15 automatic movement in a lot of mid- to high-end Seiko models. The calibre beats at a rate of 21,600 bph (3 Hz) and features approximately 50 hours of power reserve. Hacking and hand-winding is also present with the latter providing tactile, if not rather industrial feedback through the crown when winding.
Accuracy is rated at +25/-15 seconds per day. My personal unit has been registering -12.3 seconds per day on average over a week of wear, just so you know. As for water resistance, Seiko states that the SARB065 is resistant to 5 bar (50 metres). In my books at least, that’s more than adequate for a dress watch.
Guess this is the perfect dress watch, then?
Close. Like I said at the start, this would’ve been one if it weren’t for a flaw or two. The first is the thickness of the watch and at 13+ mm, it is quite bulky for a dress watch. Once or twice, I found the watch getting caught along the cuff of some of my more fitting shirts and that’s a big no-no for a dressy timepiece. A proper dress watch should be a lot thinner to allow it to slide under said cuff.
Next, we get to the strap. Looks wise, it’s a winner. The oiled calfskin leather strap is visually smooth and the blue stitching adds a nice bit of contrast. The deployant clasp is also simple enough to operate and locks with a satisfying click. However, because of the texture, the second tab that holds the edge of the strap becomes extremely difficult to pull once you loop it through the first tab. It may sound like nitpicking but it happens every time and I can’t help feeling that this aspect cheapens the watch.
Finally, I can’t help thinking that this watch would look more symmetrical without the date window. While it is a useful complication, dress watches should push for the simplest of designs wherever possible. Heck, the best kinds are paper thin and don’t even have a seconds hand.
In conclusion, this is not the perfect dress watch. It is, however, a fantastic first dress watch. The wallet-friendly price tag coupled to the ever-reliable 6R15 movement and looks to die for means that anyone looking to get their first formal timepiece should be pretty satisfied with the Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time. Remember, no matter how good the sequels can get, the original will always be that lil’ bit more special.