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Seiko Sarb035 Review: A Collector's Favorite & Modern Classic

July 28, 2021

The sarb035 is a fantastic timepiece. When it was released, it set a standard for automatic watches under $500 dollars that hasn't been beaten.

I spend far too much of my time looking at domestic watch releases, pieces that are only sold in specific countries. The sarb035 was a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) release. But luckily, it's build and style soon made it famous outside of Japan. And now you can find examples being traded from watch collection to watch collection all over the world.

The sarb035 is a watch loved by collectors for a reason. It is made with love and attention and when released was priced at a very competitive level. These days you can still get a good deal and find them for around the $500-$600 dollar mark.

It really is something, it looks great, has outstanding build quality, and comes with Seiko's trademark reliability with the 6r15 automatic movement.

The sarb035 comes with an off-white/cream dial and you can get the sarb033 with a black dial (there is also a rarer sarb037 with a salmon dial). What more could you ask for?

It's time to get personal with our Seiko sarb035 review.

Overview - Specification

Preview
Seiko Men's Japanese-Automatic Watch with Stainless-Steel Strap, Silver, 20 (Model: SARB035)
Product
Diameter
38mm
Thickness
11.5mm
Band
Stainless steel case & bracelet
Crystal
Sapphire
Movement
Seiko Caliber 6R15, 23-jewel, automatic, 50 hours power reserve
Features
Hacking second hand, Date window, 100m water resistance, display case back
More Information
Preview
Seiko Men's Japanese-Automatic Watch with Stainless-Steel Strap, Silver, 20 (Model: SARB035)
Product
Diameter
38mm
Thickness
11.5mm
Band
Stainless steel case & bracelet
Crystal
Sapphire
Movement
Seiko Caliber 6R15, 23-jewel, automatic, 50 hours power reserve
Features
Hacking second hand, Date window, 100m water resistance, display case back
More Information

This is the point where I summarize what the watch is good for. But with the SARB035, it's quicker to say what it isn't good for.

I believe this is something of a perfect everyday watch. It's so versatile, there are few situations it doesn't fit. The thing it isn't, is a tool watch. So, keeping it on your wrist as a dive watch or doing manual labor probably isn't a good idea. But apart from that, you can't go wrong.

It works brilliantly as a casual, business, or dress watch. And punches above its weight as any of them.

Design

Seiko went all out on the SARB035. They didn't look to reinvent the wheel, just make an impressive example of it.

There are definitely some classic influences here. With detail that lifts the watch from good to great. An engraved S on the crown, black highlights on the hands, a display caseback. Seiko were out to make a statement with this watch, a very subtle and classy statement.

Sometimes a design comes together and is just... right. This Seiko is one of those. All the elements fit together to make more than the sum of its parts.

And not just good looking parts. This is a watch designed to be used. It is 100m water resistant, has sapphire crystal and a rock-solid, Seiko 6r15 automatic movement inside.

Comfort

It's 38mm diameter and 11.5mm thick. With swept back lugs and a top-link on the bracelet that fits snugly into the lug. This is a watch that you can wear forever. And then some more.

In my experience, the true test of comfort for a watch is if you forget it's there. The SARB035 is like that, you can go all day and not notice it's there. It slides neatly under shirt cuffs to add to that business or dress watch feel. And it doesn't get in the way of typing, or risk getting scratched if you're a desk jockey like me.

Case

The case looks like a luxury swiss manufacture. I've seen it compared to Rolex. But I don't think that's fair, on Rolex or Seiko. This is a finish that is amongst the best, regardless of cost.

The mix of polished and brushed surfaces is interesting without being flashy. The bezel is stepped and catches the light.

Seiko have added an observation caseback, and while the 6r15 movement isn't the most interesting to look at, it definitely adds to the stylish feel.

Dial

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The SARB035 is a good-looking watch. It's sometimes described as a white dial, and the first time you see a photo it might look like a white dial, but it's not.

It's cream, and like the rest of the watch, contrives to be more. The color is subtle, but it has a sheen under light and positively sparkles in the sun.

The applied hour markers are prominent without being overbearing. They are polished and beveled, which gives them an elegance not usually found in this price range. They also have lume on the inside. It's not an enormous amount of lume, but the marker effect is useful.

The polished dauphine hands match the indices well. They catch the light and can somehow be both everyday and dress watch at the same time. They too have lumibrite. The thin second hand reaches all the way out to the angled chapter ring.

The square date window is outlined in silver. Cleverly, the background hue is white. The slight difference makes reading the date easier.

There are those that say the date wheel was an unnecessary addition. And if this was a dress watch, I might agree. But it isn't, so I don't.

Text on the face has Seiko below the 12, and automatic is written in an elegant cursive script above the 6 position.

Bracelet

The steel bracelet is a stainless three-linked example. The finish matches the case, that is to say excellent. It is 20mm at the lug and tapers to 18mm at the clasp. Which is a folding push-button version.

Adjustment is done with two micro-adjustments and a pin and collar system for the links (rather than the easier screws). Although, the bracelet doesn't have any half-links, which makes getting the right fit harder.

The steel bracelet is probably the weakest link (sorry) for the sarb, and this is where most complaints center. But it still fits well on the wrist, and for the reasonable price of the piece, you can always purchase another bracelet.

Alternatives

Premium, versatile, automatics at a price well below the standard? There aren't that many watches to choose from. Especially that match the sarb for build and style.

Obviously there are Grand Seiko models if you're willing to go much higher in cost. There's the new SLGH005, an undoubtedly stunning watch that definitely shares design traits with the sarb. But it costs close to $10,000.

There is also the Seiko presage SARX033, something of the spiritual successor to the sarb. It's an import, has the same movement and shares similar design elements.

Outside of Seiko, there is the Certina DS-1. It's swiss made, has an 80 hour reserve and looks great. And another great option is the Mido Barancelli III.

Final Thoughts

I like my dive watches. I like a dress watch. I like my casuals. But what I really like are timepieces that fulfill more than a single goal. And the 035 does just that. If not for nothing this is a classic.

This is a timepiece that has the spirit and appearance of the premium Swiss brands and nods to the Oyster perpetual. It pleases enthusiasts and contains everything you want in a reasonably priced package.

But it's true genius, is how useful it is. It's a performance piece that you can use both day and night, dress or casual. That is what makes it a keeper.

In the end, the bracelet might be the only thing that isn't exceptional. But you can always switch that out (a leather strap for formal occasions?).

Author
Alastair Crombie
I’ve been collecting watches since I bought a ‘Rowex’ for a fiver from a mate when I was 10. He told me you pronounced it Rolex and that’s how it all started. I used to love that Rowex. These days I still tend to stick to the more affordable end of the market. Both my wallet and my wife are happier that way. My favorite watch changes with the seasons, and that’s what I love about watches. Each one doesn’t just tell the time, much more importantly, they tell a story.
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