This watch review is overdue, way overdue. The first impressions post was in August 2020, and I think this watch is one of the reasons I started the blog. It's special. I put my SARB035 on today, and I thought, hot damn, holy shit, that's a nice watch. It always pleases me to think about how enormously impressive it is. It is unmatched in the horolosphere (the world of watches), this watch stands up to any logical argument for watch ownership and expenditure. You can see this review is more likely to be a lifetime achievement award, but if I can find any issues, I'll let you know. Part of me feels like there is no point in doing this review because everyone already knows how awesome the SARB035 is, but I'll do it anyway, it's my way of showing the love and appreciation. Thanks Seiko.
The Seiko Spirit SARB035 (ivory dial - the creamy off-white colour not the elephant tooth) was originally released in 2008, alongside siblings, 033 (black dial), 037 (salmon dial) and 038 (Gold pvd), to rave reviews. It was immediately seen as a superbly designed piece and an excellent value proposition. A collectable. They were soon in great demand, prices in the used market became steadily higher, and continue to do so slightly as unworn and mint examples dwindle. It was discontinued in 2018, which is when I heard of it to be honest. In 2010, four more colour variations were released, SARBs 070 to 074. New old stock continued to surface after the models were discontinued, you still see a few around but they are priced accordingly.
SARBs 033, 037 & 038
It's a black swan with an ivory face
All stunning and hard to find. I'd love to have the 8 iterations in my collection, but I'll likely never get close, unless I go to live in Japan for a bit, and go hunting with a harpoon full of Japanese Yen. I think every blog worth its salt has a review or dedicated ode to the SARB035 and/or its siblings. It's a black swan with an ivory face, every respectable watch enthusiast either loves or respects these watches (mostly both). The SARB037 & 038 are unicorns burgers, mythical creature level, rarely seen for sale and reassuringly expensive when they are £1000-£2000.
Purchase / Post / Packaging
I bought this beauty during the pandemic, the lockdown, the big mess of 2020. I was lucky to be working from home already, and I bought a couple of watches in June 2020, this SARB035 and the Longines Conquest GMT (I'm missing it, it's gone to Longines for a service). They remain two of my favourite watches, and were instrumental in the starting of this very blog. The SARB was an eBay find, and pretty pricey even though it could also be considered a bargain at £395, a full set, with box and 'papers'. I was surprised and lucky to have won the action. I missed out on a SARB033 the other day, I was gutted, the hunt continues.
As soon as I opened it, I was in awe. Even my brother, who isn't a watch guy, saw it and was immediately impressed, thinking it more expensive than it was. Nowadays, the lowest price you can get a half-decent one for is £400, but they often seen at the £500-£600 mark or more on eBay and Chrono24. Totally worth it.
Case, Dial & Hands
The SARB035 is known as being a legendary timepiece. It is classy and elegant, while still having a sporty element when on the bracelet. The case combines, to perfection, brushed and polished stainless steel finishes. The dimensions at 38mm, and 44.5mm lug to lug might seem small to some, but the dynamic case has enough presence to sit on any wrist. The recent trend towards smaller cases has maintained the interest in these little beauties.
The dial is impeccable, the most well balanced and refined on any Seiko I own, maybe even any watch in the collection, or any watch in the world (under £1000). The Kit-Kat hour markers, the applied logo and razor sharp minutes/hours hands and needle like seconds hand, sit perfectly together. The seconds track on the chapter ring adds depth and detail to a dial that's already sitting pretty. It's as well balanced as a gymnast peddling a unicycle with his hands. The crown is the right size, and it features an engraved 'S' - which stands for Superspecial.
If there is an issue with this watch, it's this. Everyone who reads this blog knows I'm a fan of a display caseback. I like the inner workings to be seen and appreciated. But I believe that this watch, and its siblings, would be better off with a closed caseback, simply because the back (or movement) doesn't do justice to the rest of the watch in any sense. That is the only fault I can find, it isn't really an issue though is it and really my standard argument for having an open caseback is pretty much always valid. It adds another dimension to the experience and is a great way to learn about and show how watches work.
Movement & Accuracy
Per the open caseback issue, the movement is a bog standard but solid and reliable Seiko workhorse, the 6R15 automatic self-wind movement, with hacking seconds hand an 50 hours of power reserve. There isn't too much to be said here, it doesn't miss a beat. I'm not sure when mine came off the assembly line but all is running smoothly at present.
Strap / Wearability
If we think that this watch was a relative budget watch when released (around £250), we have to be very thankful that the bracelet is decent, Seiko often misses a trick with its budget bracelets. The clasp is secure and doesn't feel cheap, the bracelet is solid and well finished. You can wear this watch with anything, it doesn't matter if it's a bright pair of shorts, a rowing blazer, garish golf plaid, a Dior suit or Gucci tracksuit, Slazenger joggers and a string vest. It is at home anywhere, and it is welcome in most places like Barack Obama or Mcdonalds.
Competition / Value for money
The 6 siblings are all competition for the SARB035, but some are rare and others are not the same colour.
At this 38mm mark, the new baby alpinists come to mind (SPB155, SPB157, SPB159), it's a different aesthetic, that has that level of finesse and finish. However, they don't have the same level of sophistication in design language, so they lack the balance of their granddad the SARB017.
SARBs 070 - 073
You could, of course, get any number of Grand Seiko watches, many are stunning, but you're looking at over £3000. They come close in terms of style, impact, and respect. But the watch that comes closer (imo) is the 36mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual 116000, I'm a fan, the 369 dial being the one I would buy and possibly the only dial that is better balanced. However, it costs ten times more, which says it all.
For a very good condition example, at £500 pre-owned, this watch is worth it. I paid £395, mine was in very good condition when I bought in June 2020, and it still is. I could get my money back, but it would very likely be the last watch I sold, or if I could keep one, it would be this one. So that also says it all doesn't it!? I have seen it as low as £350 for a beaten up example and as high as £1500 for a new one, bonkers.
I don't mind this watch being expensive in the second hand market, it is one of few that justifies the price. The only reason I want it to be cheaper is so I can buy another one and keep mine in pristine condition. I think on the whole the SARB035 is cheaper than the SARB033, and others.
This watch is called a baby Grand Seiko, and it's only because of this watch that I'm interested in looking at Grand Seiko's. There are rave reviews, expert praise, hall of fame levels of love thrown at this unassuming timepiece, the SARB035. I wonder if Seiko knew they had a cracker on their hands? There is no better better bang for your buck timepiece. This watch and it's siblings are a horological enigma, once in a generation superstars, and I am grateful that I get the pleasure to own this one and wear it.
I'm not sure if the famous Nico Leonard of Youtube has looked at this watch and labeled it God Tier - his most holy of praises (usually saved for Casios) - but for me, this is a level above God Tier. I don't know what that is though. God-killer, Godzilla, Super-Saiyan God, Zeus Tier, Uber-God, I'll have a think.
-Return on Experience 10/10
It's a joy to hold and behold, and as a wise man once said;
"a thing of beauty is a joy forever. It is a constant source of happiness and pleasure. Its loveliness increases every moment. It will never pass into nothingness." - John Keats
My photos aren't great, they don't do it justice.
CASE DIAMETER / THICKNESS / MATERIAL
38mm / 11.5mm / 316L Stainless Steel
LUG WIDTH / LUG TO LUG
20mm / 44.5 mm
Power reserve: 50hrs