7 Of The Best Value Seiko SARB033 Alternatives
James Elliott16 April 2021 | 9 min read
Following its release in 2008, the Seiko SARB033 was seen as an instant classic in the budget watch category. The mix of high-quality build, simple design, and 38mm size made it a prized asset for watch fans on a budget who wanted a small but stylish watch.
After a 10-year run, the watch was discontinued in 2018, causing the watch’s admirers to despair whilst pre-owned prices rocketed as scarcity rose. During production, you’d pick one of these watches up for around $300; now, you’d do well to find one for double that price!
Today, we’re going to help you fill the gap the SARB033 left behind. We’re going to pick out the best alternatives to the legendary piece, both from Seiko and from a couple of other budget brands. We’ll show how they compare to the SARB033, comparing specs, functionality, and price along the way.
But before we do, let’s take a look at precisely what made the SARB033 so special!
What Made the Seiko SARB033 So Great?
Especially for watch fans with smaller wrists, the 38mm size was the biggest draw of the SARB033. But even when you got used to the great size, the watch just kept on giving with a sleek and simple design, high-quality stainless steel bracelet, sapphire crystal, and Seiko 6R15 automatic movement.
The design made it a watch that could be worn in the office and the local bar whilst commanding the same respect and envy from onlookers. Simple enough to be understated but classy enough to catch the eye.
At the $300 price point, it’s rare to find a good quality automatic movement, especially one with 23 jewels and 50 hours of power reserve. The SARB033 packed a punch above its price point inside the case as well as out.
Additional features such as a sapphire crystal and 100m of water resistance rounded off a great all-rounder. In many ways, it’s not a surprise the price of these watches has increased following Seiko’s discontinuation, even if the $900 stories can make your eyes water.
7 Best Seiko SARB033 Alternatives
The good news is that there is a range of modern Seiko watches that deliver elements of the great SARB model and watches from other brands that offer a similar experience – here are five of our favorites!
1. Seiko Men’s Stainless Steel SUR311
In Short: A simple dress watch that matches the SARB’s overall stylings and sapphire crystal.
If you’re looking for a no-thrills alternative to the SARB033, we’d recommend you start with the Seiko SUR311 model. This watch gives you the classic look and feel of the SAB033 in a slightly lower spec, less polished package.
At 40.2mm, it’s not quite condensed into the slim 38mm case of the SARB but is still small enough on the wrist to suit most wearers. We keep the stainless steel bracelet here and match it with a clean black dial that only features the Seiko logo at the top and a date window at 3 o’clock. Some may even find the dial a little too plain, depending on their tastes.
The hands and hour markings follow a very similar style to those found on the SARB whilst also featuring lume to make them visible in dark conditions. Surprisingly, this watch also features a high-quality sapphire crystal but unfortunately doesn’t match the automatic movement and instead utilizes quartz.
Price-wise, you’ll be able to get your hands on one of these for around the $150 mark. There aren’t many stylish watches with a sapphire crystal found at this price point, so if you’re looking to emulate the SARB033 and are happy to settle for a quartz movement, this could be the alternative for you!
2. Tissot Couturier Black Dial T0354101105100
In Short: A high-quality SARB033 alternative from a top-tier Swiss brand, available at an amazing price!
Tissot is a brand that strikes the perfect balance between quality and price. The Couturier range is no exception to this, providing a sleek and simple design style that shares many characteristics of the SARB033.
The 39mm case size is a great size for all wrists, and aligns really closely to the SARB’s compact profile. The full stainless steel makeup is classy and understated while providing the high-quality you’d expect from Tissot. The black dial is similarly clean and stylish, with the dauphine hands and slim hour markers again very similar to the SARB.
Inside the watch, you’re getting a quartz movement here rather than sapphire, but Tissot’s ETA Caliber F06.161 driver delivers highly accurate timekeeping so there’s no need to worry. Again, it’s a nice surprise to get a sapphire crystal with this watch, with the addition of a date window and 100m water resistance rounding off a great package.
Price-wise the Couturier retails around the $450 mark. But the great news is that many retailers, including Jomashop, often run great deals on this model putting the price below $275. For that price, this really is a bargain, and a SARB033 alternative we’d definitely recommend!!
3. Seiko 5 Men’s SNKL23 Stainless Steel Automatic Casual Watch
In Short: A similarly small, 38mm watch from another of Seiko’s classic watch ranges.
We come onto a watch from the now very well known Seiko 5 range for our second pick. The SNKL23 in question hits the size specification that made the SARB so well-loved, packing a lot of watch into a 30mm case.
Whilst the size matches with this watch, we pivot in style slightly because, as the name suggests, this is more of a sports watch than a dress model. In this instance, it brings more of a rounded look and feel to the SNKL34.
Whilst the dial remains fairly simple, you do have the addition of the ‘5’ branding and the date window found on the SARB is replaced with a slightly larger and more pronounced day-date window. The hands and hour indicators remain relatively similar in design, with the lume keeping nighttime functionality in place.
You do get an automatic self-wind movement with this watch, although it has no hand winding or hacking features. The package is rounded off with a good quality hardlex crystal and water resistance to 30m.
The Seiko 5 range offers several different models, so if you aren’t entirely sold on this variant, we’d recommend having a shop around. The SNKL23 is a reasonably cheap watch at around $140, so it’s a great alternative to the Seiko SARB033 if you favour a sporty aesthetic.
4. Seiko Mens Presage Cocktail Time SRPB41J1
In Short: Different in design to the SARB033, but leads the way as Seiko’s best current budget dress watch in both looks and functionality.
Seiko’s latest dress watch range brings something uber-stylish to the party. The Presage Cocktail Time SRPB41J1 is perhaps one of the most excellent looking dress watches you can get for under $400.
Whilst the comparisons to the SARB033 are mainly found inside the case, this watch is equally stunning on the outside with the high spec finish and gorgeous sunburst dial design.
At 40mm, it remains pretty small, although it doesn’t match the SARB’s 38mm spec. But, it does emulate features such as the high-quality sapphire crystal and automatic hand-wound movement.
The dial design is what will grab you with this watch. A sunburst dial design attracts the slight brilliantly whilst combining itself with arrow tip hour markers, slim hands and a subtle date window at the 3 o’clock position.
We wouldn’t blame you for wanting to get your hands on one of these at all! Expect to pay in the region of $385 for any of the Cocktail Time models, but you can be rest assured you’ll be the envy of everyone around you at your next formal event!
5. Seiko Presage Line SARX033
In Short: Premium upgrade to the SARB033 for those that was a high-spec, polished dress watch.
For our last Seiko in this roundup, we’ve picked out the Seiko Presage Line SARX033 model. Those with an eagle eye will notice the similarity between the model numbers, and in total, there’s a lot of similarities here.
Where the SARX033 sets itself apart is in its quality, as a high spec model from the Presage range. This 40.8mm model combines high-quality materials to make it a show stopper of a dress watch.
The dial matches a sleek, super clear coated dial with deep navy blue hands and classic Seiko hour markings to pull together an understated and classy design. Some may not be fans of the blue dials, but it works on a watch if you like the contrast.
Inside the case, you’re getting a high-quality 6R15 23J automatic movement with 50 hours power reserve and accuracy to +/- 15 seconds. Outside the case, you’re getting high-quality sapphire crystal and overall construction that offers 100m of water resistance.
It’s hard to do this watch justice with just words so, we’d recommend finding some videos online to really see how gorgeous this piece is. This watch comes in at around $850 and is a premium upgrade to the SARB033, thanks to its high-quality finish. If you’re looking for a premium watch and like the fundamentals of the SARB033, its big brother, the SARB033 could be the one for you!
6. Hamilton Jazzmaster Men’s Steel Watch H32475130
In Short: An amazing, premium alternative to the SARB033 thanks to its classy design, available in several colours and configurations.
Moving away from the Seiko’s, we’ve pulled out this Jazzmaster from Hamilton as a great alternative to the SARB033 for general look and feel. At 40mm in size, it’s slightly larger than the SARB but still a good size for those with smaller wrists.
Whilst the model we’ve featured here comes with a black dial, versions with a blue or grey dial are also available. All models combine the same stylish Dauphine hands with arrow tip markers to provide a sleek style with a small date window at 3 o’clock rounding off the package.
Inside the case, you will be getting a quartz movement, but on the outside, you’ll be supplemented with a high-quality sapphire crystal, classy stainless steel bracelet and 50m of water resistance.
If you’re looking for a smart dress watch from another well-respected brand that emulates part of the SARB033 spirit, the Jazzmaster is a great option. At around $650, it’s not too overpriced and will keep you looking sharp at any formal event.
7. Orient Classic Mechanical Bambino RA-AC0005S
In Short: A small, classy dress watch from Orient providing an accurate automatic movement for a very reasonable price.
Our last watch in today’s roundup comes from the awesome Japanese company Orient. We’re big fans of Orient here at Watch & Bullion as one of the highest quality manufacturers of budget watches.
As with the Jazzmaster, there’s a wide range of different Bambino models, all with slightly configuration twists. This model in particular, combines a white dial with deep blue hands (similar to what we saw with the SARX033) all with the Dauphine hands and arrow tip markers we’ve seen before.
Whilst the Bambino doesn’t quite match up with a sapphire crystal, opting for a mineral instead, it does deliver the powerful Cal.F6724 automatic movement, which is pretty accurate for a budget watch. You also get 50m and a display case back as a couple of nice extra touches.
It’s the price where this watch comes up trumps though, with it retailing online around $215. At this price, you’re getting a good quality, sharp-looking 40mm watch with a good quality movement from a reputable budget brand. What’s not to like?
The SARB033 was an undeniably classic budget watch that delivered quality and style much above its modest price point. Following its discontinuation, prices have rocketed as watch fans scramble to get one on their wrists.
Luckily, many current models from Seiko and other brands emulate the ingredients that made the SARB033 so special. We’ve pulled out 7 for our roundup today, but there’s a range of tremendous budget watches on the market, so don’t be afraid to shop around!