Updated: Sep 25, 2020
My personal frustration with watch collecting and the watch industry in general has increased recently admittedly. Maybe it's due to the fact I haven't progressed in my career as much as I had hoped at this point or I am just maturing and begin to appreciate things outside of horology more, but I am becoming more and more bemused by the barriers to entry that ever-increasing value creates on watch collecting. For example, I have seen the price of a non-maxi case Rolex Explorer 2 Polar Dial increase in value from roughly £2.5k to £5k in the space of 3 years. I have witnessed the price of Rolex 1601 and 16013's increase in value from about £1.2k to £3.5k in roughly the same time. You can't even buy any decent vintage, unbranded, panda dial, Valjoux movement chronograph for less than £500-600 or even a Universal Polerouter in steel for less than £1k.
And don't get me started on the modern/ retail market. Quartz Tag Heuers for over a grand, Rolex sub, GMTs, and Oyster Perpetuals that basically don't exist unless on Watchfinder for 3 times market value. ETA based IWC and Cartier for over £4k. I have just hit a point where my enthusiasm for watch collecting is diminishing due to the fact there aren't any really good value propositions anymore. The increase in knowledge and mainstream interest in the market has played into the favour of seasoned collectors who were buying vintage 10 years ago for a tenth of the price, so that now I can't buy a fucking Tudor for less than £1k, and people willing to finance vastly overpriced watches that'll lose value.
All this has meant you have to look harder for the gems. You have to comb through the overpriced bang-average-shit to find the golden nuggets. More often than not, this exercise takes you to Japan.
This article is going to talk about the little known Sarx reference of the Seiko Presage line. The forgotten about big brother of the Sarb line. Once you know about this watch it is hard to truly call the Sarb the Baby Snowflake (Referring to the illustrious Grand Seiko Snowflake). The reason for this is more apt now that the Sarb line has seen strong value growth since its discontinuation a few years ago.
(The Sarx035 with far superior finishing than the Sab for the same price. Source: Some hairy bloke on Ebay)
The Sarx033 with the sexy blued steel hands. Source: Some serial killer on Ebay who actually owns white cotton gloves)
The Sarx line consists of the Sarx033, 035, and 055 reference. The 033 and 035 being the black and white dial variations and the 055 being the white "Snowflake dial" with a titanium case. As a good condition Sarb is now going to cost you anywhere between £400-600 the Sarx033 and Sarx035 begin to look like very attractive alternatives. For near enough the same price as a Sarb, in the Sarx033/035 you are getting the exact same inhouse, hacking, quick date movement, a 40mm case that is significantly better executed and finished and double anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal. In other words, you are getting the same watch as the Sarb but with the slight flaws replaced... for the same price.
Let me elaborate, The Sarb, although a fantastic watch, features very average finishing on the case and Seiko 5 style luminous hands. The Sarx has presage standard finishing, beveled edges, straight chunky lugs reminiscent of the vintage Grand Seikos, and sharp polished hands. Furthermore, in the case of the white dial variations, they have a beautiful blued steel second hand. Moreover, one gripe of the Sab is the bracelet. Although well constructed and nicely tapered, it is a simple vintage Rolex oyster style brushed finishing and the clasp leaves a small but noticeable gap when closed. The Sarx features a similar design but with nice polished finished on the center links to contrast the brushed areas and catch the light in that typical grand Seiko fashion. The clasp also closes completed again leaving a seamless execution similar to that of Grand Seiko Bracelets. All this isn't really a surprise due to the fact the Sarx033/035 falls into the presage line which is traditionally Seiko's slightly more high-end line and the Sarb falls into the discontinued Spirit line which was the tier below Presage. All makes sense by the law of brand segmentation. However, now due to market demand, the Sarb is valued near enough the same price... Now you see my point. This is how you cheat the market and once again get value that equates to price...
The Sarx055 comes in around £800-£1,000 so it cannot be used as an example for the argument of an alternative to the sarb price-wise. However, this is the watch that can be the best comparable to the Grand Seiko Snowflake. This is because, like the GS, the Sarx055 has a titanium case and a similar beautiful snowflake dial and blued second hand. All for about a third of the price of the GS snowflake, if you can find one. The finishing isn't quite that of the GS obviously and the movement is the same as that found in the Sarb opposed to the far superior and innovative Spring-Drive movement found in the GS, but for a third of the price, you can justify this.
(The very sexy Seiko Sarx055 with snowflake dial, titanium case and bracelet and Blue steel second hand. This is the closest comparison to the GS Snowflake. Source: SeikoBlogSpot.com)
The main takeaways from this article is that:
a) I am pissed off at the value of growth in the watch industry because I may have been just too late to the party or my career has stalled over the last year... Or both..
b) The Sarx033 and 035 are better watches than the Sarb033 and 035 and are roughly the same price.
c) The Sarx055 is the true baby Grand Seiko Snowflake and costs less than £1k but you are paying for the finishing and materials as the movement can be found in watches half its price.
Editor and Co-Founder