Looking for info on the Seiko SARB033 and SARX035? Here’s the scoop.
In one corner, we’ve got a Seiko legend that some may say has entered the ranks of the SKX007’s territory (but with better specs overall). On the other, we’ve got one of the few watches holding down the slowly eroding mid-luxury tier of the Seiko family.
The former is the SARB033, and the latter is the SARX035. The SARB033 can sometimes be found at far more expensive prices than the SARX035, but you can basically find one or the other within similar price brackets.
At a distance, these watches look a lot alike. I’m going to break down the differences between the two in granular detail. These differences are pretty fascinating, and if you’re trying to decide between one over the other, they’re also dealbreakers.
Seiko SARB033 vs SARX035: Quick Overview
The Seiko SARB033 and the SARX035 have a lot of visuals in common. They’re both sporty yet dressy, with dark dials and silver-toned applications. But, when it comes to watches, the devil is in the details.
The Seiko SARB033 is more of a collectible, not least of which is because it’s discontinued, but also because it comes from an entire nixed subline that represents a type of mid-tier aesthetics that Seiko doesn’t do as often now. They tend to save the luxury elements for Grand Seiko.
Speaking of the SARX035, it is often called a “Baby Grand Seiko” because of the high-end finishing throughout its body and its, something rare in core Seiko watches, quality bracelet that looks a lot like the Grand Seiko standard oyster.
When comparing the dial faces, the SARB033 has more dimensional applications, resulting in more sparkle. Meanwhile, the SARX035 has more broad surfaces, resulting in a more general shine.
Both run on the same reliable in-house movement. And though the SARX035 is the bigger, visually sportier one of the two, it doesn’t have a lume as the SARB033 does.
The SARB033 is a fan favorite and arguably, a new legend.
Let’s see what makes it tick.
As a student, Seiko is definitely the straight-A superstar of the watch world. They nail classic design cues with the utmost discipline. As a watchmaker in their own right, Seiko has definitely taken the lessons they learned to create new, brand-specific approaches to watchmaking.
The SARB033 sits in the middle of those two roads.
At first glance, it’s definitely an impressive, classy, and still understatedly versatile timepiece. Upon second glance, you’ll notice exquisite details.
The polished indices and hands flaunt slight chamfering for subtle but effective dimensionality and moving luminosity. This, along with the satin Seiko logo, is part of the reason it glitters in a classy, professional way, as opposed to a gaudy way.
There are just so many effective nooks and crannies for light to hit in different ways.
The hands are like a sword-dauphine hybrid, more structured than the former, thinner than the latter, but still very sharp — especially against the onyx dial.
The dial is stark and matte in most angles but hides a subtle sunburst that peeks out when the sun hits it just right. (The SARB035 is a cream dial version that leans a bit more into the dressy side of the spectrum).
This elegant look of the dial is cinched by the cursive Automatic appellation and the stately font of the 23 jewels label.
The case and body, meanwhile, continue with this strategic use of satin and polish. Particularly distinct is the Grand Seiko-esque layering on the bezel.
A thin, but glistening foundation holds up a brushed middle layer that steps up onto the main bezel, which is polished. This creates contrasts against the polished sides, which serve as a secret fourth layer that looks stunning at every angle it shows.
Basically, these subtle complexities are the kinds of labored-over detail you see on watches several times its price.
I love that the SARB033 comes with a 38-millimeter case. I think that’s the perfect size for an everyday watch. Small enough for the thinnest wrists, like mine, but not too small for bigger folks as well. It also matches the moderately dressy overall design, which by the way, can go with any strap.
That being the case, this timepiece can be dressed down or up.
Another cool part about its looks? The caseback. But, we’ll get to that, along with the bracelet, next.
What’s great about the SARB033 is that everything about it that makes it look as good as it does also contributes to the function factor.
Yes, the polished hands and sharper-than-usual dauphine hands are distinct and stylish, but they also make this watch incredibly easy to read.
A lot of dress watches aren’t great with different-angled, low-light legibility. But since the SARB033 isn’t technically just a dress watch, it boasts small pips on the hour markers and an overall sportwatch-level lume, along with its sportwatch-level 100 meters of water resistance.
Plus, the minute and seconds hands go all the way to the chapter ring, while the hour hand sharply guides you to the proper index. Of course, this is all protected by a flat sapphire crystal, which really hat-tips to its Grand Seiko inspiration.
When it comes to core Seikos, very rarely will they stray from their in-house Hardlex crystal at this price point, and even far beyond this price point.
I mentioned that I appreciate the 38-millimeter size. Additionally, the 46-millimeter lug-to-lug length looks proportional on small wrists and feels comfortable on large ones.
The bracelet isn’t the very best, but it’s so much more solid than the rattly, hair-pinchy bracelets Seiko usually employs.
Even the best core Seikos are often outfitted with mediocre-to-okay bracelets, which similar to its use of a sapphire, makes the SARB033 extra unique.
And since Seiko is such a gift to the horologically curious, let’s talk about that exhibition caseback.
Turn the SARB033 around and watch its 6R15 movement at work. It features, as the watch’s dial indicates, 23 jewels, as well as a 50-hour power reserve.
The 6R15 is also interesting lore-wise since both it and the 4R35 are descendants of the heritage 7S26 movement, upgraded with a hacking feature.
You’ll notice though that most Seiko Prospex watches, especially ones that seem to be modern takes on classic Seikos that ran on the 7S26, now all run on the 4R35.
On the other hand, the 6R15 has been pushed out into higher-end Seiko models. So that’s another thing about the SARB033 that makes it a middle-ground Seiko that no longer exists today.
It’s, of course, a fairly reliable workhorse, and fun to look at even if it isn’t adorned with patterns. I’ve experienced this movement running at around plus or minus three seconds a day.
I called the SARB033 a new legend of sorts. So how did it get here?
Both the dark-dialed SARB033 and the ivory-dialed SARB035 came out in 2008, as Seiko’s deliberate quality-to-price model.
The brand already had a reputation for doing that, and these watches were a self-aware, next-level step
It was also mainly marketed to the domestic Japanese market, which is classic Seiko. They’re known to keep their best pieces to themselves.
Between the impressive quality and versatile design, and the hunt that was associated with getting one, the SARB watches became a popular in-the-know model, a worst-kept-secret, if you will.
Every component of the watch is Japanese and the entirety of it is assembled at Seiko’s domestic factory.
Then, Seiko did something that clinched its legend status. They discontinued both SARB watches. So, not only is a used SARB033 not as easy to get a hold of, a new one nearly impossible — the book has been officially closed in an era of Seiko history.
Core Seikos are still great for their price, and Seiko Prospex watches are highly functional, showcasing excellent horological chops.
Then, of course, Grand Seiko is arguably the only big watchmaker in Japan, in Asia even, that gets close to competing with Swiss luxury.
A watch like a SARB033, with a price point just over the average Seiko, and way under the cheapest Grand Seiko, doesn’t happen as often these days.
A lot of models that get close will likely still be outfitted with a Hardlex crystal, a so-so bracelet, and a respectable 4R movement that simply didn’t get the higher-end treatment that the 6R was given.
It’s an objectively good watch, but the fact it’s a symbol of a bygone era is what makes the SARB033 collectible.
Straight from Seiko’s “pre-luxury” Presage line, the SARX035 has a lot in common with the SARB033. Or is it the other way around?
Let’s take a closer look at everything that makes the SARX035 so special.
The two watches have a lot of the same general elements. They both embody that sport-meets-dress aesthetic often associated with the Oyster Perpetuals of the world. The SARX035, however, leans a bit more into the sports side of the sport-dress spectrum.
They both have a dark dial with great places for light to hit via the applied indices, sword-shaped hands, and a silver-framed 3 o’clock date window.
The SARX035 also has a sunburst effect on its dial that’s subtle thanks to the black surface, but not untraceable.
Whether you’re wearing jeans or a full suit, either watch would work perfectly.
The SARX035, however, is also noticeably larger than the SARB033. Its case is 41 millimeters and is also 12 millimeters thick. That combined is something you can both see and feel when comparing them on your wrist.
It’s definitely the more robust of the two watches.
Also, the indices and hands have fewer breaks on their surface, making for fewer dimensions, meaning there are fewer individual, isolated places for light to catch.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s beautiful lightplay on the watch face, but it’s definitely a series of broader moments of shine, rather than complex gem-like twinkles.
If you were to compare the hands of each watch, you’ll see that the SARX035 looks like a traditional sword blade, with one break going down the middle from the base to the tip.
The hands of the SARB033, meanwhile, feature a base element, then three plates going up the middle of this base, essentially creating five smaller places for light to hit.
The SARX035 is definitely more robust and less complex.
When comparing the two, it’s as if the SARX035 embodies a lot of the same broad strokes as the SARB033, but doesn’t have the details that fans of the latter really love.
Still, I wouldn’t call the SARX035 merely a blunt instrument. The attractive finishing throughout its body, including satin surfaces, polished surfaces, and gracefully curving lugs have earned it the nickname “Baby Grand Seiko.”
The Presage line, in fact, is the tier above the Spirit line, which the SARB033 was a part of.
As such, a lot of the watch’s exquisite finishing, as well as its bracelet, is what makes the SARX035 worth the price of admission.
The bracelet it comes with definitely has more going on than the one the SARB033 comes with. It looks a lot like the standard Grand Seiko oyster-style strap, with the accented middle links. It’s also much more robust and more reliable than the SARB033’s bracelet.
This brings us to the function side of things.
I already mentioned that the SARX035 has an excellent bracelet. Its solid links and end-links are part of the reason fans consider it a mini Grand Seiko. It’s strong and can be easily fitted.
It’s also an exceptionally legible watch, though I’d say the SARB033 beats the SARX035 on that front. Its hands aren’t as sharp, and, as mentioned, its indices aren’t as sparkly, and most importantly, it doesn’t actually have a lume.
I guess since neither the SARX035 nor the SARB033 is meant to be pure sport watch, this shouldn’t be offensive. And for the most part, it’s not. They’re both everyday watches.
It’s just that the SARX035 is the beefier one of the two, both in detail and size, so that dissonance throws me off a bit. Of course, this only applies when you are comparing the two.
As a stand-alone, the SARX035’s lack of lume is pretty standard.
Like the SARB033, the X035’s dial is protected with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal. Again, this is always a welcome departure from Seiko’s typical practices, considering how Hardlex-happy they are at most of their price points.
And finally, this guy also runs on the reliable in-house caliber 6R15. Everything from the manual-wind and hacking capabilities are there, as are the 21,000 vibrations per hour and the 50-hour power reserve.
The SARX035 also has an exhibition caseback.
And sure, the 6R15 is a workhorse, with no frills or decorations applied, but I think that good craftsmanship can always be appreciated without proverbial costume changes and laser light shows.
As mentioned, the SARX035 is part of Seiko’s Presage subline.
In a classic tale of brand segmentation, Presage watches went international in 2016, creating a specific launching pad for mid-tier and almost-luxury watches, allowing Seiko to make Grand Seiko a more independent brand.
The purpose, clearly, was to create a bigger separation between Seiko and Grand Seiko, similar to Omega and Swatch. It’s like a reverse diffusion line.
SARX035 is quintessential to the Presage series because of its traditional craftsmanship and harmonious design. And again, Presage is a tier up from the now-defunct Spirit subline, which the SARB033 came from.
Like the SARB033, the SARX035 was also reserved for the Japanese market. It’s definitely a lot easier to find online though, so it doesn’t get as many exclusivity points.
So while the era of SARB033-like Seikos is mostly gone, watches like the SARX035, and the Presage line in general, best survive that legacy.
Still have questions? Here are at-a-glance answers to common ones!
Is SARB033 discontinued?
Yes, along with its ivory counterpart, the SARB035, the SARB033 was discontinued in 2019.
How much is a SARB033 worth?
Depending on its condition, a SARB033 on the secondary market can range anywhere from around $500 all the way up to over a thousand.
Rarely, you may occasionally find one on Amazon for under $400.
The higher price points will often apply to brand-new, unused SARBs, of which there are very few, nearly none even.
Does the SARB033 have a sapphire crystal?
Yes, unlike so many Seikos in a similar price point which have the brand’s in-house Hardlex crystal, the SARB033 has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protecting its dial.
Seiko SARB033 and Seiko SARX035: Which One Is for You?
If you prefer a collectible with some lore behind it, the SARB033 is your guy. If you prefer a bigger everyday watch that’s, as mentioned, more shine than sparkle, go for the SARX035.
When it comes to more minute details, the SARB033 may have more dimensionality and nuanced light play on its applications, but the SARX035 has a more solid, and better-finished case and body.
When it comes to functions though, they’re almost equally matched except for the SARX035’s lack of lume. Since both watches are durable enough, this ironically makes the slightly more glittering SARB033 a more practical everyday beater.
Personally, I just love a 38-millimeter everyday watch, and I’m a sucker for a collectible.
All that to say, both watches are topnotch in construction and represent a sort-of ultimate Seiko model, in that they flaunt the utmost quality for cost.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!