Hands-on Review: Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition: SRPE83K1

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Followup to our Press Release report with commentary on Jan 21, we managed to get a hands-on session with the Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition SRPE83K1. Here is our in-depth review.

Press Release article on the Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition: SRPE83K1.

First published here on Jan 21, 2020.

The press release garnered a good response from collectors worldwide, and as we go to publication of this hands-on review, the Seiko 5 SRPE83K1 stocks are about to be released. Thong Sia (distributors for Seiko in Singapore and Hong Kong) told us that stocks are expected in Singapore by the end of this month.

Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition: SRPE83K1

Brian May has worn a Seiko diver’s watch for the past 40 years. The watch, purchased by Brian in thein 1970s, when he performed in Queen’s first tour in Japan. The other inspiration element is his guitar, known as the Red Special.

Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition: SRPE83K1 with a coin with Brian May’s bust, as a reference to the sixpenny he used all his career to play his guitar.

The Red Special is the guitar used by Brian throughout his music career and is an instrument which Brian and his father built in the early 1960’s. The guitar’s story is documented in a book – The Red Special. The guitar was made by hand, with only hand tools. The neck was carved from the wood of an old fireplace, 100 years old at the time. The body was made from blockboard with an ancient oak insert, and covered with a mahogany veneer that Brian stained and polished himself. The innovative tremolo system designed by Brian featured a hand-carved mild steel rocker plate pivoting on a knife edge, with the pull of the strings balanced by motorcycle valve springs. To complete the job, the tremolo arm was improvised from part of a bicycle saddlebag holder, capped with a piece of a sturdy knitting needle. The Red Special is a labor of love that has uniquely served Brian on stage and in the studio for over half a century.

The case, dial and hands

The case of the Seiko 5 Sports SRPE83K1 is the standard Seiko 5 Sports model, with a round base shape and lugs extended from the case proper to make a tonneau like shape. A huge crown sits at the 4 o’clock position within protrusions which act as crown guards.

The dial is rather special. It is protected by a Hardlex crystal, Seiko’s nomenclature or trademark for its mineral based clear glass. The dial has the same red and black color scheme as the ‘‘Red Special’’ and features a delicate wood-like pattern like the body of the guitar.

The dial features a black and red design motif, similar to the one found on the Red Special guitar. The division of the dial into black and red is via a curved line, reminiscent of the one used in the Chinese Yin/Yang symbol. Interestingly, the red parts of the dial exhibit some wood grain, like the parts on the guitar which are painted red. The hour markers are traditional Seiko 5 Sports model, with Lumibrite infilling. The rehaut is sloped around the peripheral and is marked in minutes. The hands are huge, and easy to read and also filled with Lumibrite.

The unidirectional rotating bezel completes the picture as a diver’s watch. The 42mm stainless steel case is rated to 100m water resistance.

The watch is fitted with a black, nylon NATO strap.

We think aesthetically, the dial does the trick. It is a strong reminder of the Red Special guitar and yet, remains with full Seiko 5 Sports DNA, and is highly visible and legible.

The movement: Seiko Caliber 4R36

The Brian May Special Edition is equipped with an automatic Seiko 5 caliber 4R36. This is an automatic movement with 41 hours power reserve and is equipped with 24 jewels. The relative position of this caliber in the Seiko hierarchy is somewhat in the middle, and is used in many watches, including Prospex Turtle and Prospex Baby Tuna, some Monster models.

Brian May’s signature and Limited Edition is printed on the under side of the sapphire crystal and adds a nice touch for Queen fans.

The 4R36 succeeds the 4R35 which itself is a 2011 upgrade to the popular 7S36. The movement offers a day/date display, visible on the dial side through an aperture at 3. The 4R36 is also capable of hand-winding and hacking.

The movement finish is at a high competent engineering level, with nearly no cosmetic decorative elements that is common with haute horlogerie watches being present. This is not unusual at this price point, and the movement is robust, reliable and will run with sufficient accuracy as a daily wear watch without any problems.

The competitive landscape

The landscape is perhaps one of limited edition watches which are dedicated to honour or in collaboration with a celebrity. But there are many ways to cut this. If we narrow to Brian May fans, then there are no competition. This is it, and so is a MUST BUY for Brian May and Queen fans.

The Brian May special edition in the presentation case. The commemorative coin is visible in the box, designed to look like the Red Special’s custom flight case.

If the landscape is limited to music stars, perhaps we may include Tudor which is associated with Lady Gaga, though she has no input to the design, nor are any Tudor watches designated as Lady Gaga models. In this case, she is merely an ambassasor, with no special pieces created with her name on the dial. Or perhaps, the Hublot‘s Classic Fusion Tourbillon Cathedral Minute Repeater Carbon Lang Lang or the Classic Fusion Ceramic Ultra-Thin Lang Lang might fit the bill. Here Lang Lang is also an ambassador for Hublot, but these are special pieces created with his name, perhaps similar to the Seiko 5 Brian May.

However, if the field is open to celebrities, then we may suggest the Casio G-Shock MRG G2000BL-X Bruce Lee. Though the Casio retails for S$5,300, almost 6X the price of the Seiko.

However, none of these in the landscape we can see compete with the Seiko 5 Sports Brian May in the same price class. And the Seiko leads this arena with outstanding value.

Concluding remarks

Summing up, the Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition: SRPE83K1 does everything right. The dial aesthetics remain close to the Red Special guitar which is the inspiration, while the other aspects of the dial reverts to the proven Seiko 5 Sports design. This means, excellent legibility of both the indices and the hands. The case is also the standard Seiko 5 Sports – rugged, good looking. And finally the accouterments are intelligently designed – the commemorative coin and the flight case shape of the box being two rather brilliant ideas. And the movement is the time and tested Caliber 4R36, proven to be reliable and trustworthy.

On the wrist, the Seiko 5 Sports Brian May is as comfortable as any other. It sits well on the cusp of the wrist.

And at S$899, the Seiko 5 Sport Brian May Special Edition is outstanding value, and as we mentioned, a must buy for Brian May and/or Queen fans.



    • Thanks for spotting the single typo on one occurrence of Brian’s name. So edited to correct. And thanks for the note on 4R35. Also corrected.