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I want to preface this review by saying that I was allowed to watch “Predator” at way too young of an age. I’m glad I was, as it was a formative film for me. Crazy good action with a sci-fi twist, and some of the best creature design seen in film to date. I was obsessed. It was my goal to obtain all of the Predator toys, comics, trading cards that I could. There was even an attempt at reading the expanded universe novelizations at age 10. While my love for action figures and comic books faded out as adulthood eventually kicked in, the closest I could get to a toy from the Predator universe is the refreshed Seiko SNJ029 “Safarnie”.
While the black and Pepsi colors were released a few years back, the new Urban Street series sports two brand new colors. The SNJ029 features khaki accents with a black shrouded case, while the SNJ031 sports a dark green shroud and accents. Both the khaki and green models have been aptly nicknamed as “Safarnies”, but Zach W. and I are officially launching our public campaign for the khaki model to be known as the “Saharnie”. The desert tan accents and strap just make more sense in a desert setting. If you’re willing to jump on board with the new name, make sure to let us know in the comments.
Upon receiving the watch, I was thrilled. It was like cracking open that hard-earned (remember getting paid for chores?) action figure after begging my dad for a Toys-R-Us run. With the watch on wrist (and my three year old fast asleep), I had to fire up the original 1987 Predator film while playing around with the digital features on my watch, and making sure to pause the movie any time there was a good shot of it on screen.
Bushwhacking his way through the jungle en route to the famous “choppa” and avoiding an alien hunter at all costs, Arnold wore the original ana-digi diver that was introduced in 1982 as the Seiko H558. It’s an unapologetically large, 47.8mm tuna-style diver with a shrouded case. The dial is squashed down at 12 to make room for the signature LCD screen that has some key functions that really make the watch more useful during day to day wear. The new model is updated with a new movement with solar charging, an extra 50m of water resistance, and the Prospex logo, but the roots remain traceable right back to the nearly 40-year old model. Let’s take a closer look at this excellent grab-and-go Seiko.
Hands-On: Seiko SNJ029 “SafArnie” Urban Street Series
Seiko H851 Solar
Black with Khaki Markers
Lumibrite on hands, indices, and bezel
47.8 x 50.5mm
The SNJ029’s case measures in at an astoundingly wide 47.8mm, and it shouldn’t work on my 6.75” wrist, but it does. The lugs are little more than slight protrusions to attach the strap to, leaving the circular case to steal the show. Lug-to-lug, the watch measures a very reasonable 50.5mm. At 14.4mm thick, it’s not winning any “World’s Thinnest Watches” awards, but it’s not meant to. The circular shrouded case is nicknamed the “tuna”, after the round can that the fish is packed into, and it makes sense. It’s a big, thick, round watch that manages to remain comfortable and wearable. More on that later.
It’s hard to comment on the case itself, as the metal component is hidden by a matte finished plastic shroud. The metal inner case is finished with a gunmetal grey color, which is barely visible from a few weird angles. The gunmetal color carries over to the tiny lugs and all three crowns. Let’s break down the case from top to bottom. Up top, there’s a 120-click unidirectional dive bezel with Arabic numerals at 15, 30, and 45. In between, you’ll find hash marks from 1-15 and dots between all of the rest. They’re engraved into the gunmetal bezel, leaving it insert-free. At 12 o’clock, there’s a nice, big lume pip.
The next step down is the plastic shroud. I’m sure they could have gone with metal for this piece, but I’m honestly glad that it’s plastic. It helps keep the weight down on what could be a very heavy watch. Plus, if the plastic gets jacked up from a day of fishing/diving/hanging out, you can replace it by removing the three set screws. To rotate the bezel, there are two sloping cut-outs in the shroud between 11:30 and 2, and again from 5:30 to 8. You can easily grasp the bezel thanks to the aggressive cuts in the side. Action on the bezel is softer than I had expected, with a pleasing low-key click as it’s rotated. There is a bit of back play in the bezel, but I’ve found that it helps to line it up perfectly at 12 when not in use.
There are three protrusions on the case — the main time setting crown at 3, with two pushers at 8 and 10. You use the main crown to set the time, which screws down securely into place, while the pushers activate the digital functions. We’ll touch on the functionality and how to set the watch later on when we look at the movement. One of my favorite little details on the watch is the orange enamel sections on the barrel of the pusher. They pick up on the orange accented seconds hand, and also give you a visual cue that the pusher locks are unscrewed. I tend to leave the bottom pusher locked, and the top open to activate the backlight with ease, without changing the default display.
Moving further down the vertical sides of the case, there are the short gun metal grey lugs. They’re rounded off for a low-profile appearance, and are otherwise unremarkable. I’m SO glad that Seiko opted for these small lugs, since it’s the main reason that I can pull off a 47.8mm case on my wrist. They slope slightly downwards to guide the strap down the sides of your wrist. Each lug is also drilled for quick and easy strap changes. The silver steel case back hangs slightly below the bottom of the shroud. The case is simple overall, but has enough going on to stay interesting. I’m a big fan of how it feels on the wrist — it’s big enough so that you always know it’s there, but doesn’t overpower or overwhelm my wrist due to the relative light weight of the watch.
Dial & Hands
For such a large watch, the dial is relatively small. From the outermost crowns, into the hour markers, there’s quite a bit of space. Let’s work from the outside in. First, you have the three crowns and set screws for the shroud. Moving inwards, there’s the shroud itself that flanks the chunky engraved bezel. Finally, we’re inside the Hardlex crystal. Running around the outermost edge of the dial, you’ll find a slanted khaki colored chapter ring. Continuing that gentle slope is another ring displaying the 24-hour time equivalents. Since the digital screen sits proudly at the top of the dial, we get a scale from 14 to 22.
Moving to the the hour markers — khaki plots of lume with a silvery white outline that have been booted out of the way between 11 and 2 by the digital screen. While the look may not be for everyone, I’m a fan. It looks cool and unique. Since the hands are rather blocky and stout, the squashed in dial works quite well. Each of the indices are hit with a healthy dose of Seiko’s Lumibrite luminous paint. The khaki lume doesn’t have the same blazing green effect as the standard pale green version does, but the performance is quite good. I’ve noticed that it stays visible several hours into the night, albeit a little bit light. The lume color also leans more blue than the standard Lumibrite, giving off a teal glow. It doesn’t have the same longevity as Predator blood, but it’s more than adequate.
Another interesting thing about the dial is that the main black surface is where the watch charges via light. You may notice that it looks a bit purple in some of the wood background photos, but this is only a side effect of the bright studio lights. In practice, it’s not noticeable at all. Text on the dial is kept to a minimum with a printed SEIKO logo under 12, juxtaposed by the PROSPEX “X” logo, “SOLAR”, and “Diver’s 200m” just above 6.
One of the main reasons I went with the khaki -029 model over the dark green -031 is the dial. I really love the khaki chapter ring, which does a great job of tying the whole watch together. When swapping straps, the effect might not be as pronounced on the green model. On the green model, the dial features the same khaki lume, but since the rest of the watch is green, it looks almost like they went for a fauxtina look. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the khaki on khaki on khaki look is something original that stands out on its own.
The hand set is bold and brushed with a healthy hit of khaki lume in the middle of each hand. The hour and minutes hands are similar in shape, but vary in stature. Both hands are rectangular with the corners snipped off at a 45º angle. These small cuts on both the front and back of the hand give them a slightly softer and more finished look than a straight-up sharp-cornered rectangle would. The hands are very legible, making it easy to tell the time at a quick glance. A thin orange seconds hand with a black circular counterbalance ticks around the dial. I love how the orange on the seconds hand picks up on the orange accent on the pushers. This small detail really ties the dial and case together, giving the watch a cohesive and rugged vibe.
I’m not much of a quartz guy, but I can appreciate a good grab-and-go watch. A solid quartz piece can fit in with nearly any collection, and the movement powering the SNJ029 is no slouch. It’s called the SEIKO H851. It’s an analog and digital quartz movement with plenty of added functionality that’s come in handy throughout your day. It also charges via light, so you never have to worry about changing the battery. To cycle between modes on the digital screen, simply press the bottom pusher. It will switch through the following modes:
Time display (12/24 hour options) > Day/Date display > Local Time > Stopwatch > Alarm
If you feel so inclined, you can turn on an audible beep that sounds every time you switch modes, with a slightly higher toned beep when you get back to the beginning. There’s also an option for a chime at the top of every hour. Using the digital functions is a pretty straightforward affair. The bottom pusher scrolls through them, while the top pusher is the start/stop button for the stopwatch and acts as the backlight for every other feature. It’s a bit odd, but you cannot activate the backlight when using the stopwatch. This is definitely a bummer, but there really isn’t another solution other than adding another button.
Setting the time, whether its for the main time, local time, or alarm is fun and interesting. Thank goodness (or the engineers at Seiko, either or) that the seconds on the digital display and analog display are automatically synced up. To change the time, select what you want to change, and unscrew/pull out the crown. The digital screen will start flashing and you rotate the crown up or down to manipulate the time. Simply hit the bottom pusher once you have your time value set to scroll to the next input. It might sound confusing, but after a few minutes with the manual, it’s quick, easy, and intuitive. The H851 also has a power saving function that is a bit trippy to witness for the first time. If you don’t expose the watch to light, the hands and screen will shut down and freeze in their place after a period of inactivity. Once you pick the watch back up, all of the hands zoom back into place. It’s fun to see in action, and it’s definitely something that your mechanical watch won’t be doing.
Strap & Wearability
The strap that comes with the SNJ029 is a departure from the standard old hard rubber straps that you’d find on one of their other divers. Nine years later, and my wrist still has PTSD from that stiff, uncomfortable, and too long strap that shipped with my SKX173. I’m glad that Seiko went a different route with the Safarnie strap. It’s made from a flexible silicone rubber that wears well on the wrist. It’s flexible and soft, featuring a textured bottom that cuts down on friction and sweat build up on your wrist. Of course, the strap is water proof. I do like rubber straps when in/around the water, because there’s no waiting for a soggy nato to dry out. The khaki-colored strap features black hardware — the buckle and badass perforated metal strap keeper both complement the case nicely. Since this is a PROSPEX watch, the strap is long enough to fit over a wetsuit, which means it is a bit long for every day use. It’s not unwearable by any means, but a good amount of the strap doesn’t peek out from the other side of your wrist when wearing it. I’ve found myself enjoying the watch on either a dark khaki single pass nato strap with black hardware, or a regular black nato in the same configuration. Since the silicone is thick, it can make an already large watch feel a bit bulky.
On paper, this watch is a bit of a monster (no, not that Monster). I hinted earlier on that a nearly 48mm watch should not work on my 6.75” wrist, but it does. It’s by no means svelte, but it’s comfortable and fun to wear in a casual setting. In the era of working from home, the Safarnie has been taking up nearly all of my wrist time since receiving it a few weeks back. It’s great with a tee and some shorts, and I’m sure it’ll work well with a hoodie when the weather cools down. It probably won’t be my go-to watch with a button up shirt though. It will look and feel a bit out of place with an Oxford Cloth button down, but if you’re a flannel guy that might work a bit better. Of course the Safarnie is right at home in the jungle with a tank top and tactical vest, strapped on your wrist below massive 20” biceps. While not all of us have the same physique as Arnold, the tuna case works well on a wide range of wrists. Just check out Jason Heaton’s shot here for a larger wrist, and Kat from Tenn and Two’s wrist shot for what it looks like on the smaller end of the spectrum.
2020 is a year unlike any I’ve experienced in my lifetime. While watches are by no means a necessity, they can be a source of fun and enjoyment. If anything, they’re a great distraction from everything going on in the world. The Seiko SNJ029 is providing that bit of relief for me. While it would be easy to complain about the bulky case, post about how it should be 42mm wide, and throw a fit that there’s no sapphire on a $550 watch, the SNJ029 isn’t really about that. It’s a big, fun Seiko that I believe could have a place in nearly anyone’s collection. The grab-and-go nature of a quartz watch, the fact that it charges via solar energy, and the small, yet useful digital screen in the dial result in an ideal everyday wear watch. Not to mention the “Urban Safari” color ways are both excellent and fit the form of the watch perfectly. Add a tie-in to Predator (one of my favorite movies ever) and the SNJ029 is a no-brainer for me. While some may be wary of the size, I would recommend trying this one on if you can. I rolled the dice and ended up pleasantly surprised just how well this gargantuan quartz Seiko has become the watch I’ve reached for most over the past month. I have a feeling that this one will “STICK AROUND” in my collection for years to come. More from Seiko.
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