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Review: Seikoak

We’re treading a fine line today to answer the question, how far can a homage go before it’s gone too far? This is the Seikoak Royal, it costs just $500, and it doesn’t take much imagination to spot its influence. So I’m going to look at it from both angles, for and against, and at the end I want you to vote on what you think. Are you for it or against it?


First, I’m going to put forward my argument for the Seikoak Royal. First thought: it costs less than $500. There’s no chance this watch is going to stop someone buying a real Royal Oak. That would be like someone bailing on a Ferrari purchase because they got the Hot Wheels equivalent. In fact, I’d say the opposite is true. As it happens, the owner of this very watch also owns, amongst other things, a Royal Oak. A really fancy one. The two watches look very similar, but for him, do two very different jobs. Chances are if he didn’t already have a Royal Oak, this would have been the nudge over the line to get one.

I mean, if the Swatch Group thinks a plastic edition of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is going to get buyers to discover and buy into the full fat version of the struggling watch, then the same point of view can be levied for this. It’s the first taste, one that might go nowhere but could develop into a full-on addiction for the Royal Oak. And when people are addicted, they want the best they can afford. They don’t want it cut with 50% Defy Skyline.

So we’ve established that owning one of these won’t necessarily stop you getting a Royal Oak. It’s not an outright fake, it says Seiko on the dial—which to be honest makes more of an argument towards it being a fake Seiko, or as I’m now going to refer to it forevermore, a Feiko—so you aren’t going to be fooling anyone with it on. In fact, the owner tells me the watch, especially in this salmon colour—black, blue and green are also available—draws people over because they think it’s a Royal Oak, and keeps them in conversation because they discover it’s a Seiko. Between you and me, they’re definitely not staying for his charm and wit!

It's made in 41mm of stainless steel, comes with a full bracelet, gets a waffle dial—albeit simplified from Audemars Piguet’s tapisserie—and is powered by a Seiko NH35, which gives it 41 hours of power reserve and keeps thickness down to a sensible 11.2mm. It’s also water resistant to 100m and gets a sapphire crystal for the front, although the rear is mineral glass, so maybe give it a miss if you keep your wrist hair sharp and stubbly.

The sum of all that is that this is a surprisingly well-made watch. The movement isn’t going to keep Philippe Dufour up at night but it’ll provide long, reliable service. Might even be more reliable than the AP original. I actually wonder what you’d get if you put this watch in the hands of an Audemars Piguet certified service centre to refinish the case and bracelet. That would be pretty cool I reckon.

It’s not quite as sturdy as the real thing, but honestly, for $500, there’s not a whole lot to complain about. It’s the Royal Oak you can wear to the beach, in the garden, or whilst smashing rocks together. It just doesn’t matter. You don’t have to worry if an overly aggressive wipe just cost you several thousand. It’s like those plastic covers people put on furniture, except it’s actually a whole new piece of furniture that’s almost as comfortable and way less expensive.

By far the biggest pro in the Seikoak’s corner is quite simply that most people who love the Royal Oak just can’t afford one. Not even close. Not even if they save up really hard and make it all their birthdays and Christmases for a thousand years. Do I begrudge fake watches? Yes. Does making an almost identical watch with Seiko branding instead change that? At least it’s an effort. You could say to try a similar style watch instead, but that’s just not going to scratch the itch for a lot of people. Better this than an all-out fake?


Okay, so we’ve explored why this watch presents a good opportunity not just for the owner, but for Audemars Piguet as well, but how about the points against? Let’s start not with the Audemars Piguet bit, but the Seiko bit. It’s not a Seiko, and if we’re concerned about the prevalence of fake watches, I think it’s also right to consider the implications something like this has on that moral positioning. Is this Feiko okay? How are we determining that? Because Seikos are cheap? Many of them aren’t. Because Seiko isn’t as prestigious as AP? The group makes many watches that can go toe-to-toe.

I’m no legalist, but between the shape of the Royal Oak and the use of the Seiko brand, I’d say the case against the branding would be an easier one for this watch to lose against. Audemars Piguet has indeed pursued its rights to the sole use of the Royal Oak shape, with mixed success. With a brand name, it’s very clear cut. The existence of the watch could diminish Seiko’s reputation as a manufacturer of original watches with those who are unaware it’s not actually OEM.

You could say a sterile dial would have been better, but I’m not sure that solves the problem. It might even make it worse. Seiko branding violates Seiko’s trademark, but a sterile dial is just one step closer to faking it as an Audemars Piguet. So I understand why the Seikoak is branded like this—and Seikoak is a cool name, let’s be clear—but that’s really just one problem being solved with another. Seiko seem to be pretty cool about this stuff, with people like Uncle Straps—formerly Uncle Seiko—selling aftermarket branded dials for modders—but the same leniency might not be true of watches that deliberately seek to ape other desirable pieces.

So how would you feel owning a Seiko-branded product that Seiko weren’t happy with, if indeed it turned out Seiko weren’t happy? Even if Seikoak do have a small disclaimer at the bottom of their site saying Seiko don’t make the watches? And how does that differ from owning a watch that wasn’t made by Audemars Piguet that featured the brand name on the dial?

It’s also been said that collectors are purchasing watches like this because they’re afraid of being mugged for the real thing. Unfortunately, wearing a watch that looks identical except in very close proximity probably isn’t going to help with that, and potentially ending up injured over a $500 Seiko mod isn’t really a great look. The people involved in these crimes aren’t so interested to learn more about your Seikoak.

But the biggest negative in this whole thing all comes down to the capacity in which these cases and bracelets are made. Are they solely being produced for these mod watches, or do they come off the same line as the ones that end up saying Audemars Piguet on them? And if so, is it better your money going there than to a watch brand making its own interpretation of an integrated watch? I couldn’t tell you whether those speculations are true or not, perhaps it’s something Seikoak can clarify, but ultimately I imagine most people in this hobby want to support creators having a positive impact on the industry—and this might not be that.

It’s a knife-edge topic with solid plus and minus points. What do you think? Does it skim the line or cross it?