The coolest watches are all about unexpected dial details. Sometimes those can be subtle, other times not so much, but they usually have one thing in common: a price that’ll make you wish you’d bought Bitcoin in 2016. One such (typically wallet-busting) dial detail: Arabic script numerals. In regular watch-speak (and somewhat counterintuitively) “Arabic” numerals usually refer to your standard digits 1 through 12 (which, along with Roman numerals, are the most common format for watches). Every now and then, however, a watchmaker decides to offer a special version featuring numerals in another language—in this case, Arabic—and when they do people tend to take notice.
It all started, as so many watch stories do, with Rolex, which began making Arabic dial watches in extremely limited quantities for the middle-eastern market in the 1950s. Unsurprisingly, these watches have since become extremely collectible, so much so that when Rolex dropped a new limited-edition Arabic dial version of the Day-Date in 2016, Jay-Z and Mark Wahlberg–whose watch collections need little introduction–were among the first to get their hands on it. More recently, TAG Heuer introduced an Arabic script limited edition of its classic Carrera Chronograph (don’t go looking for it at retail–like most Arabic script dials from luxury brands, it sold out almost immediately).
Which brings us to the one Arabic dial out there that bucks the college-fund-draining trend: the $160 Seiko 5 SNKP21J1, which offers maximum style (and collector cred) on a minimal budget. Seiko’s Arabic dial isn’t perfect (Jay’s Rolex also has the day of the week and date in Arabic, while the Seiko’s date function reverts to conventional numerals) but that seems like a minor tradeoff, considering the discount you’re getting on a piece of major watch geekery.
It has been around–and widely available online–since at least 2017, so it’s not exactly a new drop either, but considering the enthusiasm we’re seeing for Arabic dials from luxury brands these days, we’re guessing it won’t stay under the radar for long.
The Seiko 5 family already has a devoted following of collectors who appreciate its versatile design and reliable mechanical movement, not to mention its ultra-affordable price point. In the case of this particular Seiko 5, however, you get all of that design, performance and value, plus one of the rarest dial formats in watchmaking, all for just $160. You don’t need to understand how blockchain works to see the value in that proposition.