We are back with another review! Which is great news for all of us, me as I have found a watch worth writing about and you the reader who can agree or disagree with each of the sentiments I have regarding microbrands and the Serica 5303-2.
Serica shot into the microbrand limelight with its dirty dozen-esque design that is the 4512 series, riding the wave of momentum from its collaboration with the WM Brown Project and author of enthusiast favourite book “A man and his watch” Matt Hranek. The 5303 moves away from military inspired pieces and offers a dive watch conjured with the 1950’s in mind. While there is no shortage of vintage inspired dive watches, Serica’s charming design language and enticing specifications for under $1500 AUD makes this a formidable option amongst a long list of alternatives.
A recipe to delight us enthusiasts, the 5303’s dimensions and features are as follows; 39mm case diameter, 12.2mm thick, 46.5mm lug to lug, 316L steel case, Superluminova hands and hour markers, ceramic and steel bezel, double domed sapphire crystal, 300m water resistance and Newton automatic movement with 44 hour power reserve and +/-4 seconds a day claimed accuracy. More on the movement soon, but let’s cover all the best bits of the 5303.
A detox from high end price points, I loved opening the packaging to reveal a watch as handsome as the website described. A crisp dial that literally sparkles in sunlight and tasteful application of high polish and satin on the case, I was taken immediately by how gorgeous the Serica 5303 is in the hand. On wrist it is just as impressive, for my 16.5cm wrist (6.5-7 inches) the timepiece sat brilliantly thanks to the case diameter, short lug to lug distance and mesh bracelet. Due to the surplus of black dials in my collection, I opted for the silver variation which presents a sharp, high contrast dial that stands out in a way colourful dials do not. The lume plots (although quite weak) have a beige tint to really drive home the vintage vibes and if that wasn’t enough, there is a line of red text for good measure. Perhaps the feature that draws your attention the most is the split bezel, both in material and finish. The outer ring is composed of high gloss black ceramic denoting the time elapsed, where the sunburst steel inner bezel is a 12 hour counter to assist with reading a second time zone. It is easy to read and plays to the other high polish and satin finishes found on the 5303. Serica succeeds in bringing a watch that feels familiar yet is not derivative of anything that has come before it. Quite the achievement, microbrand or not.
What I hoped for when committing to the purchase was a beautifully designed, comfortable wearing diver that proves you don’t have to spend lots to enjoy something that is just a really great watch. And that’s just what I got. The 5303 immediately inspires confidence every time you turn the 120 click bezel. It’s incredibly smooth (like really really smooth) and feels superior to even some household names. When something feels and works as well as it looks, you’re onto a winner. The 5303 spent equal time on leather, NATO’s, MN’s, tropic strap and mesh bracelet, all of which compatible options until a fellow owner (shout out to you Marcus) notified me that an Uncle Seiko 20mm flat link bracelet (with hollow end links) mates to the case of 5303. Wanting a change from the mesh aesthetic, I have not looked back since adorning the flat link bracelet which feels as if it were made for it (props to you Uncle Seiko!). The more I wore it, the more I enjoyed the 5303. It is so far removed from any of the buzz words associated with modern day watch collecting such as hype, waitlist, investment; wearing the Serica feels like a reset button. I found the 5303 appropriate at all times and would only be left in the watch box when I opted for something more dress inclined to match a suit and tie. The humble proportions and monochromatic colour scheme make it easy to wear and it never left me wanting more. It’s always a risk buying watches sight unseen but when done right, it’s exactly why we love a microbrand.
My experience unfortunately does not seem to be consistent across all 5303 owners with something to be said about the Soprod Newton caliber. I for one found it reliable and accurate, yet a number of anecdotes from forums left plenty to be desired. Touted to be a ETA 2824 replacement with high levels of accuracy, it has been implemented with wavering success. Many first batch owners experienced issues with the hacking seconds, time setting functions as well as dead spots between crown positions and poor overall feel. The symptoms described couldn’t be further from what I’ve experienced, winding has been smooth, the crown action robust and not even a hint of dead spot, being met only with satisfying clicks when setting the time and unlocking the screw down crown. With my model being from the second release I’m hoping all the issues mentioned earlier have put to bed. Every brand big or small has had to deal with teething issues for new product lines but with concerns surfacing with relative frequency and Serica claiming that these characteristics are inherent of the Soprod Newton movement, it could be ominous. I hope they proceed with caution in their next batch of timepieces, taking due care when responding to owners who may have experienced these issues.
Nothing could better explain the duality of the sector that is microbrands. On one hand, I have enjoyed the ideal experience all the way from purchase, shipping, delivery and ownership. Fantastic watches can burst onto the scene and make ripples for all the right reasons, think Anordain, Monta, Baltic, Halios. However, as quickly as a microbrand can rise to fame, the watch community can take it all away. The most recent example in my mind being Ming and their quality control… mishap. Kurono Tokyo had a close call with their attempt of a ladies only expression of interest in the Tiffany blue dial timepiece, however they were quick to address and accept the pushback thrust upon them. The big brands are not immune to this phenomenon, it’s just that microbrands may not be able to weather PR storms as well. I hope Serica goes the right way about things and sticks around for enjoys long term success. With the launch of the Serica 8315 GMT based on the foundations of the 5303 design set to deliver in January 2023, I’m excited to see how it will be received.
Here lies the risk and reward equation, the give and take when comparing watchmaking houses that have been around vs the new kid on the block. With the enjoyment I have got out of Serica’s 5303 I would not hesitate to go microbrand again. However I might just be a touch cautious when it comes to first generation releases if possible, just to avoid enduring any teething issues a timepiece may have, first hand.