Recently I’ve been fancying Japanese watches, as they are well designed, robust, of high quality and offer unbeatable value. J.Springs is a new brand, founded in 2001 by Seiko Instruments, Inc. They offer fresh designs that are distinctly Japanese and seemingly targets a younger audience, at the same time backed by the watch manufacturing technology and workmanship of industry giant Seiko.
First the specs of the BEB049 Retro Future
- Automatic Cal.Y676 (21 jewels, accuracy +45～-35 sec/day)
- Day/date indicator
- 10 Bar Water Resistance
- Stainless Steel Case and Bracelet
- Mineral Glass
- See-through screw case back
- Rotating Inner Bezel
- Newlite Luminous (Hour & Minute Hands)
- Weight 170g
- Thickness 13mm
- Diameter 42mm
Now on to the “first impressions” review:
Nothing much to be said here. It’s a cardboard box with cheap foam inside to protect the watch. It’s just a container so you can take the watch home from the store. The instruction manual is folded bond paper. Obviously the cost of non-essentials are kept to a minimum.
In a statement, this piece has the same level of workmanship as the Seiko 5, Seiko’s entry level line of automatics. I got this J.Springs for $140 and it’s worth every cent. Note that it has an automatic movement that’s made in Japan. It has not 5 but 10ATM water resistance that you can confidently swim in the pool or take a shower with. It’s even got a see-through case back. The crystal is “just” mineral but hey, with its price tag there’s no complaining. It’s obvious that the watch is crafted and assembled in a manufacturing facility with quality tooling. Also, the watch’s overall design is distinct, I don’t see an intentional imitation to any popular Swiss design.
The case is highly angular which seems to be inspired by Anime mecha robots. It’s really refreshing and allows for more chances for light to reflect on it regardless of its position. It has a good mix of polished and brushed portions. The lugs would disappoint modders because it has a center lug that is part of the case and can’t be removed. Forget about replacing the bracelet with a NATO, leather or rubber strap.
The fixed bezel is slim (roughly 2.5mm), allowing for a bigger dial and giving an illusion that the watch is bigger than 42mm. Yet it does not look overwhelming on my smallish asian wrist. It has a PVD finish which contrasts and “wraps” the dial nicely. It’s brushed on top and polished on the bevel and edges. The numbers 13-24 are engraved and painted blue: purely for decoration. PVD, brushed, beveled, polished and engraved, the amazing attention given to the bezel boosts the watch’s perceived quality.
This is the interesting part. Looking inwards of the outer bezel, you’ll find a slanted inner bezel that can be rotated by a crown. It is part of a calendar function and shows the dates of a month. You can align the inner bezel with the days of the week which is in between the inner bezel and the minute indices. Properly set, you can use this function to determine what day a particular date is in a month.
The “J” logo is an emblem with DLC-like finish; “J.Springs” printed with embossed charcoal-colored paint is right below it. There are tiny gold bar shaped hour markers which are also in DLC-like finish, and these are really small, about .5mm x 1.5mm. Think of a piece of lead that’s broken off your mechanical pencil, that’s how tiny they are. The per minute indices are painted spikes of blue and black. Even smaller indices in gray and blue show 1/3rd of a minute. Why the indices are in different colors makes no sense.
The 2-o’clock position shows the date window, while the day (completely spelled) is in the 6-o’clock position. A proud “MADE IN JAPAN” is printed on the 6-o’clock position. All nice touches.
The minute and hour hands are pencil shaped with black borders. The seconds hand is arrow shaped, with a black stem and blue tip. The minute and seconds hands are bizarre, because they are long and their tips are way beyond the radius of the indices! In fact, the seconds hand is so long, it seems to point at the days of the inner bezel. At first this will play with your head, because you could mistake the second hand for a date indicator, and yet it moves in a sweeping motion!
Overall, the dial is busy, unique and has a “functional tool” aura. Although with some of its elements (i.e. the seconds hand), form took a priority over function.
The Retro Future has two crowns. First is a two-position polished PVD crown (non screw lock) to adjust the time, date and day. The second is between the 7 and 8-o’clock area and is for adjusting the inner bezel. The second crown looks cool with its blue band and blue top, but it’s too loose and rotates on its own so you might as well forget about properly using the calendar function.
Without a proper macro lens, the photo above is my best shot of the movement. I’ve no details on this motor. For sure it’s made in Japan, as indicated on the caseback. It’s most probably in house by SII and could even be based on the 7S Seiko movement mainly used on Seiko 5’s. I can’t report yet on accuracy, but if it’s from Seiko it must be good. What I can’t tell for sure is if the rest of the watch is also assembled in Japan.
Lume fans need to look elsewhere as the Retro Future only has it on the minute and hour hands. They call the lume Newlite, and it’s really not impressive. Not bright enough when fully charged and doesn’t even last beyond 15 minutes.
Nothing to write home about. This is your standard issue stainless with double clasp. It’s comfortable though, with no sharp edges. The edges of the links are nicely rounded. I must also say that the watch feels quite light on the wrist.
Though not perfect, the J.Springs BEB049 Retro Future is uniquely designed, of respectable quality and most importantly superb value. While there may be occasions that require wearing a Swiss timepiece, for other times (pun intended) like the daily grind on your desk or coffee with your friends on a weekend, a reliable, good looking JDM piece like a J.Springs Retro Future may be all that you need.
- unique, non-homage J-pop design with amazing details
- Seiko quality inside and out
- lightweight and comfortable
- great value
- weak lume
- bracelet is a challenge to replace
- confusing second hand
- loose second crown that adjusts the inner bezel
Note: In writing this review I will admit eating my words in a prior post that Swiss watches are the only real watches out there. Back in the ’60s, the Japanese threatened Swiss Made watches to extinction by creating quartz timepieces, and fast forward to today, Japan is at it again with offerings that are on par if not better than their Swiss equivalents.