It’s Cocktail Time! Seiko’s Original SARB065 vs the New Presage Cocktail Time

The original Cocktail Time is a cool timepiece with a neat history, having been designed in collaboration with a genuine cocktail mixologist (who knew cocktail mixologists made such great watch designers). Over the years it has proven itself to be a classic, and the vintage vibe is as enticing as ever. Now that Seiko intends to squeeze more juice out of the concept by shifting it downmarket and expanding it into a multi-watch line, I think we’ll see it on many more wrists.

My own Cocktail Time is an original SARB065 with the 6R15C movement, and I’m immensely proud of it. As one of the last SARB065s made, it was a lucky find. My local Seiko outlet, desperate to rid themselves of the watch prior to the Presage version launch, had marked the price down so low that I just about had a crisis fumbling for yen in my wallet.

Seiko Cocktail Time SARB065 on Mesh
The original we all fell in love with. It wasn’t perfect, but it was unique and special. Can Seiko recapture the magic? Spoiler alert: Yes.

The Cocktail Time is not for everybody, though. As such a dramatic expression of mid-century modernism, it borders on costume jewelry. Of course, walking that line is the fun of wearing it, but it’s not exactly appropriate for every occasion. The lack of versatility is largely to do with the glossy, black leather strap (which is too formal, even with the swanky, blue stitching) and the chunky case. Personally, I wanted to rock the watch in daily rotation, so I swapped the strap for polished mesh.

Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time on Mesh on Wrist
Loose as a goose for enhanced nonchalance. On mesh, the Cocktail Time is perfectly suitable for a liquid lunch before the big meeting or a Schlitz out by the pool with neighbors.

Strap notwithstanding, the Presage version addresses some of the questionable aspects of the original, like that excessive case thickness and movement choice. I really do think that switching to the more affordable 4R35 movement was a good decision despite the loss of some power reserve and accuracy. The 6R15 was arguably overkill in a fun, night-on-the-town watch with unexceptional case finishing and Hardlex crystals. Simply put, the Presage version is a more coherent product.

There are other changes to the Presage version as well, like a larger crown and single piece hour markers. Probably the most significant is the fact that the Cocktail Time has been expanded into a whole range of products inside the Presage sphere: The SSA series includes a very cool, centralized power reserve display and date subdial, and the whole line adds tasty, new, cocktail inspired color combos. Nifty!

Seiko Cocktail Time Comparison Presage vs SARB065
Don’t let the lighting difference in these two photos fool you. The overall appearance and vibrational swagger of the two are essentially the same.

My only qualm is about the loss of the cursive “Automatic” text, which was nixed in favor of “PRESAGE” text. I may be splitting hairs, though. Clearly Seiko is proud of the Presage line, which has been a great success for them, and I doubt it will be a deal-breaker for all those fans who craved the original but didn’t want to pay for the 6R15.

In a nutshell, the Presage Cocktail Times are absolutely great watches and worthy successors in the Cocktail Time lineage. As a SARB065 owner, I don’t feel any resentment at all over the push downmarket, because I personally feel that the price of that gorgeous dial never needed to be inflated by the movement. Adding the more complicated SSA version upmarket has turned out to be a good decision, too, garnering lots of positive reviews.

Mostly, I’m happy that Seiko is able to run with a good idea without wrecking it. Perhaps the next iteration could come with bow tie lugs or a matching cigarette case. We’ll be looking forward to it.

Get your hands on one now with the links below. Here you’ll find the Japanese SARY models at street prices from a good seller.

This one is the original style with ice blue dial, silver case, silver hands except the blue seconds hand. Can’t go wrong with the original. (AKA SRPB43J1)

Gold case, black hands and indices, brown strap. Glittery champagne dial. Very interesting color combo and currently two fanatically positive reviews. (AKA SRPB44J1)

Rose gold case, hands and indices go superbly well with the chocolate dial and brown strap. My choice if I was getting another. (AKA SRPB46J1)

Silver case, beautiful blue dial, silver hands and indices, on a decent looking metal bracelet. (AKA SRPB41J1)

SEIKO PRESAGE BASIC LINE SARY081, The Sky Diving (Power Reserve)
Original style with power reserve and date subdial. (AKA SSA343J1)

Silver dial, case and hands, except a green seconds hand, with power reserve and date subdial on the same metal bracelet as the SARY073. My choice of the power reserve models. (AKA SSA341J1)

Rose gold case, hands and indices, brown strap. Dial appears to be cream, according to ABTW. Ultra classy. (AKA SSA346J1)

Finally, there’s a dark grey dial power reserve model called the Espresso Martini SSA345J1. It’s available here, albeit at full retail price.