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I love affordable watches. I love divers. And I love supporting British brands – so when I get to review a watch that ticks all those boxes, I’m very happy indeed. How about when the watch in question is a nod to an epic vintage Seiko? MIND. BLOWN.

AKIO’s founder, Sebastian, is a firefighter and runs a successful strap store selling primarily NATO straps; at mksnatostraps.com. He said it’s increasingly difficult to find an affordable automatic watch that’s tough enough for him and his work. So, he decided to make one.

AKIO is Japanese for hero, and it’s the notion of giving your everything in life and your endeavours that he wants to convey.

The AKIO AK-01 Uemura is a homage to the seriously cool Seiko 6105 or “The Willard”. Made between 1970-1977, it was famously worn by Martin Sheen’s character Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now; hence the nickname. Seiko makes their own modern version of The Willard, the SPB151, but with a price of around £1000, it’s certainly not in the affordable category.

Uemura is an interesting name, and it’s certainly interesting to try to pronounce too. The inspiration behind picking this name is Naomi Uemura, who was the first man to reach the North Pole solo in 1978. What was he wearing? None other than the Seiko 6105, which was securely strapped to his wrist for many more extreme expeditions before his tragic and premature death in 1984, one day after turning 43.

What we have here is a well-thought-out brand and model, aiming towards a go-anywhere, do-anything ethos. But does it deliver? Especially considering the RRP is a very reasonable £195? Let’s check it out.

The specs

Video review

How does it wear? Whilst the 42.7mm diameter might sound like it’ll wear large, it doesn’t due to the relatively short lug to lug length of 46.6mm. There aren’t any real out-and-out lugs either; the case is a sort of tonneau shape and the lugs are integrated into it.

It’s the same for the height, 13.2mm doesn’t sound like the thinnest watch (which of course it isn’t), but it wears with a deceptively low profile on my 7” wrist. It’s very comfortable indeed and feel great on.

What’s struck me most is the beautifully clear flat sapphire crystal with a bevelled edge, which intermingles with the glossy ceramic bezel insert. The outer edge of the bezel has a polished rim where the effective grip meets.

The bezel insert is another brilliant aspect of a watch only costing less than £200. Ceramic inserts aren’t cheap, nor are they easy to get spot-on. However, even up close the markings on the AKIO AK-01 are accurately executed. The glossiness of a ceramic bezel insert is very eye-catching, dutifully reflecting the light.

This leads us onto the lume. BGW9 has been used on the bezel, with C3 luminova on the watch dial. The strength is pretty good but not outstanding.

The overall finishing of the case is perfectly acceptable for a watch costing this much. In fact, it’s pretty great. The join where the polished side and brushed top meets is clean and crisp, and the finishing is all uniform and neat.

The screw-in polished caseback is a little plain, but let’s keep the price in mind here. The AKIO logo features in the centre and is still nice and deeply engraved.

The screw-in crown is located at 4, neatly nestled within the surrounds of the unique and bottom-right bulge of the case, which provides plenty of character and superb protection. The crown has the AKIO logo engraved on the end.

This blue dial has a lovely sunburst and is more or less a direct replica of the Seiko. This opens up a sticky subject of homages – I’m perfectly fine with them – but some may not be. Either way, it’s got that unmistakable vintage / retro vibe thanks to the 70’s Seiko style. It’s extremely legible thanks to the bold hour markers and simple thick pencil-shaped hands. I also really like the design of the tip of the stick seconds hand, which provides a splash of red.

On to the bracelet, which I feel is the weakness of the whole watch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly acceptable for the £195 price tag, but it’s just left me wanting a little. Firstly, when you shake it around it sounds a little cheap; it has the end links seem a little loose and doesn’t fit the best; and an unsigned buckle. The double-locking buckle is nice and secure, but it lacks any special features such as the logo.

The watch also comes with a free FKM rubber strap. I picked the blue option, as it looks killer with the dial and bezel insert. It’s beautifully soft, supple and comfortable on. The buckle is plain with no logo, and I’ve also noticed that it’s not a dust magnet either which is good. I’m usually an out-and-out bracelet fanboy – I’ll always pick steel over a strap. But in this case, I feel the rubber is a much nicer wear and the better choice.

The movement is one that I see in 90% of affordable divers; the Seiko NH35. Timeless and dependable, albeit rather unremarkable; a hacking seconds hand and hand winding capabilities. It runs at 21.6k bph (6 ticks per second) and has 24 jewels and a 41-hour power reserve

Final comments

As I mentioned in the intro, the AKIO Ak-01 has some really big pros going for it. An affordable diver with great specs which is based on a stunning vintage Seiko is going to sell. A lot.

Unfortunately, the bracelet doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the watch; but the excellent free FKM rubber strap saves it. Everything about the watch head itself is stunning though – spotless build quality that is stunning in the metal. It also helps that this is a real “strap monster”; a watch that looks great no matter what shoes you put on it – NATO, leather, rubber etc.

In reality, the RRP of £195 is extremely competitive. No questions asked, if you dig the looks, then this is a fabulous purchase.

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