Bring out the Big Guns! Seiko SNJ029 “Safarnie” Review

It’s not lean but it’s definitely mean – and it’s ready to send some aliens back where they came from!


When you think of watches made famous by movie stars, the first thought that comes to mind would likely be Bond watches. Plenty of watches have enjoyed their time on the silver screen, some playing an integral plot role as in Interstellar, others being more decorative. Today’s watch belongs to the latter – but when you’re on the wrist of Arnold Schwarzenegger, does it even matter?


If you’re a film buff, you’ve probably seen the movie, but being born in the 90s, the Predator franchise seemed a bit too gruesome for me growing up. I was more of a Star Wars kid and light sabers were way more appealing than a (relatively) weird looking creature. To put my money where my mouth is, however, I have made the effort to watch the original Predator (1987), and boy the 80s must have been a whacky time. I mean, what kind of handshake is this?

If you wanted to know what kind of watch the Safarnie is, this pretty much sums it all up

In the film, Vietnam War veteran Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (played by Schwarzenegger) is seen rocking a black ana-digi Seiko while tumbling about a Central American rainforest, fighting off guerrillas and the Predator with shouts of “get to the CHOPA!”.

As Arnie pops up at 1:17, you catch a glimpse of his original Seiko H558 getting in on that gun blazing action!

In 2019, Seiko released a reissue of the H558 – the SNJ025, which stayed largely faithful to the original design but with the addition of a solar quartz module and added water resistance of 200m.

SNJ029 Street Series “Safarnie”
Photo Credits Seiko
The original “Arnie” H558
Photo Credits Fratello
SNJ025 “Arnie” Reissue.
Photo Credits Seiko

In 2020, Seiko followed up with the release of the SNJ029 under their Prospex Street series, and the watch earned the nickname of “Safarnie” – a combination of the words Safari + Arnie in a nod to its khaki colour scheme.

The Case & Specifications

The Safarnie comes in at a case size of 47.8mm, measured across the shroud. From crown to crown, it measures roughly 53mm, with a lug to lug of 50mm and a thickness of 15mm. Lug width comes in at 22mm.

At first glance, the Safarnie is evidently a big boy, befitting of Schwarzenegger’s wrist. It looks chunky, feels chunky, and is chunky. On wrist, there is a considerable weight to the watch.

Despite the large dimensions, the watch wears surprisingly well on my smaller wrist (~6.25 in / 16cm) and I found that there was no overhang. In fact (and to my surprise), I would venture to say the watch fits well. Relative to the case, the lugs are kept short and compact – Seiko did well to tuck the lugs under the case itself, allowing the strap to cut straight down and wrap snugly around the wrist.

Wrist fit is one thing, visual presence another. The Safarnie could be spotted by the Predator a mile away, and despite wearing well, visually the watch appears large on my wrist, a point to be considered for those with smaller wrists. Amongst the watches I’ve tried so far, I must admit this one is too large for my liking, but hey – if you’re into big watches, I say go for it!

One striking feature of the Safarnie is its unique case shape. For those familiar with Seiko, the “tuna” case is instantly recognisable, aptly named as such due to its resemblance to a tuna can. The plastic shroud wraps around the watch, protecting it with a slight cutaway between 12 – 2 o’clock and 4 – 8 o’clock to allow access to the uni-directional, 120 click dive bezel. Seiko themselves break down the design of the original “tuna”, and you come to appreciate that a lot of thought has gone into this – a great example of form following function.

While the Safarnie appears to have 3 crowns, 2 are actually pushers – all 3 are screw down to ensure the watch’s water resistance. The crown at 3 o’clock is used to set the time, while the pushers at 8 and 10 o’clock are used to operate the digital watch’s various functions. When unscrewed, an orange ring can be seen around the pushers, acting as a visual indicator for the user – thanks for the reminder Seiko.

Keeping in line with the dial, the markers on the bezel are khaki coloured, with a lume pip at 12. While the coin edge gives the bezel a great look and is supposed to improve the grip, I found the bezel difficult to operate, especially when compared to my King Samurai.

Flipping the watch around, the screw down case back features the Seiko wave, typically seen on their dive watches. The case back sports a highly polished finish and is bound to be a scratch magnet. The Safarnie is rated to 200m, which means this meanie isn’t afraid of going for a dive.

The Dial

In my primary school days when Casio was all the rage (what do youngsters even wear nowadays, Apple Watch?), I remember being brought to a watch shop and struggling to pick between a digital or analog piece. The Safarnie will spare you the dilemma with its ana-digi display designed to give you the best of both worlds.

The analog portion of the dial features rectangular indices marking out the hours, with a triangle for 12 o’clock. Smaller diamond shaped indices were used for 11 and 1 o’clock to create room for the digital display. Seiko’s lumibrite is applied on the indices, which are khaki in colour matching the overall design scheme. The lume itself is a blue-ish green colour.

Seiko opted for baton shaped hands for the hour and minute hands, with a lollipop for the seconds hand. All are similar in colour to the indices, and are also filled with lumibrite. The second hands is red tipped, offering better contrast against the black dial, underneath which sits the solar cells that give the Safarnie the juice it needs. Legibility is good, however I found it difficult at times to read the exact minute due to the shorter minute hand, as compared to my other watches. Making use of the digital display to show the time however, could easily solve this.

24 hour timing is marked out on a black chapter ring, while the seconds are marked out on a khaki coloured chapter ring, both of which sit above the main dial. Together with the bezel and “tuna” shroud, the main dial feels recessed into the case, offering a sense of visual depth despite the flat indices.

Crowning the main dial above the 12 o’clock index is a small rectangular cutaway, allowing you to peer into the digital display. I would prefer if it was slightly larger, but hey – I ain’t complaining; it’s already a wonder how Seiko fit so much into one watch. Depending on your preference, the digital display can be configured to show different types of information.

Sitting atop the dial is Seiko’s proprietary hardlex crystal, which is supposed to be tougher than regular mineral, but not as scratch resistant as sapphire.

The Movement

The Safarnie uses Seiko’s H851 solar quartz module, featuring an accuracy of +/- 15 seconds per month. When fully charged, the power reserve can last approximately 6 months, however, with power saving mode, the battery life can be extended to a very impressive 20 months. Power save mode is really cool – when the dial is not exposed to light for 2 hours and no buttons are pressed (keep your fingers to yourself!), the watch goes into power save mode. Continue this for 3 days, and the Safarnie goes to “sleep”. When the watch is next exposed to light, it magically comes back to life back to the correct time! Watching the hands swivel and resume their business is pretty cool.

When the battery runs low, the second hands will begin to tick once every 2 seconds.

Just as Schwarzenegger is a man of many talents, so too is the Sarfanie. With the digital display, the watch has:

  1. Calendar function up to year 2100
  2. Local time on the digital display – effectively a GMT
  3. Stopwatch function up to 100 hours
  4. Alarm function

The digital display also comes with its own light, allowing you to clearly check the time even after the lume has long faded.

If you’re looking for complications, the Safarnie definitely won’t short change you, and you’re getting bang for buck.

The Strap

The strap that comes along with the Safarnie is similar to the Z22 strap that comes with quite a few Seiko divers. The hardware that comes along with the strap adds a nice touch to the rugged style of the watch, and the Seiko wave is embossed for decor. I find that the strap is comfortable, with grooves on the lug ends to allow for better airflow. However, the strap is too long (which would make sense with a dive suit) for daily wear, especially given my smaller wrist.

Styling

I find that the watch is best paired with rubber straps, though I suspect that a matching nato would do just as well.

Here, I’ve chosen to pair the Safarnie with a textured, mocha FKM rubber strap, with a better fit length wise.

The Price

Recommended retail price is USD550, which is approximately S$740. If you hunt around, I’ve seen it go from anywhere between the low S$500 – S$750 range. If you can score a decent discount on this, I would say that you are getting a lot of watch for the money. While not the cheapest of watches out there, the Safarnie is the entire package of quality, pop culture/history, and functionality.

Overall Thoughts

At the ending of Predator, Schwarzenegger goes through an arduous session of rough and tumble, before finally coming up tops in his battle with the Predator. I dare say the Safarnie would be able to survive the same, with its substantial build quality. If you were stranded on an island with only one watch, this piece would be a strong contender, with its self sufficient solar battery and the numerous functions that may come in handy – though I’m not sure how having a second time zone would matter in this instance.

Would I keep it? Honestly, no – and that’s perfectly fine. The Safarnie is definitely not one for the masses, and isn’t exactly you go-anywhere-do-anything type of watch. But the biggest (pun intended) factor for me, is its size. The watch is pretty substantial, and would look amazing on larger wrists, but if you’re still interested to get it, you’ll be glad to know that the actual fit of it is still very compact thanks to the cleverly tucked lugs.

Watches come and watches go, but I’m sure this one is here to stay as a testament to a real (and epic) slice of pop culture. Get to the chopa!

Large, chunky and ready to tumble. The Safarnie isn’t for all, but it definitely means business


Images

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