Ask any watch enthusiast about the biggest inventors in the industry and the name Seiko is sure to come up. This is the company responsible for the creation of the quartz movement. It also introduced the cutting-edge technology of radio solar-powered timepieces. Seiko simply never stops looking for ways to innovate in the industry. Today, we’ll take a closer look at one of its most impressive inventions to date: Seiko Kinetic watches.
As Seiko continues to provide people with watches that function with utmost efficiency, it never forgets to create new technology as well. The Seiko Kinetic joins the roster of Seiko’s quality conceptualisations, alongside its mechanical, quartz, and solar movements. As you can expect, Seiko put great effort into developing this ingenious movement. So, without further ado, let us walk you through everything you need to know about Seiko Kinetic. We’ve also come up with a list of 6 of the best Kinetic watches from the brand that you’ll surely love.
To fully understand the idea of Kinetic watches, let’s take a look at its history alongside the company’s track record of innovations.
Seiko: Disrupting the Watch Industry
Since the invention of watches, watchmakers have always been on the lookout for ways to change the game up. This is because watches are engineering marvels and there are endless ways to make them better. Even to this day, manufacturers still manage to find ways to improve how we keep and perceive time through these little devices. Seiko, as one of these aforementioned manufacturers, has spearheaded the charge on many of these technological advances in the horology industry.
Seiko’s Notable Innovations
Kintaro Hattori founded Seiko in 1881 as a watch and clock retail and repair store. The company grew with the help of foreign trading companies, importing popular Western timepieces into Japan. From the beginning, the company had been marking many firsts, not only for Japan but also for the rest of the world. In 1894, the company constructed a store that had a clock tower. Located on the corner of Ginza 4-chome block, this clock tower became known as a classic landmark.
In 1913, as the trend of pocket watches was slowly dying, the company launched The Laurel, Japan’s first-ever wristwatch. The Laurel was just the beginning of Seiko’s iconic run as a wristwatch manufacturer.
Fast forward to 1964, when Seiko became the official timer of the Tokyo Olympics. This was the first time ever that electronic timepieces were fully integrated into the games. After this momentous feat, Seiko went on to serve as the official timer for 5 other Olympic Games.
Only 4 years later in 1968, Seiko launched the world’s first quartz wall clock. It was also this year that Seiko occupied the top spot for mechanical watch precision at the Geneva Observatory Competition. With the company on a roll, in 1969, Seiko launched the Quartz Astron, the world’s first quartz watch.
Those familiar with watch history will know that the launch of the Quartz Astron took a toll on the Swiss watch industry. Quartz watches caught on remarkably quickly, and the mechanical watches of many Swiss watch manufacturers were rapidly overtaken. Many years later, the rest of the world — especially the Swiss watch market — began rolling out their very own quartz-powered watches. Seiko itself continued to put out ground-breaking tech almost every decade.
In the 1970s, Seiko developed the world’s first radio wave clock. Then, at the 1986 Basel Fair, Seiko unveiled its first Kinetic prototype.
Other historic Seiko milestones include the invention of the Astron (the world’s first GPS solar watch, 2012) and the world’s first satellite radio wave clock in 2014. Their most recent milestone is their creation of the world’s first hybrid radio wave clock in 2019.
History of Seiko Kinetic
Everything began at the 1986 Basel Fair when Seiko unveiled the first kinetic prototype it had been working on. At that time, the prototype carried the name “AGM” (Automatic Generating Movement). It was the first watch that was capable of converting kinetic movement into electrical energy. The prototype was Seiko’s way of introducing this technology to the world. 20 years later, it would become synonymous with excellent performance and convenience. Moreover, along with solar powered-watches, kinetic watches also became the poster child for eco-conscious watchmaking standards.
Two years after they unveiled their prototype, Seiko went on to launch the first-ever kinetic watch available commercially. This new watch went by the name “AGS” (Automatic Generating System”), rather than the aforementioned AGM. Over the years, Seiko sold 8 million units of the original AGS. It wasn’t until 1991 that Seiko officially rebranded the AGS into the Seiko Kinetic, as we know it by today.
In 1998, Seiko launched the Kinetic Auto Relay. The highlight of this new watch was the improvement in the at-rest operating period of the watch. Seiko extended this to 4 whopping years. Then, just one year later, in 1999, they released the Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph — the watch that had the best of both worlds. This watch made use of both mechanical and electronic watchmaking methods. A new generation Kinetic Chronograph was launched in 2003, carrying with it the same idea.
2005 marked another milestone for the brand as the Kinetic Perpetual was released. The appearance of this watch leaned more towards traditional dress watches. With the power of kinetic energy plus the longevity of a perpetual calendar, this is a timepiece that is definitely meant to last. During its release, Seiko promised that this watch will never have to be corrected until the year 2100, almost a hundred years in the future.
Finally, in 2007, the Kinetic Direct Drive launched to great hype and enthusiasm from consumers. Unlike previous kinetic watches, this timepiece allowed the watch to generate energy not just through its electrical mechanisms, but also by winding the crown, as with mechanical movements.
What is the Seiko Kinetic?
So, how exactly does the Seiko Kinetic watch work? Kinetics pertain to the generation of energy via movement. Every Seiko Kinetic watch contains an internal electrical generator. This generator can be powered by something as simple as the movement of the user’s wrist. The energy generated sits in a rechargeable battery which, unlike cell batteries in quartz movements, doesn’t require frequent replacement. As such, it is also a much more eco-friendly option.
Types of Kinetic Watches
There are various different Seiko Kinetic watches available today:
- Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph can store up to 1 month of power.
- Kinetic Direct Drive can store up to 1 month of charge. It also functions like mechanical movements as you can wind it by physically turning the crown.
- Kinetic Chronograph can store up to 5 months of power.
- Kinetic Perpetual stores up to 6 months of charge that can be preserved for 4 years when not in use.
- Kinetic GMT can preserve its charge for up to 4 years and goes to sleep mode after 72 hours.
- Kinetic Auto Drive can also preserve its charge for up to 4 years and goes to sleep mode after 72 hours.
Kinetic vs Mechanical Movement
You might be wondering how the movement of a Seiko Kinetic differs from a typical mechanical movement. Although both movements come with a swinging rotor, one difference between the two lies in the location in which each movement stores power. Mechanical movements store energy in the spring while kinetic watches store it in a capacitor.
In an automatic mechanical movement, the rotor moves when the wrist moves. This winds the spring that is responsible for powering up the watch. Manual-winding watches work differently because you’d have to manually turn the crown to wind it. Automatic watches can store power in what we call a power reserve. Depending on how great the power reserve is, you would be able to keep wearing the watch until your power reserve ran low, at which point you would have to turn the crown to wind it up again.
For watch enthusiasts who have already amassed a large collection, a watch winder is actually a fantastic idea. This is a device that keeps the watch moving even when you’re not wearing it, such that it remains charged and ready for another day in the field.
A kinetic watch works in a fairly similar way. Swinging or moving your arm while wearing a kinetic watch causes the oscillating rotor within the watch to move. With that, several gears start to turn, and this produces electricity via a small generator. This generator charges the capacitor where energy is stored. Just like mechanical movements, kinetic watches have to be constantly worn in order to stay charged. Alternatively, a watch winder also works wonders for this type of movement.
Eco-Friendly Choices: Kinetic vs Solar
Kinetic and solar watches are both known for their eco-friendly properties. That being said, for those seeking an environmentally-friendly timepiece, which one is better? The answer, really, is that it depends. Each watch has its own set of pros and cons. For example, Seiko Kinetic watches have to be constantly worn on your wrist or placed on a wrist winder in order to be functional. On the other hand, solar watches need light to recharge, be it artificial or natural light. Solar watch batteries tend to last for a decade on average, and as such, a solar watch is perfect for those who don’t have time to constantly change the batteries of their watches. This is also why most solar watches come with very rugged, sporty designs. As a timepiece intended for people who need unyielding power, solar watches have to be able to function for as long as their adventures do.
At the end of the day, choosing one watch over another depends on your personal preference and needs. Kinetic watches are a great idea if you’re looking for something with a little more edge, especially if it’s a Seiko Kinetic Direct Drive that you’re eying. On the other hand, if you’re more of an outdoorsy person or someone who can maintain a constant source of light nearby, then a solar watch might be a better idea for you.
6 Best Seiko Kinetic Watches
Seiko is the sole proprietor of kinetic watches, and over the years, they’ve come up with quite an impressive range. So, if you’re finally sold on getting a kinetic watch, you might be a little confused about which one to get. We’ve gathered 6 of the best Seiko Kinetic watches on the market to narrow down your choices! Check them out below.
1. Seiko Prospex SUN023P1
First on the list is the Seiko Prospex Kinetic SUN023P1. As a member of the popular Prospex family, this timepiece is both a kinetic watch and a dive watch. It has a measured diameter of 47mm, not including the crown, so you know that it has a wide and balanced face. This watch also has a protective shroud which gives it a rugged, sportier look.
This model is also a part of Seiko’s “tuna can” line of watches. Seiko’s tuna watches are all built to handle professional diving trenches. Every part of this watch is made for professional diving. The band is made from polyurethane and can fit perfectly over wetsuits. Even if you’re not a diver, you won’t have to worry either. The 24mm strap is easily swappable for more conventional straps.
The Seiko Prospex Kinetic SUN023P1 also has a power reserve indicator so you can easily tell when your watch is running out of charge. To activate this, you only need to press the button positioned at the 2 o’clock position. The second hand will then point to indicate how much power is left in the watch. To set things into perspective, an indicator of 30 seconds is equivalent to six months of power.
Another noticeable detail on the dial of the watch is a fourth hand, sword-shaped and lined with blue. This hand indicates 24-hour time, which is especially convenient for those who are used to military time.
As expected, this watch also has a powerful lume. All Seiko watches are blessed with this and the same applies to the Seiko Prospex Kinetic SUN023P1. Moreover, this is extremely useful for those who like to go diving. The only downside to this watch is the small dot on the bezel of the watch at the 12 o’clock position. For such a big watch, a bigger lume-filled dot would be more visible and a lot more helpful, especially underwater.
On the whole, this is a great watch that’s perfect for sporty use or adventurous weekends. This timepiece might not be the right fit for more formal settings, but it’s definitely ready for anything it might encounter.
2. Seiko SRH013 Velatura Kinetic Direct Drive
Another sporty timepiece on our list, the Seiko Velatura SRH013 features a very modern design. It has a rugged look with an aesthetic that’s reminiscent of sports cars. If you’re a thrill-seeker, then this is just the watch for you. In all black, the watch measures 42mm in diameter. It also comes in a stainless steel case that can withstand just about anything.
The black rubber band strap of the Velatura SRH013 is made to look a lot like a threaded tire. Overall, this timepiece features a racing car motif that Seiko handled very well. On the dial is a day-and-date display that is designed to resemble the dashboard of a car, which pairs wonderfully with the concept of the watch. With a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, this is the perfect adventure watch.
The Seiko Velatura SRH013 has a water resistance of 100 meters. That isn’t a lot but it’s definitely enough to handle a little splash here and there.
3. Seiko Prospex SKA413 “Adventure”
The Seiko Prospex SKA413 “Adventure” offers just about everything you need from a dive watch. It can handle up to 200 meters of depth. The watch also features a sturdy stainless steel case that can withstand any sort of impacts or scratches.
Fitted on the top of this case is a black bezel designed with silver gear-like edges. These edges make it easier to grip and turn the bezel, especially if you’re using a glove or in a wetsuit. This bezel rotates unidirectionally, in an anti-clockwise movement. This is important because it prevents the bezel from being turned in the wrong direction, which would mess up a wearer’s ability to quickly tell the time. The bezel can count up to sixty minutes of elapsed time.
As with all Seiko watches, we get a great lume from this watch. Some people might not like the look of the chunky strap, but it does feel extremely comfortable around the wrist. Alternatively, you could also opt to change it according to your preferences. Simply fit a NATO strap or a stainless steel bracelet into the drilled lugs of the watch and you’d be good to go for any adventure you might have planned.
4. Seiko Premier SNP149P2 Perpetual Novak Djokovic Special Edition
This watch is one that’s a lot classier and better paired with formal wear than the others on the list. It carries a very conservative aesthetic, from the distinguished month sub-dial to the combination of the refined baton and Roman numeral markers. This is exactly what you would expect from a special edition watch released by Seiko. We’re talking, of course, about the Seiko Premier Kinetic Novac Djokovic. It is a total feast for the eyes.
This tasteful dress watch was made for Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic. At the time of this article’s release, Djokovic is ranked the world’s No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals. He has been sitting at that position for a record of 327 weeks. Djokovic has also finished as year-end No. 1 on an Open Era joint record on six occasions.
This watch also comes with another sub-dial that displays 24 hours. The date display is prominently placed on the dial, at the 12 o’clock position, and comes with a stylish bronze-colored metal frame. It truly expresses a sophisticated look that is perfect for the winner that it was made for.
5. Seiko Prospex SUN065 GMT PADI
There’s a lot to unpack with the Seiko SUN065. This is yet another Prospex watch — this time made in collaboration with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). This timepiece looks stunning, especially underwater, with its combination of blue and silver aesthetics. It is a great timepiece that uses the Seiko Kinetic movement — the Kinetic GMT variation in particular. This means that the watch can display a second time zone which is great for those who are always out on adventures all over the world.
This watch features an analog dial display. Fully charged, the power of this timepiece can last for 6 long months. To check how much juice you have left, you only need to press the push-button at 2 o’clock. Finally, at 47.5 mm, it’s a large and rather hefty watch. It can also go as deep as 200 meters — indeed the ultimate dive watch.
6. Seiko Coutura SRN066 Kinetic Retrograde
So far, we’ve introduced to you some of the best dive watches that are powered by kinetic movement. However, some people aren’t looking for just a tool watch. Instead, they seek more classic timepieces that have fool-proof timepieces. If that’s the type of kinetic watch you’re looking for, then we bring to you Seiko Coutura SRN066 Kinetic Retrograde. This is a great timepiece that offers a classy yet modern design, perfect for more formal occasions.
The Coutura SRN066 Kinetic Retrograde has a sapphire-crystal window and is resistant to water up to depths of 100 meters. So, even though it’s not a diving watch, it can handle a bit of moisture. You can take a quick dip with this watch and not have to worry about damaging it at all. This watch also comes with a day-and-date display. As a dressy watch, you can expect the watch to lack lume. The only lume you can find is on the elegant hands of the watch. It may be a challenge to tell time with this watch in the dark but it’s definitely perfect for your next suit and tie event.
Seiko Kinetic: A Universal Game-changer
Seiko Kinetic watches are perfect for people who are becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint. It’s also a great watch that keeps people active and moving. It is clear just why Seiko put the effort and time into creating this technology. It’s a lot more cost-efficient than mechanical movements and just as powerful. While we look forward to seeing just how much further Seiko can improve on the Seiko Kinetic, it must be said that what they have for us today is already an impressive lineup.
Interested in checking out more Seiko watches? Take a look at our guide to the Seiko Samurai: A Review of One of Seiko’s Best Diver’s Watches.
Photo credits to Seiko’s official website