12 Best Seiko Kinetic Watches (Not Your Typical Quartz Watch!)
Quartz watches almost put mechanical watches out of business during the late 1960s and early ’70s. While originally priced as premium products competing with mechanical watches, they quickly became cheaper and easier to mass produce. They were also much more reliable, durable, and accurate than mechanical watches, which was a priority to most buyers as timepieces still had the primary function of telling the time during this period.
Quartz watches only had one practical shortcoming compared to mechanical watches: the battery needed to be replaced. Early quartz watches were not as efficient as the ones we have today, often requiring a battery replacement every six months, frequent enough to be problematic when a mechanical watch could easily go a few years without service.
Additionally, early and high-end quartz movements were built to be serviceable, in addition to the frequent battery changes. That meant while they were more robust, reliable, and accurate, there was a period of time when quartz watches would require more frequent trips to the local watchmaker.
Seiko sought to find a solution to this. What if a quartz watch had a battery that didn’t need to be replaced? Especially if the watch still had to be serviced? While solar-powered watches introduced in the 1970s offered a relatively worry-free wearing experience, the power cell would need to be replaced every 10 years. Seiko wanted to focus on producing a watch with serviceable parts instead of replaceable ones.
The History Seiko Kinetic Watches
With the goal of reducing the environmental impact of mass-produced quartz watches, Seiko began developing movements that could be wound like a traditional mechanical watch but utilized electricity, providing the reliability and accuracy of quartz watches. Seiko began the development of a quartz movement that did not rely on a conventional battery in 1983.
The first of these watches that were commercially available was the SBAD001 and SBAD003. Released in late 1986, these watches were the first of their kind. Inside of these was the 8T23 movement, a movement where the generator for the capacitor was hand-wound.
In addition to telling the time, these two references had day and date displays, along with a full-charge indicator light at six o’clock. Upon full charge, the movement had 72 hours of power reserve; however, it took three minutes of continuous winding to reach a full charge.
The relatively short battery life compared to the amount of winding required made this watch a relative commercial flop, and Seiko discontinued the watch after only one year.
In January 1988, Seiko released the first “AGS” quartz watch, which stood for “Automatic Generating System”. Instead of being manually wound, a rotor similar to those found on automatic mechanical watches powered the generator.
These watches were a marked improvement over the manually wound caliber. Seiko succeeded in making a more ecologically minded quartz-regulated movement and earned Germany’s Blue Angel Mark for sustainable products.
Seiko renamed the “AGS” line to “Kinetic” in 1997. Seiko also released a variety of styles and complications, including the first AGS diver in 1992, the AGS “Flightmaster,” which included a GMT, and the first Kinetic chronograph in 2000.
In 1999, Seiko introduced a pause feature that would internally track the time while pausing the hands when not in use to save battery life. When the watch was worn again, the movement would correct the hands to the present time. Many watches in the Kinetic line have display casebacks, allowing the owner to view the movement, showing off the rotor that gave power to the movement.
As of 2021, it appears that Seiko has begun to phase out the Kinetic line, with no new models being introduced and limited availability. Entirely speculation, but this is likely because of the developments in solar technology, along with the development of higher-end quartz calibers that are more serviceable than those produced in the 1970s and 80s.
How Seiko Kinetic Watches Work
Seiko’s Kinetic movements are fairly unique in that they are “wound” similar to a mechanical watch. When “winding” the watch, the turn of the crown or the movement rotor turns a small electrical generator that charges a capacitor.
The movement is then run off of the capacitor, and the quartz movement runs the same as any other quartz movement. Because the capacitor is able to be recharged, battery replacements are no longer necessary.
While the first watch with this technology was hand-wound, Seiko later released a movement with automatic winding only and then one with both manual and automatic winding. With the automatic rotor, the rotor turns a gear train, multiplying the speed of the rotor spinning by one hundred times, creating a current that then charges the capacitor, which powers the circuits for the analog time display.
While the first watches to use this technology could only run for a few days, the technology improved, and modern Seiko Kinetic watches can run for up to six months on a full charge.
They also started as simple movements, only displaying the time, day and date, but later progressed to perpetual calendars, chronographs, and gmt movements. Similar to the rest of Seiko’s catalog, the brand released a multitude of models, ranging from quite dressy and formal to sporty and avant-garde.
Other Seiko Collections
While there has been some overlap between Seiko Kinetic watches and their other lines, currently, there are no Kinetic-powered watches in the current catalog. Lines that are part of the main Seiko line-up currently are Seiko 5, Prospex, Presage, and Astron.
The Seiko 5 focuses on Seiko’s entry-level offerings. Based on the five attributes of offering water resistance, an automatic movement, day and date function, a recessed crown at four o’clock, and a case and crown built for durability.
While some watches have strayed from the four o’clock crown and day and date function, timepieces within this collection continue to offer a great deal of value for beginning collectors or those looking for an affordable piece to add to their collection.
The Prospex range focuses on watches purpose-built for sporting activities. The most famous are the dive watches in the range, ranging from affordable quartz models to higher-end Spring Drive driven pieces; they are all built to withstand the trials of underwater adventures. Additionally, there are both automatic and quartz chronographs and GMT models.
Seiko’s Presage line is their more formal and “go-anywhere-do-anything” oriented model. Still offering a variety of complications, including GMTs, chronographs, power reserve indicators, and simple time and date models, these models are great options should you need something more dress-oriented or simply what a more simple and versatile timepiece.
The Seiko Astron collection is where Seiko is really pushing its quartz technology. Models in this collection are radio/satellite controlled, meaning they receive an input signal to synchronize the time, ensuring accurate time telling. Various models include perpetual calendars, world time functions, chronographs, and alarms.
While initially quite large, Seiko has been working on making them more wearable in recent years, making them ideal for world travelers or watch enthusiasts interested in the most cutting-edge time-telling technology. Additionally, if you are obsessed with accuracy, these watches are worth looking at.
12 Seiko Kinetic Watches To Know
While far from a comprehensive list, the watches listed below feature highlights from Seiko’s Kinetic powered watches.
Seiko Kinetic Dive Watch SKA371
This black-dialed dive watch features Seiko’s 5M62 kinetic-powered quartz movement. It features a 6-month power reserve, with a pusher at 2 o’clock that allows you to check the power reserve. The watch additionally features a date at 3 o’clock, is rated to +/- 15 seconds a month, has 6 jewels, and is 4.3mm thick.
The stainless steel case of the SKA371 measures 42.5mm wide, 14mm thick, 47mm lug-to-lug, and has a 20mm lug width. The black unidirectional bezel has a lume pip at 12 o’clock, and the dial is covered by a Hardlex crystal.
The watch comes with a stainless steel bracelet. The SKA371 has been discontinued, but the last published list price was 550 USD. Models continue to be available on the second hand market.
Seiko Kinetic Prospex SUN023 GMT
Part of the Prospex collection, this tool-focused diver features a 47.5mm wide PVD-coated stainless steel case that is 15mm thick, has 24mm lugs, and measures 51mm lug-to-lug. The black dial features plenty of lume and bright orange and blue accents.
The unidirectional dive bezel also features orange numerals, tying in with the minute hand. The blue 24-hour indications coordinate with the 24-hour hand, making reading both elapsed time and the second time zone a breeze.
Inside is the 5M85 movement. Similar to the 5M62 in dimensions and accuracy, it also features six months of power reserve and a power reserve indication feature by pushing the 2 o’clock pusher. The movement allows for independent setting of both the main hour hand (which is used to also adjust the date) and the 24-hour hand is set with the main hands.
The local hand jumps while maintaining the timekeeping function, preventing the need to reset the watch every time the owner jumps timezones. The case is water resistant to 200 meters and has a sapphire crystal covering the dial. The watch comes with a rubber strap.
While large and featuring a bold color scheme, the SUN023 makes an ideal summer travel watch. At the time of its release, the retail price was 675 USD.
Seiko’s Premier line features bold case designs that manage to make a bold statement while being dressy in appearance. The SNP161 combines a perpetual calendar with a large date display with their Kinetic movement technology. The stainless steel case measures 43mm wide, 12mm thick, 48.4mm lug-to-lug, and has a 22mm wide steel bracelet.
Inside is the 7D56 Kinetic movement, which has a rated accuracy of +/-15 seconds a month, has 16 jewels, and measures 6.1mm thick. There is a power save function, which stops the hands after 24 hours of no movement. The blue dial features textured patterns, sword hands, and baton markers. The last published retail price was 950 USD.
Seiko Kinetic Recraft SKA705
The Seiko Recraft collection focuses on a casual retro-oriented design influenced by Seiko’s back catalog. The SKA705 features a black ion-plated stainless steel case that measures 42mm wide, 12mm thick and has 22mm lugs. The watch comes with a nylon pass-through strap. The case is rated to 100 meters of water resistance.
The black dial features yellow accents, with white-colored lume on the hands and indices. The dial is covered by a Hardlex mineral crystal. Inside is the Seiko 5M82 caliber, with a date at the 4:30 position. This movement features the same power reserve feature by pushing the pusher at 2 o’clock and has a 6-month power reserve. The last published retail price for the Seiko Kinetic Recraft SKA705 was 325 USD.
Seiko Kinetic Premier Perpetual Novak Djokovic Special Edition SNP149P2
Made as a special edition for Seiko ambassador and tennis star Novak Djokovic. Featuring the same case design and movement as the SNP161, the SNP149P2 features a black dial with a striped dial decoration, alternating rose gold batons with Roman numerals, along with rose gold hands and subdials.
The crown is also rose gold plated, tying together the dial elements to the outer case. The watch is attached to a 22mm alligator patterned leather strap with a deployant buckle. The last published retail price for the Seiko SNP149P2 was 800 USD.
Seiko Kinetic Velatura Direct Drive SRH013
Seiko’s Velatura collection was originally intended as Seiko’s sailing-oriented collection. Boasting water resistance, and sporting designs, their water fairing intentions were clear. The SRH013 has a black IP-coated stainless steel case that measures 43mm wide and 13mm thick. Behind the sapphire crystal is a black dial with yellow accents.
The subdial at 4:30 displays the day of the week, with a power reserve at 9 o’clock and the date at six o’clock. The watch is rated to 100 meters of water resistance and comes on a rubber strap, backing up the water sport-oriented design. Inside is the Seiko caliber 5D44. The last published retail price was 1395 USD.
Seiko Kinetic Coutura Retrograde SRN066
The Coutura collection consists of sporty designs with integrated straps and bracelets. Intended to be elegant yet bold, watches within this collection are intended to be capable of daily wear while fitting into a variety of situations.
The SRN066 has a 43mm black ion-plated stainless steel case and integrated bracelet, and a rose gold plated bezel. The case measures 12.1mm thick. The black dial with rose gold hands and indices is covered by a Hardlex mineral crystal.
Inside is the Seiko Caliber 5M84, which can be seen through the display caseback. In addition to the time and date, there is a retrograde day display between four and six o’clock and has a 6-month power reserve. The watch is rated to 100 meters of water resistance, making it suitable for water activities.
While the Coutura collection is still on Seiko’s websites, the Kinetic movement loaded models seem to be discontinued, with the focus shifted to solar-powered movements. The last published retail price of the SRN066 was 495 USD.
Seiko Kinetic Premier Moonphase SRX015
Another complicated watch from the Premier collection, the SRX015 boasts a moonphase function. The caliber 5D88 displays the time, with a date subdial at three o’clock, a 24-hour indicator and day sub-dial at six o’clock, and a power reserve indicator for the one-month power reserve at nine o’clock. The silver textured dial alternates Roman numerals and stick indices for the hour markers.
The 42.5mm wide steel case is 14mm thick and comes with a 22mm wide steel bracelet. With a sapphire crystal and 100 meters of water resistance, it will be more than capable of daily wear and water activities. When last available, the retail price was 1195 USD.
The Seiko Kinetic Prospex GMT SUN065 shares the same case and movement as the SUN023 covered earlier in this article. Instead of the black case and bold colors on the dial, the SUN065 is a PADI special edition, sticking with the blue and red color scheme associated with the organization.
PADI stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, an organization founded in 1966 by John Cornin and Ralph Erickson. It is a group dedicated to the training and education of divers, ranging from entry-level courses to specialized skills and certifications. As of 2022, their work has issued 29 million certifications.
The Seiko Prospex SUN065 has a 47.5mm wide stainless steel case that has both brushed and polished surfaces with a blue bezel insert. The blue dial has silver indices filled with lume and red accents coordinating with the 24-hour hand. The pusher at 2 o’clock is coated and colored blue, tying together the bezel and dial with the case. The Seiko Kinetic Prospex GMT SUN065’s last published MSRP was 750 USD.
Seiko Kinetic Titanium SKA495
While most of the models mentioned have been part of the higher-end Seiko collections, the SKA495 is a more entry-level offering from Seiko, allowing collectors to obtain a Kinetic powered watch and a titanium case and bracelet. The last published MSRP was 450 USD.
The titanium case measures 40mm wide and 12mm thick and comes with an integrated titanium bracelet. Inside is the Seiko Caliber 5M62, offering 6 months of power reserve and a power reserve display function by pressing the crown at two o’clock. The case is water resistant to 100 meters, making it more than suitable for daily wear.
The dark gray dial has gold-colored hands and indices and is covered by a Hardlex crystal. With reasonable dimensions and great specifications, the Seiko SKA495 is a good candidate for a go anywhere, do anything watch.
Seiko Kinetic Sportura SUN015
The Seiko Sportura took its design inspiration from the automotive industry, creating timepieces that were both streamlined and futuristic in appearance.
The SUN015 represents a more restrained representation from the collection, but still quite bold. Measuring 45mm wide, 13mm thick, 51mm lug-to-lug, and coming on a 21mm wide steel bracelet, it will have plenty of presence on the wrist. Inside is the 5M85 movement seen in the other GMT watches mentioned, offering the date and second time zone in addition to displaying the time.
The case is rated to 100 meters of water resistance with a screw-down crown, and the black dial with lumed hands and indices is covered by a sapphire crystal. The black bezel is made of ceramic, adding another scratch-resistant material to the front of the watch. When released, the SUN015 had a retail price of 750 USD.
Seiko Kinetic SMY139
Another lower-priced offering from Seiko, the SMY139 is more utilitarian-focused in its design. Featuring a black ion-plated 41mm wide case and 20mm bracelet, and a black dial with large lumed indices and 12, 6, and 9 numerals, the military inspiration is clear.
Measuring 11mm thick, rated to 100 meters of water resistance, and coming with a Hardlex crystal, the tough exterior is svelte enough to stay out of harm’s way while still handling some rough situations.
Inside is the 5M83 caliber, which is the same as the 5M82, but with both the day and date displayed. When originally released, the Seiko Kinetic SMY139 retailed for 380 USD.
Seiko’s pursuit of accuracy, reliability, and sustainability led them to create the AGS system, which would later be renamed Kinetic. These movements provided the accuracy, durability, and convenience of quartz while reducing reliance on disposable batteries and the convenience of an automatic movement, meaning the wearer’s movement would provide power for the watch.
With solar technology improving, the Kinetic movements have been phased out of Seiko’s current collection. For collectors interested in different types of movement technology, adding a Seiko Kinetic or two to the collection can add some diversity and intrigue to the more common battery-powered and mechanical spring-driven movements.
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