Twenty years after the invention of the kinetic watch, Seiko has had over eight million kinetic watches sold. It’s hard to say if they popularity ever diminished, ever since - It may have been shadowed by Seiko’s introduction of new models and new breakthrough inventions at points in time, but their convenience, environmental friendliness and high performance never went out of fashion. In fact, their times may be just ahead, especially in fragile times like these, when we all need to think about more ecological solutions. So, let’s see what are kinetic watches made of and what makes them so charming to the watch lovers for decades.
To get to know kinetic watches better, let us first take you on a quick journey back in time when they are invented. It is no wonder the invention of a kinetic watch belongs to Seiko, as many others. Back in year 1986, the first Seiko kinetic prototype was introduced at Basel fair and it was called Automatic quartz watch. It was a new type of Seiko movement, that combined the goodies of automatic and quartz watches. Two years later the commercial watch named A.G.S. with caliber 7M22 inside was launched and available to the world, as the first kinetic watch ever. In year 1991, these watches were rebranded as Seiko Kinetic.Seiko AGS Kinetic watch in caliber 7M22, image from watchspace _Bosartis
The year 1998 saw the release of Seiko Kinetic Auto Relay, a mechanism that extended the rest period of the kinetic watches to astonishing 4 years. A year later, in 1999, the Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph (Seiko Sportura Chronograph - SLQ003) with caliber 9T82 and zero resetting function was released, which was a remarkable timepiece that combined the best of Seiko’s electronic and mechanical watches, followed by another kinetic chronograph in 2003 (Seiko Arctura SNL001 Chronograph). Baselworld 2005 shed a light on Kinetic Perpetual (kinetic movement with a perpetual calendar, correct until February 20 in year 2100) that went to sleep automatically and went back to correct time when worn again.
The year 2007 brought the Kinetic Direct Drive that can be manually wound to charge the watch, so called ‘embodiment of the Seiko’s emotional technology’, meaning that it adds both to the convenience and ecological side of the kinetic watch.Seiko Kinetic Direct Drive 5d44 movement was used in the Yachting timer - Seiko Velatura Kinetic Direct Drive SRH013
A kinetic watch or, better said, a kinetic movement works on a principle similar to the automatic movements with changes to the way it is powered. Specifically, automatic watches are powered by wearer’s movement that powers their spring. In case of kinetic movements, the wearer’s moves charge a piece of quartz crystal; the charged energy is then stored in a battery, called a capacitor. So, simply stated, the main difference between an automatic and kinetic watch is in the processing of the energy made by the watch’s wearer.
There is also a difference in how long that energy can be stored in automatic and kinetic movements. Automatic watches can usually store the power shorter than kinetic watches, which results in power reserves of around 50 hours on average and doesn’t go longer than a couple of days. When it comes to kinetic movements, the periods of operating time they can store energy without movement usually measures in months, or even years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that ones are better than the others. Let us elaborate.
Top Left : Seiko Kinetic Yeti SUN043, Top Right : Seiko Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster, Bottom Left : Seiko Kinetic SUN023 on Leather, Bottom right : SUN023 on Carbon fiber
Even though kinetic watch combines the automatic movement with quartz mechanism, which means superior accuracy, there are automatic movements nowadays with such great accuracy that will make you feel no difference in real time. On the other side, while some automatic watches can last a lifetime, the capacitator in kinetic watches may need a recalibration or a replacement in a decade or so, so both types of movements have its pros and cons. Have in mind that there are multiple differences between the capacitator and the ordinary battery, but the one that needs your attention the most is the longevity of it. The capacitator will serve you far longer than ordinary batteries and can be charged thousands of times.
Seiko Kinetic Padi SUN065 paired with 24mm leather watch bands, Top : Denim, bottom left : Nubuck, bottom right : NATO
If you have to choose between kinetic and automatic watch, it would be better to focus on the specific movement than let the type of it decide, as both kinds have its shining stars. Nice examples of this are Seiko SUN023 Prospex Kinetic GMT Diver’s 200m watch, Seiko SUN053 Prospex Land Kinetic GMT 100M (also called Kinetic Tuna) and the special editions Seiko SUN043 Prospex Kinetic GMT 50th Anniversary "Yeti" (or shortly, Seiko Yeti SUN043) and Seiko SUN065 Prospex Kinetic GMT Diver's "PADI" Edition, all four run by Seiko 5M85 movement, which is just one out of a few dozens of kinetic movements released so far.
The famous Seiko Sportura Kinetic SLQ007 is powered by the 9T82 caliber, image by Chrono24
But to this day, the caliber 9T82 is counted as the top of the kinetic movements (which justifies its high-end price) and is mostly featured in Seiko kinetic divers watch line - Sportura and Japanese Prospex watch series. Some of the watches run by this movement are famous Seiko Kinetic Sportura SLQ007, Seiko Premier SNL041, Seiko Ignition SBHV009 and Seiko Brightz Phoenix SAGE001, which speaks a lot about its popularity among different watch lines.
Left : Fur on Seiko Kinetic Yeti SUN043, Right : Cashmere Calf on Seiko Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster
A kinetic watch, along with solar powered watches, may just be what the future needs, so we’ll probably see the expansion of this line in the years to come. It is important to mention that, since kinetic calibers are still pretty much large and heavy, they’re generally mostly featured in men’s watches, which, we hope, won’t stay that way in the future.
Written by M.H. , images by Toni and other sources as noted
Continue to read : Seiko Watch Movements Reviews
August 23, 2022
I own a Grand SEIKO wristwatch that I am incredibly proud of and pleased with. The wristwatch looks very smart and the time keeping of the movement is incredibly good. I am a very, very satisfied customer. The company SEIKO deserve full marks for what they have produced.
June 17, 2022
I’m with Mark Doughty. I recently bought a used 1960 Seiko with a beautiful, simple dial and it is as reliable and accurate as the Omega and Longines watches I own. Great watches!
June 21, 2021
Personally, I have never had any trouble with any Seiko watch I have owned, whether automatic or kinetic; I would highly recommend any of them.
February 26, 2021
Saludos de antemano, interesante relato sobre los relojes con movimientos cinéticos, tenía la esperanza de que estuviese el Seiko kinetic GMT SUN019p1 vinculado a esa gran historia, tiene ese mismo calibre y es bastante bueno llevo usándolo y es una joya para en lo personal. Me siento indignado porque lo mencionan en lo absoluto como que nunca existió. De modos gracias por toda la información ofrecida😔😡
November 30, 2020
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January 16, 2023
Hello I have a kinetic Seiko 768477 its stopped and I went to repare it. The told me that I may change the capacitors. I did but it is not working normally.
The repairers told me that i can get a complete “movement machine” and changed for a complete result.
Do you know where can I get thar replacement part.
I am living in El Salvador cetral american region.