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Seiko Automatic vs kinetic vs solar watches

September 04, 2019 6 min read 14 Comments

FAQ: Automatic vs. Kinetic vs. Solar watches

Here’s something for those who would like to know more on the general typology of watches. This article’s aim is to explain the differences between so called automatic, kinetic and solar watches in, hopefully, simple way. We’ll cover some of the frequently asked questions regarding these topics. So let’s start with the oldest type, the automatic watch.

strapcode-watch-bands-seiko-automatic-movement-6r15dSeiko automatic movement 6R15

When are automatic watches invented?

Long story short, the first automatic watch was made in 1777, when Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet invented a self-winding mechanism. The mechanism was used in pocket watches and worked by using oscillating weight that moved as the watch wearer walked. It was reported that the watch with this mechanism would be fully winded by walking for 15 minutes. But when it comes to wristwatches, it was 1924, when English watchmaker John Harwood patented the first wristwatch that has self-winding mechanism. From then, there were tuning and improvements to the mechanism itself, but the principle of work never changed. With automatic watch, manual winding wasn’t necessary and the person who wears the watch would provide energy to run it with its movements.

strapcode-watch-bands-seiko-62mas-reissue-movementSeiko 62mas re-issues with automatic caliber 6R15 inside, SHOP Seiko 62mas stainless steel watch bands

What are automatic watches and how they work?

Simply explained, an automatic watch works whenever the wearer moves. Each move puts the internal rotor in a watch in move, which winds the mainspring.  

When were kinetic watches invented?

Although solar powered mechanism is basically older than a kinetic one, we’ll discuss the later first here, as it is similar to the automatic one. Kinetic watches were invented by Seiko in 1986, but were first called "Automatic quartz". In 1991, the name was changed to "Seiko Kinetic".  

What are kinetic watches and how they work?

Kinetic watches work on similar principle as automatic watches – both types are powered by the wearer’s movement. Only in kinetic case, the movement doesn’t power the spring, but rather charges a piece of quartz. Energy made by this charge is then stored in a battery, or so called "capacitor".

strapcode-watch-bands-inside-seiko-kinetic-caliber-5m85a-2Seiko kinetic movement anatomy

What is the difference between an automatic and a kinetic watch?

As it can be concluded from the previous two answers, the difference between automatic and kinetic watch is in the way the movement of the wearer powers the watch. When it comes to automatic watches, the movement that powers the rotor stores the power in the spring, while that power in a kinetic watch is stored in a capacitor. But that difference is not the only one. There’s also a difference in how much energy storage last: Automatic watches hold the power for shorter periods of time in comparison to kinetic ones. On average, power reserves for automatic watches are around 50 h (maximum power reserves don’t go over a couple of days), while power reserves of a kinetic watch can be measured in months.  

Are kinetic watches equals to automatic?

Well, yes and no. The thing is that kinetic watches are basically automatic watches with greater power reserves, which also means better accuracy (automatic watches lose some after they run out of power). On the other side, the capacitor in the kinetic watch needs occasional replacement, which puts a con on the kinetic side. But when you compare their prices, automatic watches are usually more expensive, because they are made with superb craftsmanship and the accuracy loses are usually covered with hacking options. It really comes down to individual tastes.  

Seiko Kinetic watches

As Seiko never stops evolving, the same goes for its kinetic watches, where we saw several sub-types during the course of history. Such are Kinetic Direct Drive with a month of charge that can also be hand-wound, Kinetic Chronograph (5 months of charge) and the Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph. Then there are Kinetic Perpetual (5 months of charge, plus 4 years of sleep mode), Kinetic Auto Drive and Kinetic GMT (both have sleep mode after 72 hours that lasts for 4 years)

strapcode-watch-bands-inside-seiko-kinetic-caliber-5m85a-1Seiko kinetic movement - caliber 5m85a

Where are Seiko kinetic watches made? Are they made in Japan?

Seiko still handles a lot of its production in-house, especially when it comes to its watch movements. In the case of Kinetic watches, it goes from producing quartz crystals to a lot of other pieces.  


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Do Seiko kinetic watches have a battery?

Seiko kinetic watches do have something that serves as a battery, but is rather called capacitor and differs from ordinary battery in many ways, most importantly in the longevity. For example, Seiko kinetic watch capacitor probably won’t need a replacement for years, at least when it comes to newer models.  


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How accurate are Seiko Kinetic watches?

Super-accurate, as they have quartz inside, and quartz powered timepieces are considered to be among the most accurate.  

How to charge Seiko kinetic watches?

To charge Seiko kinetic watch daily, simply wear it. But even if you leave it still for quite some time, all you need to do to make them reset to correct time is to shake them.

strapcode-watch-bands-seiko-kinetic-sun043-kinetic-movement-2Seiko Prospex GMT Kinetic Sun043 with 5m85 caliber inside   


Seiko’s HYBRID Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster, on 24mm Handmade Vintage Calf Leather watch strap, SHOP NOW


What are solar watches and when they are invented?

Solar powered watches can be actually powered by any form of light, though not all light powers it the same. Solar watches are basically quartz watches powered by the light through solar cell, instead of movements, as in kinetic watches. Solar watches date back from 1970s, specifically 1976, when the first solar watch called Synchronar was released by the company Ragen Semiconductor, Inc. Its inventor was an American, Roger W. Riehl.  

Seiko solar-powered watches

A year after the first solar watch, the Synchronar, Seiko followed with its first solar powered watch in 1977. By now, Seiko has released dozens of solar watch models, which is kind of natural, having in mind their environmentally friendly nature as a company.  

strapcode-watch-bands-seiko-solar-caliber-v175aBody of Seiko solar caliber V175A

Seiko kinetic diver vs. solar diver

When it comes to Seiko, it’s really hard to compare their solar and kinetic diver watches, especially nowadays when both types include so many great models. But, one side holds its power reserves for longer as it seems, so solar diver may win this race. On the other hand, the difference probably won’t bug you much in real life.  

Seiko solar movement accuracy

Seiko solar movement accuracy also relies on quartz, so there is no greater time loss in comparison with kinetic watches. They both go around +/-15 seconds per month.  

How long do solar-powered watches last?

Solar powered watches can last for years, but we saw questions such as: Do solar-powered watches last forever? No, they don’t, as their capacitor won’t really be able to last you a lifetime, but you’ll probably have no issues for the first dozen of years.

strapcode-watch-bands-seiko-solar-chrono-ssc673p1-and-solar-movement-1Seiko  Prospex watches from Save the Ocean series (on Endmill Bracelet), SSC675 and SSC673P1, both powered by a solar movement. SHOP Seiko Solar Chronograph watch bands

2019 Seiko Prospex Street Series Solar Divers2019 Seiko Prospex "Street Series" Solar Divers : SNE533, SNE535 & SNE537, all on rubber watch bands


2022 Seiko Seitona White SSC813P1 stylishly complemented by  Stainless Steel homage to ROLLBALL



So, when it comes to the question: Are Kinetic watches better than automatic? That depends on whether you appreciate more the quartz accuracy or the old school automatic movements. And when it comes to the comparison of Seiko Solar vs. Kinetic watches, both types go through almost all Seiko’s brands and the differences are not crucial here. In the end, when it comes to Seiko, the craftsmanship involved in both types is extraordinary.    

Written by M.H. , images by Toni and other sources as noted 

Continue to read : Seiko Watch Movements Reviews

  • Part 1 - Seiko 4R35 movement
  • Part 2 - Seiko 4R36 movement
  • Part 3 - Seiko 6R15 movement
  • Part 4 - Seiko 6L35 movement
  • Part 5 - Seiko 7S26 movement
  • Part 6 - Seiko 8L35 movement
  • Part 7 - Seiko Automatic vs kinetic vs solar watches
  • Part 8 - Seiko Kinetic movement



14 Responses


September 19, 2022

From experience with different Seiko watches I have purchased over the years I would say for super accuracy you need a Seiko Kinetic or Seiko Solar GPS. Accuracy on other style watches I find can be disappointing.


August 12, 2022

Hi Richard,
Thank you for the comment and the content has been updated.
Strapcode team


August 12, 2022

There was a mistake in the article. Seiko quartzsolar and Kinetic watches are accurate to / 15 seconds a month, not a day.

Robert King
Robert King

May 17, 2022

I got my first Seiko 5 automatic in Vietnam over fifty years ago. It kept great time and under those conditions, it held up great. I got a Seiko kinetic about 15 years ago and it still keeps perfect time. I only have to reset it for daylight savings time changes. Jay Leno could afford a thousand Rolex’s but he wears a Seiko. I think Seiko’s are the best period.

Frank Napoli
Frank Napoli

March 03, 2021

Can anyone tell me if there is great value in a vintage Kinetic watch ?


January 21, 2021

Hi Nathan,
My choice is kinetic because of the automatic movement.

Strapcode team


January 21, 2021

Do I buy a solar or kinetic????quick answer


November 20, 2020

Hi Tony B,

Thanks so much for your feedback =)

Many thanks,
Strapcode Team

Tony B
Tony B

November 18, 2020

I have a Seiko kinetic sports 100 watch my dad bought in June 1997. Just put a new capacitor in it. Keeps accurate time. Love this watch. I’ve loved Seiko watches since I’ve been a kid.

AM Schamsujzaman Heera
AM Schamsujzaman Heera

October 22, 2020

We know, time accuracy of cheap automatic watches is +-15 s/d, quartz watches like Casio’s accuracy is +-20 s/month. Solar watches are also Quartz watches. Then why the accuracy differs so much?.

Mark Reamer
Mark Reamer

September 30, 2020

My concern with solar is long sleeves in winter and watch is covered for 6 months.I never take my kinetic off except in salt water.even shower with it.has lasted 13 years so far


September 30, 2020

Currently own a Seiko solar watch and absolutely love it, have been wearing Seiko for years and consider my solar powered one to be awesome. It is great to know the actual inside story on how it works and I feel confident with my choice
Thank you


April 16, 2020

Hello Virtanen,

Thanks for the clarification. We have updated the name back to “Harwood”. We look forward to hearing from you again!


April 08, 2020

I think the Briton was named Harwood, not Hardwood.
Basic quartz watch accuracy is usually around 15 s/month, so 0.5 s/day. Then there are superior accuracy units like Seiko Twin Quartz which was claimed 3 s/year performance! You only set the time when you change the batteries, or timezone.

Great pages, keep up the good work!

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