The slender new King Seiko collection channels the retro elegance of the 1965 originalD.C. Hannay
The ‘60s were an important era for Seiko, as it saw the introduction of both the Grand Seiko and King Seiko lines. Originally launched to promote healthy inter-company competition with Grand Seiko, the King Seiko name made its debut in 1961, and in 1965, the iconic KSK model was released. The luxe-leaning Grand Seiko of today is now a wholly separate entity from Seiko (think Lexus versus Toyota), but Seiko has revived the King Seiko line of late as an upscale bridge between Seiko and GS. And now, two new reinterpretations of 1965’s KSK have dropped, bringing an updated classic back in a case that’s even slimmer than the original’s.
The big story with this release is the case, for two reasons. One, it’s one of the brand’s most attractive designs, with sharply faceted lugs featuring hairline brushing on top, contrasting with high polish along the outer edges. Secondly, Seiko has managed to make the stainless-steel case even slimmer.
Not only is it slimmer than the recent KSK SJE083, its 10.7mm case height is even more svelte than its vintage inspiration, the King Seiko 44-9990, including the boxed sapphire crystal. The lugs have been trimmed up as well, and with a case diameter of 38.6mm and a lug-to-lug of 45.8mm, it all adds up to a real retro experience, in the best possible way. The size is more remarkable once you consider the automatic winding and date display, and the bulk that both can add to a movement.
A common trade-off of slim case dimensions is water resistance, limited to 50 metres here. Capping things off, a signed crown and embossed solid caseback both bear the King Seiko shield design.
The new King Seikos are available in two dial variants, the silver SJE089 and the black SJE 091. The silver dial sports an understated sun-ray finish that brings it more in line with the look of the vintage KSK, and it really does have a gorgeous soft glow to it. The faceted Dauphine hands vary in finish, with the silver dial getting fully polished hands, and the black dial’s hands partially brushed for higher contrast. The indices are also well executed, featuring nice dimension and polished bevels, with the 12 o’clock marker getting hobnail-textured edges. There’s also a subtle date window with a polished frame next to a partial marker at three. Dial text is thankfully kept on the conservative side, with an applied “Seiko” under twelve, and “King Seiko” and “Automatic” above six.
While the original KSK was manually wound, the new models get the Calibre 6L35 automatic, a significant step up from the 6R movements of previous modern King Seikos. I think it’s fantastic that Seiko has managed to keep the watch slim, even with an automatic, as this is one of the biggest selling points of the new model. The 6L35 has a beat rate of 28,800 VpH, a power reserve of 45 hours, and 26 jewells. Not that you’re likely to subject such an elegant timepiece to hard use, but magnetic resistance is rated at 4,800 A/m, and I’ve always found Seiko products to excel when it comes to durability. Even my least expensive Seiko 5 from nearly 20 years back continues to run without issue, despite having never been serviced.
The seven-link bracelet on these King Seiko models is especially nice, comfortable, yet with a sharp architectural look. I think it has a modernistic “beads of rice” thing going on, replacing that classic bracelet’s rounded-off inner links with more clearly defined brushed rectangles, and those faceted outer links give everything an upscale demeanor. A signed push-button butterfly clasp is an upscale touch, and keeps things nice and tidy.
These new King Seiko variants are a step up in refinement from the previous models, due to their trimmer size and classic look that hews closer to their vintage predecessors. Thin is in, and just like a racing bicycle, the sleeker it is, the more money it costs. Some really good finishing and a movement worthy of the King Seiko name are the most obvious reasons for the higher list price, but think about it for a moment. There are plenty of timepieces from bold-faced names that aren’t nearly as in-house as what Seiko offers, and that counts for a lot to some people. It’s hard to put a price on emotion, and the newest King Seikos deliver all the vintage feels.
King Seiko SJE089 and SJE091 pricing and availability
|Case Dimensions||38.6mm (D) x 10.7mm (T) x 45.8mm (LTL)|
|Case Material||Stainless steel|
|Water Resistance||50 metres|
|Dial||Silver or black|
|Strap||Seven-link stainless steel with butterfly push-button clasp|
|Movement||6L35, in-house, automatic|
|Power Reserve||45 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, seconds, date|