King Seiko vs. Grand Seiko: Buy This Not That!

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Seiko’s Limited Edition re-creation of the 1965 King Seiko KSK watch is a hit! And why not? It’s historical! Celebrating 110 years of watchmaking, the retro-modern timepiece combines most of the non-stye style of the original King Seiko with a modern automatic movement. And yet… the new old King Seiko is a waste of money.

Don’t get me wrong: it looks great, assuming you’re a monochromatic minimalist. No date. No lume. No fancy hands or distinctive batons. At 37mm, it’s not too big and not too small. What’s wrong? The movement is the big ish.

The new old King’s powered by the Japanese watchmaker’s caliber 6R31. The self-winding engine debuted in 2021 on the $1450 Seiko Presage Studio Ghibli Castle In The Sky Collaboration Limited Edition. It’s accurate to +25 to -15 seconds per day. That’s not bad for a garden variety automatic, but it’s not $1700 worth of OK.

Seiko agrees, hiding the pedestrian movement behind a steel caseback.

With those stats, the new old King Seiko has zero claim to the throne. Sure, a 70-hour power reserve is nothing to start a republican revolt about. But a sub-$600 Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 offers an 80-hour power reserve, and its beefed-up ETA 2824 movement delivers the same sort of accuracy.

The 110-year anniversary King Seiko is the meh version of the ‘KSK’ Limited Edition SJE083. Classier dial, same case, more golden (but not gold) caseback, more comfortable strap and especially, a different movement!

The caliber 6L35‘s power reserve is a relatively paltry 45 hours, but its accuracy is… the same as its cheaper cousin. For $3300. And this is where we bail from the whole King Seiko deal.

Seventeen-hundred clams is a lot of money for a mass market automatic. Three-and-a-half-grand is ridiculous. Especially when you consider there’s a proper alternative: the $2600 Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGP011. And yes, it’s got a quartz movement.

Before you clutch those pearls, this ain’t no ordinary quartz watch. Click here for the full 411. Meanwhile, know this: Grand Seiko caliber 9F85 is accurate to ten seconds a year. And you don’t have to fuck with the setting until the battery runs out; the hour hand adjusts independently and there’s no winding required (obvs.).

More than that, the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGP011 has all the perceived and actual quality of a Rolex, for a fraction of the cost. The bracelet is smoother than a baby’s backside. The dial’s legibility in anything resembling daylight is stellar (so to speak). It’s an heirloom quality timepiece – the logical and fitting evolution of the King Seiko of 1965.

For the math averse, we’re talking about a watch (anniversary edition above) that costs a grand more than the low-end King Seiko, and $700 less than the King King Seiko. A watch that’s exponentially better than either.

If you’re a watch guy, you don’t need me to tell you: quality is more important than quantity. As Steve Jobs put it, one home run is better than two doubles. Just as one Grand Seiko is worth any number of new old King Seikos.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Proving the old adage that a fool and his money are soon parted, you’ll be delighted to learn that I bought myself a King Seiko recently.

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