Seiko King Seiko KSK

Why The King Seiko Speaks To Me

Seiko’s newly available King Seiko KSK has been speaking to me. Not literally, of course, but figuratively.

By Josh Shanks

When Seiko announced that it was bringing back the King Seiko, it took everything I had to not dive deep into my wallet and splurge the $3,330 for the newly recreated timepiece. I’m a sucker for history, and Seiko has it in spades. Having been to Japan to experience the brand’s workshops, the King Seiko has a special place in my heart due to its heritage and inspiration.

Let’s Go Back To 1965

To understand how we got to today, we must look back to 1965. Hirohito was the Emperor of Japan, and Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States after winning re-election in 1964. The Sixties were a transformative time in popular culture, and perhaps no brand understood this better than Seiko.

While the United States was fully ensconced in Mad Men culture, Japan was undergoing a post-World War II renaissance. In the 1960s, average GDP growth of 10% led to higher take-home salaries and a boom in white-collar employment. Which, of course, naturally led to more disposable income, and what better way to celebrate success than with a Seiko.

The 1960s were a transformative decade for Seiko as well. From the launch of Grand Seiko in 1960 and the subsequent arrival of the first King Seiko model to the world’s first automatic chronograph in 1969, it’s safe to say that the sixties were very good to Seiko.

Introduced in 1961, the original King Seiko model showcased Seiko’s watchmaking prowess. The goal of the King Seiko was to display the utmost precision in a mechanical timepiece. And after its release, Seiko introduced the King Seiko KSK in 1965. This manually-wound timepiece featured sharp multi-faceted edges on its re-designed KSK case. The result was eye-catching, and the watch has gone on to live in Seiko folklore for the past five decades.

Japanese Culture In The 1960s

Few watches capture my attention to the level of the new King Seiko KSK. Perhaps it’s the contemporary-yet-vintage feel of the King Seiko KSK. There’s something magical about Japan in the 1960s. When I think of this period, I think of avant-garde design mixed with a fascination for jazz and lounge culture and visions of a smoky whisky lounge with a fresh Cuban cigar in hand. In other words, the new King Seiko KSK would be right at home.

Japan had a healthy obsession with the Rat Pack, and Frank Sinatra played one of his last shows at Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome (now called the Fukuoka PayPay Dome). Mid-century aesthetics eventually gave rise to kawaii culture, but Japan was the epicenter of cool for a brief moment in time.

A Closer Look At The King Seiko KSK

For the first time since 2000, King Seiko is back. To celebrate Seiko’s 140th Anniversary, the brand has recreated the King Seiko KSK. The timepiece is a fitting tribute to the original KSK models while bringing modern technical and aesthetical improvements.

The new King Seiko KSK is a masterful recreation of the original 1965 version. Featuring polished faceted indices and the brand’s iconic sharp hands, the new King Seiko KSK looks just at home in 2021 as it did in 1965.

What struck me was the use of the original King Seiko logo and shield on the yellow gold-colored solid caseback insert. The 38.10mm stainless steel case is Zaratsu polished across its faceted lugs and sharp angles. For a watch of this price point – $3,300 – the case's finishing is remarkable.

Powered by the Seiko calibre 6L35, the new King Seiko KSK strays from the original with an automatic movement, yet the new KSK is only 0.5mm thicker than its 1965 predecessor. The King Seiko KSK’s 26-jewel movement (the original was 25 jewels) boasts a 45-hour power reserve.

In The Metal

Thanks to our friends at Seiko, Watchonista experienced the new King Seiko KSK in the metal. The watch certainly didn't disappoint, and my lust for this timepiece has only increased. On the wrist, the new KSK is remarkably svelte, and the razor-sharp case edges are polished just enough not to disrupt the skin.

King Seiko models have always threaded the fine line between Seiko and Grand Seiko. And with good reason, as this watch can stand on its own any day of the week. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the original was called the King Seiko because, “in addition to its precision, it offered a powerful yet graceful design that symbolized the high quality of its construction,” according to the brand.

Another selling point of the original that the new King Seiko KSK carried over is its water resistance and hacking movement, which was crucial for utilitarian wearers in the 1960s who never left home without a watch on their wrist. And in a nod to the original, the "W" emblem on the crown and engraving of "SEIKO" are both meant to denote quality, while the "W" also signifies the water resistance (5 bar or approx. 167 ft) of the King Seiko KSK.

Few watches capture my heart both in their press release and in the metal, and the King Seiko KSK is undoubtedly one of them.

Pricing and Availability

The recreated King Seiko KSK Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition is priced at $3,300 and is limited to 3,000 pieces worldwide. The watch comes fitted with a black crocodile strap and a special King Seiko presentation box.

Learn more on Seiko’s website.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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