Return Of The King: Seiko Kicks Off 2021 With The King Seiko KSK
Seiko celebrates its 140th anniversary with a limited edition re-creation of a classic 1960s timepiece.
It’s no secret that Seiko appeals to every kind of collector. From the affordable automatic Seiko 5 to the rarified world of Grand Seiko, numerous craftsmanship and technological achievements mean that these Japanese-made timepieces provide something for everyone.
Rarity is always catnip for collectors. Vintage enthusiasts have always been fans of the King Seiko – a high-end, hi-beat watch launched in 1961 and produced until 1975. And in January 2021, contemporary collectors will be able to get a piece of the action when Seiko reissues a limited edition of its most sought-after model, 1965’s King Seiko KSK SJE083.
Tale of Two Cities
The brand, known originally as Seikosha, was incorporated in 1881 by Kintarō Hattori. Seikosha started producing watches under the brand Seiko in 1960.
Part of the rebranding was driven by Seikosha’s decision in the late 1950s and early 1960s to produce more advanced, precise, and luxurious watches. At that time, Seiko had two production sites: Suwa Seikosha and Daini Seikosha. And the resultant interdepartmental rivalry between the two watchmaking facilities fostered horological innovation and excellence. Suwa Seikosha struck first with the launch of Grand Seiko, which is now a separate brand that still produces some of the most revered watches made in Japan today.
In 1961, Daini Seikosha developed its own luxury watch, the King Seiko. But not content to rest on its laurels, in 1965, the facility introduced the second generation of King Seiko watches equipped with the hand-wound calibre 44A under the reference 44-9990. This watch bore the name KSK, with KS meaning King Seiko and the K at the end being the acronym for Kisei-Tsuki, which means stop-seconds in Japanese.
While Grand Seiko ended up becoming the brand’s most high-end offering in terms of price and market tier by the early 70s, King Seiko was never far behind in quality and finishing.
King Seiko stopped production in the mid-1970s, and although collectors clamor for them on the secondary market, this regal timepiece has only been reissued once, in 2000.
This is why we can’t wait until January and the launch of this reissue.
It’s a pretty faithful recreation of the 1965 version. At the time, the KSK was considered a bold departure in design. The original King Seiko had a more rounded, conventional look. The ’65 KSK case was steely, sharp, and angular.
The 2021 model stays faithful to most of these now-classic signatures, including small but well-considered elements such as large flat surfaces and multi-faceted Zaratsu polished lugs that catch the light from any angle. The silver-colored and sunray-brushed polished dial features typography that is faithful to the original, and its applied and textured markers provide extra depth. And the closed case back comes with an authentic gold-plated case back medallion.
Given Seiko’s reverence for innovation, there are a few upgrades to the new KSK. The case is made more durable with a super-hard coating to protect it from scuffs and scratches. And the case back emblem also serves as proof of its limited-edition status, marked with a serial number.
In a more visual departure from the 1965 original, a date window has also been added to the new KSK. Between the date window and the use of an automatic movement, those are the two boldest departures from the original edition.
For contemporary collectors that shy away from vintage because of service history and condition, the new limited edition King Seiko KSK should give them confidence. In addition to its standout design and high-quality construction, it also offers a self-winding Caliber 6L35, eight beats per second, 26-jewel self-winding movement with a 45-hour power reserve. Thanks to advances in the watchmaker’s art, this new version has the same slim and graceful profile as the original and is only 0.5mm thicker.
Finally, to complete this sleek 1960s look, the King Seiko KSK is presented on an era-appropriate black crocodile strap with a pin buckle.
Limited to just 3,000 pieces, the King Seiko SJE083J1 is priced at $3,330 and will be available in Seiko boutiques and select retail partners worldwide in January.
For more information, visit Seiko's website.
(Images © Seiko Watches)