If the Seiko Watch Corporation were a royal family, the undisputed monarch would be Grand Seiko, which is why the recent revival of the King Seiko line might create some confusion in the line of succession. Pitted against one another in the 1960s, Grand Seiko and King Seiko were determined to outdo one another and achieve ever-higher levels of quality and precision to become the company’s flagship brand. Although we are all familiar with the stellar trajectory of Grand Seiko, King Seiko wasn’t revived until late 2020 with a limited re-edition based on the 1965 King Seiko KSK. Now a standalone collection, the solid vintage credentials of King Seiko serve as the backdrop for the latest model (ref. SPB365) celebrating the 110th anniversary of Seiko and Japan’s first wristwatch (Laurel, 1913) with a hypnotic dial inspired by the birthplace of King Seiko.
As explained in great detail in this hands-on review of the King Seiko KSK SJE083, the internal rivalry between Grand Seiko and King Seiko in the early 1960s produced fruitful results. King Seiko’s inaugural watch appeared in 1961, followed by the 1965 KSK, the model that spearheaded the revival of King Seiko. Although Grand Seiko’s path was uninterrupted and became an independent entity in 2017, you could say that Seiko shot itself in the mechanical foot with its development of quartz technology, leaving the King Seiko to slumber until its revival in 2020.
To commemorate its return, Seiko re-edited its classic 1965 King Seiko KSK. With its sharp, angular case, flat dial, faceted indices, broad razor-edged hands and dynamic seven-link metal bracelet, the King Seiko exudes a powerful vintage vibe. Following the first (and higher-end) silver dial re-edition of 2020, the King Seiko has appeared in a more accessible version with a host of colourful dials, including the attractive King Seiko SPB291 with its gradient lilac-coloured dial inspired by the wisteria blossoms of the Kamiedo Tenjin Shrine.
The latest arrival is this compact 37mm stainless steel King Seiko SPB365 with a height of 12.1mm and 100m water-resistance. In deference to its 1965 ancestor, the lugs are faceted with mirror-polished and hairline finishings, the bezel is bevelled, a box-shaped sapphire crystal covers the dial, and the striated crown and caseback bear the original King Seiko emblem. The tapering multi-link stainless steel bracelet, with its seven rows of faceted brushed and polished links, is also very close to the original. An additional leather strap is included with material sourced from LWG sustainably certified tanneries and a King Seiko clasp.
However, what separates this reference SPB365 from those currently in the King Seiko collection is its fascinating textured dial. Using a gradient coppery brown colour, the hexagonal shapes on the dial are inspired by a traditional Japanese pattern known as Kikkoumon. The Kikkoumon, in turn, takes its design cues from the geometrical shapes, or scutes, found on tortoise shells. A symbol of longevity and prosperity, the six-sided chelonian shape is also associated with samurai armour. Taking the turtle analogy one step further, it turns out that King Seiko was born in the Kameido section of Tokyo. Surrounded by rivers and streams, Kameido is also known as Tortoise Island.
Adding an impressive sensation of depth to the dial, each hexagon is composed of three inset hexagons set at progressively deeper levels. Combined with the gradient effect, the patterns are flooded with light in the centre and darken as they reach the periphery.
Without a trace of lume, the applied rectangular indices catch the light with their vivid polished facets, while the double index at noon reveals its patterned pyramid-like texture. The flat faceted hour and minute hands are Zaratzu polished to create a distortion-free shine and are accompanied by a needle-sharp seconds hand.
Automatic calibre 6R31
This King Seiko Kikkoumon is fitted with the modern automatic in-house calibre 6R31. Using a similar mechanical architecture to the 6R35 without the date, the 6R31 has 24 jewels and runs at a frequency of 21,600vph. Delivering a robust power reserve of 72 hours, the movement’s accuracy is rated at +15/-25 seconds per day.
Availability & Price
The King Seiko SPB365 Kikkoumon is a limited edition of 1,200 pieces and will be available from February 2023 at select Seiko Boutiques and retail partners worldwide. The recommended retail price in Europe is EUR 2,000. For more information, please visit seikowatches.com.