The Seiko Kinetic: Boon or Bane?
The Seiko Kinetic. Now that’s a watch technology that had initially discouraged and mystified me for some time. When I first inquired about Seiko Kinetics at a small watch dealer, I was advised to stay away from Kinetics as far as possible. He mentioned about frequent customer complaints and warranty claims from his fellow watch sellers. "Stick to quartz or automatic", he advised. "A Kinetic will give you a headache later on".
What did he mean by that? The dealer didn’t elaborate the heart of the issue or the specifics. So I decided to turn to the Internet and do some research of my own. I learned about the internals of a Kinetic watch, how the movement worked and Seiko’s philosophy behind it.
Someday, all watches will be made this way!
"Someday, all watches will be made this way". That tag line had been Seiko’s timeless slogan since they first pushed quartz analog watches into the world in the late seventies. Seiko’s highly supercharged and persuasive ads bloomed in magazines and newspaper ads everywhere in full support for their revolutionary hybrid watch technology. Surely, Japan’s biggest watch making company couldn’t be wrong with the Kinetic?
Anyway, a half hour’s searching on the Internet gave me some indefinite and inconclusive information. One interesting website detailed the writer’s beef with Seiko. He was a mechanical engineer and bitterly complained of the geartrain backlash that affected his Kinetic watch’s minute hand. It had too much free play in it and would shift when the watch was tilted from side to side.
More worrying to me was the mention of multiple incidences of premature failures of capacitors in Seiko Kinetics, which was also reported by other Kinetic owners in his page here. The capacitor was integral to Seiko’s concept of a "battery-less" quartz watch. The company calls it the "energy storage unit" and what it basically does is to store electricity generated through wrist motion.
A closeup of the Seiko 5M42 movement, showing its coil block, oscillating weight and the capacitor (borrowed photo).
The capacitor (or condenser) is fundamentally an electronic device with two electrodes which are separated by a dielectric insulator. It can store energy when it is charged and will release energy when discharged.
Seiko used two types of capacitors for its early Kinetics and A.G.S/Auto Quartz (pre-Kinetic) models. The earlier type was outsourced from the established Japanese electronics giant, Matsushita Electric, which is now known as Panasonic.
This capacitor was the model EECW2R4E334, which was the energy storage unit for early Kinetic calibers such as the 5M2x series. It was primarily designed to be used in confined spaces (like a watch module) where miniature primary lithium cells were specified. The EECW2R4E334 incorporated gold (the precious metal) as one of its raw components and is rated for 2.4V volts DC. It has since been discontinued by Panasonic.
Later Seiko developed its own capacitors and used them to replace the ones from Matsushita. The capacitors were made by Seiko’s sub-division called Seiko Instruments Incorporated (SII) and were designated the SL920.
A photo of the new TC920S LiOn cell (left) and the old SL920 capacitor (right). Pic courtesy of Poor Man’s Watch Forum
The tiny capacitors were supposed to last for at least several years but apparently they didn’t. Many batches leaked while in use, which resulted in dead Kinetics and many dissatisfied customers. It became somewhat a widespread problem which could have hurt sales of Kinetic models worldwide.
A Kinetic watch is directly powered by its energy storage cell and without it, the watch would simply stop working. The storage cell acts as a reservoir or buffer to store electricity generated by the electrical generating unit. The equivalent of the storage unit in a mechanical watch is the main spring.
I have no idea if Seiko’s engineers ever performed simulated accelerated aging tests of the capacitors. The designers spent a lot of time into perfecting the Kinetic’s micro electricity generator (they did a terrific job on it) but perhaps overlooked the long term reliability of the capacitor itself, which is a key component of the Kinetic architecture.
Issues with the early Seiko Kinetic watches
I decided to revisit the issues which had plagued me for more than a year. The majority of the complaints centered on the premature failure of the capacitors that Seiko used. They tended to leak and resulted in the watch being unable to run for than several hours before stopping.
I wondered if I would be risking my hard earned cash if I were to buy a Seiko Kinetic. Should I or shouldn’t I? After all, I had more than a dozen quartz and automatic Seikos at the time. Maybe I ought to try just one Kinetic for size and if things didn’t work well, I could sell it later.
Was the capacitor trouble widespread or was it just limited to certain Seiko Kinetic models or calibers? I later learned that the problem largely affected the early Kinetic calibers, particularly the 5M4x and 5M2x series. These were mostly movements that were made prior to the year 2000.
At the same time, Seiko had quietly rectified the capacitor leakage problem when they introduced the new 5M6x caliber, which is still in existence at the time of writing. In place of the capacitor, Seiko decided to use a rechargeable titanium lithium ion cell (LiOn) as replacement.
Rather than spend money to self-manufacture the LiOn cells, Seiko chose to outsource them from Maxell Corp, a renowned Japanese battery and computer media manufacturer. Maxell also makes disposable watch batteries and they probably had the best designed LiOn cells around.
The good news is that Seiko also discontinued using the problematic capacitors for its Kinetic models from 2000 onwards. Models that use the older calibers like the 5M2x and 5M4x series are able to be retrofitted with the LiOn cells without problems.
The LiOn cell that Seiko uses in its modern Kinetics is the Maxell TC920S, as pictured below. It is rated to give a potential difference of 2.2 volts DC at full charge.
The replacement KESU kit (left) and a closeup of the Maxell LiOn cell taken off my Seiko SKA013P (right)
Technically, the LiOn is a secondary battery which can be recharged and discharged repeatedly.
It does not operate on the principle of the capacitor but runs like the rechargeable battery that powers your cellphone, iPod, laptop or digital camera. Some people refer the LiOn cell as a "capacitor". From a technical point of view, this is incorrect. A capacitor and a rechargeable battery are constructed differently.
Going with Seiko’s long-running and expensive "battery-less watch" marketing campaign, the company prefers not to use the term "battery" when referring to the LiOn cell. I presume after the millions the company had spent on promoting the Kinetic as a watch that required no batteries, they probably didn’t want the public to get confused.
Probably someone in marketing came up with a brilliant idea and thus the technical sounding name Kinetic Electricity Storage Unit (or Kinetic E.S.U. for short) was born. Kinetic E.S.U. can refer to the old style capacitor or the newer LiOn rechargeable cell.
Advantages of the Lithium Ion rechargeable cell
Seiko’s decision to equip their Kinetic movements starting from the 5M6x caliber onwards with the lithium ion cell (and ditching the old capacitor storage unit) was a wise one.
Not only the LiOn cells were more reliable than the capacitor, they offered a much larger power holding capacity. This is capacity is also called the "power reserve". Depending on the caliber, the Maxell LiOn cells have a power reserve ranging from 1 month (for the 9T82 chronograph) to a whopping 4 years (for the 5J-series).
The typical reserve for a 5M-caliber Kinetic is up to six months and five months for a 7L22 Kinetic chronograph, fully charged. The 9T82 Kinetic consumes a lot of power when its chronograph is used (it has a 1/10sec stopwatch) hence its average reserve is just a month.
The 5J-caliber’s ability to keep time up to four years is due to its special Auto Relay technology. It has a unique power conservation (sleep mode) feature that shuts down the watch movement (except for the internal timing) when it hasn’t been worn continuously for 72 hours and longer.
When you pick up a Kinetic Auto Relay watch and shake it, its main time hands will magically spin to match the current time. The date calendar unfortunately has to be set manually, presumably due to the amount of power needed to spin those hands to catch up to the current date.
Seiko claims that their Auto Relay Kinetics can hold a charge for up to 4 years and I wonder if any Auto Relay owner has actually put this claim to the test.
Two Seiko Kinetic Auto Relays: A recent Arctura SNG043P (left) and an earlier SMA113P (right)
As far as I know, rechargeable lithium ion batteries have a self-discharge nature whereby its power will slowly deplete even though it’s not connected to any electrical load. Anyway, I don’t own an Auto Relay as I never liked their designs. Seiko Auto Relay Kinetics tend to be blingy and dressy, not really my kind of watch. 🙂
Drawbacks of the LiOn cell
On the flip side, having a very large power reserve also means that a lot of wrist motion is required to charge the LiOn cell to its fullest capacity. The original capacitors in the early Kinetic watches had a rather small storage and it needed about only 800 swings of the watch to charge it to its maximum reserve of 3 days. This reserve is still longer than the average mechanical movement’s reserve between 30 to 55 hours.
The Maxell LiOn cell with its maximum 6-month reserve on the other hand, requires at least 24,000 swings of the watch to get it to its full charge! Which means to achieve this, you have to wear the watch as frequently as possible. Alternatively, you could invest in a special charger such as a Seiko Energy Supplier.
A Seiko YT02A Kinetic charger. It can charge a 5M-caliber watch in 3 1/2 hours from a fully discharged state
The Energy Supplier works on the principle of electromagnetic induction, like those home induction cookers and has no moving parts. For those of you technically inclined, you may want to read up on Faraday’s Law. 🙂
Some people have attempted to "charge" their Kinetics using watch winders meant for automatic timepieces. I’m not sure how efficient using mechanical winders would be as Kinetic watches literally need thousands of swings to get them to full charge.
These chargers are largely supplied to Seiko repair centers and to small numbers of authorized Seiko watch dealers. Perhaps the most well-known Kinetic charger is the model YT02A, which can be sourced from a few eBay sellers and online watch dealers. The YT02A can handle a variety of Kinetic calibers, including the current 5J22 Auto Relay and 7L22 Kinetic Chronograph models.
Whether it’s viable to purchase one of these YT02A chargers depends on how many Kinetic watches you own and how often you wear them. In my opinion, if you have over three Kinetics and seldom wear them, you might want to get one of these chargers.
File photo of my SMY003P Kinetic being charged on a Seiko Kinetic Energy Supplier unit at my watchmaker’s. This pyramid-shaped charger is different than the YT02A model (right).
Unfortunately, the LiOn cell doesn’t have an infinite life span. Sooner or later your rechargeable cell will lose its ability to maintain an optimal charge. If you wear a Kinetic every day you probably won’t notice the efficiency loss until the LiOn cell is nearing its end. With models that aren’t equipped with the power reserve indicator feature, you won’t know this until the cell’s voltage drops to the point that your watch’s second hand starts ticking in an erratic manner.
Note that all rechargeable lithium ion batteries have self-discharge properties. They will slowly lose their power even when not in use. LiOn batteries are best kept at around a 40% charge capacity if you intend to store them for long periods without use.
Allowing a LiOn cell to discharge completely is also a total no-no. Doing so will seriously degrade the cell’s internal chemicals and reduce its ability to hold a charge. Be sure never to allow your Kinetic watch (or a solar powered one, such as Citizen Eco Drive or Casio Tough Solar) to stop functioning.
Also, be wary of buying a Kinetic watch at a store that has stopped for some time. Chances are if the watch has been in the store for many months or years, you’ll need to replace the KESU not long after you’ve bought it. Unlike solar powered watches that are continually charged so long as there is enough light, Kinetics need to be shaken often to keep them charged.
Many brick-and-mortar watch dealers couldn’t be bothered with this (the task itself is daunting if they have lots of Kinetics) and they allow the watches to self discharge over time.
Replacing the Kinetic ESU
It’s very important that you replace your Kinetic’s ESU at a Seiko service center or at least, at a jeweler that has experience in replacing Kinetic capacitors and LiOn cells.
I’ve heard a few horror stories of owners who unwittingly had their Kinetic ESUs replaced with primary silver oxide batteries! These usually happened at watch stores whose sales assistants are totally clueless about Kinetic watches and rechargeable cells.
Never substitute your Kinetic’s ESU with a silver oxide cell meant for quartz watches! Silver oxide cells are primary cells, not secondary cells. It’s possible for a silver oxide cell to leak or even burst if it is recharged. It’s just like those disposable alkaline batteries – they are not meant to be recharged with a reverse current.
A typical 1.55v silver oxide cell meant for quartz watches, which can damage your Kinetic movement if used instead!
As the Seiko Kinetic is more of a quartz watch rather than a mechanical one, when it’s time for a service or repair, it’s best to take it to a Seiko repair facility. This is because the only major moving parts in a Kinetic are the oscillating weight and the micro step-up gears. The rest the components in a modular form, similar to a quartz watch.
However, if you are up to the task of replacing your dead KESU yourself, check out this excellent DIY tutorial by Reto Castellazzi. Reto is a well-known, veteran watch collector/enthusiast/seller and has quite a few hard-to-find Seiko watches for sale in his web site from time to time.
Buy a fresh replacement Kinetic ESU!
I thought it’s worth mentioning that if you’re replacing your failing rechargeable Lithium Ion cell, be sure that you’re getting a recently manufactured one. You’ll have to trust the seller or your watchmaker on this.
The reason for choosing a fresh rechargeable LiOn cell is because all Lithium Ion batteries start degrading when they leave the factory. Unlike disposable alkaline batteries that have very long shelf lives (about five years), a replacement LiOn cell that was made several years ago would have aged (and very likely in a state of total discharge). Therefore, they may not hold a 100% charge like when they were new.
This tip also applies to rechargeable LiOn and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries for consumer electronics like digital cameras, laptops, iPods, MP3 players, cellphones and the like.
So if you’re replacing your Kinetic watch’s KESU, try to ensure that you’re getting one from a recent batch.
Seiko Kinetic Calibers
The following is a table of Seiko Kinetic movement types which I have compiled from various sources. This list may not be exhaustive, so if you know of a Kinetic caliber not listed here, feel free to inform me. 🙂
|Caliber||Default Kinetic ESU type||Max power reserve||Features/Comments||Production status|
|1M20||Capacitor||72 hours (3 days), 3 months with LiOn cell||Discontinued|
|3M21, 3M22, 3M62||Capacitor||168 hours (1 week)||Power reserve indicator||Discontinued|
|4M21, 4M71||Capacitor||72 hours (3 days)||Discontinued|
|5D22, 5D44||LiOn cell||1 month||Direct Drive, real time power reserve indicator||In production|
|5J21, 5J22, 5J32||LiOn cell||4 years||Auto Relay||In production|
|5M22, 5M23, 5M25||Capacitor||72 hours (3 days)||Power reserve indicator||Discontinued|
|5M42, 5M43, 5M45||Capacitor||168 hours (1 week)||Power reserve indicator||Discontinued|
|5M62, 5M63, 5M65||LiOn cell||6 months||Power reserve indicator||
|7D46, 7D48||LiOn cell||4 years||Auto Relay, Perpetual Calendar||In production|
|7L22||LiOn cell||5 months||1/5sec mechanical operated chronograph||
|7M12, 7M22||Capacitor||72 hours (3 days)||Discontinued|
|7M42, 7M45||Capacitor||72 hours (3 days)||Discontinued|
|9T82||LiOn cell||1 month||1/10sec mechanical operated chronograph||
|YT47||Capacitor||72 hours (3 days)||Produced for non-Seiko Japanese brands, e.g. Alba, GSX, etc||Discontinued|
|YT57, YT58||LiOn cell||6 months||
Produced for non-Seiko, Japanese brands, e.g. Alba, GSX, etc
My personal experience with Kinetics
I finally pulled the proverbial trigger on a Seiko Kinetic late 2004 after weighing the pros and cons of owning one. There were many models to choose from and I settled for the SKA013P since it had the classic diver-like styling and a radiant, jet black dial with framed rectangular indices.
What I liked about the Kinetic is the sensation of the oscillating weight spinning when I shake my arm. It almost feels like an automatic. Notice that I said "almost".
Compared to an automatic watch, the Kinetic’s oscillating weight doesn’t spin as freely as I expected. The rotor is also noisier than the typical automatic watch and sounds rather coarse to the ear.
A quick flick of the wrist and you can hear and feel the oscillating weight spinning for half a second and stopping abruptly. If you’re used to smooth-spinning oscillating weights in automatics (such as the ETA Valjoux 7750 chronograph), you’ll be terribly disappointed.
I thought it was peculiar to just my watch and later I had the chance to test other Seiko Kinetics of varying calibers at watch stores. All of them behaved similarly. Two more Seiko Kinetics later in my inventory, I’m convinced that Kinetic oscillating weights don’t spin freely like automatics.
This phenomenon is probably due to the fact the oscillating weight has a high torque load to drive those step-up multiplier gears, which in turn rotate the tiny dynamo at a mind boggling rate of 100,000rpm to generate electricity.
An exploded-view of an early Kinetic movement (note that "capacitor" is used in this example)
When I had my SKA013P some years ago I owned about no more than two dozen watches. It was easy to discipline myself to wear it once a week. Since then my collection has more than doubled and with two more additional Kinetics, I have to force myself to wear them to avoid running down their rechargeable cells.
That said, I have since replaced the LiOn cells of my SKA013P and SMY003P because they were already dead when I purchased them. Their power reserves dropped sharply after owning them for eight months, so to be on the safe side I decided to replace them one after another.
Probably most Seiko Kinetic owners out there are one-watch folks who were attracted to the idea of a watch that needs no battery changing. I’ve met a few guys (and strangers) who wear a Kinetic and I actually asked them why they chose the watch in the first place.
Nearly half of them said they were interested in the virtually maintenance-free watch concept although they didn’t really understand how the Kinetic mechanism worked (they probably couldn’t care less anyway). As for the remainder, well… they said they chose their watches because they looked simply attractive or received them as a gift.
Why are there no more Seiko Kinetics for women?
You may have noticed that Seiko has not released Kinetic models for women for decades. Actually, Seiko Kinetics have a good market share and there shouldn’t be any reason why they shouldn’t make Kinetic watches for the ladies too. Actually Seiko did experiment with Kinetics for women (like very early 3M caliber) in the 1990s and then decided to discontinue Kinetics for ladies.
My best educated guess is – it was largely a marketing failure. Women typically consider wrist watches as accessories that tell the time. They want their watches to look good with the clothes they wear and more importantly, the watches have to be as maintenance-free as possible.
I’d say that 99% of the women I that I know personally prefer quartz watches. Unlike men, they’re not too bothered with features or the movement that runs their timepieces. They want a good-looking watch and not having to go through the trouble of winding or charging them.
I guess this explains why fashion brand watches like Guess, Swatch and Diesel are mostly quartz.
For the female consumer market, Seiko watches since then are available in either quartz or automatic format. Due to lack of interest in mechanicals, almost all Seiko timepieces for ladies are battery powered quartz. Automatic calibers constitute the minority movement and the probably the most notable automatic caliber for ladies’ watches is the 4207 caliber with auxiliary hand winding. You can find the 4207 in some women’s model from the Seiko 5 Sports range.
There’s also the limitation of the Kinetic movement itself. The internal power generator requires a rather strong torque to drive the step up gears. The only way to accomplish this is to use a large oscillating weight with sufficient mass to drive the Kinetic rotor. A small oscillating weight translates into less efficiency in charging the watch.
Seiko does have quartz calibers meant only for women’s watches but lately the company has also used the 7T92 chronograph movement designed for gents’ models. Ladies’ watches using the 7T92 quartz movement are usually larger than traditional ladies’ models.
(A big thanks to a few of my readers who pointed out that Kinetic watches for women did at one time, exist) 🙂
Direct Drive: The shape of things to come?
Very recently Seiko released a variation of its Kinetic movement – the Direct Drive Kinetic. It first debuted with the SRH-series Velatura yacht sports watches with the 5D44 caliber and shortly thereafter added the 5D22 caliber, without the retrograde day-of-week display.
What sets the Direct Drive movements from the other Kinetics is the DD’s ability to charge the internal Kinetic ESU via a hand-winding crown and the inclusion of a real-time power reserve indicator. You can regard it as an automatic movement with manual winding.
I had the opportunity to briefly inspect a dark blue dialed SRH003P Direct Drive at my watchmaker’s store. It’s a pretty large and chunky watch and its approximately USD800 list price is an indication that the movement itself accounts for a chunk of the watch’s retail price.
The Velatura SRH003P (left) with the 5D44 caliber and the 5D22-powered Premier SRG003P (right). Pictures courtesy of Chronograph.com
To be frank, I liked the attractive looks of the SRH003P but wondered if the hand winding feature of the Direct Drive was more of a novelty. The real-time power reserve indicator probably works on the principle of a logarithmic voltmeter. As I shook or manually wound the watch, I observed the power reserve jumping a few notches up and then settling down to indicate the true reserve.
My watchmaker attempted to thumb-crank the Velatura to get it to a decent charge. Ten minutes later he gave up, citing that both his thumbs were sore! 🙂 We looked at the power reserve gauge and it registered no more than a mere day’s worth of charge in spite of his efforts.
In most likelihood, if I had this watch I would probably hand wind the watch for the first two weeks. When the fun wears off, I’ll probably won’t bother with winding it manually and let my natural wrist motions do the work.
Seiko’s official diagram of a 5D44 Direct Drive. They probably didn’t proof read it before publishing. "Two hour hands" on this watch? I don’t think so.
Then I’ll probably think, "Why buy a Direct Drive if I’m going to wear it like a regular Kinetic?". I think I were to buy a Direct Drive watch, I would buy it because I like how the watch looks rather than for its underlying technology.
The 5D44/5D22’s surprisingly unrealistically low power reserve of only 1 month raises some questions. Does the power reserve indicator use up that much energy as it measures the internal Kinetic ESU’s reserve? I can understand the 9T82’s one-month reserve as it’s a chronograph with a energy-sapping 1/10th second stopwatch subdial. Even the 7L22 Kinetic Chronograph manages a 5-month reserve.
Will Seiko replace its conventional Kinetic calibers with the likes of the Direct Drive? I personally don’t think they will. The Direct Drive movement is expensive to begin and it’s probably targeted at their upper-midrange markets. Seiko is already enjoying good worldwide sales of its more affordable range of Kinetic timepieces. Therefore I don’t suppose they’re going to disturb their proverbial cash cow.
We’ve come to the end of this rather long-winded post. So, is the Seiko Kinetic a boon or a bane?
It’s definitely a boon if you only need one watch or own no more than half a dozen watches, worn on daily rotation. Not to mention that you’re not the sedentary sort of person.
On the flip side, I think Kinetics are a bane if you have a large number of watches that you wear on rotation. Unlike a solar powered watch that you can recharge by merely exposing it to light, you need to wear a Kinetic as often as possible. And if you’re a physically active person, a Seiko Kinetic would be right for you.
The Seiko Kinetic is an interesting hybrid movement combining the best of mechanical and quartz technologies. You get the feel of an automatic while enjoying the accuracy of a regular, battery operated quartz. It’s almost maintenance free too and with the newer lithium ion cells it’ll be a long time before the watch needs to be sent for routine servicing.
Models using the older calibers could be easily upgraded to the more efficient LiOn rechargeable cell. The minute backlash problem that plagued the early Kinetics had since been fixed since the birth of the 5M6x series sometime in 2000.
Seiko was quite content with their perfected 5M6x caliber which is still used to this day. In fact, their engineers were confident with the design that later on when designing the 7L22 Kinetic chronograph movement, they borrowed the 5M’s power generation unit and mated it with the geartrain from their tried-and-proven 7N quartz caliber.
Three Seiko Kinetics later, I’ve decided to call it a day! From left to right, SKA013P, SMY003P and SNL035P
If long battery life is your ultimate goal, you’ll be better off owning one of the quartz Perpetual Calendar models that Seiko sells. These watches are more accurate than your everyday quartz (+/- 20secs per year vs +/- 15secs per month!) and thanks to the disposable lithium cell, you won’t need a battery change for 10 years.
Mechanical watch purists generally shun from quartz and hybrid watches like the Kinetic (and perhaps, the almost-mechanical Seiko Spring Drive) but hey, I’m a Seiko watch enthusiast so I must have at least one Kinetic in my collection. 🙂
Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.
Merci beau coup for your kind comments. My thoughts about Kinetics are – buy the watch for its looks and because you enjoy it a lot; not so much about the technology.
IMO, the Direct Drive is nothing more than an overpriced regular Kinetic with a real time power reserve gauge and obviously, hand winding capability.
I like to hand-wind automatics out of personal habit and they reach full reserve in a short time. Try that with a Kinetic DD, you’ll end up with sore fingers for sure. It takes thousands of crown turns to get it to full charge from zero. Of course, the watch dealer may pre-charge the watch for you, if he has the Kinetic charger.
As soon as the novelty wears off, you’ll probably want to forget about hand-winding a DD and wear it like a normal Kinetic. 🙂
I’ve handled a Velatura DD to check out its features before, it’s a nice watch but rather overpriced. A Premier 6R20 or 6R15 would be a better purchase.
Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂
You’re right – I spent quite some time looking back at my previous posts on Kinetic capacitors and rechargeable cells in the forum too.
Buy a Kinetic watch if you like how it looks and wears on your wrist – don’t buy a Kinetic just for its movement’s sake. That way you won’t be less than critical of the Kinetic’s shortcomings. 🙂
Happy to meet Seikoholic in .my :). Your site gives me lots of infomation related to Seiko watches.
I also like to share my Seiko watches here.
This is my First Seiko : Back in 1979: Price around MYR323, which look like this.
I still having it until today, but, the battery has been removed.
Next is my favourite Seiko watch, Seiko Auto Quartz, AGS (7M12-7A20) while I was in Japan in early 1990’s, for around 20,000 yen (MYR500 that time). I love this Seiko because it is thin and lightweight. It has saphire crystal glass, and scratchless until this day.
Yes, like other pre-Kinetics, the watch also have a bad ‘capacitor’. I am plaaning to repair it at Thong Sia service center at Plaza Central, and if there is anywhere else that I can repair it, please give some opinions.
Pleased to meet a fellow Seiko enthusiast too. 🙂
Thank you for your comments. The early Seiko LC digital watches cost around MYR300 upwards in 1979, in fact my mother bought me that Citizen Multi Alarm III for around that price you quoted.
It was a lot of money back then, probably comparable to MYR1,000 (USD330) these days, adjusting for inflation.
You can either send your vintage Seiko Auto Quartz to Thong Sia or any authorized Seiko dealer with repair facilities. The LiOn cell should cost you MYR60-70 inclusive of labor.
I had my rechargeable cells for my Kinetics replaced at Hing’s Watch, Jaya 33 in Petaling Jaya Section 14. You could also try Chun Cheong Watch & Pen @ Sg Wang Plaza, Ground Floor (near the Parkson department store). I know that the latter has the Kinetic charger, it’s possible the watch store may have stock of the Maxell LiOn cell.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for the nice comments, Jeje. 🙂
I have five Citizen Eco Drives myself and I find them easier to keep them going compared to my three Kinetics. I don’t plan on buying another Kinetic unless I get a Seiko Kinetic charger first.
If I may give my recommendations, go for automatics first and enjoy them before looking at the Kinetics. The Orange Monster and SKX007K would be good choices – they are robust watches.
Buy a Kinetic only if you like how the watch looks, rather for the movement.
Thank you, Francis.
Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with Spring Drives as they are not sold in my country. The Seiko distributor feels there is no market for high end Japan models, so they are unwilling to risk bringing in such costly Seikos.
Actually the Seiko Spring Drive is NOT even a Kinetic. It’s basically a mechanical watch that has an electronic circuitry (Seiko calls it a Tri-Synchro regulator) that controls how fast or slow the main spring unwinds.
As the SD’s main spring unravels, it also turns a micro generator that powers the electronics. There’s no capacitor or rechargeable cell for electricity storage. Once the main spring fully unwinds, the watch totally stops – just like a regular mechanical watch.
The use of servo assistance makes the Spring Drive special (and very expensive!) and most SD watches have a 72-hour reserve.
The earliest Spring Drives were hand-wound (e.g. 7R88) Credors and shortly Seiko introduced self-winding calibers (e.g. 9R65) to their Grand Seiko range.
These 9R calibers behave exactly like automatic watches, except that their accuracy is phenomenal with a typical loss/gain of 1 sec per day or better.
While Spring Drives are almost totally mechanical, Direct Drive Kinetics are more towards quartz. They are not to be confused with one another.
Hope this helps. 🙂
Hi, great article! I was looking for a Seiko watch and, being a tech geek, I was very interested in the Kinetic series. I had my doubts since I’d read about those faulty capacitors and all.
But after reading your blog I became a true believer and I’m now a proud owner of a beautiful Seiko Kinetic watch(A stunning Arctura Kinetic Perpetual seikowatches.com/products/arctura/kinetic_p/snp011p2.html) I just couldn’t be happier with it. I completely agree with you, there’s no free lunch, but one’s at peace with its limitations, Kinetic watches are simply a great achievement by Seiko and beautiful and precise timepieces to own.
Thanks for posting your article!
Congrats on taking the great Kinetic plunge! Seiko has certainly fixed teething problems with their early Kinetics and with the rechargeable lithium ion cells, premature failures are a thing of the past.
I’m glad to have gotten a new “Kinetic convert” through my writings. Just remember that if you have several Kinetics, it’s difficult to get them all fully charged. That’s where the YT02A charger comes in.
You can sometimes find such chargers on eBay. Enjoy your Arctura Perpetual Calendar in good health! 🙂
Stumbled across your posting searching on why my Seiko ladies kinetic is not keeping it’s energy. Good article that at least helped me figured out that it is probably time to replace the KESU.
It’s funny that you say Seiko does not produce kinetic watches for women. They do (checkout their new models) but very few models to choose from (and 6 out of 8 has diamonds – too fancy for me). I have the ladies version of the STS series (3M62) that I bought over 5 years ago and I love it. Yes, it is not an “elegant” and ultra feminine ladies watch, but I like the weight of it. It has a larger dial face and thicker in order to accommodate the mechanics like you said.
I also have an older Seiko quartz watch that I inherited from my mother – this watch is at least 20yrs old if not more. I don’t wear it anymore since owning the kinetic one because I can’t be bothered with changing batteries.
Thanks for leaving your feedback on Kinetic watches for ladies. I have not seen or heard of them until your comment and am interested to investigate this further.
Could you kindly provide me the last four digits of your caseback code 3M62-xxxx so that I can check the model that you have?
Nice one. I bought an SKA371P2 then stumbled over the endless complaints about cap failure before reading your titanic post. This helped me get my head around the new baby and my Casio tough solar, which is now out of its box and sunning itself happily. Given the needs of this movement I figure the SKA will be the watch I take jogging…Thanks for your efforts – much appreciated.
I too saw the comment about no ladies watches.
I bought one at least 10 years ago for my girlfriend here in the USA that was kinetic. She still has it and never a problem I was told (though no longer my gf).
It is pretty small, gold and looks sort of “rolex”ish.
If you want the number, please email me directly
Yes, your Seiko 5M42 Kinetic should be able to use the Maxell LiOn cell. I remember reading that some years ago Seiko recalled some of their 5M42 Kinetics and replaced the capacitors with the rechargeable cells.
I presume you’re in Australia. If you can’t find an authorized Seiko dealer with the capability to replace Kinetic capacitors/cells, you may want to take it to the Seiko Australia service center.
Here’s the address:
SEIKO Australia Pty. Ltd.
89 Epping Rd, North Ryde N.S.W. 2113, Australia
Hope this helps! 🙂
Sorry about the wrong info. Actually, I’m a Malaysian & live in K.L. The thing is I asked some watchmakers, they told me that it is better to “service” the watch before changing the capacitor and it cost me around MYR200(around USD50.6). Is that worth it? And most of them advised me to ‘modify’ it to quartz watch because it is easier & cheaper to mantain. What do you think?
You were probably advised to service your Kinetic because you’ve had it close to 10 years. If it’s your daily wearer, you might want to at least change the rubber seals for water resistance integrity.
Very few watchmakers are adept with servicing Kinetics and anyone who advises you to modify a Kinetic into a quartz is handing you B.S. on a silver platter. 🙁 Stay away from them!
Take your watch to the Thong Sia Seiko service center. They should be able to check your oscillating rotor, electricity coil block generator and re-oil its moving parts if necessary. Have the seals replaced and your watch pressure tested as well for possible leaks.
The replacement cell should cost you about MYR60 or slightly higher. I’m not sure how much they’ll charge for a Kinetic service though.
Thanks for your advise. It really help but about Thong Sia, I heard that they are a lot of complain of the customers about their services(Sorry if I’m wrong). On the other hand, I do a research on watch overhauling, it almost the same with watch servising in term of steps like cleaning, lubrication, changing the capacitor/spring and pressure test. I’m confused and is there any difference between watch overhauling & watch servising?
The terms “overhauling” and “servicing” are sometimes used interchangeably but usually an overhaul means stripping down your watch just like a car mechanic would do onto an engine block.
Yes, there have been negative reviews about Thong Sia in the past but I don’t know of any local watchmaker who is adept at servicing Kinetics.
Fortunately, the 5M42 Kinetic has much less moving parts than a mechanical watch therefore it requires less lubrication on parts.
The challenge is that a Kinetic is a hybrid movement and a watchmaker trained in fixing mechanical timepieces may not be trained with Kinetic repairs.
Sorry your comments somehow got accidentally deleted while I was upgrading my WordPress software.
From my past experience, Seiko doesn’t practice upgrading calibers. However, if your movement is faulty they would replace it with the exact one (in your case, the GMT 5M45).
You can’t buy movements separately from the Seiko Japan either – except if your watch warrants a movement replacement from your local Seiko service center (believe me, I’ve tried asking for a 5T52 world time module).
If you’ve upgraded your capacitor to the LiOn cell, your watch should have a similar power reserve with the current 5M65 caliber.
The only other way is to find a used 5M65 Kinetic GMT cheap and make it as a donor watch.
Hope this helps. 🙂
Hi Quartzimodo Admin,
So what you mean is that find a cheap 5M65 and swap the movements & parts with the 5M45. Is that correct?
The other thing is I ask a watchmaker, he told me that the size of newer caliber’s capacitor is bigger that the old one. So, he said the possibility of the movements & parts may not fit into the older case is very high. I’m still doing some research on it.
Your watchmaker is only correct in saying that the LiOn cell is slightly larger than the older SII capacitor it replaces. All 5M6x calibers use the Maxell LiOn rechargeable cell. I’m not sure if the 5M65 is any much thicker than the 5M45. From what I know, the 5M6x calibers have a more optimized power generation circuit to suit the LiOn cell.
Owners of the older 5M4x Kinetics have successfully swapped their capacitors for the LiOn cells for extra power reserve. The 5M45 belongs to the 5M4x family and is nothing more than a 5M42 Kinetic with an extra GMT hand. I’m not sure whether the improvements you’d expect in a 5M65 would be that substantial over your existing 5M45 to justify a movement swap.
IMO, if you’re unsure, it would be safer to find a donor 5M45 watch and transplant it to your watch, just in case the 5M65 won’t fit (most probably it would). The hands should fit on the hands stem, regardless of model (so long as it’s a 5M4x caliber).
Hope this helps. 🙂
Like what you said, all I can find the differences between the 2 calibers is the power reserve and a more optimized power generation circuit that suit the LiOn cell.
So, I’m still thinking whether want to do the modification or not. Or maybe I just change the dails, hands & straps.
Thanks for your reply,
Wow . . . I guess I must be incredibly lucky and I’m a even a little embarrassed to say this. I have a ladies Sports 100 (3M22), which was probably the 2nd or 3rd generation or model, that I have had since approximately 1993, give or take a year. I cracked the sapphire crystal about 6 months ago and it ‘s the only repair I’ve ever done on it. It is the women’s model and my husband bought the exact style in the men’s (but lost it).
It’s the best looking, best performing watch I’ve ever had.
I’m glad that you appreciate your Kinetic watch. Although there’s information on the 3M22 caliber on the Internet, I have unsuccessfully tried to find photos and information on Kinetic watches for ladies. I guess Seiko did try to market Kinetics for women but they fared dismally on the market so they were discontinued.
Nowadays Seiko watches for ladies are primarily quartz although a few hand-windable automatics are available in their Seiko 5 Sports lineup. Women and men view watches differently – women tend to treat watches as part of their accessories while men appreciate the technology and features of timepieces. Which explains why very few automatic models are made for the ladies compared to quartz. 😉
Thanks for posting your article and follow up discussion.
I found it very informative.
I just bought a kinetic (ska333) january 8th.
It is a great watch, very light and comfortable.
It is my first kinetic watch. I have been fascinated for years by a so called battery-less watch. Your overview of kinectic watch technology clarifies this
I guess i’m lucky to have bought a 5m6x series movement.
Do you have an opinion on seiko’s kinetic perpetual watches,
in particular snp005 or snp025
thanks again for your article
Thanks for your comments. 🙂 The capacitor or rechargeable LiOn cell serves as a power storage unit, much like the water storage tank in your home or apartment. Without it as soon as the water supply cuts, your faucets run dry. The battery-less concept is actually directed towards disposable batteries. Motion powered watches like the Seiko Kinetic and Swiss ETA Auto-Quartz and solar powered watches still require some means to store the power temporarily.
Actually the 5M4x calibers are quite reliable movements and they can be upgraded to the LiOn cell without problems. The 5M6x movements are among Seiko’s current Kinetic calibers and they have not replaced them with an updated version yet.
The SNP005 is a dressy Premier Kinetic with a self-adjusting calendar, compensating for leap years (until the Feb 28 2100). Its 7D48 Kinetic movement is a testament to Seiko’s prowess in horological technology. It’s also Seiko’s first multi-complication, non-chronograph Kinetic caliber with a sleep mode that kicks in when the watch isn’t worn for a period of time.
Thanks to the power saving function, the watch is able to hold power for 4 years. It’s also an Auto Relay Kinetic, which means the watch will automatically indicate the correct time when it is “awakened” from its slumber. The Premier watches are very nice but it’s just that I’m not into non-automatic dress watches.
Rest assured, either the SNP005 or 025 will serve as a reliable and trouble-free timepiece for years to come. The Auto Relay function also makes a good conversation piece. 🙂
I have recently bought Kinetic Auto Relay 5J32. Honestly, I was not fascinated with Auto Relay’s Design. It’s kinda unattractive design and costly. However, I was persuaded by the sales personnel on its advance technology. To be frank, those Seiko Chronograph (operated by battery cell) is more stylish and cheaper by more than RM 200.
Well….well…, I was misled by the salesman on so called “battery-less” technology. Thus, I bought it for its movement technology. After reading your article, I need to “care” my Kinetic Auto Relay by wearing it almost everyday.
I bought this 5J32 at less than RM 1K. My question is at this price, am I get a good bargain? However, I noticed that it is not a newer design in the market. I afraid that it has been lying inside the watch shop for quite sometime. More than few years? Or is it currently in production from Seiko? Just to confirm.
Then, what should I do in order to keep it in tip-top condition? Should I need to change the “Li-Ion” battery at Thong Sia, KL or keep wearing it? Any indication to tell on the condition of the “Li-Ion” Battery?
Thanks & Cheers,
The salesman was partly right – the Kinetic is “battery-less” if we’re talking about disposable primary batteries. 🙂 When people take their watches to the jeweler’s or watch store to replace their batteries, it’s normally the disposable silver oxide or lithium cell.
Auto Relay Kinetics have a trump card other Kinetic calibers don’t have – the much needed sleep function for power conservation. As I write this, two of my Kinetics in the drawer frequently suffer from stoppages for lack of charge. Without the Auto Relay function, my watches can only run up to 6 months on a full charge. I hate having to force myself wear a Kinetic just to keep it in charge, when I prefer to wear some other watch. So whenever my Kinetics are in storage, their energy cells are depleting of power over time.
I assume you have purchased a Seiko Arctura – for that price you paid it’s a bargain considering that Seiko’s new prices have gone up like mad since the last two years.
Auto Relay models have always cost more than normal Kinetics – the A.R. design was the cutting edge of horologic technology when it was introduced.
There’s no advance indicator of the remaining charge. Only the 3M and 5M calibers have the power reserve indicator button, while the Direct Drive Kinetics have a real-time power gauge. You need to have the LiOn battery re-charged (or replaced) if the main second hand ticks in 2-second intervals despite wearing it daily.
Hope this helps. 🙂
Dear Q Admin,
Thanks for your valuable advise. I wish it’s Arctura. However, My watch is actually Criteria (SNG-093P1)
Calliber No: 5J32-0AX0 S
Suggested Retail Price : RM 1375.00 at Thong Sia’s Malaysia Website. I got it slightly less than RM 1K.
Based on your fast and indepth experience,
1) Is this watch an old watch which has been lying for more than few years?
2) How about its respective “Li-Ion” battery?
3) What is the difference between 5J32 with those 5Mxx?
4) When was it first launched into the market? I could not identify the same model from US and UK market, except for Mal, Singapore, HK and China.
I think an MRSP of RM1.3K (approx USD392) is about right for a Criteria, given today’s prices by Seiko.
Here are quick answers to your questions:
1) Is this watch an old watch which has been lying for more than few years?
I don’t keep abreast of the Criteria models as I have absolutely no interest in them. However, if you could provide the 6-digit serial number on your caseback, I could tell you how old it is.
2) How about its respective “Li-Ion" battery?
Kinetic ESUs are installed at the factory and they are presumed to be of the same age as the watch, give or take a month or two at the most.
3) What is the difference between 5J32 with those 5Mxx?
5J-series calibers are equipped with the Auto Relay feature. The 5M-series are regular Kinetics without the Auto Relay but come with the power reserve button. There are more Seiko Kinetics based on the 5M calibers manufactured compared to the 5J’s.
4) When was it first launched into the market? I could not identify the same model from US and UK market, except for Mal, Singapore, HK and China.
The earliest Criterias hit the store shelves back in 2002 starting with quartz models, including the 5T52 world timer models. Seiko then introduced 7s36 automatics into this line sometime in 2004, if memory serves me right. The reason you can’t find Criterias officially sold elsewhere is because they are strictly for the SE Asian market. That’s why the Criteria series are endorsed by famous Hong Kong celebrities like Daniel Wu and Miriam Yeung. 🙂
Adrian, I hope these answers are to your satisfaction. If you need further information, please use the contact form, thanks.
I am very sad that, becasuse cannot afford to repair my first generation of kinetic (AGS, pre-kinetic) watch, caliber 7M12 (see my post above). I sent it Thong Sia, and they cannot replace the KESU because the watch was sold only in Japan. They have to send it to Seiko Japan, which costs RM200 and another RM1000 for labour charges. Wow!!! RM1200 to repair RM500 watch, and now lying in peace/piece in Tissot T-Touch box/case :(.
Any suggestion, should I put it on Ebay or else? Newer and revised version of Kinetic is very good and very cheap to replace it’s KESU. But, if you need to replace it’s KESU every 5 or 10 years, I think buying battery powered quartz watch, such as Seiko Perpetual seem to be better choice.
I’m sorry to hear of your predicament. I’m not really sure if Thong Sia was telling the truth (about the RM1K in labor charges) – they might be profiteering by quoting such a high price for labor charges.
You can always fax to Seiko Japan to request for a repair estimate. Shipping to Japan via Poslaju (EMS) would cost you around RM80 (USD22), depending on the weight of your parcel.
If Seiko Japan still has spare 7M12 movements, I reckon it should be cheaper to swap out the movement than to repair it. 🙂
BTW, on a non-watch related note, do you have any problems with my Garmin Custom POIs for Malfreemaps.com? 😉
Ok, the costs are what Thong Sia told me. My 7M12 only need the KESU replacement, and I don’t think you can find it anywhere execpt Japan. Thanks for the tips, and I should try your suggestion one day.
OT GPSr matters 🙂
Aiseh… you also read my messages too 🙂 TQ. Ok, my Garmin Nuvi 755T (generally 7x5T) cannot display custom POI as good as other nuvis series. There are some discussion related to the detail level of infos displayed on map at gpspassion.com forums.
I think there are changes for 7×5 series to catter 3D building drawing. Anyhow it does not realy matters much, because you cannot see it much during driving. Anyhow, I think it is really nice if it can shows it.
Anyway, nuvi 7x5T is a very nice GPSr, it’s displays maps very smooth, like flowing water.
BTW, which model you have? 🙂
Your watch originally uses the early capacitor KESU (Matsushita EECW2R-4E type) and but it can be replaced with the newer LiOn cell.
There’s an online site that sells the Maxell TC-920s LiOn cell. Try emailing Swatchbattery (here’s the address: [email protected]) and find out if the 7M12 can use the Maxell.
If they confirm that your movement can use the LiOn cell, insist that Thong Sia replace your old capacitor with the TC-920s.
Hope this helps.
P.S. I own a Nuvi 310 with Bluetooth audio and optional TMC antenna connection.
Thanks for the excellent info on Seiko Kinetic watches. I’ve just bought my brother a SKA371P1. We have owned lots of watches since we were young from Timex to Pateks and are crazy about Rolex Sports watches and both vintage and modern Omega Speedmasters. The first expensive watch I ever had was a Seiko 17 Jewel Automatic Chronograph when I was 11 in 1974 which my father bought for me. I loved that watch and looking back on prices of the day it cost nearly as much as a Moonwatch at about £70 GBP.
We both had the Diver Style Kinetic Sports 150 from about 1994 but sold them when we found out the movements had no jewels in them after taking the backs off. Later we learned of the Capacitor problems of the Kinetic watches so haven’t really botherd with them although I have bought a few Seiko watches from the 60s and 70s.
I have been wondering how long the Lithium Ion batteries last in the current Kinetic watches as found in the SKA371. In your opinion how many years will these batteries last if used regularly every day or if only used occasionally? Also how much does it cost to replace the battery?
I thank you very much in advance for your reply.
Sorry for the belated reply. I saw your post in SCWF and I guess some of the forum members have already replied to you.
In my opinion, Seiko Kinetics with LiOn cells only appeared in the early 2000s. Without empirical data from owners it’s impossible to determine the average lifespan of a Kinetic LiOn cell. Although it’s true that lithium ion batteries don’t have infinite life spans, the power consumption of of a watch is obviously a fraction of that of say, a cellphone or a digital camera. The watch’s LiOn cell do not heat up as much when they are charged and discharged (as with cellphone batteries), therefore their lifespan should be much longer than LiOn batteries for high current usage devices.
My estimate is that a Kinetic ESU that’s kept almost fully charged 80% of the time should last at least six years (or more!) – depending on the condition of the cell. I have a solar powered Citizen Promaster Tough 4×4 Ltd that’s over 8 years old and its internal rechargeable cell hasn’t shown any signs of deterioration yet.
Oh, btw – a replacement Maxell TC920s cell costs about RM70 (approx USD20) plus labor, here in Malaysia. Prices will vary from country to country. Don’t believe what the service center says about “having to replace the movement every 4 years” – this is total bollocks. There are early Seiko Kinetics (under the “A.G.S” moniker) from the mid 1990s that still run perfectly till this day, never needing a movement replacement.
My advice when it comes to buying a Seiko Kinetic is – buy it because you like how the watch looks, rather for the sake of the movement.
May your SKA371P give you years of trouble-free use. 🙂
I just discovered your site after entering “Seiko Kinetic reliability” into Google and I must say that the information you have presented herein is excellent; easy to read and understand.
I have an opportunity to buy an older (five years) Kinetic and had read snippets about the unreliability of the earlier models.
Your column has enlightened me and for that I thank you.
a “must read” technical post about Kinetic! Congratulations, it’s exhaustive and very clear. I own a Premier kinetic with QP and 7D46 about two years, really good and accurate.
And what’s about the Kinetic direct drive?