Seiko Starts a Big Anniversary Year with a Tribute to a Much Admired King Seiko from their Past

Seiko is set to kick off their 140th anniversary year in 2021 with a new release that already has fans of the brand and vintage enthusiasts buzzing. The Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition Re-Creation of King Seiko KSK (the watch’s official moniker) is a beautiful example Seiko’s unique spin on mid-century watch design, and the inspiration is plucked straight out of an important piece of the brand’s history. This one is sure to be popular with new and old fans alike, so let’s get right into it. 

The story of King Seiko is fairly well known by now among enthusiasts, but with this release Seiko is actively telling this chapter of their company’s story to a much broader audience. If you haven’t already read it, be sure to check out Christoph McNeill’s excellent column on the watch that served as the basis for this new limited edition, the King Seiko 44-9990. There you’ll find photos of an original vintage example, and can plainly see how close the new version comes to the old (with some key changes, that we’ll cover momentarily). 

You could make a case that the King Seiko piece of Seiko’s long history was key in getting the brand to where they are today. The line has its roots in 1959, when the line was launched to compete with the then new-to-market Grand Seiko. It was thought that competition would drive both product lines (which were independently produced) to improve, and that’s essentially what happened. Throughout the 1960s, Seiko made some of their most innovative and finely finished watches under the King Seiko and Grand Seiko banners. Eventually, Seiko shuttered both lines, with Grand Seiko emerging once again several years later, and we all know the rest of the story. King Seiko, while never truly forgotten among aficionados, doesn’t have the same cultural cache as Grand Seiko, and Seiko rarely references classic King Seiko references in their watches explicitly. 

That changes with the King Seiko KSK, which by all appearances seems to be a loving tribute to a watch (really, an entire line of watches) that’s a true sleeper. As a slightly more than casual Seiko fan, it’s great to see a spotlight on King Seiko, and the new watch is very much in the spirit of the old. By that I simply mean that it appears to be extremely well made, using the best production techniques and materials currently on offer from Seiko, to create something special that really stands out. 

The most prominent design feature of the KSK is likely the highly angular lugs, which have been given a full zaratsu polish on this re-creation. Lugs like these are a defining feature of Grand and King Seiko, with wide and flat bevels that, when mirror polished, have an eye popping impact that is hard not to look at. The dial features faceted markers, including a double marker at 12:00, and sharp faceted hands. At 38mm, this watch is only slightly larger than the original, which measured about 36.6mm in diameter. It’s slightly thicker than the hand wound 44-9990 as well, at 11.4mm, but houses Seiko’s premium, 6L35 caliber. This movement is relatively new in Seiko’s lineup, and has mostly been seen in higher end Presage dress watches demanding a thinner profile. Its use here seems to be an attempt to strike a balance between coming as close as possible to the wearability of the original while still employing one of Seiko’s better modern automatic calibers. 

One quibble that some might have is the integration of a date window at 3:00 where the original was time only. I can see the point of anyone who would prefer a dateless dial, but I think the trade off having the slim 6L35 movement is worth it on the KSK, if in fact you plan to wear it on a regular basis (maybe you’re not – this edition is limited to 3,000 pieces and might qualify as a “special occasions only” watch for some collectors). Furthermore, the date wheel is matched to the dial and is no more obtrusive than on any other Seiko dress watch, so while it’s certainly a liberty that has been taken with the original, it’s hardly a crime against watch design, at least in my estimation. 

The Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition Re-Creation of King Seiko KSK (can we just agree it’s the KSK for short?) goes on sale in January through Seiko retail channel. Retail price is €3,400. Seiko

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.