Seiko has just announced two new non-limited additions to the King Seiko line. Inspired by the 1965 King Seiko KSK (the second K stands for Kisei-Tsuki, or “stop seconds” in Japanese), the two new watches are the slimmest King Seikos yet—even slimmer than the manual 1965 forebear. Decidedly restrained in their design, the King Seiko SJE089 and SJE091 foretell some shifts for the King Seiko line.
The case design of the King Seiko collection is maintained, though this is slimmer than previous releases, with a 38.6mm diameter and a 10.7mm thickness (1.2mm thinner than the previous models). That should mean a more wearable watch, though having tried on previous King Seikos, I never found wearability to be an issue. The revamped proportions are the result of a new mid-case, thinner lugs, and a sleeker box sapphire crystal. The design is classic Seiko, with sharp edges and superbly finished faceting. The watches have pull-out crowns and 50m of water resistance. Both the crown and the caseback feature an updated version of the King Seiko shield emblem. The bracelet on the King Seikos also deserves plaudits: Having tried it out, I can attest that the blend of brushing on the top and polishing on the bevels is aesthetically pleasing and the butterfly clasp maintains a seamless silhouette and offers quite a bit of comfort.
Both models have sunburst dials, in silver (SJE089) or black (SJE091). For the black dial, though, I simply must quote from the press material: “a new shade of black created especially to harmonize with the new case design, making for a sophisticated presence.” Even with something as simple as black, Seiko can’t help itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first draft of the copy read, “Seiko has developed a revolutionary new shade of black that captures the serene nocturnal placidity of Lake Chuzenji, with a subtle radiant texture capturing the dance of moonlight on the water’s surface.” We’ll just have to settle, I suppose. The dials are otherwise straightforward, with the same expertly finished dauphine hands (matte on the black, polished on the silver) and applied markers we expect from the brand, along with a color-matched framed date at 3 o’clock. The only easter egg, perhaps, is the textured 12 o’clock baton markers, which were taken from the original 1965 design.
The movement also contributes to the thinner case, though not without sacrifice. The automatic Seiko Caliber 6L35 has appeared in previous King Seiko LEs, but never in the main collection, which has, until now, been equipped with either the 6R31 or the 6R55. Those movements both feature lower 21,000 vph beat rates and power reserves of 70 hours or above, but the 6L35 in these two new models flips things around: a higher beat rate of 28,800 vph with a lower power reserve of just 45 hours. It also boasts superior factory accuracy, with a quoted deviation of -10/+15 seconds per day. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who would sacrifice 25 hours of power reserve for a hertz of beat rate, and I don’t think the modest accuracy improvement would sway them, either. (And to be honest, the accuracy isn’t really anything to write home about when it comes to a watch in this price range, where a chronometer and better movements aren’t uncommon.)
I opened by suggesting that the new King Seiko SJE089 and SJE091 suggest shifts for the King Seiko collection. The first is more wearable cases, and that’s indisputably a good thing. The second shift is the jump in price, which continues Seiko’s confusing pricing strategies. Seiko has priced these at close to twice the previous main collection King Seikos (and on par with previous LEs). That puts the collection dangerously close to Grand Seiko, where you can get an SBGR255, a slightly larger and more modern design with a far better movement, for only $800 more. These releases, well-proportioned and elegant as they may be, only continue to blur the lines between the brand’s strata and create confusion for consumers. The Seiko King Seiko SJE089 and SJE091 are priced at €3,400 (USD pricing has yet to be announced) and will be available in July. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.