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Return of King Seiko: Meet the new SJE083

Return of King Seiko: Meet the new SJE083

To mark its 140th anniversary in 2021, Seiko will introduce a re-issue of King Seiko, a mechanical timepiece it made in the mid-1960s and known mostly to watch aficionados now. This new watch, Ref. SJE083, pays homage to a second series model called the King Seiko KSK. However, to understand the significance of this watch, one will need to go back to a time when Seiko was eager to establish itself as a credible alternative to Swiss timepieces in post-War Japan.

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The original King Seiko KSK model from 1965 Image Credit: Supplied

In their quest to make mechanical watches with high accuracy in the late 1950’s, Seiko encouraged competition between its two factories – Suwa Seikosha in Nagano prefecture and Daini Seikosha (daini is Japanese for second) in Kameido, Tokyo. The aim was to promote competition and consequently enhance the offerings that the umbrella Seiko brand could offer. Each factory worked independent of each other and even had their own logo on the dial – Suwa had a whirlpool symbol and Daini had a thunderbolt. The innovations that resulted from the competition between the two factories would help Seiko go on to dominate the Observatory Chronometer Competitions in Switzerland in the late 1960’s. Suwa Seikosha introduced the now-legendary Grand Seiko in 1960 and the Ref. 6139, the world’s first automatic chronograph in 1969, but the folks at Daini Seikosha were no slouches.

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The dial retains much of the original's character Image Credit: Supplied

In 1961, they presented their riposte to the Grand Seiko – a high mechanical dress watch they named King Seiko. The KSK model introduced in 1965 was powered by a manual-winding 25-jewel caliber. Unlike the early Grand Seiko Ref. 3180, which had soft rounded edges, the King Seiko’s design was all sharp angles, flat surfaces and multi-faceted corners that played off the ambient light well. In fact, Tara Tanaka, a designer who worked at Daini, created a set of principles known as the “Grammar of Design” which would go on to influence the creation of every Seiko timepiece. Daini Seikosha is known today as Seiko Instruments Inc. and the Suwa factory is now Seiko Epson Corporation.

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The caseback hides the automatic 6L35 movement Image Credit: Supplied

The re-issue of the 1965 KSK is true to the details of the original watch. The stainless steel case has Seiko’s proprietary Diashield coating (a super hard coating to help prevent scratches) and is 38.1 mm wide (slightly wider than the original) and is topped by a box-shaped sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating. The sharp faceted lugs feature flat planes that feature a polishing technique (called Zaratsu) that results in distortion-free mirror finish.

The flat dial has multi-faceted hour markers, the textured surface of the index at 12 provides for a bit of sparkle. A date window at 3 o’ clock is a concession to modernity. The steel caseback has a gold medallion with the same design as the original. It is powered by Calibre 6L35, a thinner and a more accurate update to the brand’s previous 6R15 that had previously equipped models like the Presage SJE073.

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Even the buckle has the retro Seiko engraving in relief Image Credit: Supplied

The buckle of the leather strap too is an accurate reproduction of the original. The Seiko name and a “W” mark that signifies the KSK’s water-resistance appear on the crown. The King Seiko KSK re-creation will be available from January 2021 as a limited edition of 3,000 at Seiko boutiques and at selected retail partners worldwide and will retail at €3,400.