A legacy for a new generation…
Seiko currently offers a diverse range of watches which, for better or for worse, vary from sub-$100.00 quartz Seiko 5’s all the way up to highly exclusive $72,000.00 Grand Seiko’s in precious metals. Today we will look at the King Seiko (KS) in its final manual wind form and compare the purchase of this value packed vintage watch from 1970 to its spiritual ancestor, the modern Seiko Presage.
Since KS hasn’t existed since the 70’s (excluding a single historical collection release), I had to source my example from a vendor on eBay. Before this, the Seiko Presage was purchased from a member on the Canadian Watch Collectors (CWC) forum in “barely worn” shape.
Who’s it for? These watches are for someone who wants a vintage feel matched to a timeless design that will fit your wrist in the majority of day-to-day scenarios. While the King Seiko, being a vintage collector’s piece, is for someone more committed to watches, the Seiko Presage fits equally well in both the enthusiasts and the lay persons collections. As a gift, the Presage is especially thoughtful when paired with a light and a dark brown vintage styled leather strap and given with a wood watch box.
TWC Paid: King Seiko $470.00 CAD ($365.00 USD) & Seiko Presage $395.00 CAD ($292.00 USD)
| King Seiko|
Case: 36mm 316L Stainless Steel
Thickness: 9.0mm Lug-to-Lug: 41.5
Lug Width: 18mm
Bezel: High Polish
Movement: Series 4500 Manual, 45 hour power reserve (estimate), 36,000bph, Instant Date Change
Crystal: Domed Acrylic
WR: 50m (in the 1970’s…)
Strap: Aftermarket suede leather
Model: Pressage, “Blue Moon”
Case: 40.5mm 316L Stainless Steel
Tickness: 12.0mm Lug-to-Lug: 47.0mm Lug Width: 20mm
Bezel: High polish
Movement: 4R35B 23J Automatic, 41hr power reserve, manual wind, 21,600bph
Crystal: Box-Shaped Hardlex Crystal
WR: 5 ATM – 5 Bar – 50m – 115ft
Strap: Steel Link Butterfly / After-market leather Strap
Finding this watch…
Expect to have to source a good vintage Seiko, I just happened to get my example from the US, but the majority of vendors will be from Japan or Korea. A great source for vintage Japanese watches is Antique Watch Bar. They regularly update their listed inventory and they find pieces that you just won’t easily find anywhere else. You can also try Yahoo Auctions Japan, but the implementation of their online bidding system is very “unique” and unless its something you simply can’t get anywhere else, I would say that it’s not worth your time agonizing over.
Amazon.com – $395.00 CAD – Seiko Presage Moon Blue – The Presage line is an easily available time piece that can be had for a relatively low entry point as seen here on Amazon. Note that it can also be had at local retailers and is regularly on sale for 30% off MSRP.
eBay.com – $1,349.00 USD – King Seiko Historical SCVN0001 – The closest thing to a “new” KS is the King Seiko Historical Collection, which was Seiko’s one-off reproduction of the KS45.
Antique Watch Bar – Expect to pay around $600 USD here with confidence of knowing exactly what you are getting. You can of course hunt on eBay as I did and potentially save a fair bit of money, but you of course are assuming a great deal more risk and therefore need to know what exactly you are looking for.
The Cross Shop:
Grand Seiko – Now there are so many excellent choices when selecting a Grand Seiko (GS) and the best deals can be had on their “newer” models found on the secondary market. If you prefer a modern size, then GS will appeal to you as well, although they have a wide range of sizes available. Meanwhile, examples of GS’s vintage models will cost you a significant premium when compared to KS and only you can judge if it is worth it.
Rolex – $3,060.00 USD – ROLEX DateJust 1603 – The 1603 is the original Rolex DateJust and looks great on both strap and bracelet. This example follows along with the cocktail trend featuring a lesser seen blue dial, this example has been refinished but remains beautiful. These old DateJust’s are in 36mm case so you need to be okay with the smaller size on your wrist.
There are many excellent history lessons available online that describe in detail the similarities and differences between Grand Seiko (GS) and King Seiko (KS) but the important facts for us today are that KS was typically positioned just below GS, that the 45KS series movement produced by Daini was the last manual wind movement before Seiko switched completely to automatics and quartz time pieces and that KS was officially shuttered in 1975 having finally lost the war against GS, so to speak.
When sourcing my very first KS there were a few things that I was looking for. The first and most important feature at the time was the medallion on the case back. It needed to be undamaged and in overall good condition as it is common for these to become damaged through prolonged wear. Next was the crown; it needed to be the original “KS” engraved one. Finally, the dial had to be in “good” condition, not perfect but good.
After wearing both the KS and the Presage I feel like the Presage is the spiritual successor to the KS. Let’s look at how Seiko has taken the spirit of the KS and channeled it into the modern-day Presage line.
1. Box / Packaging: Presage
So being almost 50 years old the KS did not come with an original box and of course being new the Presage did. The box for the Presage is straight forward and does the job at this price point.
2. Case: King Seiko
As we’ve discovered the lineage of King Seiko is well recorded and so the “grammar of design” direction that Tanaka moved to in 1962 needs no explanation. When we compare both watches I am initially struck by the sharp lines of the KS and the soft, rounded edges of the Presage. Upon closer inspection however, I’ve realized that the Presage is much more a modern interpretation of the KS than I first thought. Both Seiko’s feature bezels that flair out and then back in, and where the KS is designed to hide the dial access notch the Presage’s simply adds an additional high polished surface to the overall build. Placed next to each other the Presage appears to be a stretched and rounded version of the much older KS case design. From a side quarter perspective, I’ve realized that the Presage’s case takes the idea of flowing lug-to-lug lines and gives it a more subtle and modern look. When we compare the two Seiko’s from the side, we see that the KS was cut with a minimalistic take on case styling whereas the Presage is a stack of straight lines all sandwiched together. Personally, I feel that this is where the Presage is let down the most as it isn’t a coherent look like the KS’s and ultimately comes off as high polish atop of more high polish. Where the Presage MIGHT be more successful than the KS is in showing long term wear. Head on the KS displays more case surface and these surfaces are sharply cut and flat which, when nicked, display scratches and dings prominently. Meanwhile all the lines of the Presage are in high polish and, combined with the prominent dial, hide everyday wear unless you get right up close to it or really beat on it.
Discussing water resistance with these watches is quite simple; you can wash your hands and go about your day with either watch but don’t think you’ll get away with more than this. Also, the vintage KS should probably be kept safe from any water incursion given its advanced age.
3. Case Back: King Seiko
When comparing these two watches you could make the argument that since the Presage has a exhibition case back that it is the natural victor; however, the popularity, and feasibility, of exhibition case backs is a relatively new trend. The KS on the other hand has an 18kt gold medallion to remind you that the watch is a “gold standard” Seiko. Combine this with my belief that these exhibition case backs are just a marketing tactic to illustrate that you can now purchase a mechanical watch for relatively inexpensive and KS is the clear winner of this category.
4. Movement / Functions: Tie
Considered one of their best movements, the 45KS series high beat manual wind is a superb movement even after almost 50 years of service! The one notable issue with them is that, like any vintage watch, parts can come at a premium, and the high beat aspect of these watches puts a great deal of stress on the working parts. Broken main springs can be a huge pain and similar movements with day and date functions can break if not manually adjusted with the hands sitting between the 5:30 and 6:30 position. Like the Rolex DateJust, the King Seiko features an instant date change feature while the Presage has a much more common progressive date change that turns over between 10:30-12:00 PM. The “slower” heart rate of the Presage becomes quite noticeable when compared to the smooth sweeping of the KS and I find that when you stare for too long at the Presage that the second hand appears to be jerked around the dial.
On the one hand the series 4500 has the potential to be chronometer accurate, and on the other the 4R35B is extremely reliable and its export version, the NH35, is used by countless other brands for its overall effectiveness and quality. Comparing these two very different movements really comes down to preference and opinion and what you value more. The 4500 series is a timeless work of precision craftsmanship and has unlimited potential but the 4R35B is such a dependable workhorse that its export version has become a watch industry staple. Because of this you can be the judge of which you think is “best”.
I found this list of 4500 series reference numbers on a WUS forum threat that may help you if you decide to track down your very own KS45:
- 4500A (45 King Seiko Chronometer)
- 4502A (King Seiko Calendar)
- 4502A (Grand Seiko Observatory Chronometer)
- 4520A (Grand Seiko VFA)
- 4522A (Grand Seiko Calendar)
- 4582A (Grand Seiko Neuchatel Observatory Chronometer)
5. Lugs: Tie
In both Seiko’s the lugs play a minimalistic role and while both have lugs neither are particularly note worth. The Presage’s are particularly simple while the KS’s are simply extensions of the overall case shape and design. With this in mind neither has an advantage over the other.
6. Crown: King Seiko
The small, well detailed crown of the KS fits the watch perfectly and feels like it is directly connected to the main spring when you wind the movement. I’ve heard some say that the Presage has a [pseudo] onion crown, but I would disagree with this simple assertion. When you look at the Presage’s crown there is a visible base to it that creates a noticeable gap between the case and the crown proper, something I also discussed in my Match-Up comparison of it and the Meccaniche Veneziane Redentore. I would argue that to give the Presage a more modern, fashionable flavor, Seiko decided to simple enlarge a traditional straight crown and finish it in a fashion that compliments the diamond cut indices. Of course, in doing so they were left with a crown that doesn’t recess at all into the case side and looks tacked. Personally, I dislike the way the crown sits against the case but in the end the crown, like everything else on the Presage, is here to accent the beautiful dial and to not stand out.
7. Bezel & Rehaut: Tie
Both bezels are narrow, offering the requisite level of protection needed to keep the dial and crystal relatively safe. Unlike many popular designs today that feature hefty bezels to offset ever growing sizes of watches, Seiko has kept theirs a more reasonable size while keeping your focus drawn to their magnificent dial.
8. Dial: Presage
When we talk about the Presage’s spectacular blue dial, I can’t help but think that, on sale, the Presage sells for $345.00 CAD ($258.00 USD) after tax when new. That’s a heck of deal for what you’re getting. There is lots out there already on the many versions of the Presage dial and rather than me describing to you a picture I’ll say check out photos and video of this amazing dial. If you do see the Presage for the first time under retail lights, I will advise you that the darker it is the less the blue streaks radiate out from the center of the dial.
The KS has a subdued metallic silver dial that is not quite sun burst and has an almost linen texture to it. Many examples will have signs of wear or damage to the dial and in my example, I have a flea bite around the 3 and a larger pit around the edge of the 7. They blend in easily to the dial however and I don’t notice them at all.
Although different in design, the indices of both watches achieve the same results with the centers of each appearing black and the sides reflecting light. In the KS however it is because there is actually a black strip down the middles whereas in the Presage it is an effect created by the shape.
9. Hands: Presage
Both Seiko’s feature very similar hand designs and like the dial indices the KS has blackened centers to fool your eyes into believing that there is always a surface reflecting light back at you. The Presage takes the design forward in the present using a common design for the hour and minute hands but then adding a bit of flair to the second hand by giving it a unique needle end. Seiko has ensured that the hand sizes are appropriate to the overall size of both watches and when focusing in on the hands I can’t help but think now that the KS is a mini-me of the Presage. Both sets of hands are simple and well executed but the second hand of the Presage takes it for me.
10. Lume: N/A
Fashion doesn’t glow in the dark, it sips cocktails til the sun comes out again!
11. Crystal: Tie
When it comes to crystals there isn’t much to say for the KS, it’s clear, gets the job done and since it’s an almost 50-year-old watch, can be a pain to replace. Meanwhile the Presage features Seiko’s patented hardlex crystal that in this application has been cut into a vintage inspiring dome. The combination of the material and the cut in this application gives the Presage a very vintage look and feel and I really dig it.
12. Strap: Tie
Once upon the KS featured a now rare leather strap and engraved buckle, and probably an expandable bracelet version too since they were a thing back then. Today however I have it on my favorite strap, one made of the softest suede and a strong un-tapered shape. Regardless of the style you prefer, if you are selecting a strap for a KS I would recommend that you choose one without a taper to help offset its small proportions. The Presage on the other hand can be had with a leather strap, but often features an adequate bracelet that is entirely forgettable save for the memory that I very much did not like it. To this end the Presage sits between a hearty Italian made Colareb leather strap giving it an even more vintage look to add to its vintage feel. I should note that I just changed this strap out for a much brighter and even more vintage looking tan leather Meccaniche Veneziane strap and it illustrates to me just how much depth the Presage can have in one’s collection. The steel bracelet that comes with the Presage is appropriate for its price point and the KS’s just isn’t around after 50 years so with both these pieces I would suggest finding a strap, or even a nice mesh bracelet, that makes you happy.
13. Gravitas / On the Wrist: King Seiko
This really depends on who you ask. Your everyday Joe and Jane will see the Presage’s radiating dial and likely give it top marks for being “shiny”. Meanwhile, the enthusiast will surely appreciate the heritage and execution of the KS and the KS overall can be a great little conversation piece. Either way Seiko has a good name these days and people will generally appreciate either watch. I will say that as an enthusiast when I wear the KS I feel like I’m wearing a piece of history, something that is really special and unique when taken out into the wild. I could be in a room full of Patek’s and AP’s and the KS would still stand out as special.
The KS with its timeless look is timeless for a reason and will appeal to the broadest range of people while also being attractive to the enthusiast for more intellectual reasons and while the Presage is a great piece the feeling I get when I don the KS cannot be understated.
14. Wife: Seiko Presage
I was taken aback when my wife declared that the Seiko Presage was the one Seiko she would choose. As has become the trend, through use of her heart and soul picks the watch that speaks to her and her tastes. She credited the KS with being the off-duty watch of choice while the Presage she thought would be best worn while in the office. Take a look at what she thought of both these interesting time pieces.
When it comes to the King Seiko you have to keep in mind that this is a 50-year-old precision time piece and not a modern mass marketed mall watch. When sourcing a KS I would highly recommend you take your time and do your research. Figure out what case, movement and condition you want and then start scouring the internet for models and prices. Make sure you find out when the last servicing was at least; if you look at mine it was serviced within a few months of me purchasing it which is great but when it was reassembled the watch maker did not properly align the hands so the hour hand is slightly off. The King Seiko in either the KS45 manual wind or KS56 automatic form are both amazing pieces of horological history and every time you wear one you should feel like you are wearing something truly special.
The thrill of the hunt found with tracking your very own piece of Seiko history cannot be said for the Presage, and as Seiko expands the line-up the blue faced version has become easy to acquire and can be had at an expected 30% discount. You can also find limited editions, enamel dial versions, different colors and additional complications all available now within the line-up, for a price. The versatility of the Seiko Presage in your day-to-day life makes it a terrific value proposition and with the addition of a dark and a light leather strap to the stock steel bracelet, the Presage can fill a very good range of roles for anyone.
For someone who isn’t into watches the Seiko Presage makes an excellent gift and would be well complimented by a vintage style leather strap and a wood watch box for it to live in at night. For the collector the Presage is a lovely example of the power modern watch making by a vertically integrated powerhouse.
Finally, the King Seiko is, and always will be for me, the King. It is a remarkable feat of engineering and with its deep history and lineage the King Seiko sits as a much under valued piece of historical relevance for any collector.
Comparing these two Seiko’s hasn’t been about seeing which is subjectively better but rather it has been about viewing the progress of Seiko since King Seiko’s heralded end. This said let’s see which one came out above in points.
Keep reading about the King Seiko and Seiko Presage with my conversation about both with my wife and everything she thinks about them both!
Watch for my future review of the new Meccaniche Veneziane Nereide Watch & Crystal limited edition, the Omega Sea Master Professional Planet Ocean ETNZ and the Swatch Tresor Magique.
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