Seiko Automatic vs Kinetic

Seiko Automatic vs Kinetic Watches – What’s The Difference?

Seiko are innovators and have been since back in the 70s. They are continuously looking for ways to improve their watches and take the industry to a new level.

It all started with the Quartz watch, way back when, but since then Seiko have moved on to new technologies like Solar and now Kinetic.

Of course, they have not left out the classic Automatic (aka self-winding) watches that the Swiss watch industry is renowned for too. They do those as well. And always to a very high standard.

But in this post, we are going to compare the Seiko Automatics with the Kinetic and see what all the fuss is about.

The Difference Between Automatic & Kinetic

Both Automatic and Kinetic are powered by a swinging rotor. The key difference is that an Automatic watch stores the power in the spring, while the Kinetic watches stores it in a capacitor.

Of course, there is far more to it, and below I will show you exactly how they work.

Seiko Automatic Watch Recharging

self winding automatic watch
Self-winding Automatic Watch – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Automatic watches have been around for nearly 100 years and are based on mechanical principles. But, how do they actually work?

Basically, the watch has a large rotor (think of a swing on a playground) that moves when your wrist moves – which in turn, winds the watch for you. This swinging rotor winds up the spring which is actually responsible for the power that drives the watch.

In a manual-winding watch, you have to do this yourself via the crown on the side of the watch. Slowly turning the crown winds up the spring and stores energy for use in rotating the gears in the watch.

Automatic watches can store a charge for up to 48 hours (depending on the setup and the spring size), but they have the disadvantage of needing to be worn constantly in order to get the rotor moving and the watch charging.

Yes, you can also buy a watch winder that keeps it moving when you are not wearing it so that it is always charged and ready to go. But it’s something extra you have to do, and you have to remember to do it. This is something most watch collectors own and use frequently, for obvious reasons.

Seiko Automatic Watches


How Does A Kinetic Watch Work?

The Kinetic watch movement was created by Seiko back in 1986. And in many ways, it is similar to an automatic watch.

A kinetic watch works through movement. The swinging or moving of your arm moves an oscillating weight within the watch. This turns a number of gears which then produce electricity in a small generator. The generator then charges the capacitor.

So, the big difference to an automatic watch is that a kinetic watch charges a capacitor instead of a spring.

You can see how it works in the diagram below, taken from a Seiko user’s manual. It explains the parts in detail. Both of them, however, could be referred to as motion-powered watches.

So, as with an automatic watch, a Kinetic style watch from Seiko needs to be worn regularly to keep its charge. And given that it requires movement, you can also keep it on a watch winder when you are not wearing it.

One con of this type of watch though is that many people have reported on forums that the capacitor will need replacing at some point, kind of like a battery. This is not an issue with automatic watches. They just keep on running!

Seiko kinetic recharge storage
Image Courtesy of Seiko

However, the big difference is in the charge: Kinetic watches can store their charge for up many months compared to an automatic watch which normally only has a couple of days of charge maximum.

It does however depend on the specific kinetic model you have. See below for details.

Kinetic Models Used By Seiko

Seiko has constantly been evolving their Kinetic range and there are now many distinct types you can get:

  • Kinetic Direct Drive: 1 month of charge, can also be hand-wound via the crown
  • Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph: 1 month of charge
  • Kinetic Chronograph: 5 months charge
  • Kinetic Perpetual: 6 months charge, can preserve time for 4 years (sleep mode after 6 months charge)
  • Kinetic Auto Drive: unknown charge, can preserve time for 4 years (sleep mode after 72 hrs)
  • Kinetic GMT: unknown charge, can preserve time for 4 years (sleep mode after 72 hrs)

Seiko Kinetic Watches

22 thoughts on “Seiko Automatic vs Kinetic Watches – What’s The Difference?”

  1. My father-in law bought me a Seiko kinetic for my Birthday. Much happier then with a Quartz watch and will outlast by far but not quite as expensive as an automatic. This helped me to understand the way they work. Thank you for the information

    1. horacio castillo

      The big difference to me is that the kinetic is extremely precise on keeping the right time.
      Nothing to compare with the automatics that run faster os slow few seconds a day if you are lucky.

  2. Have had a seiko kinetic for over 20 years. I have had to replace the capacitor twice so far. Keeps great time and the capacitor replacement cost isn’t too expensive.

    1. I have worn continuously now, for 20 years, a Seiko Kinetic Auto Replay. I have never had to do anything to it. It still keeps excellent time, and has been through it all. Was quite expensive when I bought it, nearly £400, but it has been a fantastic watch.I’ve toyed with the idea of something swankier, but common sense has prevailed.

  3. Richard C. Villegas

    My grandfather owns a Seiko 5 diamond dial automatic watch, and soon after he died, was passed on to my grandmother, then sooner also, after some years and due to old age, she too died and since then the watch was kept and after so many years while cleaning some stored space, I have found this warch and I am now wearing it, working in excellent condition for 40 years. Glad that it was passed on to me as time goes by.

  4. I’ve had a Seiko kinetic, auto relay for 13 years. Never misses a beat and it’s worn every day in hard wearing work conditions.
    I’m now looking to replace it, but finding it hard to find something as good and affordable.

  5. Great summary, well not necessarily a “game changer”, nice to learn a I have an innovative piece in the evolution of wrist watches.

  6. As a very satisfied Seiko Kinetic owner, I already bought a Kinetic for my son. I now want to find a kinetic for my daughter, but these do not seem to exist. Are there kinetic watches for women?

    1. I just bought a Seiko solar Diamonds collection watch for my daughter, but Seiko also has a full line of women’s kinetic models. The whole trick is getting the bracelet to match their style or they won’t wear it.

  7. I have had the Seiko SUN010 Kinetic Flight Computer for four years. I weekly alternate its use with other two watches I own. I had been very happy with the watch until two months that started to keep its charge for about 24 hours only. It became “jealous” 🙂 as I cannot leave it for more than two days. Thanks to Ross Gulliver above I have new hopes. However, I wonder if the watch time precision does deteriorate if kept long time stopped while I find where to replace the capacitor in Mexico.

    1. Saludos, Sabino.
      You’ve probably already found a solution, but just in case search for “kinetic capacitor replacement” on eBay, about $40-75 depending on model. Cheers,

  8. Hi, I am South African from Port Elizabeth, and have a beautiful Seiko Kinetic SQ 50, which I bought in , I think, ( !! ) 1998. It is perfect and quite amazing.
    As a very prestigious and upmarket jeweller in Johannesburg, told me:
    “if you want jewellery then buy a Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega etc.
    If you want a timepiece, then buy a Seiko”. So very true.

  9. Anthony McCarthy

    I’m buying my first kinetic watch. Anyone any advice and am I making a good choice. What do I need to know.

    1. Some people struggle with kinetics because they don’t know how to manage them. Despite having way too many watches in my collection, I’ve never had issues keeping this one at full charge (6 months). Probably because I occasionally wear it when I go out walking the dog. Generally a 5 km walk will provide about 2 weeks of charge. This rule of thumb enables me to keep this ‘bad boy’ topped up, without having to wear it every day. The real challenge was getting its innitial full charge, taking about 2 weeks, around 65Km of walking. it almost became a fitness watch over that period. Since then (late 2016) its remained full. To maintain the condition of the battery / capacitor, the trick is to keep it at full charge. that doesn’t necessarily mean wearing it everyday, all-day.

      Having owned 3 kinetics (SKA050, 371 and SUN019) since 1995 (all still running), I’ve never had a problem. That said, it’s not too difficult to replace a capacitor or a lithium ion battery, around the 10 -12 year mark.

      If you get a chance, don’t be scared to pick one up.

  10. I have had various Seiko watches over the years and had good service from them. However purchased a Coutura kinetic about 3 years ago, and it has turned out to be a dud.
    From purchase it would not store energy and if not worn daily would stop. After flying to Melbourne in the pressurised cab the face of the watch detached. Brisbane agent repaired the watch under warranty and the repair lasted about a year. Have emailed the agency again but have had no reply.Will complain to Seiko direct!!

  11. I recently purchased a Seiko Automatic Watch at a hefty price. Wanted to replace my Seiko Kinetic that was showing it’s last days with the capacitor after over 20+ good years. The New Automatic is for the birds compared to the Kinetic. Mine has stopped and started at least 5 times since I purchased it, but to get it verified I have to pay to send it out to Seiko. I decided to get the capacitor changed on my Kinetic for 60$ and went back to wearing my old steady friend.
    My new one will stay in my drawer and just get bad publicity. I did not buy a watch to have to wind it every day and pay over 500$ for this Seiko. Sorry but the Kinetic for me.

  12. I purchased a Kinetic 5M62 in February 2002 whilst on holiday in Playa Blanca I think it cost around £100. It has without doubt the most accurate watch I have ever owned having been worn every day since purchase. That is until now because after 19 years it has stopped working when not worn overnight. I gather from previous comments it sounds as if the capacitor needs replacing which I will do asap. It is a watch I can thoroughly recommend.

  13. I own Seiko kinetic watches, the first 5M43 I bought in 1998 and the last is a 5M85 in 2017. They still run and keep perfect time with quartz accuracy. Yes they have improved with technology as the first will hold a charge of 1 week and the last will hold a charge of 6 months, but the newer no longer uses a capacitor, instead a rechargeable battery like the solar watches and replacement of that cell might not need to take place for 20 yrs. My first kinetic I’ve had to change the capacitor 3 times since buying it new in ’98.

  14. My Seiko Arctura Kinetic GMT hasn’t left my wrist for 14 years. I use it for celestial navigation. I replaced the capacitor once. Every two months I need to catch up on the date so I reset the time too. I have never seen it deviate more than 5 sec in 2 months. That’s a really special watch. I was looking into Seiko prospex auto’s but I hesitate because It will never ever be as accurate.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.