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.

Seiko Men's SKA371 Kinetic Dive Analog Japanese Quartz Stainless Steel Silver Watch

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 a spring, while the Kinetic watch stores it in a capacitor.

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

Seiko Automatic Watch Recharging

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 set up 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 which 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.

self winding automatic watch

Self-winding Automatic Watch – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Seiko Automatic Watches

Seiko 5 Blue Dial Stainless Steel Automatic Mens Watch SNZF15
Seiko Men's SNZG13 Seiko 5 Automatic Black Dial Stainless-Steel Bracelet Watch
Seiko Men's SNK809 Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch with Black Canvas Strap
Seiko Men's Japanese-Automatic Watch with Stainless-Steel Strap, Silver, 20 (Model: SARB033)
Seiko Men's SNKM97 Analog Green Dial Automatic Silver Stainless Steel Watch

Seiko Kinetic Watch Recharging

The Kinetic watch movement was created by Seiko back in 1986. And just like an automatic watch, it is charged by the movement of your hand.

There is also a big rotor in a kinetic watch that swings as you move, but the difference to an automatic watch is that it charges a capacitor instead of a spring.

You can see how it works in the diagram opposite, taken from a Seiko user’s manual. It explains the parts in detail.

So, as with an automatic watch, a Kinetic style watch from Seiko needs to be worn regularly to keep it’s 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

Kinetic vs Automatic Charge Storage Time

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 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 charage
  • 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

Seiko Men's SKA371 Kinetic Dive Analog Japanese Quartz Stainless Steel Silver Watch
Seiko Men's SKA369 Kinetic Diver's Blue Dial, Red & Blue Bezel 200m Watch
Seiko Men's SKA705 RECRAFT Kinetic Analog Display Japanese Quartz Black Watch
Seiko SUN065 Special Edition Padi Kinetic GMT Diver Watch by Seiko Watches
Seiko Kinetic Cream Dial Men's Watch SKA779