What Is A Kinetic Watch? A Complete Guide

what is a kinetic watch

The term “kinetic energy” may remind some of you the laborious physics classes that consisted of endless unfamiliar and complex expressions. We know (hopefully, the majority of us do) that it’s “energy of mass in motion.” Now the watch industry has the term “kinetic” in watch collections, making a lot of people wonder what it really means. What is a kinetic watch, then? How does a kinetic watch work? And who makes them?

All these questions and many more receive answers in the following paragraphs. No need to worry about the plethora of complicated physics jargon in this post – we’ll make it easy and understandable to everyone!

what is a kinetic watch

So, What Is A Kinetic Watch?

A kinetic watch is a timepiece that uses a wrist’s motion for a self-winding movement and possesses a quartz timekeeping mechanism. That’s why it’s often called automatic quartz, or auto-quartz movement.

Those of you familiar with the various watch movements know that the quartz timekeeping is the most accurate. Automatic movement, on the other hand, is prestigious and sought-after because of the sophisticated moving mechanisms. Therefore, a kinetic watch is a perfect combination of the quartz precision and automatic movement’s refinement. 

Seiko released the first kinetic watch in 1988. At that time, ecological issues were in the limelight, and the technology was seen as a groundbreaker that would launch a new era of quartz timepieces.

In the beginning, they called the technology AGS – Automatic Generating System, but later on, implemented the nowadays version of Kinetic. To this day, Seiko is the market leader and one of very few manufacturers producing kinetic movement timepieces. 

But how does this intriguing movement work? Let’s find out!

How Does A Kinetic Watch Work?

The freely-moving pendulum, half a circle in shape, spins and turns the pinion (small round gear meshed with a large gear) at high speed when worn on the hand. The pinion is, in turn, connected to a tiny electrical generator that charges a piece of quartz. The energy is then stored in a rechargeable battery. 

Seiko kinetic movement
Kinetic movement

A fully-charged battery can last from two weeks up to six months and rarely needs a replacement, making kinetic watches relatively hassle-free.

Pros Of Kinetic Watches

One of the reasons that make a kinetic watch relatively hassle-free is the needless battery replacement, which is probably the most significant advantage over the other powering mechanisms. But that’s not all it offers.

Since timekeeping relies on quartz movement, the precision kinetic watches provide is at the same level as for a typical quartz watch. Expect the accuracy to be at about +/- 15 seconds per month. Compared to the automatic watch accuracy of the same result per day, not per month assures the punctuality of the quartz timekeeping in kinetic wristwatches.

When fully charged, kinetic watches last weeks, and even months, without any motion applied to them. The rechargeable batteries have a decent storage capacity, and the hibernation function is of great help in maintaining the endurance if the watch is not worn for some time.

A typical watch hibernates after 2-3 days, but a little shake ignites it and sets the correct time and date.

Cons Of Kinetic Watches

The most significant con regarding kinetic timepieces is that they stop working when not worn for a long time. If you’re one of those watch enthusiasts who has a drawer full of different tickers for every occasion, this aspect could be a problem.

All those watches that need self-winding to operate need to be worn frequently. If not every day, then at least a couple of days a week should be sufficient.

Another con, though not really a big deal for many, is the small number of kinetic watches available. Seiko patented the movement, and although many companies made an effort to match the technology under another name, and subsequently failed, you won’t find much other kinetic energy movement watches besides Seiko and its affiliates.

Kinetic watches are thus limited to only a small number of manufacturers.

Kinetic vs Automatic Watches

A kinetic watch is NOT an automatic watch!          

The biggest misconception is when kinetic watches are mixed with automatic counterparts. Although both of the movements are automatic in receiving energy from motion and don’t require manual winding, the defining differences lie in the power storage and timekeeping mechanism.

While kinetic watches receive energy from the spinning rotor and store it in a rechargeable battery, automatic watch conserves and retains the power in the spring; one uses quartz and the other mechanical timekeeping.  

watch with gears visible through the back case
Automatic movement

One of the causes of the misconception is the physics jargon of “kinetic.” Kinetic means motion and motion generates the assumption that a “kinetic” watch is actually an automatic movement because it also powers itself through kinetic energy.

We can’t judge the logic behind it because it is true – kinetic energy IS causing the movement.

The use of the term “kinetic” takes us to another cause of misconception – ambiguity. Several watch brands describe their automatic watches through the word “kinetic.”

As we already found out, it’s not wrong or forbidden to use it. It just causes unnecessary mix-ups when a person wants to buy a kinetic watch with automatic movement and quartz timekeeping but instead gets a fully automatic timepiece with no quartz precision in it. 

Therefore, pay extra attention when researching kinetic wristwear and don’t get misguided by ambiguous descriptions.

We’ve extensively emphasized the biggest difference between the two movements – the accuracy. The disparities in power reserves are also notable when kinetic watches last much longer than automatic counterparts – many weeks against a couple of days, respectively. The prices are also in favor of kinetic tickers for being more affordable. 

A con on the kinetic side is that the rechargeable battery needs a replacement after about 8-10 years.

Kinetic vs Quartz Watches

Since kinetic wristwatches possess quartz timekeeping, there’s no difference regarding accuracy. However, energy preservation varies from each other. Quartz watches have fully charged batteries lasting a couple of years, while kinetics possess rechargeable accumulators with a lifetime of 8-10 years.

quartz movement close-up
Quartz movement

A pro on the quartz side is that it doesn’t need any winding and keeps running until the battery’s done. Another advantage in favor of quartz is a more affordable price, whereas kinetic timepieces have uniqueness. 

All in all, besides the shared timekeeping, the two movements differ quite extensively.

Kinetic vs Solar Watches

It’s a tight game between the two – both of them are underdogs in comparison to quartz and automatic while sharing lots of similar attributes. 

They recharge themselves without having to replace the battery every couple of years. However, solar watches receive energy from all sorts of light, while kinetic wristwatches obtain it through motion. 

They are both out-of-the-box timepieces and cost about the same. The endurance of fully-charged cells without receiving any energy is similar, measuring up to a couple of months. 

The difference arises when searching for solar and kinetic watches – you’ll find loads of solar watches from many brands’ collections. In this sense, a kinetic timepiece is an underdog, compared to a solar-powered counterpart.  

Now that we are aware of the working principle of a kinetic watch, the pros and cons it offers, and how it differs from other types of watches, it’s about a time to glance at the providers, and some exemplary models they offer.

Who Makes Kinetic Watches?

The sole provider of kinetic watches is Seiko.

ETA, the Swiss watch movement manufacturer, tried to compete in presenting their auto-quartz movement but eventually ended up finishing the product line. Some of Seiko’s affiliate companies, such as Pulsar and Lorus, used kinetic technology in their watches but haven’t continued in doing that.

Over the years, Seiko has enhanced the kinetic system by adding features that make the use of a kinetic timepiece more convenient.  

Examples Of Kinetic Watches 

Seiko Kinetic SRN045P1

It’s a perfect example of an affordable kinetic timepiece. The classic analog watch is made of stainless steel, featuring a day and date dials.

The glass is of Hardlex – Seiko’s development of mineral crystal glass, which is resistant to scratches and knocks. 10 bar water resistance secures against any water damage. 

The model is a perfect dress watch for casual wear, and considering the price – about 150$ – a very affordable piece of jewelry.

You can also check our list of the top Seiko watches that features another reliable kinetic timepiece.

Seiko Prospex SUN045

Prospex collection is well-known for its professional diver’s watches. This particular model has six months of energy reserve, with an indication of power levels. Since it’s ISO-certified to 200m, you may not only swim or shower with it but also go for scuba diving. Also, it’s a perfect military diver’s watch.

Hands and markers are luminous, while sapphire crystal ensures the durability of the glass.

Black Seiko wristwatch with informative display
Seiko Prospex SUN045

For a professional diver’s watch, and also for the fact of being kinetic, the price of about 400$ is very affordable. 

Seiko Perpetual SNP022P1

Stainless steel timepiece with golden hands
Seiko Perpetual SNP022P1

This model is out of Seiko’s acknowledged Premier line and features sleep mode to conserve energy. If in hibernation, a shake will ignite the movement and set the correct time and date automatically. Water-resistance is up to 100m, while sapphire glass protects against scratches. 

Don’t get misguided by the luxurious looks – the watch costs only about 400$

What Is A Kinetic Watch, Then?

A kinetic timepiece is a perfect combination of the quartz accuracy and automatic movement’s subtlety. The watches are relatively hassle-free, requiring neither battery replacement nor manual winding. But go for this type of wristwatch if you really intend to use it on a daily basis. Remember to correctly research kinetic watches because many brands use the word “kinetic” in describing automatic wristwear. An easy path in finding the correct ones is to browse through Seiko’s collections – they are the onliest proper provider of these timepieces.

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