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Mention high-end Seiko, and relative newcomers to Seiko will assert Grand Seiko as the be-all end-all, but experienced Seiko hands will always mention King Seiko - like the full serviced 1964 King Seiko 44-9990 Chronometer dress watch here - in the same breath.


In 1959, Seiko split up their Suwa subsidiary into two separate entities—Suwa Seikosha and Daini Seikosha—to promote friendly competition and product development within the company.  Both would operate separately under the idea this would incite competition and good-natured one-upmanship to produce better products.  In the race to compete with Swiss watchmaking, the Suwa factory started producing its famous Grand Seiko line, and the Daini, their King Seiko.


Well…it worked.


Also in 1959, Daini Seikosha hired a young designer by the name of Taro Tanaka, the man who would in 1962 create a set of design principles that he called “The Grammar of Design.”  Tanaka’s Grammar of Design was implemented in Grand Seiko and King Seiko lines from 1967 and made these lines instantly recognizable as status symbols in the hierarchical Japanese business world of the 1960s and 1970s. 


Tanaka’s rules would go on to fundamentally change Seiko’s design language.  All surfaces and angles of the case, dial, indices and hands had to be flat and geometrically perfect to best reflect light. Following this aesthetic, bezels were to be simple two-dimensional faceted curves.  And third, no visual distortion from any angle was allowed, and all cases and dials had to be mirror-finished. In “A Journey in Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko,” Tanaka’s approach to the new style is described as follows:


“He started by creating cases and dials that had a perfectly flat surface, with two-dimensional curves on the bezel as a secondary feature.  Three-dimensional curves were not used, as a general rule. He also decided that all distortion should be eliminated from the dial, too, so that it could be finished with a mirror surface.  This formed the basis for the new Seiko style.”


The sequel to the original King Seiko, the 44-9990, would benefit from the Grammar of Design rules to become one of the best-looking watches Seiko has ever made, and it was produced from 1964 to 1968.  It proved so popular Seiko re-released it in late 2020, at a much higher price point of nearly $4k.


The Grand Seiko 44 model - introduced in 1967 - is widely considered to be the progenitor of the classic Grand Seiko look, and it set the trend of "Grand Seiko Style" for decades of Seiko watches.


But this watch was derived not from a GS but none other than the King Seiko 44 series.  The KS 44 series - made by Daini - was so accurate that, with a revised case, it was accepted into a three-watch Grand Seiko model lineup in 1967.  So with this 44 series here, you have the best of KS and GS, in one gorgeous watch. 


For a brief period in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, some Seiko’s were certified chronometers by Bureaux officiels de contrôle de la marche des montres (precursor to COSC).  Seiko's history with the Swiss official chronometer rating is an interesting one, from Seiko's first participation in 1963 to its entry of the 45 calibre here in 1968.


Seiko nearly always placed rather well vis-a-vis its Swiss competition - almost certainly to the embarrassment of the Swiss.  When the successor to the chronometer contest was established, the COSC standard, the Swiss made the odd decision that "all parts used to build the movement must be made within Europe” ... jealous much?


Seiko would eventually eschew the Swiss-based chronometer certification in favor of their own, more stringent, standard, thusly beating the Swiss at their own game.  And Seiko would go on to be the first to invent the automatic movement (beating the Swiss, again)...but that’s another story.


This King Seiko comes with a premium leather strap, nylon strap, rugged travel case, and springbar tool.

1964 King Seiko 44-9990 Chronometer Dress Watch

  • DIAL: King Seiko-signed starburst dial, with dauphin hour, minute, and second hands.  No dial edge patina is evident, unlike with many other lesser examples.


    CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 38mm (w/o crown, 39.5mm with) x 40.5mm - all edges remain Grammar of Design sharp, with zero evidence of machine polish.  Despite the hairline fracture in bezel at seven o'clock position, bezel securely holds crystal in position - matching caseback, sans gold King Seiko medallion.


    CRYSTAL: Steeply domed acrylic KS 44-9990 crystal, no cracks or imperfections.


    BAND: This 44-9990 comes on a brown premium Strap Geeks leather strap, as well as a dark blue, orange, and white nylon strap.


    MOVEMENT: 44A Seiko 25-jewel manual wind movement, manufactured in February 1964, which beats at 18,000 beats per hour; hacking function works as designed.  Stenciled on the movement is its chronometer serial number.  We have performed a full service on this KS 44-9990.


    CROWN: Correct signed King Seiko stainless-steel crown.

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