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 just fully serviced and all original 44-9990 example here - in the same breath.
In 1959, Seiko split up their Suwa subsidiary into two separate entities—Suwa Seikosha and Daini Seikosha—to promote competition and product development within the company, with both operating separately under the idea this would incite competition and each would try to one-up each other and 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.
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.” His 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, the 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.
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. In fact, the 44-9990 proved so popular that Seiko announced in late 2020 their plans to re-release this watch, at a much higher price point of nearly $4k.
In fact, the Grand Series 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.
This King Seiko comes with a leather strap, nylon NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1968 King Seiko 44-9990 Manual Wind Watch
DIAL: Original King Seiko-signed dial, with original dauphin hour, minute, and second hands - no corrosion on dial or hands.
CASE: Original 38mm (w/o crown, 39.5mm with) x 40.5mm stainless-steel case. Matching original caseback, with fully intact gold Seiko medallion - KS medallions are frequently degraded to the point of non-existence over the decades by sweat, so the presence of one in such condition is a great bonus.
CRYSTAL: Original 44-9990 domed acrylic crystal.
BAND: This 44-9990 comes with a light brown leather strap, as well as a dark blue and red nylon ZULU strap, with stainless steel hardware – a comfortable and stylish strap that compliment the sparse design of classic vintage King Seiko.
MOVEMENT: Original 44A Seiko 25-jewel automatic movement, manufactured in April 1968, which beats at 18,000 beats per hour. Stenciled on the movement is its chronometer serial number. This King Seiko has been fully serviced.
CROWN: Original signed stainless-steel crown.