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 44-9990 example here, from 1964 - 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, with both operating 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.
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, hard plastic travel case, and springbar tool.
1964 King Seiko 44-9990 Manual Wind Watch
DIAL: King Seiko-signed dial, with dauphin hour, minute, and second hands.
CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 38mm (w/o crown, 39.5mm with) x 40.5mm. Matching caseback, albeit missing its gold Seiko medallion.
CRYSTAL: Steeply domed acrylic KS 44-9990 crystal, no imperfections or cracks.
BAND: This 44-9990 comes with a light brown suede leather strap, as well as a gray nylon NATO strap – a comfortable and stylish strap that compliment the sparse design of classic vintage King Seiko.
MOVEMENT: 44A Seiko 25-jewel manual wind movement, manufactured in January 1964, which beats at 18,000 beats per hour. Stenciled on the movement is its chronometer serial number. We have performed a full service on this KS.
CROWN: Non-Seiko stainless-steel crown.