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 this all original and serviced 1969 KS 5625-7000 automatic – in the same breath. Seiko phased out the King Seiko in the 1970’s, virtually ensuring the Grand Seiko would remain more famous
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.
That same year, Daini Seikosha hired a young designer by the name of Taro Tanaka, the man who would in the early 1960's create a set of design principles that he called “The Grammar of Design.” In 1962, Tanaka noticed Swiss watches "sparkled brilliantly" and realized the design of high-end Seiko watches could be radically improved through the implementation of "flat and conical surfaces perfectly smooth and free of distortion." This "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, 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. 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 5625’s contoured case is pure Grammar of Design - the 5625 example here is an "almost chronometer" model, with all the same features as the King Seiko chronometer from the same series but without the adjustment and chronometer certification. The classically shaped KS case features movement removal through the front of the case, with regulation of the movement via a screw set into the case between the bottom lugs.
This King Seiko comes with a leather strap, nylon NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1969 King Seiko 5625-7000 Hi-Beat Automatic
DIAL: Original silver King Seiko dial, with outstanding and atypical raised hour indices. Original hour, minute, and chronograph hands. Hi-Beat-signed dial. This 5625 suffers from a rather common ailment for this model, namely, the infamously fragile plastic quickset date gear does not work (a design flaw, and removed during service) - that said, it can still be set the old-fashioned way, manually.
CASE: Original 37.5mm (w/o crown, 38.5mm with) x 42mm stainless-steel case. This is a monobloc case, with no caseback, and it features a legible "KS" medallion. Case edges are sharp, with no indication of machine-polish.
CRYSTAL: New-old stock original King Seiko crystal, scratch-free.
BAND: This 5625 comes with a brown leather strap, as well as an orange and dark blue NATO strap (both with stainless steel hardware) – comfortable and stylish strap that compliments the colors on this classic vintage King Seiko.
MOVEMENT: Original 5625A Seiko 25-jewel automatic movement, manufactured in September 1969, the “Hi-Beat” movement beats at 28,800 bph. Although most Swiss watches now beat at the same rate, this was considered “high beat” at the time of manufacture.
CROWN: Original King Seiko-signed stainless-steel crown.