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What Are Kinetic Watches and How Do They Work?

Kinetic watches are truly appreciated among wristwatch aficionados because of their accuracy and ability to keep themselves charged. We owe the development of these watches to breakthroughs in both watchmaking and energy storage. Needless to say you are on the cutting edge if you have one of the latest kinetic watches on the market. 

There is a lot to know about kinetic watches as opposed to other types of watches, including automatic watches. This guide will tell you everything you need to know, presented in the popular Q and A format. The questions and answers are grouped into four sections for easier navigation.


What is a Kinetic Watch?

A kinetic watch is an electrically operated watch that relies on human motion to keep itself charged. All sorts of motion will do. Swinging the arms, picking something up from the table, turning the steering wheel while driving, etc. will all generate energy that a kinetic watch can convert and store for its own use. A fully energized watch can accurately keep time for as long as six months, depending on the model.

Who makes Kinetic watches?

Seiko is the only company that makes genuine Kinetic watches, inasmuch as they have trademarked the name 'Kinetic'. Similar watches made by other manufacturers are known as automatic quartz watches. They feature similar technology without the trademarked name. As automatic quartz watches, they combine the best of both worlds: automatic charging and the accuracy of quartz timekeeping.

Do Kinetic Watches Need Batteries?

Kinetic watches are electrical rather than mechanical in their operation. So yes, they do require some means of energy storage. Some models work entirely on rechargeable batteries while others work just fine with a capacitor. Still others utilise both batteries and capacitors. In either case, energy is stored inside the watch and used to power the quartz movement. Without some sort of electrical power, the quartz movement would not work.

How Do Kinetic Watches Store Energy?

Energy storage is a bit tricky, which explains why the first quartz watch was not developed until the 1970s, even though quartz clocks were developed decades earlier. A battery, for example, doesn't actually store electricity. It produces electricity via an internal chemical reaction. The technology works well enough, but capacitors are more efficient. A capacitor can do what a battery cannot: store an actual electric charge. A capacitor consists of two conductive plates and an insulator between. The plates are of opposite charge. Electricity can be moved into and out of the capacitor through these plates. This is how a kinetic watch stores energy. It converts energy created by body movement into electricity that is sent to the capacitor for storage.

How Does A Kinetic Watch Work?

A kinetic watch relies on electricity to power a quartz movement. That power is harnessed from the wearer's movement via a series of small, mechanical parts including a pinion, gear, pendulum, and electrical generator. As you move, the pendulum inside the watch turns. It is connected to a gear, so that pendulum movement rotates the pinion and drives the electrical generator. Electricity moves from the generator to the capacitor for storage. On the other end, the quartz movement draws electricity from the capacitor to keep time. Under normal circumstances, human motion is enough to keep the capacitor charged at a faster rate than the movement is drawing from it. Many kinetic watches will go into sleep mode overnight so as to draw as little energy as possible when you are not moving.


Are Kinetic And Automatic Watches The Same Thing?

Understanding the basics of kinetic watches often leads people to wonder if they are the same as automatic watches. The answer is no. A kinetic watch is built around a quartz movement where an automatic watch has a mechanical movement. Though both types of watches rely on human movement to power operation, a kinetic watch is much more efficient. Fewer moving parts in the quartz movement are that which make kinetic watches more efficient. Conversely, automatic watches are less efficient. Automatic watches do not have to be battery- or capacitor-powered, either. They can utilise mechanical winding components that rely on tension to keep time. In short, the significant difference between a kinetic and automatic watch is the movement.

Are Kinetic Watches More Accurate Than Automatic?

A well-made automatic watches can be a rather accurate timepiece. However, even the best automatic watches are not as accurate as kinetic watches. Again, this is due to the movement. An automatic watch relies on a series of mechanical parts – springs, gears, etc. – to keep time. A kinetic watch keeps time by measuring the oscillations of a piece of quartz. Science has proven that quartz oscillates (or vibrates) at a consistent rate based on size and shape. Quartz crystals in kinetic watches oscillate at more than 32,000 times per second. That rate never changes. Therefore, a quartz movement can measure time by measuring the number of oscillations. Accuracy is achieved through consistency.

Are Kinetic Watches Any Good?

Any discussion of whether or not kinetic watches are any good would boil down to manufacturer. Genuine Kinetic watches from Seiko are excellent timepieces backed by the reputation of the company that introduced the first such watch in 1986. Likewise, most automatic quartz watches are very good timepieces. Just remember that there are exceptions to every rule. It is not beyond the realm of possibility to run across a watchmaker with a poor-quality kinetic line.

Are Kinetic Watches Better Than Automatics?

Whether or not a kinetic watch is better than an automatic is subjective. It depends on what you consider better. If time accuracy is the only measurement, you could make the case that kinetic is better. Kinetic watches are simply more accurate over the long run. If you are also looking at quality, craftsmanship, price point, etc., then the choice isn't as clear-cut. You have to decide what constitutes the best combination for you and then go from there.


Maintenance & Repair

Do Kinetic Watches Require Regular Maintenance?

The interior components of a kinetic watch do not require routine maintenance. A good watch should maintain its accuracy for several years. However, having an automatic quartz watch tuned up every couple of years is a good idea. Kinetic watches can still lose a second or two over time. Note the tune-ups should only be performed by authorised repair shops with experience.

Do Batteries And Capacitors Ever Need Changing?

Neither batteries nor capacitors will last forever; both will wear out over time. Having said that, a capacitor is likely to wear out more quickly than an on-board battery. This is due to electricity constantly flowing through the capacitor. You will know it's time to have a repair shop take a look at the capacitor when your watch begins storing noticeably less electricity. There should be an indicator on your watch telling you how much energy it has, similar to a laptop battery indicator.

Can I Replace Batteries And Capacitors Myself?

If your kinetic watch includes a rechargeable battery – many do not these days – you could change it as easily as changing the battery in any other watch. It should take little effort to pop out the old battery and insert a new one. As for replacing capacitors, this is best left to the pros. A capacitor has to be replaced precisely or you risk damaging the electrical components of the watch.

Seiko Kinetic Watches

What is Seiko's history with the kinetic watch?

Seiko, a well-known Japanese watchmaker, introduced their first kinetic watch in 1986 under the AGM brand. They chose the Baselworld trade show in Switzerland as the venue. Seiko followed up with a second model released in Germany in 1988. Several months later, the watches were launched in Japan under the Auto-Quartz brand. It wasn't until 1991 that Seiko trademarked and introduced the Kinetic name. View our range of Japanese Quartz watches

Does Seiko compete with others for the auto quartz market?

Despite being considered the originator of automatic quartz watches, Seiko is not the only company that makes them. They have plenty of competition from well-known companies like Citizen watches and Ventura. There are lesser-known manufacturers that operate in the auto quartz field as well.

What are the best Seiko Kinetic watches on the market?

What constitutes the best watch is a matter of personal preference. We encourage you to do your own research on Seiko and competing models in the automatic quartz space. Feel free to browse our entire selection of Seiko watches as well.