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The Seiko Arctura: A Kinetic Classic


Always"watching"
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The origins of the Seiko Kinetic watches can be found in the introduction of Seiko's "Automatic Generating System" (AGS) in 1988. This system utilised an oscillating weight that converted the motions of the wearer's wrist into electricity, which then powered a quartz movement. Interestingly, Seiko had launched a solar-powered watch back in 1977, and even a hand-wind powered quartz watch in 1986. Essentially, the AGS watches could be described as "automatic quartz," with mechanical components providing power for quartz accuracy, and in the hope of expanding their popularity, Seiko relaunched them in 1991 under the name, "Kinetic."

The Kinetic watches have been in production ever since although I would hazard that they have never taken off in terms of mass popularity. There have been many posts on the subject of kinetic watches - positive and negative - and my own take on them is mixed. They do give the wearer a sense of partaking in the tradition of mechanical engineering but they sit somewhat uneasily in this position. When speaking the other day with a friendly acquaintance of mine who runs a small watch shop undertaking the basics of battery and strap replacement while also offering a third party watch repair service, he explained to me the difficulties of obtaining new capacitors for Seiko Kinetic watches, and their expense. Indeed, I did not realise that there are a number of different capacitors for the various Seiko Kinetic models, which means that the watch dealer/repairer cannot just stock up on a single variety of capacitor ready for use as replacements.

Not long after the introduction of the Seiko Kinetics in the early 1990s, the model I am discussing here was launched, apparently called the Seiko Arctura Kinetic. I say, "apparently" because the Arctura name has been given to other Seiko models and that could cause confusion. Fortunately, the Seiko Museum has an illustration of the original Arctura Kinetic watch together with some details about it, and we can be sure that it was named "Arctura" and introduced in 1997. In my opinion, the watch is something of a design classic with aesthetics that one might say stray from those more formal Seiko characteristics we all know. Thus, for example, we have a technologically advanced combination plastic (urethane) and stainless steel (39mm with crown) case, bezel and bracelet, with no caseback. The date window is at three o'clock and replaces what would have been the number 3, and notably, the number at 9 o'clock is placed horizontally. There are no second markers on the dial, and we find a smooth flat crown that barely protrudes from the side of the case when in the down position, with a power reserve indicator button at two o'clock.

 

Image result for Seiko museum arctura images

Above: The original Seiko Arctura Kinetic - picture from the Seiko Museum

 

 

Seiko have the following to say about the Arctura: The Arctura was designed by the internationally renowned watch designer Jorg Hysek and launched as a strategic model for globally marketing Kinetic."

My own Seiko Arctura Kinetic came to me for £8 in rather mixed condition, and is somewhat different from the original 1997 model. Over time, Seiko clearly made some alterations and/or introduced a slightly cheaper version of the watch, keeping the main design elements while tweaking certain technical and aesthetic aspects. Thus, my own Arctura has a flat steel caseback fixed to the plastic rear of the (39mm incl. crown) case by four small screws. With the four screws on the bezel of the original now redundant, Seiko merely "indicated" this element with four "studs" where the screws would have been. In addition, the original strap on my example was black rubber/plastic and not the steel and plastic combination of the the original model.  My example has a cream-coloured lumibrite-type dial with the markers, etc., printed in black, and the word "SEIKO" is absent from the lower part of the bezel, just as the semi-circular track on the dial is absent.

 

 

An original 1997 Seiko Arctura Kinetic with gold highlights (pic from watchestobuy.axureedge.com):

SeikoArcturas.jpg

 

 

The previous owner(s) of my purchase had managed to get through the original rubber/plastic strap, and the strap on the watch when I bought it was leather and itself falling to pieces. The watch itself had fared rather better, however, and I attribute that partly to the design of the watch, with its smooth lines, relative slimness, and lack of protruding elements including lugs. The capacitor on my watch is "shot" and needs replacing although there appears to be a good supply of power coming from the rather noisy rotor. Given the importance of the Arctura Kinetic to Seiko, and my own feeling that this was a bit of a classic, I am very pleased that I did not turn away from buying it even though it was very clearly "as found." I would have preferred to have bought the original model but the fundamentals of the design are there. Water resistance on my example is at 50 metres.

 

 

Black dial colourway of the Seiko Arctura Kinetic that I have just purchased (pic from images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com):

31f9f17NVqL.jpg

 

 

Pictures of a NOS black-dial Seiko Arctura Kinetic of the type I have just bought, probably from about 2000 in date and with original yellow strap (pics from assets.catawiki.nl):

abbbb0e0-4fcf-4401-9aee-71e229d2713e.jpg

486350ed-5870-4b12-ad9b-5e43748329da.jpg

b714dceb-f8c8-4eaa-b80b-392f80d38ea2.jpg

 

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  • 2 months later...
On 14/02/2019 at 17:32, Always"watching" said:

 

 There have been many posts on the subject of kinetic watches - positive and negative ...   When speaking the other day with a friendly acquaintance of mine who runs a small watch shop undertaking the basics of battery and strap replacement while also offering a third party watch repair service, he explained to me the difficulties of obtaining new capacitors for Seiko Kinetic watches, and their expense. Indeed, I did not realise that there are a number of different capacitors for the various Seiko Kinetic models, which means that the watch dealer/repairer cannot just stock up on a single variety of capacitor ready for use as replacements.

Not long after the introduction of the Seiko Kinetics in the early 1990s, the model I am discussing here was launched, apparently called the Seiko Arctura Kinetic. I say, "apparently" because the Arctura name has been given to other Seiko models and that could cause confusion. Fortunately, the Seiko Museum has an illustration of the original Arctura Kinetic watch together with some details about it, and we can be sure that it was named "Arctura" and introduced in 1997.

 

 

 

 

Honour is he just a watch battery kiosk or a proper shop?  They are not very difficult to obtain... I can order one now and have it in my hand by 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.  Although, as for the second part I've highlighted, I do carry almost all of them in stock.  Seiko charge £100 for a capacitor upgrade, I charge £30 as I have dozens of kinetic collectors as customers.

Great thread as always, but I feel the urge to add a bit, I hope it's not taken as a thread-hijack. You say this was "apparently" called the Arctura. Well yes, it was, but it was the first generation (of three). The later models weren't any less part of the Arctura range so no confusion necessary - just that this was the earliest incarnation.

While the Arctura was popular, originally touted as a skiing and sports watch, it never quite reached the audience of the Sportura and Velatura (aimed at racing and yachting/watersports enthusiasts respectively). The dimensions were a bit on the small side to make it hugely popular in the Western markets as the back end of the 90's saw the growth in popularity of "dinner plates", where 44mm diameters became the norm and 36mm dress watches were "ladies size".  :laugh::laugh:.   Coupled with that, the rubber straps with the steel armour plating were notoriously poor quality and expensive to replace. Annoyingly, Seiko sold out of rubber replacements in the mid 2000's and have never produced more, which is why original strap models command so much money and most second hand ones you see have been transferred to leather.

What went in its favour was the technology it inspired.  This humble little 3m22 powered sports watch was the inspiration behind the development of the 9T82 calibre - the words first kinetic chronograph.
The watch was phenomenally expensive, launched under the SLQ model reference, and while model number SLQ001 actually went to a limited edition Sportura, the Arctura SLQ003 was the first commercially available kinetic chronograph.  It's worth a read up on google but the 9T82 was yet another immense breakthrough for Seiko in quartz technology, and yet there are hardly any surviving - It's so rare that even I haven't had one. 

Here's a stock image. This is the watch that shaped the Arctura line for the next decade;

ask3.jpg
 

 

 

Following on from this the Arctura took a bit of a back-seat for a few years while Seiko messed about with the kinetic Auto-Relay technology, but alongside that other forgotten breakthrough they had developed a much more advanced version of the 9T82 with a longer power reserve; the 7L22.  This has become an iconic looking Seiko watch, with a huge display but almost all for the chronograph display - the time is tucked away on the 6 o'clock sub-dial. The centre hand is the chrono second counter and there is a cool looking retrograde dial at the 2 position to time 45 minutes. It became the "go-to" sports chronograph, but with a much more appealing price tag (£449 for the all steel version).

Of course they have "borrowed" the 7L22 for other watches since (it has been in a Seiko Premier, a Coutura, a couple of Sporturas and even a few plain Seiko models not tied to a specific range) but this is the definitive Arctura model.
Released in 2004 and produced for about 4 years, these were the SNL models.   Again, a stock image of the SNL001;

ask1.jpg
 

Of course the range ran its course and once again they "rested" the Arctura name (pulled it coz' it wasn't selling!) but then in about 2010 they redesigned the case in a much chunkier style, with thicker bracelet and in my opinion a more legible dial.  These kicked off where the second generation left, using the same movement and dial layout, starting at SNL055.  Once again, stock image;

ask2.jpg
 

 

 

While the enormous chronographs are what the Arctura became known for they did present some more sedate offerings, such as a classic 3 hand kinetic analogue (SKA255) aimed more towards the divers market, with the third-gen 5M62 calibre movement, and even an absolutely stunning GMT version of the same watch with the rarely seen 5M65 calibre, (SUN001 & SUN003). 

ask4.jpg

ask5.jpg
 

Edited by kevkojak
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  • 2 years later...

I've noticed my early 3M22 Arctura the dial changes colour and so far I have seen dark green, dark blue, black with a tinge o' red and just good ol' black.

My one was converted to a Seiko day date quartz movement with the day window lengthened to accommodate the day and got to say its quite a pleasant wear.

So thinking I couldn't top this old beastie I bought today a Pulsar Antionion Banderas Kinetic which is even more funky than the s1 Arctura...  Heck I paid £15 for the Bandido and knowing that these need a bloody good oscillation to get fired up am hoping this will be an easy fix.

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