Seiko Kinetic SKA553 Review
Seiko was founded in 1881 and produced its first watch in 1924. It is one of the largest watch manufacturers on the planet and is the parent company of many sub-brands, the most popular being Grand Seiko, Pulsar, and Orient.
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This is a watch that combines some of the best elements of an automatic movement with the timekeeping accuracy and reliability of a quartz movement. Once charged, the SKA553’s kinetic movement keeps a six month power reserve. If this watch will be a daily wearer, I recommend it wholeheartedly; if this watch will be part of a larger collection, perhaps consider whether or not you want a kinetic movement at all…
Seiko Kinetic SKA553 Technical Specifications
Date display, power reserve indicator
How To set the time:
- Pull crown to the furthest position (position 3). Turn the crown clockwise to set the time.
How To set the date:
- Pull the crown to the middle position (position 2) and turn clockwise to set the date.
Seiko Kinetic SKA553 Aesthetics & Design
The SKA553 is a handsome, if not youthful, watch. It’s dark face is emboldened by its multi-layered appearance, thanks to a sunken inner dial where the hands, date display, and power reserve indicators rest. The two-tier effect makes the watch seem much thicker than it really is.
The upper ring of the dial is reserved only for the hour markers. Confusingly, only the 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 o’clock markers have lume. Subsequently, at night only they and the hour/minute hands are visible.
The movement is completely void of decoration. It appears oddly familiar to an automatic, but as soon as you move the watch the clicking noise the movement makes marks it immediately as anything but a mechanical. Still, it’s great to see an electric movement paying homage to part of what makes a mechanical movement so wonderful.
With the stainless steel bracelet, dark dial, and bold hour markers, the SKA553 certainly isn’t much in the way of subtle. It’s large enough to be worn comfortably by most men, and its styling is inoffensive and fairly univeral- the SKA553 will work with most outfits.
Seiko Kinetic SKA553 Build Quality
Seiko is known for building watches that are good quality and that have higher than average levels of fit and finish. The SKA553 is no exception to those standards, with tight tolerances evident throughout its build. I didn’t see much in the way of imperfections when viewing it using my 90mm macro lens.
Crystal, Case, and Dial
Hardlex is Seiko’s proprietary mineral crystal material. Seiko claims it offers improved scratch resistance compared to a standard mineral crystal. I haven’t been able to test this properly to determine if this is actually true or not, but I have plenty of anecdotal experience with Hardlex and have no problems to report from either of the three watches in my collection that sport a Hardlex crystal.
The stainless steel case looks as if it’s a two-piece, with the black top-half rimmed with a thin red ring, and the polished steel bottom half kept fairly plain. Neither showed any wear despite my vigorous testing (heh, read more).
Strap and Clasp
The stainless steel bracelet isn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, but it is also far from the least, either.. For most people I suspect it will do the job just fine. The tolerances between the links are tight enough that no arm hairs decided to get pinched, and the overall quality of build is definitely reflective of the price of the watch.
The clasp is an integrated deployment clasp, and again, it is good quality. Once closed it feels tight and secure.
More About the Seiko Kinetic SKA553
To the untrained eye, the 5M62 kinetic movement looks very similar to an automatic movement. It uses a pendulum to turn an impeller – reaching speeds as high as 100,000 rpm – which in turn charges a rechargeable lithium battery. Seiko calls the battery a “power cell”, and the power cell is what drives the movement.
It feels very different on your wrist than an auto does, though I don’t say that in a negative way. It’s just different. There’s markedly more resistance when the pendulum spins, and the motion itself is louder than most autos.
The movement has a function built in that informs you when its power reserves are low- when its power reserve is under 24 hours, the seconds hand begins to tick in two-second intervals. Charging the movement by moving your wrist will eventually get it back to the regular one-second interval.
It also has a power reserve indicator, though not in the traditional sense. Instead of a complication visible on the dial, you activate the power reserve display by pressing the button above the crown when the second hand is at the 12 o’clock position. When the button is pressed, the second hand will skip forward to one of the hour markers within the red half-circle:
- 5 seconds indicates between 1 and 7 days
- 10 seconds indicates between 7 days and 1 month
- 20 seconds indicates approximately 1 month, and 30 seconds indicates between 4 and 6 months.
My Experience Charging the 5M62’s Power Cell
Seiko says that you need to do approximately 450 wrist swings (hammering, basically) to build up a two-day charge. So, I threw on Netflix and sat there swinging. And swinging. And swinging…
After an hour of straight swinging the movement still ticked along in two-second intervals, so I decided to perhaps try something a bit more natural by going for a three kilometer jog on the treadmill. The manual says that a 720m walk should charge the watch enough for two days (and thus stop ticking in two-second intervals), so my logic was that by going for a 3,000m jog I’d surely charge the watch. Combined with the who-knows-how-many wrist swings I’d done prior, I figured I was pretty likely to get enough charge.
But, hilariously, I was wrong. It still ticked in two-second intervals.
Determined, I went for a second jog on the treadmill. This time, I walked/jogged for 45 minutes straight and made a point of moving my arms when I walked. I looked like I was trying to power walk, but that’s okay, as the cause was worth any amount of treadmilling.
After 45 minutes I checked the Seiko, which miraculously had managed to avoid being scratched or dinged despite the jogs. I was disappointed to see it still ticking in two second intervals.
Still determined, I started swinging the watch back and forth quite vigorously. After a couple of minutes of this, finally, it started ticking in one-second intervals. A wave of relief washed over me as I felt better knowing that the watch wouldn’t die for at least 24 hours. The power cell is punishing, however- my relief was short lived, as mere minutes after going back to its regular interval the seconds hand started double-ticking again.
More determined than ever, I shook my wrist violently to charge the power cell. After nearly 20 minutes of constant shaking the battery finally relented, and the power indicator informed me I had accrued at least a week’s worth of power.
Victory, at last.
Value for Money
With an MSRP of $375, the Seiko Kinetic SKA553 has stiff competition from the likes of Hamilton, Tissot, and other entry-level Swiss watch brands. At the $400 price range you’re likely to find entry-level automatics as well as mid-end quartz movements. In other words, there’s a lot of choice for $400.
However, I’ve never seen the SKA553 sell for more than $175 on Amazon. In fact, it’s $139 right now. Priced under $175, and the SKA553 becomes a real gem.
For under $200 you’re getting a kinetic movement, which generates power similarly to how an automatic does: by the natural movement of your arm. You also get an improved Hardlex crystal and good build quality, too.
If I found this watch for sale for anything under $200 I’d have no problems recommending it as good value.
Where to Buy
Seiko Kinetic SKA553 Review Conclusion
My thoughts I really like the kinetic movement, especially the six month power reserve. However, if you've already got a few automatics in your collection, I question if the SKA553 would be a good mix given how frustrating the 5M62 kinetic movement can be to charge.