How Does a Kinetic Watch Work?

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What is a kinetic watch? A kinetic watch, also known as an automatic quartz watch, combines a self-winding rotor mechanism to generate electricity with a piezoelectric quartz crystal as its timing element.

This type of watch is hailed for its precision and energy-saving qualities, factors that have contributed to its sharp rise in popularity. So how does a kinetic watch work? This article will provide the answer to that question plus more.

Seiko Kinetic Watch. Image Credit Wikimedia Commons

How Does a Kinetic Watch Work?

Kinetic energy is the energy produced through motion. This type of energy, created by the body’s movement is what powers kinetic watches. Motion like swinging your arms while walking, turning the steering wheel while driving or simple everyday movements cause the oscillating weights within the watch to rotate.

The rotating pendulum is attached to a large gear which meshes with a small pinion. When you move, the pendulum turns and spins the pinion at a high speed (up to 100,000 rpm). This is coupled to a small electrical generator that charges a storage device (a capacitor or a rechargeable battery). The energy stored in the capacitor discharges slowly over time. Depending on the watch model, a full charge can last anywhere from two weeks to six months.

Kinetic Watch vs. Automatic Watch?

First, we need to discuss what a movement is (not to be confused with physical motion). The movement is the mechanism of the watch, consisting of many moving parts. A kinetic movement is also known as automatic quartz movement. Kinetic watches combine the best features of an automatic and a quartz watch.

Just like an automatic, a kinetic watch has a self-winding movement, but it uses a quartz timekeeping mechanism. The capacitor transfers energy to the quartz crystal that vibrates at a high frequency to move the gears at a consistent rate.

On the other hand, an automatic watch has a mechanical movement. It uses a hairspring and a balance wheel to keep time. A quartz movement is much more accurate than a mechanical movement. On average, a quartz movement loses only a few seconds every month, whereas a mechanical movement loses a few minutes.

Click here to know why quartz watches are so accurate.

Are Kinetic Watches Durable?

You may be hesitant to buy a kinetic watch especially if you’re unfamiliar with how it works. But you should know that kinetic watches are just as durable as any other type of watch. The capacitor can be charged and discharged thousands of times. Although a recalibration of the capacitor every 10 years or so is necessary to keep your watch in top condition, the capacitor doesn’t wear out.

Storing Energy

A fully-charged kinetic watch can store energy for as long as six months without requiring a recharge. The main capacitor stores the energy, keeping track of the correct time. Typically, the watch will “go to sleep” after 24 hours of inactivity. When it is reactivated with motion, the time is reset based on the capacitor’s calculations. Many kinetic watches have indicators that let the wearer know how much charge is being held in the timepiece.


Kinetic watches usually require maintenance every seven years or so. The battery doesn’t need to be replaced, but the watch might need a new main capacitor to store energy and keep time.

History of the Kinetic Watch

Japanese company Seiko unveiled the “kinetic watch” at the Basel Fair trade show in 1986 under the name AGM. In January 1988, the first such watch was released in Germany. April of the same year, the watch was released in Japan (under the name Auto-Quartz).

The watches had an average monthly rate of ±15 sec and when fully powered, provided 75 hours of continuous operation. In 1991, Seiko introduced the Kinetic brand name.

Today, Seiko offers a wide range of watches with kinetic movements. The top of the line model is the caliber 9T82. It is sold at a price range of about $3,000, which makes it one of the most expensive kinetic watches. Kinetic technology has also been used in Seiko’s Pulsar and Lorus watches.

Speaking of Seiko, click here to discover the best Seiko watches for men.

Seiko Sportura Kinetic. Image: Wikimedia Commons )

Seiko Kinetic Watch Models

Are you looking to buy a new watch? Here are a few Seiko models to check out, if you don’t find what you’re looking for head over to our list of best kinetic watches here.

Seiko Men’s SRN064 Coutura Kinetic Stainless Steel Watch

Seiko Men's SRN064 Coutura Kinetic Retrograde Two-Tone Stainless Steel Watch
Seiko Men’s SRN064 Coutura Kinetic (Image: Amazon)

The Seiko Coutura SRN064 is the epitome of cultured sophistication. Its bold, curving lines and a two-tone finish give it a refined character. With its motion-powered kinetic movement, it is both an attractive and practical choice. The stunning look of this timepiece is matched by its precision performance.

From the Japanese brand that pioneered the kinetic watch technology, the Seiko Coutura is powered by your body’s movement. No need to change batteries. This environmentally-friendly watch has a silver dial with gold accents, luminous hands, and a day/date calendar.

It has a stainless steel bracelet with push-button clasp closure. This Seiko Coutura is water-resistant up to 100 meters (330 feet); suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not for scuba diving.

Seiko Prospex SUN019 Kinetic GMT Divers Man

Watch Seiko Prospex SUN019 Kinetic GMT Divers Man
Watch Seiko Prospex SUN019 Kinetic GMT (Image: Amazon)

The Seiko Prospex SUN019 is a men’s GMT watch that features a 48 mm wide and 14 mm thick stainless steel case, one-way rotating elapsed timing bezel, and textured screw-down crown with function pusher. It is powered by body movement, with a Japanese 5M85 kinetic quartz movement.

This stylish watch features a black dial, luminous hands, and a GMT indicator. The Seiko Prospex SUN019 is water-resistant up to 200 meters (can be used for scuba diving).

Seiko Men’s SKA366 Stainless Steel Kinetic Dress Watch

Seiko Men's SKA366 Stainless Steel Two-Tone Kinetic Dress Watch
Seiko SKA366 Stainless Steel Kinetic Watch (Image: Amazon)

The Seiko SKA366 is a stylish men’s watch that has a TiCN (ceramic) coated stainless steel case topped with a gold-tone bezel. This kinetic watch has a power reserve indicator in the inner dial. Ideal for formal occasions, this timepiece has a black ceramic-coated and gold-tone stainless steel bracelet, with a fold-over push-button clasp.

It’s water-resistant up to 100 meters (330 feet). You can wear it while swimming and snorkeling, but not for scuba diving. This watch doesn’t require a battery. It powers kinetically with the motion of your arm. The SKA366 is one of the most elegant kinetic watches from Seiko.


If you haven’t had a kinetic watch before, you might be wondering if it is the right watch for you. But now that you know how a kinetic watch works, you can make an informed decision on whether to buy one for yourself. This low-maintenance timepiece saves you money on batteries as it doesn’t require any power source other than the energy it receives through your daily movements.

Featured Image Credit: “Seiko Kinetic repairs” by Guy Sie