It’s Sunday morning, so grab a cup of coffee, and prepare for a showdown rooted in history. Most of you will know the story of Grand Seiko and King Seiko, which goes back over six decades. We decided to put two modern watches from them up against each other. Jorg picked the Grand Seiko SBGW305, while Robert-Jan chose the King Seiko SJE089. Both writers will make their cases, but in the end, you get to vote for the winner of this battle between Grand and King Seiko.

The story of Grand Seiko and King Seiko dates back to the early 1960s. Back then, Suwa Seikosha (Grand Seiko) and Daini Seikosha (King Seiko) were on a quest to develop highly accurate movements. Unlike many stories would have you believe, this quest was not driven by animosity. As a result of the quartz revolution, this journey completely changed and both Grand Seiko and King Seiko disappeared in the mid-1970s. Fast forward to the present day, and Grand Seiko is a high-end brand that became independent in 2017. King Seiko was revived as a line in Seiko’s catalog in 2022. While Grand Seiko is a high-end brand, King Seiko bridges the gap between Seiko and Grand Seiko. But how close are they in the eyes of watch fans? You get to have the final say, Fratelli!

Last week, on Sunday Morning Showdown…

But before we let Robert-Jan and Jorg make their cases, let’s look back at last week. In that battle, Daan’s Tudor Black Bay 58 in blue took an easy win with 63% of the votes versus 38% going to Thomas’s blue Seiko Prospex Marinemaster ref. SJE119. If you read the comments, however, you would think it would be a lot more balanced, with quite a few of our readers picking the Marinemaster over the Black Bay 58. But the numbers decide who wins the battle, and Tudor added yet another victory to its Sunday Morning Showdown track record. Now on to this week’s battle. Robert-Jan and Jorg, take it away!

Jorg: Grand Seiko SBGW305

I love Grand Seiko as a brand because the focus is on the product. Well, I guess it’s also on Japanese nature, but let’s leave that for now. All jokes aside, what I’m getting at is that Grand Seiko made its watches the absolute stars of the show. The brand is not trying to sell you an image based on brand ambassadors or luxury marketing affiliations. It’s all about creating the best watches, and it has been like that since the 1960s. This is exactly why so many watch fans love Grand Seiko, and I am certainly one of them.

Ask me about my favorite Grand Seiko models, and I’ll give you a few options. From the SBGE285 “Mist Flake” and its black-dial counterpart, the SBGE283, to the stunning SBGA413 “Shunbun” with its pink dial and even the monochromatic quartz SBGN027, they are all great watches that I adore. Last December, I added another favorite to that list. When I first opened Mike’s article about the Grand Seiko SBGW305, I instantly knew this was another stunning option.

The combination of factors makes this a winner

So, what makes this Grand Seiko so special compared to similar watches in the collection, such as the simultaneously introduced ivory-dial SBGW301? The SBGW305 is one of those watches that, at first glance, piques your interest. Then, after a closer look, true enthusiasm takes over.

The monochromatic aesthetic is excitingly familiar. You can’t go wrong with it. Moreover, the traditional round case combined with the sunray silver dial and elegant beads-of-rice bracelet paints a picture I adore. The bracelet is an especially pivotal element in making this a favorite.

Many of Grand Seiko’s more classic silhouettes in the Elegance collection look stunning, but they, almost without exception, come on a leather strap. While they often look brilliant by themselves, they end up being rather small on my wrist. I need a bracelet to give a smaller watch enough wrist presence, and what’s better than a stylish beads-of-rice bracelet? Nothing.

As Mike explained, the bracelet is slim but sturdy and ensures the 37.3 × 44.3mm × 11.7mm stainless steel case sits nicely on the wrist. As you would expect, the case and bracelet are finished meticulously. The standard of finishing is among the industry’s best and a big reason for me to prefer the Grand Seiko SBGW305 over the King Seiko SJE089.

Grand Seiko’s movements are a huge factor

Another big reason is the movements. Going from Seiko’s to Grand Seiko’s calibers is a definite step up. Where Robert-Jan’s King Seiko SJE089 is powered by the very capable Seiko 6L35 movement, it is no match for the Grand Seiko caliber 9S64 that powers the SBGW305. This manual-winding movement is superior in specs, accuracy, construction, and finishing. The 4Hz caliber offers a generous 72-hour power reserve, hacking seconds, and accuracy of +5 to -3 seconds per day. Compared to the +15 to -10 seconds per day for the 6L35, that is a serious improvement. Regarding finishing, it probably is quite telling that the caliber 9S64 is visible through the display case back, while the 6L35 is safely hidden behind an all-steel one.

All in all, you will have to pay a hefty premium to get this Grand Seiko, which costs €5,800 compared to €3,400 for the King Seiko SJE089. But what you get in return is better and much more impressive. While I love that Seiko revived the King Seiko name, there is still some work to be done for King Seiko to truly bridge the gap between Seiko and Grand Seiko. Keeping King Seiko a collection, just like Prospex or Presage, certainly does not help, but it’s more than that.

The watches must also move away from the current premium Seiko offerings. While I have no doubts that Seiko is going to improve the overall quality and use better movements, it’s mainly the price of the SJE089 that bridges the gap for now. Until we see bigger improvements, the Grand Seiko SBGW305 is the undisputed pick that I would gladly save up the extra money for. But what are your thoughts, Robert-Jan?

King Seiko SJE089 and SJE091

RJ: King Seiko SJE089

I love the story about Seiko and its Grand Seiko and King Seiko collections (and factories) competing in the 1960s. Ultimately, both completely disappeared from the brand’s catalog in the mid-1970s. Grand Seiko made a return first with a quartz watch in 1988. King Seiko only came back recently, first with a limited re-edition in late 2020/early 2021 and a series of regular-production models a year later.

King Seiko KSK SJE083

The original 1965 King Seiko

King Seiko’s positioning

Whereas King Seiko and Grand Seiko were at eye level in the 1960s, they play in different leagues today. Grand Seiko is a high-end brand from Japan, and King Seiko is aiming at a different audience. Before King Seiko was reintroduced, the Presage collection was closest to the high-end Grand Seiko watches. It is distinctive when it comes to design and the high level of finishing. Grand Seiko reigned supreme, and the Presage collection was just a different ball game. The King Seiko watches seem to be positioned between Presage and Grand Seiko, focusing strongly on Seiko’s design language from the 1960s.

King Seiko SJE089 on wrist

To compete with Jorg’s pick for the hand-wound Grand Seiko SBGW305, I picked the King Seiko SJE089. It’s not the entry-level King Seiko but the more expensive edition with the Seiko 6L35 movement. These GS and KS watches show some similarities, but there are also some clear differences, which probably also explain the €2,400 price gap.

King Seiko SJE089 and SJE091

King Seiko SJE091 and SJE089

Superb quality and finish for €2,400 less than the GS

It’s very clear to me that if you want a Grand Seiko, you will not settle for less but will go for one, whether that’s the SBGW305 that Jorg has picked or one of the other models. However, if you’re just looking for an awesome watch that demonstrates Japanese watchmaking skills, you don’t have to spend over €5,000 these days. King Seiko offers just that — a beautiful heritage-inspired watch with mirror-polished surfaces, faceted hands, and an incredibly comfortable and good-looking bracelet. An outsider won’t see the differences in finishing, that’s for sure.

King Seiko SJE089 crown side

Inside, there’s a Seiko 6L35 movement, taking things (accuracy) a bit more seriously than the 6R31 movement we find in the more affordable King Seikos around €1,800. Of course, it’s still not a 9S (Grand Seiko) movement, and it is here where the main difference between the KS and the GS can be found. It is up to you if that’s worth spending at least another €2,400 to have a GS caliber in your watch. Some of you probably also find the mark-up for the 6L over the 6R too much.

King Seiko SJE089 dial close-up

The King Seiko SJE089 has a 38.6mm diameter and a modest 10.7mm thickness. This means it’s about a millimeter wider than Jorg’s Grand Seiko but also a millimeter slimmer.

Although I am a sucker for a good metal bracelet, and this KS has one, the SJE089 also looks brilliant on a 19mm leather strap. It makes it a very versatile watch, and with a metal bracelet, you can also take it with you in the pool or sea.

King Seiko SJE089

Get down with the King

Now, I love Grand Seiko, and I have been looking for another one to add to my watch collection. The SBGW series is beautiful, but it is a little small for my taste. I also decided I might prefer a Spring Drive-powered model, but it needs to have a 44GS-style case design to keep it OG. Prices easily hit €9,000 these days for those types of watches (the SLGA013, for example.) Jorg’s SBGW305 is a beautiful Grand Seiko, but the movement is not on par with those in the Evolution 9 collection, for example. It’s a rather simple hand-winder with acceptable finishing for €5,800 price, but it’s nothing to write home about. The SJE089 is not the same as a Grand Seiko, but it does provide the look and feel of a vintage GS or KS and is made according to today’s watchmaking standards. If you’re in the market for a vintage-inspired Seiko with a great caliber, the SJE089 is a perfect choice.

Cast your vote: Grand Seiko SBGW305 or King Seiko SJE089

Do you want to be grand or a king? The €5,800 SBGW305 is almost the most affordable mechanical watch in the Grand Seiko lineup, while the €3,400 SJE089 is on the high end for the King Seiko collection. Both watches come incredibly close in terms of finishing, and the major difference is the movement. Which will you choose? Will you go for the SBGW305 with a hand-wound caliber according to Grand Seiko standards or save some money and go with the beautiful-looking King Seiko with the 6L35 movement? Vote now, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Grand Seiko SBGW305 Vs. King Seiko SJE089