Kinetic is the brand name for Seiko's automatic quartz hybrid movement. Originally called Automatic Generating System (AGS Quartz), it was developed between 1972 and 1987, when it first appeared in public.
Seiko claims that the roots of the Kinetic system lie in a 1972 project to power the then-nascent quartz watch movements using conventional automatic winding rotors. Their first quartz movements relied on a chemical battery, and the company experimented with solar cells as well. This same research project gave rise to the Seiko Spring Drive technology, introduced 10 years after AGS, in 1997.
The first public view of Seiko AGS came in 1987. The technology was complete enough to be shown in a prototype watch with “A.G.S.” on the dial and a transparent caseback through which the rotor could be viewed. The original AGS system used a geared winding rotor that directly powered a dynamo at up to 100,000 rpm. This differed greatly from the technology used by Jean d'Eve in Switzerland, which relied on a Dutch patented system with a spring between the rotor and generator and steady 15,000 rpm charging. Like the Swiss system, Seiko used a capacitor (“Electricity Storage Unit”) rather than a chemical battery to store the electrical charge.
Seiko introduced the production AGS Quartz watch at the Basel Fair in 1988, the same event at which Jean d'Eve introduced their Samara. This initial model included the display caseback so the rotor could be viewed and was labeled “A.G.S.” on the dial. Early Seiko AGS Quartz models included a power reserve indicator function A press of a button moved the seconds hand to 5, 10, 20, or 30 to indicate low power, 1 day, 2 days, or 3 days reserve. The company claimed that the movement would be fully charged after 10 hours of normal wear, with 3 days reserve power.
In September 1993, Seiko launched the 5M4x movement and “Kinetic” brand name. This second-generation movement debuted at the 1994 Basel Fair and featured improved power reserve of up to 7 days. A later update in 1995 further improved power reserve, now up to 14 days. By 1996, Seiko had added the slim Seiko 4M and compact Seiko 3M movements. The 4M measured just 2.7 mm thick, a remarkable size for a movement with a full-diameter winding rotor. The 3M and 5M both measure 4.3 mm thick. These new movements feature advanced coil geometry, with a tight honeycomb-style wrapping of 0.03 mm thick wire.
In 1997, Seiko introduced the Seiko 1M, which the company claimed was twice as efficient as the 5M and 70% smaller. This movement measures 20 mm diameter and 3.2 mm thick and boasts a three month power reserve. ETA had released their Autoquartz line the year before.
In 1998, Seiko gave reporters a preview of the next wave of Kinetic movements. The most unusual was the so-called “Spring Drive Kinetic”, which was a preview of the Spring Drive movement and would soon dispense with the Kinetic name. They also demonstrated a Kinetic chronograph movement. This would be produced by 2001 as the Seiko 7L.
The 1999 Kinetic Auto Relay boasted an amazing four years power reserve by stopping the hands when the watch isn't worn. After 72 hours with no movement, it sleeps, thus conserving 85% of the power. This was also the first Kinetic model to switch from a true capacitor to a Lithium Ion secondary battery, now called the Kinetic Electricity Storage Unit or ESU. All following Kinetic movements would use this battery rather than the traditional capacitor, and previous models would be retrofitted.
The Kinetic line was again updated in 2005 with the launch of the first perpetual calendar version. This Seiko 7D movement also boasted the Auto Relay power conservation function and the Lithium Ion ESU.
2007 saw the launch of the Kinetic Direct Drive, which allowed hand winding and featured a power reserve indicator on the dial at 9 00. This Seiko 5D movement would become the flagship Kinetic movement as the Spring Drive took over the higher-end.