Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer: a genuine Rolex beater for under $2,000

I’ve always been a Swiss watch snob. Yeah, I know Grand Seiko turns out some truly excellent timepieces. Blindingly brilliant, hand-finished cases; the product of “Zaratsu” polishing – a technique requiring a three-year apprenticeship to master. Beautiful, painstakingly handcrafted dials evoking elements of nature. High-tech, state of the art movements that shame many of their Swiss rivals with their precision and accuracy. 

But for all of Grand Seiko’s lofty achievements, impeccable engineering, and craftsmanship, for this watch enthusiast, the brand has always lacked something in spirit. An almost ethereal quality that, although hard to quantify, all truly great Swiss watchmaking seems to have in abundance.

For want of a better word, let’s call it “soul.”

I know, I know, I can already hear the grumbling. But just as there’s a broad distinction between “artisan” and “artist,” there seems to be a yawning, unbreachable chasm between Grand Seiko’s exacting, almost clinical approach to watchmaking and the soaring, inspired artistry of masters like Abraham-Louis Breguet and Francois-Paul Journe – at least IMHO. 

If neither Seiko nor Grand Seiko sufficiently manage to stir the soul, there is yet a third jewel in the venerable Japanese watchmaker’s crown.

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy

The Birth of Credor

In 1974, amidst the booming demand for all things quartz, Seiko launched a new line of elegant, precious metal offerings featuring its pioneering technology. Christened “Credor” from the French Crete d’Or (“The Ultimate of the Gold”), the catalog was strictly limited to dress watches. 

While the brand continued to evolve, it wasn’t until 1998, with the unveiling of the 40 mm, stainless steel “Phoenix” sports chronograph, that Credor truly came into its own. Featuring the in-house calibre 6S78 (at this point, the Daytona was still using a modified El Primero movement): a 34 jewel chronograph engine with 50 hours power reserve beating away at 4 Hz (and available only for the Japanese domestic market.)

 I’ve heard tell that Credor is the preferred brand among Japanese Yakuza – a watch that many consider the ultimate status symbol.



A Watch Fit for a Samurai

At first glance, you might mistake the Kumakawa Worldtimer for its stablemate, the Phoenix Chronograph – but look closer. It’s not a chronograph. Christened in honor of Japan’s greatest ballet star, Tetsuya Kumakawa, this 1,000 piece limited edition features both a world time and “true” GMT function allowing for independent setting of the hour hand.

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

Both world time and GMT complications are easily accessed via two pusher-like crowns. The top “pusher” allows for quick and easy setting of the independent hour hand to local time, while the 24-hour sub-dial at 9 o’clock enables you to track a second time zone.

Using a simple slide rule system, the bottom pusher engages an interior, rotating bezel providing access to local time in some 21 major cities around the world. Simply set the 24-hour bezel to a known time zone and you’re in business. While a second sub-dial at 6 o’clock provides the date, the retro day indicator is a wonderful, meter-style display giving the dial balance as well as a uniquely beautiful aesthetic.

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy

“Do nothing which is of no use,” so intoned Japan’s greatest swordsman turned philosopher, Miyamoto Musashi. Credor’s watchmakers have evidently taken the 16th-century Samurai’s words to heart – eschewing all that is superfluous in favor of simplicity. Nothing remains that doesn’t serve basic function or overall aesthetic.

Calibre 4S77A

Powering the Kumakawa Worldtimer is the Credor-exclusive six-hand, 28 jewel in-house 4S77A – one of Seiko’s finest (and most complicated) automatic movements.

Back of the Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy

A descendant of the high-end 5200 series of movements produced by Daini Seikosha during Sieko’s Golden Age, it features the expected 28,800 VPH, hacking and quickset date, and also boasts a smooth, seconds hand sweep that eclipses both my Rolex and 36,000 VPH Zenith El Primero.

After three weeks on the wrist, the watch hasn’t required an adjustment and is still dead-on accurate. Truly remarkable for a timepiece approaching the quarter-century mark. But the Calibre 4S77A isn’t just mechanically proficient, it’s a joy to behold through the rear sapphire display. Gold-plated with a satin-like finish, the play of reflected light on its golden, solarized rotor is damn near hypnotic.

Fit and Finish

Where to begin. The Kumakawa’s dial is a flawlessly executed disk of limpid, glistening black lacquer – the finest such example I’ve ever encountered. Even the generously lumed applique markers with their polished frames have a peculiar luster – as does everything on the dial (even the printed matter).

The sub-dials also boast polished frames and a slightly cambered inner ring on which days and hours are tracked, providing clarity and depth and evoking – as one reviewer has noted – the bezel of the Blancpain 50 Fathoms.

The hands are spear-like, partially skeletonized and also generously lumed. If you believe Grand Seiko and Rolex represent the industry standard in dial construction, you’re in for a pleasant – or perhaps, unpleasant – surprise.

Moving on to the case: it’s elegant, yet sporty. The crown guard and pusher arrangement give the watch unique character without adding any awkward or unnecessary bulkiness. The fixed, conical bezel sits slightly inboard of the rest of the construction creating a stepped appearance. The case flanks also have a slight downward step at the lug juncture creating a wonderfully nuanced facet to the assembly.

Everything about the piece seems thoughtful; methodical.



And the bracelet … oh, the bracelet! While a direct “apples to apples” comparison isn’t always possible, I’m gonna go out on a bit of a limb here. The Credor’s bracelet makes the modern Rolex Oyster seem downright sub-par.

It’s that good!

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

Here, a 4-piece link  – both thicker and shorter than the 3-piece Rolex standard bearer – provides greater articulation and comfort, as well as adding additional heft along with a richer, more visually striking aesthetic.

Bracelet and buckle of the Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

The finish is also a cut above. The brushing on top and underside each lug is flawless; edges nicely beveled, sides are all of high polish. The clasp is a secure, solidly milled double deployant bearing a discretely etched Credor logo.

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

Although I prefer lugs fastened by screws, when considering the quality of circa 2000 Rolex bracelets and their flimsy, stamped metal clasps, pins and collars seem perfectly acceptable here. The bracelet is also fully integrated (perhaps its only drawback).

Though the drilled lugs seem to indicate quick and easy swaps, you’ll need your straps custom made if you’re angling for a different look. While I tend to be a strap maven myself, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to swap out a bracelet this fine.

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)


Perhaps such lofty praise should be taken with a grain of salt; easily explained away by invoking the so-called “Honeymoon Phase” – a collector’s brief, over-the-top infatuation with a new acquisition. Don’t bet on it.

That a rare specimen like the Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer can be had pre-owned for under $2,000 USD with box and papers is almost shameful. A watch that’s both meticulously crafted with technical chops to match and long on that most ethereal of all qualities – let’s call it “soul.”

Quick facts: 2000 Kumakawa Worldtimer GMT Limited Edition
Reference: GCBG987 (Limited Edition 1,000 pieces)
Case: 39 mm x 46.5 mm x 12.5 mm (19 mm lug width) stainless steel, brushed & polished, sapphire display back, screw down crown.
Movement: Seiko Calibre 4S77A automatic winding, 28 jewels, 28,800 vph/4 Hz, hacking, quickset date, world time & “true” GMT function. Power reserve 50 hrs.
Crystal: Sapphire
Bracelet: Stainless steel brushed & polished. Double deployant clasp.
Water-resistant: 100 m
Original retail price 2000: $4,000 (approx.)

You might also enjoy:

Grand Seiko: Looking at What Makes the Brand so Special – And Grand Seiko is Definitely Special!

Visiting Seiko’s Haute Horlogerie Micro Artist Division

Grand Seiko 1960 Re-Creations: Celebrating A Turning Point

Why I Bought It: Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” Ref. 116900

24 replies
  1. Alexander Stefanov
    Alexander Stefanov says:

    The 6s series chronograph is not a vertical clutch design, it’s actually a tilting pinion, the 8r modular chronic is a VC design, as is the 9r spring drive chronograph

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      I stand both humbled & corrected. The 6S78 does employ a tilting pinion rather than a vertical clutch. My apologies for the confusion. Writing about watches has proven to be a learning experience for me. One I enjoy sharing with other enthusiasts. Please don’t hesitate to correct me when I stumble along the way.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      I’m afraid this one won’t be shipping anywhere, lol. Check the listings on Chrono24. You can occasionally find pre-owned Kumakawa Worldtimers & Phoenix Chronos selling for under $3k USD — in certain rare instances, below $2k.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      Although I managed to find one for under $2k, Obviously, I can’t guarantee the price of a pre-owned, circa 2000 limited edition. Prices will vary widely from seller to seller. Having said that, there’s currently a Kumakawa Worldtimer being offered on Chrono24 for $2,701 — tho seller is willing to negotiate. In addition, I managed to find 2 examples of the Credor reference GCBG977 — this is the exact same watch as the Kumakawa Worldtimer with the exception of a blue dial & solid case back. One Chrono24 seller is offering the watch at $2,053 including shipping with box & papers. The other seller is offering watch only at $1,813 including shipping (price negotiable). There are also a couple of Phoenix Chronographs listed at just slightly over $2k.

  2. Silphium
    Silphium says:

    Saying it can be had for $2000 in the title surely attracted more hits, but since that’s 50% low in the real world, I’ll take future Will pronouncement with a sizable grain of NaOH.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      I recently purchased this piece — in the “real world” — for under $2k with box, papers & free shipping (and I’m not a famous celebrity or Youtube influencer). My apologies if you haven’t been able to find one at the same price or better. By the way, exactly how long have you been searching? The point of my article is to shine a light on an exceptional watch that flies under the radar of many collectors. A watch that offers better than Rolex quality at a fraction of the price. If you feel mislead by the title, again, I apologize.

  3. Marc
    Marc says:

    Can you share where you are seeing these listings for the pre-owned Kumakawa World Timer and Phoenix models?
    Thank you. Marc

  4. John Magnussen
    John Magnussen says:

    The fact that this is the preferred brand of Japanese gangsters does not exactly make Credor very appealing to me.

  5. Quentin R. Bufogle
    Quentin R. Bufogle says:

    I’m not going to get into a philosophical argument about who I believe the real bad guys in our society are — CEOs of big oil companies who’ve known about the effects of fossils fuels on our climate since the 1970s and buried the information — or the CEOs of big tobacco who swore under oath that there’s no evidence that cigarettes cause cancer. I could go on and on.

    As gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel once famously said, “We only kill each other.” If only the same could be said for corporate gangsters and their victims.

    That aside, self proclaimed gangsters like Lucky Luciano (who wore a Patek) and John Gotti (who wore a Piaget) just seem to have a greater sense of style than their corporate counterparts.

    I believe it’s possible to admire and even embrace a particular groups taste in fashion and wristwatches without necessarily condoning their behavior …

  6. Tshark Dallas Tx USA
    Tshark Dallas Tx USA says:

    One thing that the big Swiss Cos have in abundance is arrogance. And on top of that with Covid, they have become if it’s possible even greater control freaks!

    The watches are one thing, the buying experience and fulfillment is another.

    I was so impressed at how the master watchmaker from Seiko handled my GS Hi-Beat at his work station. I’m sure he has built many hundreds of this ref, yet you could see the pride he had just taking my watch into his hands.

    I’ve never experienced this with a sales person or service tech for the 40+ Swiss watches that I own. JP Journe did have a smile on his face as I described what I liked about my Chronometre Souverain. The Swiss brands, not so much.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      I agree. I was referring to master watchmakers in my article like the gentleman from Grand Sieko you described — not sales & service people.

      We’ve all heard the horror stories about the A.D.s of certain brands — Rolex in particular. The condescension and outright rude behavior some customers have been subject to should not be tolerated.

      No company — let alone one that sells luxury goods — can expect to remain on top by treating its customers — and potentional customers — poorly.

      As for Grand Seiko, my opinion about the brand is just that — one man’s opinion. There’s no denying that GS makes truly outstandind watches. It’s just one of those brands I’ve never been able to quite warm-up to.

      Going forward, who knows? I’ve had a complete change of heart regarding some other brands I initially wasn’t too enthusiastic about. Live, learn and enjoy the journey …

  7. Denny
    Denny says:

    There was no credor name or brand in 74. But Seiko acier luxury line. Crete d dor was a line up that started that year within Seiko catalog. It wasn’t until 78 credor name started appearing on under neath Seiko signatures and in 1980 the brand was actually launched . Little bit more than basic Google researching would show this. Hope corrections can be made as 80s 90s credors are finally getting recognition a little

    • Ian Skellern
      Ian Skellern says:

      That’s not quite correct Denny: Seko did create the Credor brands name in 1974, but the first watch bearing the Credor name didn’t appear until a few years later.

      There was never any Seiko collection bearing the name ‘Crete d dor’, that’s just the inspiration for Credor name.

      Regards, Ian

  8. Sir Edward Lamberson
    Sir Edward Lamberson says:

    This is a beautiful watch, I was able to locate one for $2.5K and it’s going to be my next purchase. My new credit card allots a certain amount of points for spending a certain amount of money within the first three months, this is perfect timing. Thank you for this article.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      Keep checking the online sellers including eBay. Since publication of this article, I’ve noticed that several Credors that I’ve been watching on Chrono24 have sold — while some others are showing a surprising number of views. Whether or not all the activity is merely coincidental, I’m pleased that both the Kumakawa Worldtimer and its stablemates are getting some long overdue attention. Exquisitely designed with exceptional build quality, finish and top-notch mechanics, late ’90s Credor sport models represent outstanding value and genuine bang-for-buck.


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