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-resistance: 100 meters
Original retail price 2000: $4,000 (approx.)

* This article was first published 24 July 2023 at Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer: a genuine Rolex beater for under $2,000

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