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*Full Disclosure* – The fine folks at KUOE were generous enough to allow me to pick whichever version of the Royal Smith I wanted to review and I wasn’t required to return the watch.


The origin of the KUOE brand and concept dates back to 2010. Uchimura, the designer and founder, was a university student studying language in London, England when he just so happened to enter a shop that was handling antique watches.

There was a line-up of hand-wound watches from the 1940s – ‘70s. He was instantly drawn to them and their ability to keep time even after the rich accumulation of history in the decades that had passed. Although the watches were antiques, they somehow felt warm and refreshing, and were naturally appealing to wear on the wrist.

There, in that shop, Uchimura found the strong appeal of classic design, and realized that something that is truly classic is loved and revered universally around the world and across generations. Deeply influenced by this experience, he was inspired to create a classic design watch brand of his own.

After graduating university, Uchimura began working for a watch company in Kyoto –a city steeped in Japanese tradition. For a few years, he gained experience in the business and learned more about watches until he was ready to launch a sub-brand which was dedicated to his idea of introducing the classic design he had seen in those antiques in London into new models of wristwatches.

In 2020, he was finally able to establish his own classic watch brand, KUOE.


The Royal Smith is the premium series in the KUOE collection. It is designed with a traditionally smaller 35 mm diameter case, Breguet style numerals, dauphin hands, and dial with a Japanese traditional paper “Washi” pattern. And unlike the Old Smith collections, the Royal Smith features a Miyota 9039 automatic movement.

The watch comes in a more sustainable paper box, with a manual, warranty card, microfiber cloth, and reusable drawstring pouch.


Kuoe Royal Smith 90-006, with tan strap

Price is $498

– Movement: Miyota 9039
– Diameter: 35mm
– Lug to lug: 43mm
– Thickness: 10.5mm
– Lug width: 18mm
– Case : Stainless Steel 316L
– Crown: Screw down*
– Caseback: Exhibition
– Crystal: Domed mineral glass
– Strap: Italian Leather
– Water resistance: 100m/10 bar*

(*- NOTE: Have been informed by KUOE that newer versions of the Royal Smith will only have a push/pull crown and 50m of water resistance.)


The thing that KUOE nails down better than most is the vintage look/feel. Many brands release vintage inspired or heritage models, but the majority of them seem to fall short. Either the dimensions are wrong or modifications to the design are made to appeal to a more “modern” consumer. But KUOE seems to be the kind of watch that’s been sitting in your grandfather’s drawer for decades. And that’s a good thing.

The areas of improvement from a historical aspect – stainless case, exhibition caseback, screw down crown, 100m water resistance, and a premium Miyota movement, are all welcome additions.

Where KUOE doesn’t hit the mark is the use of a mineral crystal. Don’t get me wrong. The look is fantastic, but mineral is simply the wrong choice. KUOE does offer an upgrade to sapphire for an additional $138. Which admittedly is better, however that’ll put the watch over $600. What I really wish is that they offered an acrylic option. Not only would it be more period accurate, but I imagine it could also help lower the initial cost a bit. This is one of the few times I wish a brand would offer a downgrade option.


Let’s just go ahead and talk about the size – 35mm. This is probably the most contentious dimension for the brand and the hardest for some to get past in order to try one out. But 35mm is actually large in respect to vintage dimensions. Below, I’ve got it next to some of my smaller sized watches in my collection, ranging from 34mm – 39mm and feels right in place. And as you’ll see later, wears well or larger than the sizing would imply.

The stainless case is high polish throughout. The bezel is rounded and the mid-case slopes down along with the lugs to hug the wrist.

The mineral crystal is domed and looks to be thick with some nice distortion at the edges. I imagine it would be a similar effect if one upgraded to a sapphire crystal.

The crown is also domed with the KUOE logo engraved. The size fits the overall dimensions and screw down action is nice and smooth.

The dial has a “washi” pattern. So not actual paper, but does have a paper-like appearance. Rather subtle as the pattern only appears in certain light. Otherwise it looks a bit matte. The “KUOE Kyoto” logo is printed above the pinion, with “Royal Smith” and “automatic” printed below. There’s “Japan” and “made” printed on either side of the applied 6.

The Bregeut style numerals and indices are applied, which is also a nice touch. They are also in gold tone to match the handset and compliment the cream of the dial color. The minute chapter ring is printed in black to match the other dial text.

Speaking of the handset. They are dauphin shaped, or as the translation from the KUOE site describes “dolphin.” Either way, they fit the style of the watch quite well. They have facets to catch the light better. I also appreciate that they are sized nicely to the numerals and indices.

The caseback is also highly polished and rounded to fit with the other styling clues. It is screwdown to help with the water resistance and also exhibition to show off the Miyota movement. Engraved along the ring are “Royal Smith,” “90-006,” “Made in Japan,” “10 Bar,” “Japanese Premium Movement,” and “All stainless steel 316L.”

The movement is the Miyota 9039, so no ghost position as no date (YAY!!). During my time wearing the watch for a week, I tracked it at +4 per day, which according to the stated accuracy of -10 to +30 seconds per day is really great. The movement is undecorated and the rotor is simply printed with “KUOE Made in Japan” in gold text.

The strap is tan colored Italian leather. Feels well made and on the slightly longer end of sizing. The buckle is signed with an offset KUOE. The straps come with quick release spring bars, so making it easy to swap out different straps. Of course with an 18mm lug width, the amount of additional straps available is dependent on you.

Note that lume is non-existent. So that may or may not be a dealbreaker for you. I don’t care either way, so I’m still on board.


The only problem I encountered with trying different straps on the Royal Smith, is that my limitation of 18mm straps. Otherwise, with the vintage look, it’s a strap monster.

SUMMARY:The stainless case, gold tone hands and indices, cream colored dial come together to provide a nostalgic feel on the wrist. Where most heritage style watches feel modern while trying to look vintage, the Royal Smith feels vintage with modern touches. It’s a fine line and key distinction, but holding a KUOE in hand, you feel like it’s a pristine NOS piece.

The price is fair for $498 for what you get. Then again, I can’t think of any other watch that closely compares with the KUOE Royal Smith. If you are a fan of this style of watch, you will be very pleased.

– True vintage look and feel.
– Wore well and felt comfortable on the wrist.
– Fan of the Miyota 9039, and very good accuracy out of the box.
– Paired well with any of the 18mm straps I threw at it.
– I actually am a fan of the 35mm size.

– The mineral crystal shape is great, but it’s a mineral crystal and that will always be a con.
– No option for an acrylic crystal and the sapphire upgrade puts the price into more questionable territory.
– I found the strap to be a bit long personally.
– I know some will find issue with lack of lume, so adding that here.



This watch fits right into my wheelhouse of vintage aesthetics and KUOE delivers it better than any other brand I’ve experienced.

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