International Pogue Day – 16th November

I like a nice Pogue, as the many posts on here will attest. Every watch collector who has a soft spot for the Omega Speedmaster should get themselves a Pogue as well, as the size, weight and look of them are just right, IMHO.

If you’ve lived under a rock, the tl;dr version of events was that Col William Pogue, an astronaut with NASA, went into space to the final Skylab mission, blasting off at just after 2pm UTC on 16th November 1973. The crew spent what was then a record amount of time in space (84 days), and also changed NASA’s way of dealing with astronauts, by going on strike for a day and switching off the radio link with Mission Control. None of the crew went back to space, so maybe NASA didn’t like their insubordination…

Anyway, years later, an eagle-eyed watch fan spotted Pogue was wearing something other than an Omega Speedmaster (the standard issue timepiece for astronauts, normally worn on a velcro strap), and wrote to Pogue (now since RIP) to ask him what it was. Turns out it was a Seiko chronograph he’d bought when his training started, and since he used it throughout and only got his NASA-issue Speedmaster late in the process, he decided to take it with him into space. There are several photos of him wearing the Speedmaster on his right wrist and the steel-braceleted, yellow-faced Seiko on the left. The Seiko was therefore calculated to be the first automatic chronograph watch worn in space.

As a result, the Seiko 6139-600x is collectively known as the “Seiko Pogue”, though some hair-splitters will insist that only the yellow-faced watch can be called that (there being no such thing as a “Blue Pogue” or a “Silver Pogue”), or even that only the 6139-6005 (which did not say CHRONOGRAPH on the dial, only SEIKO and AUTOMATIC) can be called “Pogue”, or sometimes referred to as a “True Pogue”. If you want to be extra nerdy, you could say that only a yellow –6005 with WATER 70m RESIST on the dial at 9 o’clock can be called a Pogue, since that’s closest to what he actually wore.

Pogues Gallery

As well as Nick’s lovely Pogue (reckoned by the watchmaker who serviced it to be among the very best he’s seen), and the various others already featured on here, several others have passed through my hands.

Above, a 1972 6139-6030R dial variant, and on the right, a 1971 -6030T.

Here is an R-dial from May 1975 which I bought, had serviced, put on a new bracelet (a bit of a naff aftermarket one that felt cheap if I’m honest) but passed on to a fellow watch fan who saw it listed on eBay but came to collect it with cash in hand, and spent a while drinking tea, nattering about watches and cars and stuff. Just the kind of transaction I like.

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And here’s a 1976 T-dial which is in better nick than the ‘75 R, but not as good nick as Nick’s ‘76 T, if you catch my drift. This one has gone to another friend who shall remain nameless, since he hasn’t broken the news to his wife that he’s got a new watch. He carries it out of the house in bubblewrap and a plastic box, and swaps it onto his wrist when safely out of sight.

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So, all of this brings us to the point of the post – in remembering Bill Pogue and linking back to the now-widely-appreciated watch that shares his name, the 16th November has been called out as International Pogue Day. Expect Instagram to have lots of Poguey Pics, and every collector who owns one of these watches is dutybound to wear it on that day.

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Grand Seiko “Snowflake” Spring Drive

Many watch collectors have a shortlist of things they’re on the lookout for, and most will have a “grail” – the one watch they’d like to find above all others. Whilst the subject of this post might not quite reach such mythical status, I think it’s probably my favourite all-round watch and one that I spent a lot of effort, time and – more than I initially intended – money, acquiring.

Grand Seiko was formed in 1960 as a high-end watch maker within the larger Seiko family; the goal was to produce the most accurate timekeeping (often with “hi-beat” movements that oscillated at 33,600 beats per hour – 10Hz – instead of the more pedestrian 19,200 bph that is often seen) and to execute very high-end finishing and clean designs.

Seiko had a good run at making “chronometer” certified watches in the late 1960s – even beating the Swiss at their own game in competitions, to the point where they (Suisse) took their ball away and called the game off.

Grand Seiko is now a discrete brand again, rather than a sub-range of Seiko watches, and they are pushing upmarket in competition with more established brands like Omega and Rolex.

Spring Drive

The Spring Drive watch movement was dreamt up by a young engineer called Yoshukazu Akahane in 1977, and eventually released in 2007. It brings together supposedly the best of a mechanical watch and the precision of a quartz one – the spring that powers the gears in the mechanical movement is regulated by a quartz-timed electronic component that effectively puts the brakes on to control it more precisely.

Read more on Spring Drive here, here and here.

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This particular watch is known as the “Snowflake” due to the surface texture of the dial – said to be reminiscent of the light, powdery snow that falls in the Nagano prefecture, where the factory is. The dial looks like it could be made of paper, but in fact every one is manufactured to look the same – see the article on Hodinkee about the process.

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The whole watch also feels feather-weight as its case and bracelet are made of titanium; compared to the Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow, which has a steel case and bracelet, the Snowflake is 92g vs the Omega’s 156g. That might not sound like a lot, but on the wrist it’s a massive difference.

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The quality of finishing on the GS is nothing short of superb – even the plates and rotor on the movement have been meticulously scalloped and engraved, and visible through the rear display case.

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There are some downsides, though – titanium is a relatively soft metal and therefore can attract scuffs and scrapes. If you look through the various online sales of 2nd hand Snowflakes, many have dings to the bezel and any that have been worn with the bracelet will have “desk diver” marks.

Some would say that Spring Drive is the worst of both worlds, too – it introduced an especially complex mechanism of regulation that makes it harder to service (in fact, they get sent back to the factory for servicing). This particular watch is getting on for 3 years old, which means it probably needs to head to Japan in the next year or so.

Still, the most visible benefit of Spring Drive is the awesome sweep of the second hand – compare to quartz movements where the hand will generally do one tick per second, or even high-beat mechanicals where it might have 10 tiny movements between each second marker, Spring Drive is entirely continuous and entirely smooth. It’s completely mesmerising.

Not all Speedmasters come from Switzerland

In one of my impulsive buying-at-auction moments, I picked up this little watch for what I thought was an OK price (not a bargain, but not bad – all of about £240 incl commission). It wasn’t running properly, so after a while I sent it off for a service and also replaced the crystal; so all in, it owes me about £400 – maybe a 10th what a nice, mid-70s Omega Speedmaster would cost.

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This 7a28-7040 watch is sometimes described (normally by eBayers) as a “Seiko Speedmaster”…

A brief history lesson

The 7a28 movement within was the world’s first analogue quartz chronograph, released in 1980; this particular watch hails from December 1982. Production of the 7a28 watch family carried on until 1991 or 1992, with perhaps the pinnacle being the RAF Gen 1 chronographs from 1989 on: they periodically pop up for sale online, at the going rate of about £1,000, which is small change in Omega Speedmasterland but big money for a quartz Seiko …

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The 7a28 / 7a38 movements were proper things, too – no plastic parts, 15 jewels, you could regulate their timekeeping and the whole thing can be disassembled, cleaned and re-lubricated.

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The Japanese Seiko catalogue from 1983V2 p38 – shows a selection of bizarre looking things designed by Giugiaro (and featured on the wrist of Sigourney Weaver’s character in 1986’s Aliens – in fact, the SAY068 shown below is known as the “Ripley”, and a modern recreation was released in 2015)…

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Seiko sold these watches as “Speedmasters” (that’s the translation of the text headline to the left of the SAY058). Not sure if Omega even noticed at the time, or maybe they didn’t care.

Some JDM examples even had the name on the clasp – it was aimed at young motorbike riders, apparently…

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… while non-JDM ones typically have additional text like SPORTS 100, MIN and 1/10s markings on the dial, and simply Seiko SQ on the bracelet clasp. Many earlier JDM mechanical Seikos were co-branded as Speed-Timer, usually on the dial, though none of the 7a28s seem to have it written up front.​

Another 7a28 watch was also worn by Roger Moore in A View to a Kill, and for the fans of the truly obscure, was featured in They Might Be Giants’ video for “Older” (this bit).

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Back to the present

I managed to acquire another one, this time from November ‘83. It was another impulse buy at auction, thinking that I might combine the best bits of that one with the bits of the one above, as the bezel on the top one is a little beaten up but it has been serviced, and the hands on the new one might be nicer than the first…

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Sure enough, this new one is a little nicer in places but in the end I decided to leave it in one piece. It’s still got the original crystal, which is a bit scuffed but doesn’t harm the watch too much.

Case size is 40mm excl pushers & crown, so it’s notably larger than many of its 7a28 and 7a38 cousins (the 7a38 being a later model that added day & date readout to the 3 o’clock subdial).

Here it is in comparison (L-R) with an Omega Speedmaster 145.022-71, the 7a28-7040, a white-faced 7a38-7190 from 1986 and an issued 7a28-7120 aka RAF Gen 1, from Gulf-war-era Jan 1990.20180905_08563320180905_085612

If you’re interested in reading more about the 7a28 family, check out the really excellent Collectors Guide on The Springbar.

Omega Seamaster “Flat Jedi”

A long time ago, in a land far, far away… there was a guy called Chuck Maddox, who was a fanatical watch collector and one of the first to prolifically publish online about the various things he came across. He died unexpectedly in 2008, and a group of friends collected all of his written work and host it on www.chronomaddox.com.

Chuck liked to give names to watches, and some of his nicknames stuck and are now used routinely when discussing watches, especially when trying to sell them. He bought an Omega Seamaster reference 145.0023 nearly 20 years, with a particular black coating on the steel case and musing that it was the kind of watch Darth Vader would wear, he referred to it as such.

image from http://www.chronomaddox.com/darth_vader.html

As a contrast, the non-plated version of the same watch was nicknamed the Anakin Skywalker – as it hadn’t turned to the dark side, yet…

image from https://www.omegawatches.com/watch-omega-seamaster-omega-st-145-0023

Both of these have a fairly distinctive case shape and coloured dial, but another pair of variants had a similar kind of case and a simpler dial, with reference 145.024 – since they followed the Anakin and Darth, Chuck referred to these as “Jedi”, first his own silver-faced watch:

image from ChronoMaddox.com

… and later, a darker-faced watch which is the main subject of this post…

20180325_125748This watch dates from 1970, and shares the same Lemania-based 861 movement of the Speedmaster of the same era. The dial layout is very similar too, except that the TACHYMETER markings are on the dial itself rather than on a bezel, and the sub-dials are “radial” in the way the numbering is printed, rather than all the numbers being “upright” as they are in Speedmasters…

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The “Jedi” (also known as “Flat Jedi” or sometimes “Real Jedi”) is quite a strangely shaped watch, with a pretty flat profile and quite thin and exaggerated edges that protrude over where the bracelet or strap attaches. The outer surface has a sunburst finish which is a bit worn and scuffed on this watch: it is possible to have it “re-lapped” but that will inevitably remove some of the metal from the watch itself, and once you’ve taken it away it can never really go back…

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it took me a while to find the correct bracelet – a 1116/148 if you must know these things – but I think it looks the part now!

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There’s another square-cased watch that incorrectly is known as the Omega Seamaster Jedi, largely because an auctioneer mistook it and the name stuck: Fratello tells the story here.

If you want a Speedmaster with a radial dial layout, you’ll need to track down a Speedy Tuesday, or the watch that inspired it – and only a couple have legitimately been sold in recent years – the Alaska III, as used on the Space Shuttle.

Seiko Pogue authentication part ii – Dials

Another post on spotting the differences between Seiko Pogue dials. First to understand what is fake, we need to understand what is real.There are numerous variants of dial used throughout the production period of the mainstream 600x range, but they can broadly be broken down into colours of Yellow (or Gold), Blue (or Black) and Silver. There are other variants of JDM-only dials which we’ll come back to later.

Within the 3 colours, again leaving aside SpeedTimers and other JDM watches, there were two main layout variants: the US-market watches which said only AUTOMATIC under the SEIKO logo, and the rest which said CHRONOGRAPH and AUTOMATIC. The former (2-line) dials are referred to on the lower right as -6009 and the 3-line dials are reference -6030.

Following the reference, there is a T or R specification – little is known about when or why Seiko chose to mix the two, but subvariants of both 6009 and 6030 dials appeared alongside each other. Both variants are observed on watches marked WATER 70m RESIST and watches with no markings (but WATER 70M PROOF watches have only been seen with T dials), and both T and R dials were produced fairly late into the cycle (1976 or even after).

Side by side comparison – both 70m RESIST 6139-6002s, the R dial on the left from 1972 and the T-dial from 1971. Both have English/French day wheels.

It appears that T dials were the most prevalent until 1972, and R dials the most numerous afterwards, but authentic watches with T dials have been seen up to ‘76.

Genuine vs aftermarket

Generally speaking, aftermarket dials will look OK in a grainy eBay photo but in hand, compared side by side with a real one, it’ll be obvious they’re different. Things to look out for:

  • The majority of fake dials are 6030R branded. If you see a PROOF marked dial that’s 6030R, it’s almost certainly hookey.
  • Again, PROOF and RESIST marked dials should be on early watches – certainly on or before 1972, so if you see a PROOF marked dial on a watch whose serial number starts 7xxxxx then it’s wrong. Also, the –6009 generation dials didn’t ever have PROOF – they were all RESIST or nothing.
  • A genuine dial will have a 2-digit code printed or etched on its rear – the same 2 digits as the serial number of the case starts with. Obviously, you can’t see them without taking the whole thing to bits, but if you are looking at photos of a watch which has been serviced and you can see the backside of the dial, it could help to assure you that the dial is original
  • The aftermarket dials often have a pronounced concentric circle arrangement on the subdial – there is a subtle sunburst on the real subdials but nowhere near as obvious.

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Fake dial from 2016 eBay watch

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Aftermarket “Seikosis” dial, from eBay 2019


The “T” dials – characteristics

The T suffix dials tend to be more subtle – the sunburst effect on yellow watches in particular is less noticeable, and the colour is lighter than the R dials when placed side by side.

There is a slight gap between “JAPAN” and “6139”, sitting just above the 37 minute marker, and the As in JAPAN have a flat top. The dial code on the right side starts with a dash just above or slightly to the right of the 24 minute marker.

This example is from a -6002 watch from 1976, 6030T dial (so no RESIST), that had a English/French day wheel.

 

Here’s a black/blue dial example, from a -6000 from 1970 (with PROOF dial) and English/Roman day wheel

A rare July 1969 silver PROOF/PROOF -6000, with English/Chinese day wheel.

The A and P of JAPAN sit above the 38 minute marker, though on yellow dials the alignment appears to be slightly different to blue and silver (where A is closer than P to the marke. The placement of the preceding dash of the dial code above the 24 minute mark also differs slightly, where on yellow dials it is slightly to the right but on blue and silver is directly above.

Pogue’s own watch shows both of these attributes – the flat As in JAPAN, the gap between it and 6139, placement above the 38 marker and the – 6009T slightly to the right of the 24.

The “R” dials – characteristics

The gap between JAPAN and 6139 that exists in the T dial is not there, or not so notable, and the As are pointed. The A /P sits above the 38 minute marker and the 6 sits above 37 minutes.

This example is from a -6002 watch from 1975, 6030R dial, that had a English/French day wheel.

Bllue R-dial from 1972

A silver R dial watch bought on eBay in 2017, but arrived damaged so was returned.

The 60 of the dial code sits above the 23 minute marker so further to the right than on T dials.

Seiko Pogue authentication part i – Bezels

I like a nice Pogue. The trouble is, a lot of 6139-600x watches you’ll find on eBay are less than straight – a great many have been put together or at least tarted up with aftermarket parts, accompanied by a description that neatly avoids saying they’ve been prepared. Caveat emptor and all that.

I’m going to share some thoughts on what to look for in finding an authentic Pogue – over time, your eye will just know something doesn’t look right, but it’s useful to have a few rules in mind when assessing a potential watch for purchase.

Condition – is it consistent? Leave aside things like the crystal, which is a consumable, and ask – do the hands and dial match (age-wise; if the hands are bright and clean and the dial is marked and dirty, what does that tell you?). Remember, it doesn’t need to be immaculate … if you’re looking for authenticity, it may be that the flawed and worn, scratched and discoloured watch is the one that is genuine, whereas the shiny and polished one has been built up from a set of parts.

The distinctive “Pepsi” bezel on the 6139-600x Seiko Pogue is quite easy to replace – it pops off with a case knife and pressed on again using a crystal press, so any hamfisted tinkerer could change it. If you see a watch that looks really crisp and clean, and you can tell it’s got a fake/aftermarket bezel on it, then that maybe tells you all you need to know about the rest of the watch, and the seller who hasn’t pointed such a thing out.

The bezels appear to be pretty consistent throughout the watch’s shelf-life, except that some have a square block at the very top of the bezel. Most known aftermarket bezels don’t have a white box under the 60 at 12-o’clock – but since lots of genuine, especially early, watches don’t either (incl Pogues own), and aftermarkets are now showing up with a block, it’s no longer a reliable way to spot them without looking at other evidence.

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Nick’s Pogue, previously discussed – it’s all original

Now, there are several tell-tales in checking if a bezel is real or reproduction:

    • Aftermarket bezels tend to be flat, whereas lots of – but not necessarily all – genuine ones have a noticeable bevelled edge (as you can see in Nick’s example above, along the lower edge of the bezel).
    • There was once a tell-tale about the shape of the 5s – real bezels have 5s that are nearly closed, whereas AM ones were noticeably more open. I don’t think this is reliable now.
    • Some AM bezels don’t have a crisp division between red and blue between the 6 and 0 – it should be straight down the middle, though on a later genuine bezel with the block under 60, the start of the red can look closer to the 6.
    • Some AM bezels have the 80, 85 and 90 very close to – even touching – the edge, but the latest seem to have fixed that, and on old genuine bezels, it can be hard to tell (look at Pogue’s again…)
    • Pretty much visible to the naked eye – the stroke below the 2 of 250 on many aftermarket bezels reaches the end of the 2, whereas on genuine bezels, it doesn’t.
    • The horizontal stroke in 4 in 140 on a genuine bezel should be nearly touching the zero, which means it can look longer than the 4 in 54. This still looks to be the case on the latest fakes, but it’s not jumping-out obvious. The marker at 140 though, on genuine bezels, finishes below the tip of the one and between the 1 and the 4, whereas on the fakes it’s often closer to the 4 and finishes above the 1.
    • The TACHYMETER font is sometimes a bit variable too – on later AM bezels it’s quite close to the markers on the lower edge of the bezel and the lettering is quite square in shape, whereas on genuine bezels the letters are a little taller and there’s a bigger gap between the bottom of the letters and the markers, than there is between the top of the letters and the upper edge.

Some earlier fakes had even taller-looking lettering that was practically touching the upper edge of the bezel so again, there’s little consistency I think.

Let’s look at some examples – here’s an aftermarket bezel from eBay:

AM bezel from ebay

Note the markers under the 250 and above 140.

140 54Now some comparisons – the upper two examples of the 54 and 140 are from good bezels of different ages, and the lower ones are known fakes.

Look at the finish of the marker line above 140 – if you drew a line between the tops of the 1 and the 4, the marker would just dip inside it, more or less in the middle. On aftermarket bezels, it tends to finish higher up, and the lowest point of the marker isn’t in the middle of the 1 and 4.

Here’s the top and sides of a known, good 1970 bezel:

known good bezel from jun 1970

And another, this time with a block:

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Compared to a known aftermarket from eBay, c2016:

known aftermarket from ebay 2016

and the same features from the 2019 eBay one already pictured:

known aftermarket from ebay 2019

How to remove the stuck back of a watch

First of all, ask yourself – do you need to take the back off your watch? In general, you shouldn’t as for most people, taking a watch apart will only lead to it being less good than when it was together. If in doubt, take it to a professional.

That said, watch nerds (WIS’s if you like) quite like looking at the innards of their watch, even if it’s just to photograph the serial number of a new acquisition. If you’re going to send it off to service anyway, there’s maybe lower risk so it can be quite fun.

Get tooled up

There are generally 3 types of watch back – press on, monocoque and screw back.

Those which press on need a knife (or ideally a proper case opener) to prise apart from the case, though some may be held in place with screws. Many cheap quartz watches will have some kind of press-on back, though they’re found on all sorts – usually with a small recess between the lugs that you can insert the knife and twist carefully to pop it off.

Here’s an example – it’s a 1961 Seikomatic “Blue Yacht”, a rare and beautiful little thing that was only made for a year or so.

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It’s vaguely watertight, but “Waterproof” might be stretching it a bit. Let’s just say, don’t wear it when doing the washing up.

Monocoque or unibody

These are cases where to get the movement out, you need to prise the crystal off the front – an operation very much not for the faint hearted, and one that uses a frankly scary-looking tool called a crystal lift, which is basically used to grab the crystal and deform it in a circular fashion so that it can be separated from the watch.

Here’s a crystal lift in action.

Screw-down cases

By far the most popular, these normally come with notches in the case back to facilitate easy removal, though it’s not uncommon to see them with lairy big scratches that show someone has had a go at getting the back off and it hasn’t worked out.

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Do not ever use a pair of scissors to try this!Image result for watch case back opener

Some people use a 2-prong opener, though if the case back is good and stuck you might be asking for trouble.

Others will rely on a 3-prong job; the width between the two prongs at the top is adjusted with a thumbwheel, and twisting the handle moves the 3rd one up and down. These can be picked up for a few £ on Amazon or eBay if you’re feeling brave.

Like most tools, the cheap ones probably seem like a good idea until you realise that the metal of the prongs is softer than the metal on your watch back, and gives way only to skite across the back and put a nice big gouge.

Unfortunately, some awkward watch manufacturers put screw-down case backs that don’t have notches or anything to gain purchase on – necessitating more serious pressing/rotating tools, or reverting to a rubber ball…

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What to do if your screw-down case back won’t shift?

I’ve had cases where a screw-down case is stuck tight and either won’t shift because it’s got nothing to grip, or it has notches but no amount of pressure with a case back tool was turning it, and I didn’t want to risk engraving the case backs.

So here’s a fairly quick & dirty but effective trick. Clearly, don’t do this unless you’re prepared that it might go horribly wrong. In other words, don’t do it to an heirloom watch worth a fortune. And probably best not to do it in a dusty workshop (ahem).

Put the watch in something secure – ideally a case holder, in a vice.

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Take a 15mm or so socket and put a bead of superglue around the business end of it – ie the thin bit that normally goes over a nut you’re using the socket to work on. If you like, put a little glue on the watch back too. Don’t worry about using speciality stuff – I’ve a pack of 8 little tubes for £1 from a Poundstretcher which do just the job.

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Now press it on and hold it for a few seconds so you’re sure it’s even…

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Leave it for a while – let’s say 30 minutes. Enough time to be sure it’s set nice and tight.

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Now carefully and evenly apply a little force (remember – lefty-loosey, righty-tighty) to get the case back moving.

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When you’re done, the socket will lift the case back off and you might find that no amount of force would get it off.

Pour a little acetone (nail varnish remover) into the socket and leave it for a minute or so.

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Empty out the excess acetone back into the cap of the bottle, attach the socket back on the wrench and give the case back a tap with a rubber mallet or something that will give it a bit of force but not mark it.

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Job done. Now to clean off all the superglue residue using the leftover acetone. Just dampen a bit of kitchen paper or a rag, and give it a good rub. Then use a thumbnail or edge of a credit card to scrape it off – comes away easily and quickly and leaves no mark behind.

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Now that’s magic!

Heuer Carrera 1153N

The Chrono-matic story continues.

I saw this watch on a watch trading forum which has its software rooted in the 1990s and despite having supposed rules about what is and isn’t allowed, is not officially policed – so scammers and thieves abound.

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After a good deal of due diligence, I bought it because I’d intended to switch the bracelet from the dark-faced (“N”) to the silver (“S”) 1153 Carrera, as discussed previously. The bracelet is a “Gay Frères BoR”, aka Beads-of-Rice, and is valuable in its own right – in good condition and with the end-links, it’s worth north of £1000.

IMG_8537Gay Frères made bracelets for all sorts – Heuer, Zenith, Patek Philippe etc, before being acquired by Rolex in 1998, in a move to hoover up former suppliers so they could do everything in-house.

The bracelet dates to February 1969, so fits with the expected age of the watch and is supposedly original to it.

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But after I got the watch, I couldn’t separate it from the bracelet – and quickly decided that I preferred the dark dial. It supposedly started life as a charcoal/black colour (hence the “N” for “Noir” in the reference number):

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… but in some light, it is definitely a beautiful blue, and the white subdials and bezel have taken on a creamy colour. The hands look to have been re-lumed in the past, and don’t quite match (they’re a bit too green).

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As expected with an early watch, it’s got the first-execution Cal11 movement.

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The serial number is in the range 1477nn, so it’s only a couple of hundred later than the 1153N which sold for nearly £30K at the “Heuer Parade” auction in November 2017. That one is in spectacular condition and is probably unique, though…(Heuer put Chronomatic on the dial for a few months, before selling the name to Breitling – and they had a long association with Abercrombie and Fitch, so this is thought to be the only one with both marks on the dial…)

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Dive, Dive, Dive!

Tastes change over time, of that we can be certain. Sometimes fashion, maybe even just prejudice that is overcome – there are surely times when you totally dislike something that later you agree to tolerate, maybe learn to appreciate or even decide to love.

I don’t like dive watches. I’m not a diver, I don’t need a huge bezel that rotates to tell me how long I’ve been underwater, I don’t need to read large luminous hands in 50m of murky water and since I have relatively thin wrists, I think the great big dive watches won’t suit me.

And yet, I present a holy trinity of Seiko dive watches that have wormed their way into my collection. And I’d never even go swimming with any of them, much less diving…

The First Seiko “Dive” watch – SilverWave

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First up is a Seikomatic SilverWave 50M, reference J12082. Well, it’s not really a dive watch per se as it’s only waterproof to 50M, but when this range came out back in 1961, it was Seiko’s first go at making and selling a watch to divers. It was the first one to have a rotating inner bezel, it was the first use of the “Tsunami” logo which now adorns the most serious of Seiko’s modern dive watches.

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The 50 meters waterproofing was achieved through a fairly unusual sealing arrangement – there’s a lug on the case back that fits to a slot on the watch, sandwiching a rubber gasket, then a screw-down outer retaining ring keeps everything tight. This arrangement makes sense to a degree – the outer ring applies tension to the case back and that compresses the rubber seal straight down rather than the twisting motion that normally happens when a screw-back case with its own seal is tightened.

As the serial number on the inside of the case back denotes, this particular watch is from January 1963.

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There are some great resources covering the SilverWave 50M (made from 1961-64) and cheaper 30M (64-66), on The Springbar and Fratello.

Japan’s first 150M dive watch

If the SilverWave was the warm  up act, then the real deal arrived in 1964 with the 6217-8000 then -8001, aka “62MAS”. It was the first Japanese “Professional” dive watch, and is seen by collectors as the daddy when it comes to Seiko divers.

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This particular watch is from April 1967, and is a 6217-8001 aka “big crown” (the rarer, 8000 had a small crown – see a comparison here). At the time, Seiko had two competing factories – Daini and Suwa – yet for a while made the 62MAS in both; the Daini one being rarer and showing a more yellowy-coloured lume rather than the green lume on most. I think this particular watch may have been relumed previously, and it certainly has an aftermarket (“Yobokies”) bezel insert.

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The 62MAS is almost the perfect “skin diver” size – pioneered by the likes of Longines in 1957 – it’s 37mm in diameter and wears well on the wrist, due to the slightly curving case shape.

Seiko brought out a modern recreation/re-edition at Baselworld 2017, known as the SLA017 – see how it compares to the original, here. It costs quite a hill of beans, though – you could get a really nice original for getting on for half of what the reissue runs to.

There’s a detailed collector’s guide on the 62MAS, here.

The Vietnam Vet

And so to the last of my trinity; the follow-on from the 62MAS was what for many is the quintessential Seiko diver’s watch, the 6105. This one came to me via a punt in an auction that proved to be a good bit more expensive than I bargained for – on receipt, the watch was in a poor state.

Duffed up crystal, the wrong hands, dirty, missing the “pip” on the bezel (which didn’t rotate with a “click” either) and non-running. Off it went to my usual Seiko service guru, and came back looking quite splendid.

It’s am August 1972 watch, a 6105-8110. The –811x series was made from 1970 to 77 or 78, saying “WATER 150M PROOF” on the dial and then switched in late 1970 to showing 150M RESIST on the dial instead.

This is the kind of what whose photos don’t do it justice on the wrist – it just feels *right*. I’ve put it on an Uncle Seiko “chocolate bar” strap.

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The 6105-8110 had a more prominent bulge protecting the crown, and a slightly larger case overall when compared to its 1968-70 predecessor, the 6105-8000m, and in the Seiko community, is a very well regarded watch. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Captain Willard”, after Martin Sheen’s character is seen wearing one in Apocalypse Now, on a chocolate bar strap, too.

It was very common for soldiers in the Vietnam war era to have Seikos as they were sold through “Part Exchange” outlets, so the part in Apocalypse Now seems well researched – servicemen at the time might have been drawn to the hard wearing reputation of the Seiko dive watch.

In 2019, again at Baselworld, Seiko unveiled its latest recreation/re-edition – the SLA033. Similar to the 62MAS recreation, pricing is “optimistic” – €4,350. Here it is in direct comparison to its forefather.

Heuer “Calibre 11” Carrera 1153S

As mentioned in the Watch out for Franken Watches post, the first Heuers I appreciated were smaller cased, manual-wind Carreras. At the time, I thought the larger automatics from 1969 through to the late 1970s were a bit gauche, but over the course of a few years, tastes can change and I started looking out for them instead of the early ones.

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The first generation of automatic Carreras used the same “Calibre 11” movement that featured in the Monaco and Autavia watches from Heuer, themselves a major part of the “Chrono-matic” group that was in the race to build the first automatic chronograph. The case style was different from the earlier models in that the mid 1960s style was basically a round case with lugs protruding, but the late 60s/early 70s featured a “cushion” or “C-case” design where the curves of the case extend to the end of the lugs.

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This Carrera is a 1153S, and is quite early in the life of the model so probably originated from 1970. It has 12 / 3 / 6 / 9 on the subdial at 9 o’clock (later ones had 12 / 1 / 2 / 3 etc so that subdial looked a lot busier). The tachymeter scale is also from the first generation (known in Heuer circles as “1st execution”) as the word TACHY appears at 3 o’clock, and the scale starts at 200. Later models had TACHY at 1 o’clock and scale starting at 500, like most chronographs do.

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The hands on this 1153S are actually 2nd execution; it means that at some point either the original hands were replaced, or quite probably, the watch is a mixture – a 2nd execution watch with a 1st execution dial. There are numerous variants like this – Heuer just used whatever parts it had to hand, it seems.

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In common with all of the Chrono-matic watches, the crown is on the left side, and in this case features a Heuer “shield” logo and the two pushers on the right are round but with fluted cut-outs. The case finish was vertically brushed – this particular watch has lost some of the brushing through wear, but I don’t think it’s ever been polished.

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The Calibre 11 movement came in several revisions; this one is a first generation Cal 11, further underlining that it’s likely a 1970 watch, as the Cal 11i would have been used from late 1970.

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I bought this (from eBay; the usual story, badly-described, poor photos but intact) and had it serviced to keep it running well. It went onto a replica “Corfam” rally strap that suited it well, but I had a hankering to find a suitable bracelet… to be continued…