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…

Watching out for Franken watches

When I first started taking a shine to the Heuer Carrera, it was the original mid-60s one that I liked, manual wind with a small case (36mm) and a chronograph but no date. Examples include the 3-register, Valjoux 72 powered 2447 series or the 2-register Valjoux 92 3647.

You need to be really careful when dabbling in these, though, since there are precious few records (Heuer managed to lose them all in a fire, apparently) so it’s very hard to definitively prove that a given watch is all original. The watch at the top of the post is a put-together watch with a series of features that were never seen together at the same time, as well as some questionable parts that hint to it being a fake.

Another case in point…Here’s a watch that’s for sale by a dealer in the Netherlands – a 3647T, looking in pretty good shape, and it’s on for €7500 as of May 2019. It compares well with photographed examples in the Carrera reference book by Crosthwaite & Gavin, two of the most respected Heuer collectors.

It doesn’t have T SWISS on the dial (as later ones would have), it doesn’t say Heuer on the crown (which is also correct), the hands look correct and its serial number seems to fit in the right range for a watch of that age.

Look at the movement of the watch for sale,

and a reference photo of the same Valjoux 92

or another reference pic here.

There’s one little inconsistency, and that’s the orientation of SWISS on the bridge… maybe a fluke? It may be nothing to worry about and the watch in question could well be as straight as a die, but it pays to question these little details as they could be a tell tale of other nefarious goings on.

Definitely Fakey

What about this, from a vendor who is widely known to sell “prepared” watches (read: Frankens), in this case asking £5200.

The movement in that one is deeply suspect – the bridge engraving looks different to other examples, and there’s no UNADJUSTED SEVENTEEN JEWELS on the plate towards the top of that picture (compare to the previous two photos) . It’s almost certainly a Valjoux 92 that’s been harvested from another watch brand and made to look like a Heuer one, and dishonestly so.

The same vendor is on eBay, and has similarly iffy pieces – look at the 1st generation 2447, with Valjoux 72, here.

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At first glance, the movement could be OK – it wears the number 72, it is inscribed with the “unadjusted…” text… but the HEUER-LEONIDAS SA on the bridge has a different radius than the curve of the piece itself, whereas a genuine one looks more correct…

Even more modest watches can be a minefield, too – most of the Seiko 6139-600x, a favourite of mine,  you’ll find on eBay, are not all they purport to be. Take this one for example – another eBayer who regularly sells dodgy, mucked-about-with stuff.

The dial doesn’t show the usual signs of being a replacement after-market one, but the spidey sense says it’s not kosher. The watch has the wrong hands, an aftermarket bezel and an aftermarket bracelet… none of which are pointed out by the vendor. Steer well away and consult an expert before buying this kind of keich.

Limited Edition Sinning

Following the post on the Sinn 356, here’s another Sinn watch – a pretty chunky dive style watch that was released at the Swiss watch industry nerdfest, Baselworld, in 2017. I got this watch on a whim because you don’t see them often.

The Sinn 103 has been around for a while – and this limited edition Sinn 103 St Sa E (presumaly Steel, Sapphire and Errr…) essentially uses standard case, dial and the staple ETA 7750 movement, but with a couple of differences in finish – the hands and markers on the dial have been coloured ivory rather than white, to give them a vintage look. And it’s limited to only 300 units, so the rotor is inscribed “EINE VON 300”, visible through the sapphire case back.

20190501_130327 (2)The strap is a vintage-look leather job with a Sinn branded buckle, but unfortunately there’s a small tear in the leather on the inside right by where the buckle joins, so it has a habit of rubbing uncomfortably on the wrist.

I tried it on a blue/white leather Toshi strap I’ve had for a few years and I think it looks pretty good, but I wanted to restore it to a tan leather one.

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So I got a Steveo Straps vintage style one made – both of these strap companies are guys who are artisans, making beautiful and not massively expensive straps by hand. Check out their stuff – it comes highly recommended.

So here it is, wearing the Steveo – the strap’s a bit lighter in colour than the OEM, and it is slightly thicker nearer the buckle (20/18mm) so the original Sinn buckle is a shade too small to fit on this strap. No matter, it’s a really nice addition to the watch.

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The thing is, I bought it not knowing if it would be for me. I absolutely love the look of it, but it is a big watch for my puny wrists.

I happened to show it to a friend, who was so taken with it he said, “Can you get me one?”

Given the rarity, I doubt it – and in a moment of clarity, I told him he could take this off me for what it cost me…

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So we did the deal, went out for breakfast the following morning and it occurred to me that I didn’t have any pics of the watch with the new strap, or in fact, photos of its case back… so borrowed my friends watch to get the last few snaps…

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Nick’s 6139-6002–a Poguey Birthday

I’ve been talking with Nick for a couple of years about watches and in particular about his desire to get a watch from the year of his birth – a common pursuit, satisfied by a variety of online emporia looking to sell you a watch purportedly from “your” year – example, and another.

The problem with this search is that it’s often quite difficult to know when a watch really was made – one approach would be to find the serial number (sometimes visible on the outside of the case, though often stamped onto the inside of the case back or the movement itself), then consult one of the serial number tables published online, that try to slot production serial numbers into years. See an early Omega table first surfaced 15 years ago; a more specific model / serial number cross reference was produced for Omega Speedmasters, here.

Some brands allow owners to request an “extract of the archives”, producing a certificate which likely tells them a load of stuff they already know, but adding a couple of crucial details – like when the watch was produced and where in the world it was sold.

Recent years has seen Omega Speedmaster fans sharing their extract info, cross referencing serial numbers with dates of production, so one enterprising developer has produced iLoveMySpeedmaster, a site that will predict the month and year of a given serial number based on known production dates from perhaps nearby numbers.

As mentioned in the earlier missive discussing Dave’s birth year watch, the production date might be a bit later than the model number of the watch, and it costs £100-odd to find out.

Seiko to the rescue

Fortunately, Seiko is a bit more predictable – from the early 1960s onwards, they adopted a fairly straightforward way of knowing when a watch was made: the first digit of the serial number is the year of production, and the second is the month (1-9 being Jan-Sept, 0=Oct, and you’ll see the odd watch with N or D).

So all you need to know is a bit of history of that particular watch family, when did it enter production and when did it stop, so you can narrow down the range of possible years. The “9” at the start of some Seikos might be 1969, and by 1979 most of their mechanical watches were out of production in favour of quartz, so it’s perhaps easier than you might think.

After looking at various pieces, Nick determined that he’d like a yellow faced “Pogue” 6139-600x. So the hunt was on to find a suitable specimen from the year, ideally even the month of birth.

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This was found on eBay; the crystal is so knackered, the dial text is barely readable, the minute hand from the chronograph subdial has gone missing, and the watch doesn’t really run for more than a few seconds. The chronograph function didn’t work either. The owner bought the watch years ago, put it on an ill-fitting aftermarket bracelet and wore it every day until it stopped working, at which point he threw it in a drawer before eventually dusting it down and putting it on eBay.

This kind of thing is always a gamble – clearly there are mechanical issues that will need fixing, but a skilled and Seiko-experienced watchmaker will be able to remove all the caked-on goo and 40+ year-old dried-up oil that comes from probably never having been serviced, and replace any parts that are defective.

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But mechanical gremlins aside, in this instance, the watch is an absolute cracker. The first thing I did when it arrived was to drop the movement out of the case to see what was hiding behind that beaten-up crystal.

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And the dial and hands are practically flawless. It’s amazing how different the dial looks in direct sunlight, too.

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So, after having a few components of the movement replaced and everything cleaned, reassembled and re-oiled, a new minute hand and crystal on the case… Nick’s watch was ready for his birthday. The watchmaker who did all the work has 24 yellow-face Pogues of his own (!) and said he has only 2 or 3 as good as this – “It looks and runs superb. It’s in the 9.5/10 category.”

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All it needs now is a decent bracelet, and it’ll be ready to wear for another 40 years – in the meantime, it’s on an eBay-sourced aftermarket one which will do for now.

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Bless me father, I have Sinned

When most people (who care about such things) think of relatively high-end, mechanical watches, they think of Switzerland. The clock and watch industry revolved around Geneva and various surrounding towns, and Switzerland did a good job of marketing the fact that if a watch was “Swiss Made” that meant it was of high quality and accuracy.

Other countries produced great watchmakers too – Englishman George Daniels, reckoned by some to be the greatest watchmaker since the 18th century, invented a whole new mechanism in the mid 1970s that is used by Omega today, their “Co-Axial escapement”. At a similar time of innovation, Seiko’s Yoshikazu Akahane spent 20 years perfecting the “Spring Drive” mechanism, unique to Seiko and one of the most accurate mechanical watch movements available.

But Germany has a rich history of watchmaking, too – centred around Glashütte, where several well-known brands still base themselves. Read more about the history of German horology, here.

One relatively modern German watchmaker of note was Helmut Sinn; he founded his eponymous company in Frankfurt in 1961, making clocks and watches aimed at pilots. Various moves in and out of Switzerland saw the Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren company assemble watches with off-the-shelf Swiss movements inside custom made cases.

For a while, it was thought that German astronaut Reinhard Furrer was the first to wear an automatic chronograph in space, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger for the Spacelab D1 mission. The Sinn 140 and 142 watches were also worn on Mir and in other NASA-operated missions. 20+ years later, however, the story of Bill Pogue came to light and burst the “Sinn: first in space” balloon.

Sinn was known for collaborating with then-new brand Bell & Ross, and for continuing to produce “tool” watches that would appeal to pilots and divers, while developing various technologies to make their watches more hard-wearing, and modifying the standard Swiss movements to add other features and finishes.

The “FLIEGER” Sinn 356 Pilot II

The hunt for this particular watch came about partly because of a post on OmegaForums when one user asked if Sinn were any good; a very respected watchmaker gave his opinion (yes, he had owned one and would happily have another), but the photo in that thread was what sold it to me.

The 356 line from Sinn is a classic military-inspired watch, easy to read and hard-wearing. It’s well-finished and looks good on a strap or a couple of bracelet options. But the Sa Pilot II has a mesmerising copper “guilloché” finish dial. Some people say it’s salmon pink in colour, but the dial is copper-plated, so I say it’s copper coloured…

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This particular watch is from 2007, so it has an ETA 7750 movement and an acrylic crystal; watches were offered with a sapphire crystal as an option (in general, sapphire is harder wearing though if you do scratch or chip it, there’s no alternative but to replace… whereas you can polish away scratches on acrylic crystals).

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Later, Sinn was forced to switch to using an equivalent Sellita SW500 movement since ETA – part of the Swatch group that owns Omega and many other brands – decided to restrict supply of its movements to any of its competition. Sellita makes movements that are basically copies of the ETA offerings that have been around for decades; they’re more-or-less parts compatible so we’ve seen major watch manufacturers that previously relied on ETA movements – including the likes of TAG Heuer – switch to Sellita.

If you bought a new copper-dial 356, it would be the 356 Sa Pilot II – with Sapphire crystal. Or there’s the Sa Pilot III with silver plated guilloché dial. For me, the classic black-dial 356 with acrylic crystal is just about ideal, but I can’t help but be struck by that copper dial…

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Seiko World Time #3 – three’s a crowd

Following on from the previous World Time diaries, another joined the fold a few weeks prior to the silver-faced ‘64 with the original bracelet.

20190405_110912 (2)This one, an early model from April 1964, also came on the period bracelet – in fact I bought it thinking I might transplant the bracelet onto the first (1967) World Time I had, then flog this watch on. I’m not not sure I could bring myself to separate the watch & the bracelet it’s had for 55 years…

It’s a rare black/grey-dialled World Time; sources reckon only 20% of the watches produced were of this variant, and since they only made the 6217-7000 for 9 months in ‘64 and for 2-3 months in ‘67, they’re pretty unusual anyway.

This particular one is in “honest” rather than amazing condition, but it’s recently been serviced and smartened up by a top-notch watchmaker in Australia, where it came to me from.

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As you can see, the outer bezel that shows the names of major cities and other random places around the world (Midway? Rangoon?) has faded quite a bit in places. In artificial light, the hand that points to the time on the 24hr scale looks a bit yellowy and maybe even discoloured, but in daylight, it’s got a bronzey metallic sheen to it.

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When compared with the silver-faced World Time, with polished silvery hands and a black hour hand, it’s actually much easier to read the time on this grey one as in most light, the contrast between hour & minute hands and dial is easier to pick out, and the hour hand isn’t as distracting – sometimes with the Silver faced one, you need to stare at it for a few seconds to work out what the actual time is.

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Still, who wears a watch to tell the time anyway?

Don’t let the Bells end

As a fan of the Seiko Bell-Matic, I came across this at a watch fair and really fell for it. I’ve never had a Citizen watch before – they’re another major Japanese brand that firmly established their own way of doing things and were notable in various firsts in the watchmaking world.

I discovered the premium site for knowledge of Citizen on the web – VCW. Have a look if you’re interested…

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Anyway, this particular watch is from March 1969 and has a definite Rolex DateJust vibe going on, with the “cyclops” date magnifier on the crystal and the fluted bezel. For its era, it’s quite a big watch – 41mm case size when many others were in the mid-30s – and since it isn’t an automatic, it’s relatively thin too.

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The defining characteristic is the dual crowns – the lower of which operates like a normal hand-wound watch; you wind it up (and it has about a 2-day power reserve) and pull the crown out to set the time. Changing date is a matter of winding the hands past midnight, but if you go back to before 10pm and forward again, it jumps another day so not as tedious as some, if the watch has been left still for a while.

20190407_175601The upper crown is wound to add power to the alarm spring, and pulled out to set the time that the little black arrow points to – this is the time the alarm goes off. Leave the crown pulled out and the alarm is then active, so when the watch reaches that time, either on its own or by advancing the hands, it will ring the alarm.

The movement is a Citizen calibre 3102, itself based on a well-used AS (A Schild) 1475 Swiss watch movement that found itself in all sorts of Russian Poljots and other watches of the late 1960s. It is quite probably the most-used alarm watch calibre, with about 750,000 watches sold using it – though Citizen’s variant would be less common, even though it was in production for around 10 years from 1964.

Unencumbered by the swinging rotor of an automatic watch, here it is in all its, er, glory?

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The case back is quite interesting – it’s a press-on job and can only fit one way, helpfully guided by a little stud on the case. This is because there’s a pin on the back of the case back which the alarm hammer strikes, meaning the alarm is actually quite loud and the back of the watch vibrates – only those with the sleep of the dead would not wake up. The back side of the pin is visible to the lower right of the Citizen logo above.

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Here’s a video of the alarm in action…

…. and what happens if you take the case off – see the hammer flying!