Seiko 6139-600x–part ii – elusive silver PROOF/PROOF

Following on from the previous tale of the 6139 as produced by Seiko in 1969, here’s a rare and interesting piece, or rather a brace of them. According to the Collectors Guide on The Spring Bar, one of the rarest variants in the –600x series is the early silver-dial version, which says “WATER 70m PROOF” on the dial. In fact, the guide reckons:

The silver dialed variation is by far the rarest dial and is even more seldomly seen with a “proof” variation. There are only a few instances of photographed silver “proof” dials.

Well, having already found one via another collector, I happened across this in an auction:

6139

So it pays to know what you’re looking for, or at least what you’re looking at. As it happens, the watch arrived and not in great shape – the chronograph was bust, the bracelet was actually broken too, and not a great match for the watch either. The crystal was pretty scratched up too.

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Still, here it is, on the right, next to the other one. The LH watch is in all-round better shape despite being from July 1969, and the RH one from October 69. Both suffered a bit from having darkened lume plots.

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Most vintage enthusiasts would advise against doing anything irreversible to an old watch, but Seiko collectors seem to be more forgiving when doing something that will improve the watch – so I had both re-lumed  as well as serviced.
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(Oct 69 is on the left…)

Both of these are wearing Uncle Seiko bracelets and, again, you can spot the early nature by the PROOF dial, the chrono hand is a 2-part affair when compared to later 6139s, and the front of the case has a notch above the crown.

Seiko 6139-600x–part i – as worn by Francois Cevert & Nick Mason

50 years ago, Seiko was quietly producing what could arguably be the world’s first automatic chronograph. Other manufacturers were trying to do the same – Zenith produced their goadingly-named “El Primero” (a fabulous watch movement that was comparatively small but also beat at a higher rate than its competition – it went into other manufacturers’ products including the Rolex Daytona), while a consortium of others, loosely known as the Chronomatic Group was formed by Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton, together with movement maker Buren and the company who could make the bolt-on chronograph module, Dubois-Depraz.

There are many articles online [here’s a good one, and a later one by the same author focusing on the Chronomatics] detailing just how one of the three contenders was actually the first but in truth, it doesn’t really matter. We could split hairs about what is important – being the first to announce, the earliest prototype, the first to sell in-market? Certainly, at the launch in New York of the Heuer Caliber 11 watches, March 3rd 1969, one lucky winner of a new watch found that it was less reliable than expected so maybe Heuer were jumping the gun a little.

Anyway, back to Seiko. It seems that it had quietly been selling watches in Japan with the 6139A movement dated from February 1969. Typical of Seiko, they produced a whole variety of case and dial styles with the 6139A from 1969-71, and then the 6139B until 1977-78.

I’m going to look at a couple of early bearing the 6139A, and belong to the 6000-family made famous by the association with NASA Astronaut Col. William Pogue, more of which later, when I’ll cover a couple of 6139Bs.

OK, enough preamble – let’s talk about a watch.

Blue 6139-6000 from June 1970, aka “Cevert”

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This was bought from its first owner, who got it as an 18th-birthday present from his brother, who himself was serving in the Royal Navy in Singapore, in December 1970. On arrival with me, the watch was pretty tired-looking – and the bracelet had lost one of the correct end-links, so the previous owner had installed a different one that didn’t quite fit.

It has since been serviced and a replacement end-link from the bracelet was sourced from a collector in Australia. The chronograph hand has a crack, and the watchmaker who serviced it was worried that it might break when he was trying to re-install… and the correct, 2-piece chronograph hands for these are like hen’s teeth. After well over a year of looking, I’ve found another – but fortunately, this one went back together just about OK. Other than the Aussie end-link and a replacement crystal, it’s as original as they come.

An eagle-eyed enthusiast spotted photos of F1 legend Francois Cevert (whose untimely death was the catalyst for his mentor, Jackie Stewart, to launch his crusade on driver safety in motorsport) wearing a Blue 6139 in 1971… so this particular variant is being nicknamed “Cevert” (pr. seh-verr).

Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason had one too:

And eagle-eyed space fans might spot a blue 6139-600x on the wrist of actor Ed Harris, playing Gene Kranz in Apollo 13 (a detail that the props team on the film got a bit wrong, as Gene famously wore a Seiko 6119-8460… other actors in the film were seen with Omega Speedmasters, many with 1171 bracelets that didn’t appear until 1970 and only on the later Speedmasters that were not issued to NASA… still, let’s not get bogged down…)

Ed Harris as Gene Kranz 2

The Ed Harris watch in question looks to have minimal text under the SEIKO logo, so it’s probably a –6005, which would only say AUTOMATIC beneath the larger logo, rather than CHRONOGRAPH | AUTOMATIC. It also didn’t appear to have WATER 70m RESIST at 9 o’clock, which would date the watch to 1972 or later.

Ed Harris as Gene Kranz 3

You can identify the early 6139–6000s as they have a notch above the recessed crown, and were marked on the dial as being water proof to 70M. Later in 1970, Seiko changed to saying “WATER 70m RESIST” and after 1972, dropped that text altogether. There’s a very good Collectors Guide to the 6139-600x series which goes into more detail.

This particular 6139-6000 is in well-worn condition; the lume plots on the dial are starting to go a bit degraded, which on some watches lends them a pleasing yellow tinge but on these vintage Seikos, just goes mouldy-looking. It’s not too far gone to be ugly, though.

Heuer Monaco(s)

A lot has been written about Heuer’s iconic square “Monaco” watch, which first appeared in 1969 housing one of the first automatic chronograph movements inside. Rich Crosthwaite – who literally wrote the book on the Monaco – has a definitive reference site, here.

If you want to buy a pristine vintage Monaco, though, you’d better have deep pockets – one of Rich’s own was auctioned for 30,000CHF in November 2017 – about £22,500 or $32,000.

TAG Heuer have released a good few modern Monacos, though, many bearing the TAG logo and coming in a variety of colours and dial designs.

The first one to hark back directly to the original, however, was a recreation of the original 1133B, famously worn by Steve McQueen in the film, “Le Mans”. The crown was on the left side (like the original), and the watch was designed to be a close match visually, too.

The CAW211A release from 2009 was celebrating 40 years of the Monaco and was in tribute to Steve McQueen. Only 1,000 were made – they can be picked up now, but at a premium over the original RRP. The watch came with a couple of straps, a nice wooden presentation box, and a heavyweight coffee table book all about McQueen and Le Mans.

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In 2015, TAG Heuer brought out a regular production version of this watch – very similar though ever so slightly different if you put them side by side. The CAW211P has a sapphire display back to the case, and is arguably even more similar to the original 1133B. Here they are, side by side (CAW211A on the left):

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Finally, in this Monaco-fest (though somewhat out of sequence), there was another limited edition Monaco, the CAW211B – it followed the blue-dialled –A, but this time was a grey & black dial rather than blue & white, echoing the original vintage 1133G that is arguably rarer though less desirable (as in, less “collectible”) than the blue-dialled 1133B.

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The CAW211B was limited to 1860 pieces, as a celebration of 150 years of Heuer (and 1860 was the year of its founding). Here is the CAW211B next to the production CAW211P (the –A has now moved to another collector…) – it has some subtle differences that can be seen as an evolution from the –A to the –B and finally to the production –P (the hands, for example, on the –B are more like those of the –A, but the dial design is closer to the –P, apart from the obvious colour difference).

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Heuer Carrera Re-edition

Like lots of other brands, watch companies periodically raid their past for future inspiration, releasing new editions of classic watches or simply lifting design ideas from their back catalogue. Omega did it with their 60th Anniversary models, looking to recapture the design of the 1957 original Seamaster, Railmaster & Speedmaster lines. Buying an original-condition CK2915 Speedmaster would set you back a lot of money, so maybe the brands are looking for ways to put vintage style on the wrist of new buyers at a fraction of the price, but still at a healthy profit to the manufacturer (instead of an auction house).

Anyway, in the 1985, Heuer was acquired by TAG to form the now well-known TAG Heuer brand, and in the late 1990s decided to issue some new watches under the Heuer name again – dubbing them as “Heuer Classics”, starting with the “1964 Carrera Re-edition”.

Heuer Carrera CS3111 Re-edition

The re-edition was surprisingly faithful to the original 1964 Carrera, except that it didn’t have the name on the dial. Apart from that, it’s the same size (36mm, small by today’s standards), and has the same profile. See the original here.

Heuer Carrera WS2113 and CS3111 re-editions

There were other re-editions, in different colours too – above is the CS3111 side by side with a later, “Carrera GMT” (a watch that never existed back in the day but was part of the reissue set).

The movement in the original Heuer Carrera 2447 was a Valjoux 72, essentially the same movement fitted to the early Rolex Daytona, pristine examples of which can cost you more than $1m. For the re-edition, TAG Heuer took the off-the-shelf Lemania 1873 movement, as also used by Omega in the Speedmaster (post 1968, in what Omega cals cal.861). From Chronomaddox, here’s a picture of the movement inside the TAG Heuer CS3111:

Seiko World Time

This was a very lucky find at an auction – I’d never even heard of the World Time until I saw this watch online and liked it enough to take a punt. I started reading up about them and decided I really wanted it, and stuck in there well after the auctioneer blew past my absolute, no-holds-barred, top price. Discipline in such situations is hard to muster, but I’m glad I held out – this is a beauty.

Seiko 6217-7000 World Time from 1967

It’s an automatic watch and the inner bezel (with all the city names) rotates around by turning the crown; the idea is that you set the time so the little black arrow hand points to the time on the 24h scale (which I didn’t realise when I took the picture above, hence why it’s pointing at 4:40ish and yet it’s clearly daylight, so 16:40).

If you then rotate the bezel so black arrow points to the place you are in the world at the time, you can then see what time it is everywhere else in the world… so…

Seiko World Time 6217-7000 London time

… If I’m near London and it’s just after 6pm, that means it’s 13:00 in New York and 21:00 in Moscow.

The World Time was released in 1964 to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics, and the case back has a flaming torch etched or stamped on it in reference. There’s a bit more detail on World Times (or World Timers as they’re sometimes known) here, here and here.

This particular watch (reference 6217-7000) was produced in June 1967, evidenced by the first 2 digits of its serial number (the year, and the month within that year). Seikos are good like that – unlike just about every other watch manufacturer, you can date them easily – see here.

Seiko 6217-7000 World Time Olympic case back

There are a few variants on a theme, of a similar age – a black faced World Time, or the 6117- series (some of which had a red GMT hand, which would, frankly, make it easier to see the time as the black one is easy to confuse for the other hands).

The 6217-7010 followed as a later update, and it appears that the 6217-7000 was only produced in 1964 to celebrate the Olympics, however they may have had some leftover stock from ’64, and started turning out Olympic torch-bearing watches 6217-7000s again in mid 1967, to be ready for the ’68 Olympics. So this particular watch is something of an anomaly – it has all the hallmarks of the earliest, 1964 World Times, but a case back that (legitimately) dates it from 1967…

Original World Time bracelets are hard to come by, for some reason – so I managed to salvage a period late 1960s “Diamondback” or “mini-coffin link” bracelet which I had kicking around, and it rather suits the watch.

While on the subject of coffin links, the true coffin bracelet was fitted to other Seikos of the late 1960s / early 1970s – here’s an example of a Bell Matic with coffin link and the World Time with Diamondback.

Seiko Diamond back and coffin link bracelets fitted to 6217-7000 World Time and 4006-6031 Bell Matic

Seiko Bell-Matic #1

There’s something about Bell-Matics that I can’t help myself but collect and evangelise them. The basic premise is, in 1972 (say), if you wanted a watch which would remind you of something, there were no cheapie quartz things to fall back on… so you bought one of a variety of watches with a mechanical alarm. Seiko had a premium range called the Bell-Matic.

Seiko Bell Matic 4006-6031 crown -- Vintage Watch Advisors

Introduced in Japan in 1966, but popularised outside in the early 1970s, these watches were produced until 1978/79. The timing movement itself is automatic, and the mechanism to ring the alarm is driven by a hand-wound spring – so to set the alarm, you pull the crown out one stop and rotate the outer bezel (with the red marker, in this instance) to point to the time you want the alarm to ring. Push the crown back in, wind it and then pull out the alarm button at the top.

Here’s a video of it doing its thing…

This particular watch was a lucky find – described in an auction as “with box and some papers”, it came with everything including the original till receipt – clearly a cherished item, sold by Catisfield Jewellery Store, 24 Catisfield Lane, Fareham, on 11th/12th April 1975 for £46.80. A special birthday present for someone, maybe?

Seiko Bell-Matic 4006-6031 full set original guarantee -- Vintage Watch Advisors

Seiko Bell-Matic 4006-6031 full set original guarantee -- Vintage Watch Advisors

It’s hardly been worn, this watch – maybe someone kept all the paperwork and didn’t like the watch much so didn’t wear it… or they liked it too much to wear it often, who knows…

Although it was sold in 1975, it was produced in October 1972 so may have sat on the shelf for a while in the jewellers.

Here’s an entry from the catalogue, supposedly 1973…
(from SCWF | more):

Seiko catalogue from 1973 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

Why is this post entitled, “Bell-Matic #1”? Well, there’s more than one of them…

Heuer Camaro

I love Heuer watches – there’s something a little off-piste and cool about them. They’re most famous for the 3 watches that came out in 1969, all featuring the same automatic movement – one of the first automatic chronographs, that featured in the Carrera, Autavia & Monaco watches.

But they had numerous other watches in the late 1960s and early 1970s, using a variety of hand-wound, off-the-shelf movements from Valjoux, including the relatively short-lived Camaro. It was launched in 1968 to celebrate the Chevrolet Camaro, but when Heuer focussed on the “Chronomatic” models (ie the automatic chronographs), they stopped selling Camaros in 1972.

Heuer Camaro 73343 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

This particular one was bought by a watchmaker from its original owner, serviced and sold to me – it’s in very original condition – clearly worn (with the original etched sunburst finish on the “cushion” case just about visible, though it’s pretty scuffed) but the dial & hands are, in my view, exceptional. In the sunlight, it looks almost dark brown.

Heuer Camaro 73343 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

It’s a bit of an unusual Camaro in that it’s model 73343 N, signifying that it has a black face with no Tachy track on the outside (partnering a similar looking watch which has a Tachy under the crystal, the 73343 NT). It’s a successor to the 7743, which looks very similar though has an earlier version of the Valjoyx 773x movement. It’s quite hard to date Heuers accurately for age, but I think this is from late 1970/early 1971.

Valjoux 7733 movement from Heuer Camaro 73343N  -- Vintage Watch Advisors

This Camaro has a 7733 movement, one of the last of the family before the automatic 7750 evolution was released, and is still used today (as either the ETA7750 or the generic parts-compatible copy, Sellita SW500).

Omega Speedmaster – 1974

Another Moon Watch this time from 1974; it’s slightly different to the 1971 Speedmaster previously shown, most noticeably that the dial doesn’t have a step, and that the 1974 dials don’t seem to age in quite the same way – though the hands are a nice yellowy-brown shade, the lume material on the dial is still quite greeny. More details on the differences.

Omega Speedmaster Professional 145.022-74 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

It’s by no means a perfect watch, but given its 43 years, I’d forgive a few scars here and there.

Omega Speedmaster Professional 145.022-74 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

And here’s the money shot – the movement that makes the whole thing tick

Omega Speedmaster Professional 145.022-74 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

Now sold to the same collector who bought the Mark II. This “selling watches” game is getting almost – almost – as compelling as the “buying watches” one.

Omega Speedmaster – 1971

WP_20150530_15_20_49_ProThe Omega Speedmaster is a legendary watch – it was worn by astronauts in the Gemini & Apollo missions, and although it wasn’t the only one worn in space, it was the only watch ever certified by NASA for Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) – ie spacewalks.

The original Speedmaster is colloquially known as the Moon Watch, given that it was the first watch worn on the surface of the moon.

There’s an amazing resource on vintage Speedmasters over at www.speedmaster101.com, and a fabulous reference guide on www.moonwatchonly.com/.

The caliber (movement) of the original NASA watch evolved from what Omega referred to as Cal 321 to Cal 861, in the late 1960s. This particular watch is an 861, produced in November 1971.

The dial is in great shape, and shows a pronounced “step” visible as a raised central section that bisects the hour markers. From 1974 on, the dial was smoother (domed or flat).

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This particular watch was my first vintage watch, and was acquired directly from the guy behind Speedmaster101.

Omega Speedmaster Mark II

This Speedmaster Mark II was a lucky find – it was in a bricks & mortar auction, not especially well described or photographed. I bought it unseen thinking it would be a nice “beater” but when I collected it, I realised just how crisp and nice it was.

It was serviced at Swiss Time Services (aka STS) in March 2014, and I got an Extract of the Archives from Omega – a process that takes about 6 weeks and costs about £100, but it summarises the information that Omega has on the watch based on its movement serial number.

This one was manufactured on 1st October 1974, and was delivered to the UK. It’s still on its original bracelet, and the hands & dial are original too. I don’t know if the case has been refinished – it wasn’t during the service in 2014, and if it has ever been before then it’s been exceptionally well done.

The Speedmaster Mark II has the same (calibre 861) movement in the Speedmaster Moon watch from 1969 onwards, and the hands and dial are the same except the dial is flat (rather than domed) and has Mark II on it.

Ironically, if this watch was in a Moon watch case & dial, it would be worth at least double what it is in the lovely Mark II case…

Omega Speedmaster Mark II - 145.014  -- Vintage Watch Advisors

Omega Speedmaster Mark II - 145.014 -- Vintage Watch AdvisorsOmega Speedmaster Mark II - 145.014 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

 Omega Speedmaster Mark II - 145.014 -- Vintage Watch AdvisorsOmega Speedmaster Mark II - 145.014 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

This watch has now been sold.