Seiko Bell-Matic #2

A long time ago, I covered a previous Seiko Bell-Matic – an early 1970s watch with a mechanical alarm.

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That watch now rests with a Sean, a fellow in the USA whose other half bought it for him as a graduation present. A lucky chap. Great taste, too.

I managed to acquire another similar watch, with a grey face, that wasn’t in quite as good nick but not very far off. It came from eBay, and a less-good watch was later bought & then sold to harvest the “coffin link” bracelet that now adorns this one. Here it is with its blue, departed, cousin:

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They’re both reference 4006-6031 – the blue one is from October ‘72 while the grey one is from April of the same year.

Seiko did a load of other case styles for Bell-Matics, too – most had 17-jewel movements but the odd rare one with 27 jewels shows up, alongside some with 21J. The Jewel count is basically a way of a watch maker to brag how well they’ve manufactured the movement; it tells you that this thing will last for a long time since the jewels are what stops metal rubbing against metal inside the beating heart of a ticking watch.

Seiko even did a brand called Business Bell, only for a few months, in an attempt to sell to higher end buyers. Clearly it didn’t work well.

But the Bell-Matic range ran from 1966 until 1978, and there were all kinds of case styles and dial colours.

Here is one that Malcolm bought – a November 1974 4006-6040 – at a watch show, with me nodding on as to say it looks like a good ‘un.

Sadly, it proved to be in need of a service shortly afterwards… as you’d expect from a 40+ year old mechanical thing that might have lain still for 20 years, and had all its oil dry up. It ran fine – for a while, then stopped.

The problem with complicated mechanical things is, it can take a fair bit of time and skill to disassemble, clean, oil and reassemble them – so the cost of servicing can be a lot more than the watch is actually “worth” or at least what it cost in the first place. Watch cost maybe £150, service more like £200.

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This next one arrived to me as part of a punt at an auction, that proved to be similarly expensive – why the hell did Seiko produce such similar but still distinctly different watches at the same time?

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It’s a July 1977 4006-6080, was completely DOA, and took a couple of hundred ££ to bring it up to scratch, though it looks the part now. Ho hum,

Finally, at least for now, is a beautiful deep-blue from September 1977, and like Malcolm’s above, is a 4006-6040. It was listed by the auctioneer as “alarm not working” but that means they just didn’t know how to work it; it runs and rings just fine, though who knows what horrors await at what might be its first ever service…

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In the meantime, it’s a lovely thing. Ring a ding ding.

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…