Vintage

Seiko Astron 35-9000

I know updates have taken a back seat this year solely due to the volume of work that keeps coming in but I couldn’t let this pair pass by without a post about them. As most people with an interest in horological history will know, the world’s first quartz wristwatch was introduced on Dec 25th 1969 by Seiko. Called the “Astron” it was powered by Seiko’s 35a quartz movement which had been 10 years in development and was truly a revolution in wristwatch manufacture, in fact the quartz movement changed the face of wristwatch production forever and caused years of change and lets face it some very hard times for watch manufacturers around the rest of the world. The 35a movement’s frequency was 8192 Hz, a quarter of the frequency of quartz oscillators today although the accuracy was still an impressive ±0.2 seconds per day or ±5 seconds per month. One of the major features was its hybrid integrated circuit innovation which consumed far less power than transistors of the time. Another breakthrough was the step motion seconds hand made possible by developing a miniature open step motor, this innovation was adopted by other manufactures of quartz watches later on. This was only possible because Seiko did not pursue monopolization on patent rights of those unique technologies and opened them up to all the world. At the time of release the Astron cost 450,000 yen ($1,250) which at the time was equivalent to the price of a medium-sized car. Even at this high price after the first week Seiko had sold 100 units. The case was made from 18k gold and had a distinctive textured finish, the dial also had a textured finish and the hands were of the simple baton/stick type.

To get to work one one of these historical pieces is a joy but to get two in at the same time, one date and the other non date, really was an honour. The owner is a huge Seiko collector with one of the most comprehensive collections of vintage Seikos on the planet. The watches came in with the non date version in a non running state and the date version running. Both required servicing because there was no baseline established as the history of both pieces was unknown. Obviously we were hoping the non running examples problems were caused by either something mechanical or a dirty connection. Below is the quintessential no date Astron.

1970 Seiko 35a Astron Quartz (more…)

Lemania HS9 Chronograph calibre 15CHT

This lovely Lemania HS9 came in as a non runner recently for a spot of fettling and a service. These models are known as the HS9 after the engraving on the caseback. HS stands for Hydrographic Supplies (or Services), a government organisation tasked with the procurement of timepieces (and other devices) for the Navy. The 9 is the number of the specification that this watch was made to meet which was a wrist chronograph. Specifications 1 to 8 included normal wristwatches, deck chronometers, pocket watches and so forth. So this model is made for the UK government for issue to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. This one is a silver dialled example but they did come issued with a white dial (with no luminous compound) for use on nuclear submarines and black dialed ones were issued to the RAF. These Lemania models were supplied to many armed forces the world over and are one of the nicest issued military watches in my opinion. It’s powered by the beautiful manual wind, 18,000bpm Lemania 15CHT movement. The dial has everything going for it, it’s Lemania signed with the company logo above, below that is the T – circle logo indicating the luminous compound is tritium based (rather than earlier radium), it has the broad arrow above the 6 denoting it was government property and it doesn’t have the long dash of luminous compound at the six o’clock marker which is sometimes seen. The crown isn’t the original but the style does suit the watch so it’s not too big a deal.

Lemania HS9 calbre 15 CHT (more…)

Seiko 6138/9 sweep hand issues

Hello everyone! To start with, apologies for the lack of updates over the past few months but it’s been very hectic here on a personal level as well as a business one. Without going into too much detail my parents were involved in quite a serious car crash at the beginning of the summer, my father escaped relatively unscathed but my mother and a passenger weren’t so lucky. Thankfully they’re both back home now but my mother was in hospital for three months and is now having to learn to walk again, which at the age of 80 is going to take some time. As if this wasn’t enough at the beginning of September my partners father suddenly and unexpectedly died, this was a huge shock and taking care of his wife and all the things that a death in the family brings with it has taken some time. I’ve been working seven days a week (when I’ve been home) to try and keep on top of the work queue and things are slowly getting back to normal.

Anyway I thought I’d do a little informational post on something I see on a regular basis and that’s misaligned 6138/9 sweep hands. The bullhead pictured below came in for a movement service but as you can see the sweep hand consistently resets to the 1 second past position which means it’s been fitted incorrectly.

6138-0040 (more…)

Heuer 980.032 full glow dial

This quartz Heuer came in recently for a movement service. I see quite a few variants of these across the bench but rarely with a full glow dial, and rarely one in such cracking condition as this example. The rotating bezels on these usually are a lot more worn than this one is and dials can so easily become damaged by dead battery cells that have burst inside the watch. This one really is a rare survivor in such great condition! The dial is actually phosphorescent as opposed to lume and the advertising of the time marketed them as “Night diver” watches. The dial will glow for 10 minutes after a 10 second “charge” under a strong light. This model also came in a black case (980.031) and a ladies sized black case (980.030). Powered by the ESA 536.121 quartz movement, it makes it a rock solid reliable performer.

Heuer 980.032 (more…)

Seiko 5717-8990 one button chronograph

This lovely one button chronograph came in recently a little the worst for wear. The 5717-8990 is a 21 jewel, manual wind 18,000bph single button chronograph. The 5717 signifies the movement has a date complication, models of these without a date are powered by the 5719 movement. The 5719 and 5717’s were brought to market on the back of the 1964 summer olympic games in Tokyo where Seiko were the official timekeepers. The early ones had an olympic torch stamped or etched on the caseback, but later ones can be seen with the seahorse design or the standard horseshoe type. There are also versions with the Asian games torch and the Military anchor so there are quite a few variants to choose from.The chap who sent this in received the watch as an engagement present from his fiancée in 1965 and the watch had been worn for many years until the pusher was lost and he was told no spares were available for that model anymore. As is usual in these cases the watch was consigned to a drawer for many years until it eventually made its way to me. Superficially the watch isn’t in too bad a shape but obviously the chronograph start/stop/reset button is missing and the crystal’s rather scuffed.

Seiko 5717-8990 (more…)

Grand Seiko J14070 in Stainless Steel

I thought I’d feature this 1962 Grand Seiko that came in recently for a service because I’ve never seen another in stainless steel. As far as I’m aware these were never offered for sale to the public in stainless steel so it’s a bit of a mystery as to why they were manufactured, if you wanted one you had the choice of Gold or if you were lucky and had deep pockets Platinum. There are various theories about whether they were display pieces, working salesman samples or for purchase by Seiko employees. I guess we’ll never know for sure now but what a joy to actually work on one of these! It’s powered by the same calibre 3180, chronometer grade, low beat, 25 jewel movement as it’s precious metal cousins.

Grand Seiko J14070 in Stainless Steel (more…)

Thermidor chronograph calibre 12

This charming Thermidor twin register chronograph came in for a service recently. What’s interesting about this watch is it’s powered by a Calibre 12 movement, the calibre 11 which preceded it was developed by the ‘Chronomatic’ partnership of Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton-Buren and Dubois-Depraz in an attempt to be the first to the market with an automatic winding chronograph. The calibre 11 was revealed to the press on March 3 1969 in press conferences in NewYork and Geneva and was manufactured until about 1973. The calibre 12 was introduced in 1971 and was produced until 1980. The calibre 12 addressed a few of the issues that appeared with the calibre 11’s, modifications included using lighter jumper springs, a weaker mainspring to drive a redesigned date mechanism, some strengthening of various levers and hammers and a faster beat rate of 21,600 as opposed to the cal 11’s 19,800. This Thermidor cased example has a typically bright seventies style dial and handset design, and you can also see one of the cal 11/12’s more striking features, a 9 o’clock crown.

Thermidor chronograph calibre 12 (more…)