This Electronic Seiko from October 1969 came in for some tender loving care recently. Electronic watches had been around for quite a while by the time Seiko released their first Electronic watch, Hamilton, LIP and Bulova were a few of the other major manufacturers from that period. However, Citizen’s X-8 Cosmotron of 1966 is generally accepted as the first commercially successful electronic movement that was regulated by a balance wheel. Seiko responded with the calibre 31xx in 1967 followed by the calibre 37xx in 1969, the 32xx and 33xx in 1972, and the calibre 07 Elnix series in 1973/4. Japanese electronic watch production was short lived due to the rapid development and falling costs of quartz production of which Seiko was first to market with in 1969 with the calibre 35 Astron. The 3102-7000 “Electronic” featured here came in with problems to the running and quick setting of the movement, you can see in the opening photograph the minute and hour hand are out of sync.
This post is just a short update to a watch that was on the bench earlier this year, namely an Astron 35-9000 date.
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.
Hello everyone! To start with, apologies for the lack of updates over the past few months but it’s been very hectic here. I’ve been working seven days a week to try and keep on top of the work queue!
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.
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.
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.
Hands up all you vintage Seiko dive watch enthusiasts who remember this one? I certainly do, when it appeared on ebay last year I was inundated with requests for information for the duration of the auction! Some people were a bit coy and showed me a few photographs saying they “had the chance of purchasing a 6159 diver that was in pieces”, others were more candid and said “this 6159’s on ebay, what do you think?” Looking at the picture below it actually looks quite reasonable, probably in need of a relume you may think.
This very early Seiko 6138-0010 “UFO” came in recently for some attention. The owner had bought it in 1971 when he was working as a race mechanic for the Tyrell formula one team when they were in Japan that season. He saw it on the wrist of a Japanese mechanic working for one of the other teams and fell in love with it so a deal was struck. It was worn continuously throughout his career and he eventually ended up running his own engineering firm that produced parts for race teams. The watch was regularly serviced until a number of years ago when he was told it wasn’t possible to get the parts anymore. He took it to a couple of watchmakers in the intervening years to try and get it resurrected but ultimately all that happened was it was returned not working with some parts missing! Having sold his company and taking life a little easier his thoughts came back to getting the watch repaired and this is where I come in.
The watch itself is a Japanese domestic market version of a model that has since been given the nickname “UFO”, the 0010 designation shows it was the Japanese “Speedtimer Sports” version. An early example like this is powered by the calibre 6138a, a hand windable automatic, 21 jewels, 21,600bph, twin register, column wheel with vertical clutch chronograph movement. The later models were powered by the calibre 6138b movement and there are a few subtle differences that I’ll point out later in the article.
I thought I’d feature this 6105-8110 as it’s an example that actually worked for a living as opposed to being taken for an occasional swim or snorkel! It was bought in the 1970’s by the current owners father who was a professional deep sea diver back in those days. He wore it throughout his diving career and when he’d finished the watch dropped off the radar only to reappear in 2015 when his son was clearing out the garage. He contacted me to see if it could be resurrected as a reminder of his late dad. As you can see it’s had a hard life, the insert has faded to a lovely grey colour but that’s about the only positive I could see! The lume was grotty, the hands were ominously stained with rust and the seconds hand was floating about under the crystal. The movement couldn’t be turned by the crown, everything was locked up.
An interesting job that came in recently was this Seiko Alpinist from July 1964. The Alpinist models were a Japanese domestic market range of watches which were introduced in 1961 and ran to 1964. The line was inspired by the Japanese concept of Yamaotoko, this term roughly translates as ‘Mountain man’, and describes the Japanese tradition of amateur mountaineering whereby people climbed Japan’s mountains during weekends and holidays. This example is powered by Seikos calibre 851, a 17 jewel, 18,000bph manual wind movement. It arrived needing an overhaul but interestingly the owner had a NOS case, dial and handset for it.