Welcome to my new blog of watches
Yes. A watch blog. Not the first. Not the best. Just my blog. Enjoy.
My credo: The joy and pride of the owner is all that counts, no matter the price of the watch.
Welcome to my new blog of watches
Yes. A watch blog. Not the first. Not the best. Just my blog. Enjoy.
My credo: The joy and pride of the owner is all that counts, no matter the price of the watch.
Today I will talk about the history of the famous SKX007/009 and II will show you four of their predecessors from my collection: The 7548, 7C43 (two pieces) and the 7002. Today Seiko’s references begin with letters followed by numbers but back in the 70s Seiko uses a different system. First comes the four numbers of the movement followed by four numbers of the special model. So we are talking in this article about four different movements including the 7S26. The case of all watches look the same, but they aren’t. We will find some very sophisticated case constructions.
Let’s begin with the 7548. This watch is the first diving watch ever with the case design today we identify with a SKX007/009. But it’s a quartz watch! In fact it’s the first diving watch with a quartz movement. Released 1978, a time where quartz movements were state-of-the-art, the 7548 shares many parts with the mechanical 6309 movement which was used in the Turtle. You can exchange parts between this movements. In fact, the 7548 is a 6309 with a quartz section. It’s a high reliable movement, containing almost no plastic parts, seven juwels and a trimming screw to adjust the speed. A high end movement in it’s time and until today one of the best quartz movements ever. The case had a water resistance of 150m, the dial spells “WATER150mResist” on JDM and “SQ DIVERS 150m” on international references. There are the typical black and Pepsi versions, an orange version and even an extremely rare green version. The 7548 were produced until 1985.
My watch is a 7548-7000 international version with a German/English day-wheel. Production date was 1980.
Second watch I will talk about is the 7C43. The 7C43 is a quartz movement too and the direct successor of the 7548. It has seven juwels (7548: five jewels) and is adjustable, but contains more plastic parts. The trimmer of the 7C43 is different from the 7548, it doesn’t have a trimmer screw and can only be used once for a change of +/- 0,2 sec/day. It’s also a high torque movement with an advanced power use, so the battery will last at least three years. The successor of this movement is the even more famous 7C46 used in the professional Tunas until today. The movements are more or less the same but the 7C46 contains a larger battery lasting at least five years.
The major change to the 7548 is the construction of the case. There are many (some say 15) changes in this case such as the powerful glass screwing ring structure, the improved anti-magnetism shield and the twin side shield crown structure. So this watch bears the signature “Professional” with a meaning. It’s much more of a highly valued Professional Tuna than todays Solar Tunas, which have the same look but not the same technique as a Professional Tuna. The 7C43 had a different look but almost the same technique. I think this is the best SKX-like watch Seiko ever made.
Another difference between the 7548 and the 7C43 are the white hands of the 7C43 instead of the usual silver hands of all other watches shown here. It’s my favorite watch in this article and the only one of which I own two pieces: A black 7C43-7010 JDM from 1990 with Kanji-/English-day wheel and a Pepsi 7C43-700A from 1987 with German-/English day wheel. Like all international versions, the Pepsi has the “SQ”-sign on the dial. The 7C43 was produced from 1985 to 1991.
There was a transitional version 7548-7010 with some aspects of the 7C43 case (200m water resistance and screwing ring structure) but the 7548 movement. This is the watch Brian May from supergroup Queen wears.
Next watch we are talking about is the 7002 with a mechanical movement. It’s not really the first mechanical SKX-like watch. There was an earlier version of the Turtle, the 6309-7290, released 1982, nicknamed “slim case” because the usual 6309 has the typical Turtle-shaped case. I don’t own a slim case Turtle, but my friend @ajiba54 does. So here is a wristshot of this watch from him.
Have a look at the 12 o’clock index and the look at the 12 o’clock index on the 7002 – they are identical and very different from all other watches in this article. So the 7002 is more a successor of the slim case Turtle than of the 7C43. The 7002 appeared in 1988 and was produced simultaneously to the 7C43. The case is a much simpler design and so water resistance dropped to 150m. The movement itself is the successor of the 6309, but if you compare this movements you will find much more plastic parts and less expensive finishing in the 7002. The 7002 is a 17-jewel, non-hacking and non-handwinding movement, very reliable but sometimes not very accurate. BpH was the Seiko typical 21.600.
The watch was manufactured in many different versions, the later references evolved to a 200m water resistance. Unlike all other watches shown here the 7002 has no day-wheel. A second difference to all other watches are the rectangular hour markers instead of the typical round ones. The indices have a light green color (sometimes faded to a light grey) which is also typical for the 7002. You can recognize the JDM from the international versions by the “17 Jewels” on the dial. Mine is a 7002-700J Pepsi JDM from 1989. The 7002 was produced from 1988 until 1996.
Last watch is the icon SKX007/009 itself, released 1996 as the direct successor of the 7002 and produced for more than 20 years. This watch also came in many different versions, but that’s a story of it’s own. We will focus on the SKX007/009 which for many collectors is “the” Seiko diver. An obvious reason is the long production time, but that’s not the only thing. With its dimension of 42x46mm it fits on every wrist, its very affordable and one of the best-selling watches of all times. In fact it’s one of only two classic affordable dive watches (the other one is the Citizen Promaster) widely used for diving before the time of the diving computers. Of cource this was not the major use of this watch. Most people just wanted a reliable good looking watch for a few bucks. A real no-nonsense diving watch for every purpose.
The 7S26 is the successor of the 7002. It had four more jewels (21) but still no hacking or handwinding feature. Reliable, simple, affordable, a workhorse as one can be.
The references changed with the SKX from the 8-digit-numbers to the mix of literals and numbers all Seikos have today. There are still JDM and international versions, the JDM version with the number of jewels on the dial like the 7002. The references of the JDM versions do have a “J” at the end of the reference number, the international version a “K”. My watch is the SKX009K from 2018.
So what’s my conclusion if you like to buy one of this watches? Some hardcore collectors like me own every one of this four watches. If you are interested in vintages and technology look for a 7C43 while they are still affordable. Of all four watches the 7C43 Professional is in my opinion the best one. It sure has the best case construction and a pretty good movement. Don’t thrill up your nose because it’s quartz – the 7C43 (and the 7548 too) are much better movements than our todays cheap quartz movements (even from Seiko) and really worth collecting. I would value them higher than simple mechanical movements like the 7002 or the 7S26. Another good thing is: the 7C43 usually aren’t modded. Modding and AM parts are not widely available. So you have a good chance to get an all-original piece. Same counts for the 7548 which is my #2 in this ranking.
The 7002 seems to be available in unlimited pieces all over the world until today. The big problem is that only 5% are all-original. This was a very popular and very affordable watch especially in Asia and many watchmakers replaced the worn-out original parts with AM parts (bezel, dial and hands). Without knowledge or an expert at hand you will probably buy a watch with AM parts – which has no value for collectors.
The SKX007/009 is discontinued but there are still brand-new pieces out there. Only the SKX009 with Jubilee seems getting very rare. It’s one of the easiest entries in every watch collection. A true icon and still affordable. Of course the budget prices below 200 USD are over. In five years you will regret not buying one in 2020, I am sure. If you are not interested in history and collecting and just want to buy a cool looking watch, look for the new Seiko 5 Sports (“5KX”, my entry: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/15/seiko-5kx-thumbs-up-or-down/). The serious collector is looking for a 7C43 if he doesn’t own one already.
It’s been some weeks ago since I showed you my first “Flieger”. I was looking for a Baumuster A watch and, as I am a collector who values history, decided for a watch from one of the five original brands: A Laco Augsburg. You can read about the five original brands and the Laco Augsburg in my blog entry https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/11/01/laco-augsburg-blaue-stunde-affordable-history/.
Last year when I saw some beautiful photos of my friend @makespictures of his Laco Baumuster B I felt the urgent need to buy a Baumuster B for myself. I think you know this feeling…
Searching for an affordable watch I found the small German brand Dekla and emailed with …. the head of Dekla. Their retail prices are really fantastic. For a Flieger with your choice of ETA automatic (2824-2) or handwound (2801) movement, sapphire crystal, temperature blued hands and Superluminova you have to pay only 500 Euros. And that’s just half the story …
Founded in 2015 Dekla decided to make their own watches and ordered 200 cases from a supplier. The quality of the cases were rather poor and so they changed their business and bought a CNC machinery to make their own cases. The cases came out in good quality and the business began to grow from small roots to a supplier of cases for other companies. Today not only the cases are inhouse made. They make the hands themselves, hand-polish them and fill them with Superluminova, they print the dials for their watches and of course they assemble. Only movements and straps are from other suppliers. And they are working on an own movement based on famous Unitas. So we have true “made in Germany” watches here.
Ask them to make something individual and unique and they will make you an offer. Because of the inhouse parts they can help you with almost everything. One thing they offer for every flieger is the FL engravement FL23883. For a 35 Euro upgrade they are engraving this code on the side of the case. This code is the instruction code of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministry of Air Force of the German Reich). The instruction determines the specifications of the watch: diameter 55mm and onion-shaped crown for example. Of course a diameter of 55mm is not the best choice for your wrist today…
Dekla offers their Flieger in 40, 42 and 44mm. Have in mind, that only the 40mm has length less than 50mm. I have a 17,5cm wrist and watches bigger than 50mm doesn’t fit (unless the lugs are bent, for example the lugs of the Seiko Sumo). Important hint: the dials of all three sizes are equal, only cases are different. To avoid a rather thick case I recommend to choose the 40mm or 42mm version.
The next choice is the surface of the case. Most Dekla watches you can get with either a sandblasted case or a satin polished case. And last of all choices is the color of the indizes. The options are white, old radium or bicolor. That’s all in all a lot of choices available to get your individual watch.
I opted for the Baumuster B, automatic ETA 2824-2, 40mm, satin case, old radium indices. The last choice is the color of the strap. Brown or black strap are available. I chose the brown one.
Let’s first have a look at the things, I am not 100% satisfied with. And the first thing is the rather stiff strap. And it’s not only stiff, it’s too long. I had to punch an extra hole to get it on my wrist, but removed it other minutes because it’s not very comfortable. I talked to Dekla about this and they had already in mind to change the supplier. With a lug width of 22mm it’s no problem to change the strap and I mounted a leather nato from my fundus. To my eyes it makes an excellent combo with the watch.
The second little minus is the inner side of the lugs. They are a bit too sharp to my opinion. Of course if you wear the watch that’s no problem, but be careful while you change the strap.
And that’s it. All other things are excellent and would be even for a higher price point. The case is well-made, the dial has a flawless printing. With a height of 10,2 mm and length of 48mm this is a very comfortable watch on the wrist. And a reliable too, the defiance of the ETA to the atomic clock is only -1 sec/day! The Superluminova is bicolored green and orange, an interesting look at night.
A friend asked me to compare the Dekla with my Laco. The price difference is 160 Euro, but the Dekla has by far the better specs: A better movement (with a better accuracy) and the temperature blued hands to name first. And although I didn’t like the strap of the Dekla, it’s better than the simple nato strap of the Laco. The Laco has a different case which has almost the same proportions (not the same size) as the original Flieger watches from WWII, especially smaller lugs and smaller lug size. And it has one big advantage: the rich history, which a 5 year old company of course can’t have. But with no doubt Dekla has the better value for price. With similar specs you have to choose the Laco Paderborn, which is 980 Euro, double the price of the Dekla. With this in mind you can see what a bargain a watch from Dekla really is!
Ask some fans and collectors to name the most famous dive watches and they will propably answer: Rolex Submariner. Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. Omega Seamaster. Seiko Tuna. Doxa Sub. Doxa Sub? Yes, this watch from the small company Doxa has its place in history among the big companies Rolex, Omega/Blancpain (both divisions of Swatchgroup today) and Seiko.
Let’s step back to the 60s. While Submariner, Fity-Fathoms and Seamaster are already big names in this days (the Tuna is still to come in 1974 – see my entry https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/01/10/seiko-sbbn017-real-tuna-and-tuna-style/) some far smaller companies are releasing dive watches for professional divers and the growing diving fan scene. To mention some names: Zodiac, Aquadive, Aquastar, Nivada, Favre-Leuba for example.
The mother of all divewatches was the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. Released 1953, the first watch with a rotating diving bezel to calculate the time underwater.
Doxa did not start with a blank sheet, but Urs Eschle, product manager of Doxa in the 60s made a new approach to build the perfect diving watch. He brought a team of watchmakers and professional divers together to create a new diving watch both for professional and leisure divers.
After developing the typical cushion-shape case they tried to solve the biggest problem: underwater legibility. A diver is not interested in exact time of the day, but he has to know how many minutes he can stay under water until air runs out. Because of this Doxa shrinked the hour hand to a dwarf size while the minute hand was enlarged and treated with the biggest amount of Tritium ever seen on a watch. Then they tested several dial colours in the Neuchatel Lake and decided orange is the best colour under water. All competitors had been used black dials so far.
Next important element is the bezel, together with the minute hand the most important part of a dive watch. They developed a saw-tooth edged bezel for optimum grip with two scales resembling the US-Navy decompression table.
The two-scale bezel, the hands and the cushion-shaped case are the special attributes that gave and give Doxa its unique look. And lets not forget the bracelet: even if the beads-of-rice bracelet ist as far as I know not a Doxa invention, it became really famous with the Doxa watches. The 50th anniversary has polished rice grains and brushed outer parts.
The most advanced supplier of diving equipment these days was the US Divers Company with legendary head Jacques Cousteau. Eschle contacted him and showed him the watch and Cousteau was instantly thrilled. He decided to market the Sub 300 in the USA. For many years now the Cousteau team used Doxa watches on their expeditions.
In 1967 the first watches were available to the public and soon became a legend (of course the Cousteau factor helped). The first Doxa Sub didn’t have a Helium valve like most Doxas later. But the company researched to solve the Helium problem and later presented the first ever watch with a Helium valve. Most diving watches for saturation diving have a Helium valve today. The famous exception is the Seiko Tuna with a complete different approach.
Most other Doxa Subs later are more or less variations of the first Doxa Sub 300 and anybody who knows something about diving watches can spot a Doxa from 50 meters away. The iconic design lives on every upcoming models, although the company itself had different economic problems and changed the owner more than one time. In 1997 Doxa was bought by the Jenny family and the Jenny fish logo is now on every crown and bracelet.
The first orange dial (name: Professional) was soon followed by some other colours with special names:
In 2017 Doxa released a reissue of the first Sub 300 with same dimensions and like the original without a Helium valve. It’s almost an 1:1 copy with two differences: The reissue has a sapphire crystal glass for better scratch resistance which only an expert can tell from the original plexi glass. And an ETA 2824-2 movement COSC grade, the original having an ETA 2852. There are only 900 pieces of this watch, 300 Professional, 300 Sharkhunter and 300 Searambler. Almost every Doxa is a limited edition today, but even for Doxa this is a small number.
I am happy to acquire one of this pieces a few weeks ago and show you some pictures of this rare watch. The beads-of-rice bracelet is one of the most comfortable bracelets ever and the mix of brushed and polished pieces a feast for the eyes. The COSC movement holds its promises, there is almost no defiance to the atomic clock.
But you can see some other special pieces here – a big thank to my friend Marco (TIMEX SOCIAL) to open his huge collection and send me some photos!
Some Doxas from the collection of my friend Marco
The Seiko New Turtle is one of Seiko’s bestsellers. You can get them in various colors, limited editions (limited pieces), special editions (limited time), US special editions, Europe special editions, Thailand special editions, and and and…it’s hard to keep track of all models. I have written about the New Turtle before in my blog: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/11/08/seiko-new-turtle-the-watch-with-many-faces/.
The design is one iconic design back from the 70s and it’s one of Seiko’s most popular divers. It’s also – after the discontinuing of the SKX – the most affordable ISO Diver in Seiko’s portfolio. It’s a target of many moddings, the replacement of the hardlex crystal (sapphire) and the bezel insert (ceramic) being the most popular upgrades. A few weeks ago Seiko announced a brandnew New Turtle including this popular upgrades from the beginning. The references being SBDY049 for the JDM / SRPE03 for the ROW black model and SBDY51 for the JDM / SRPE05 for the ROW dark green model. Until today it’s not clear to me if it’s a special edition. For sure it’s no limited edition because the watches don’t show numbers on the case. And I don’t found them on any Seiko homepage.
The SBDY049/SRPE03 comes with a steel bracelet while the SBDY051/SRPE03 has a dark green rubber strap attached. As mentioned both of them come with sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel insert. The sapphire crystal has a cyclops lens on the crystal, magnyfying day and date. The dummies were shown on some popular blogs, but I have never seen a hands-on-blog entry until today. So maybe this is a premier here, since I ordered my watch in Japan a few weeks ago. On the 16Th of January the watch was deliverd to my address, most likely one of the first pieces in Europe.
Why did I buy this in Japan, although it’s because of import taxes more expensiv? Hard to tell. I think the Kanji dial was the most important reason. I know, you can mod a Kanji dial, but to my opinion: If it has Kanji it must be a JDM.
Let’s talk about the differences to the former New Turtles (Old New Turtles? Generation 1? I don’t know).
The crystal is sapphire as I said. Yo u can’t see this, which is a plus, because normally Hardlex looks better than sapphire. It has a cyclops on the outside. If you don’t like this it should no big thing for a watchmaker to remove it. I like the look with the cyclops.
The bezel insert is ceramic and therefore scratch resistant. The dots and the numerals are not printed on the surface like the inserts of the other New Turtles (with the exception of the STO III) but engraved. It’s definitely shinier as any other bezel on this series before, absolutely gorgeous.
The bezel itself is also different. But it shares the same height as the New Turtle even if it looks taller. But that’s an optical illusion, because the new bezel doesn’t have round edges as the old one. The pattern on the bezel is also different and emphasizes the illusion of a higher bezel.
The “Diver’s 200m” on the dial and the long side of the second hand has a golden color, a little but interesting detail.
Absolute gorgeous is the new waffle dial, adding depth and nobility to the watch. It’s not really a clous-de-Paris dial because the squares are somewhat big (about 0,5 mm) but close to this. A little bit Royal Oak in this Seiko.
Everything is perfectly aligned, the dial, the bezel insert, the cyclops. Personally I don’t think Seiko changed the manufacturing, you probably find misaligned pieces out there. But my four New Turtles don’t have misalignments and the fifth now fits in this row.
What do the old New Turtle and this piece have in common? First of all the case, so every bracelet designed for the New Turtle fits on the SBDY049. I am wearing it right now on an Uncle Seiko H-Link bracelet which is an extraordinary good looking combo in my opinion. The bracelet delivered with the SBDY049 / SRPE03 is the same as every Seiko New Turtle steel bracelet before.
And of course the movement is still the same. Seiko didn’t do any upgrades, the 4R36 is working in this Turtle like in any other New Turtle. Why not a 6R? Well, I think they didn’t intend to make a competitor for the Sumo or the MM200. And with a 4R36 the price in Europe will be 599 Euros. I can’t think of a better watch for this money.
Everyone reading my blog knows Seiko is my favorite watch brand. I really love the history, the innovations and the value for price. And sometimes I am angry people write stupid stuff about the brand (well it’s not the only brand…). They believe they know much better how to design an watch than the world’s biggest watch company. The watches are too expensive or to affordable, too big or too small, to limited or too common. The time Seiko released the SPB089 Blue Alpinist and sold them via the Hodinkee online store I heard many, many complaints about this watch. Especially after prices skyrocketed on Ebay.
So I decided to write a persiflage about Seiko lancing this limited edition…I hope you like it!
So let’s talk about my Blue Alpinist. Matter of fact, I know the real and true story behind this watch from secret sources…it’s as true as my Grandma’s moustache!
Part 1: A secret meeting in Japan
The Seiko watchmaking company, as everybody knows almost bankrupt had called a secret meeting in a teahouse in Tokio. How could they get back into the press news and the blogs? Everybody is angry about launching the SLA019 and SLA012 Marinemaster without “Marinemaster” on the dial – there are no posts and blogs about Seiko anymore since a few months.
A young employee had a bold idea:
“We still have 1959 dials of this discontinued Alpinist SARB017. We could paint them blue and release them as a limited edition. Off course painting dials is difficult, but my brother-in-law works in a painting company, he can dot the job. Doesn’t have to be perfect, I guess…”
“That’s an interesting idea, but how do we sell this freak watch?”
“We make it a US-only edition. There is this company, Hidenkoo or something like that. They sell everything about watches, even those old rusted Rolexes, maybe…”
“Yes, let’s try this. Because it’s your idea, you do the job. If you fail….seppuku!”
Part 2: A transpacific telephone call
“Hello, is this Hidenkoo? This is Seiko…maybe you have heard about us…the company with the watches”
“That’s great! But it’s Hodinkee, please. How can we help you?”
“We are planning a limited edition of the Seiko Alpinist. Only 1959 pieces, selling in your online shop. Is that ok? Please…”
“That’s great! We can sell everything. Your opinion about the price of this strange piece?”
“Well, it’s made of spare parts. Was cheap to built. How about 400 USD?”
“That’s great! Forget this price, we sell them for 600 USD. We are Hodinkee, you know?”
“Well, ok, 600 USD…”
“That’s great! Send us this freaks, we care for everything else.”
Part 3: A talk between boomers
Like always, some boomers were informed about this call. They gathered together in a dirty motel in The Bronx talking about how many watches they will buy as a preorder and sell for a higher price. Normally they take at least 100 watches, but in this case there is much more uncertainty as usual. A watch made of spare parts? How stupid must one be to buy something like this even for a regular price? Only one of them – the only one who is a watch expert – wants to buy a minimum of hundred watches.
“This is a great piece, iconic design, a fantastic colour, a modern and reliable movement, they will sell for at least 1,000 USD!”
The others don’t believe him. They order 20 watches.
Part 4: An American dialogue
“Boss, I talked with this strange Japanese company about this Blue Alpinist. We sell them for 600 USD, 400 USD is our profit.”
“Man, I hope we succeed with this strange story. Tomorrow we – YOU! – will start the campaign. Call the photograph!”
“Ooops…we don’t have a watch right now. Shit. Ok, no problem, we take the SARB017 and Photoshop will do the remaining. The dial is…I think blue.”
“Blue? What kind of blue? And how about the case?”
“The case is polished, I think. Oh no, it’s matted. Yes. No, polished. I’m not really sure.”
“Ok, ok. Start the campaign. After that – you’re fired.”
Part 5: The night like no other
Hodinkee starts advertising and selling.
45 minutes later the watch is sold out.
One of the boomers suffers a heart attack.
The fired employee tries to spread some facts about the watch like the dials are not very well made, the work of a second class painter. No one believes him.
The Hodinkee management is counting the money and ordering some new Teslas.
Seiko releases the reissue of the Willard.
Today I will talk about a real Seiko classic: The watches with the nickname “Tuna”. The Tuna is very, very Seiko – there is no watch from any other brand with a similar look. It’s a real classic, the first Tuna appeared 1975. And like all real classics, there are cheap Chinese look-a-likes or better: wanna-bees. I don’t like the word “hommage”, they are just cheap copies from companies without any own idea.
Looking at the recent collection we have a broad variety of Tunas in Seiko’s portfolio. On one hand we have the Marinemaster Tunas with 300m, 600m or even 1,000 m water resistance with prices above 1,000 Euro, most of them with quartz, some with mechanical movements. On the other hand we have the far more affordable Solar-Tunas in various colours and various stlyes (Divers and Street-Style). And there is the New Arnie which looks similar to a Solar Tuna, but has different historic roots and a different solar quartz movement. I think we count the New Arnie out, it’s not a Tuna (more about the New Arnie in my entry: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/18/why-the-new-arnie-snj025-is-my-favorite-seiko-release-2019/).
But are the Solar Tunas “real” Tunas? Not for me…but to understand this we first must have a look at the history and the technical features to define the characteristics of a real Tuna.
In 1968 Seiko received a letter from a Japanese diver complaining about Seiko divewatches not good enough for saturation diving. So the Seiko management gave order to Ikuo Tokunaga and his team of engineers to develop “the perfect professional diver’s watch”. Seven years and more than 20 patents later they presented the first Tuna 6159-7010, with a mechanical movement. It was the first diver’s watch with
– a titanium monocoque case
– a titanium shroud with ceramic coating to protect glass and case
– an L-shaped gasket for water resistance and
– a vented rubber strap
While other watches for saturation diving featured helium escape valves to let helium and other gases out again (Rolex and Doxa invention), Seiko decided to shut the watch tighten so no gas could get inside the watch from the beginning. The screw-down retaining system and the shroud gave the watch the nickname “Tuna can”, or short “Tuna”.
In 1978 Seiko replaced this “Grandfather Tuna” by the Golden Tuna 7549, the first Tuna with a quartz movement. From now on most Tunas have quartz movements.
Today a 7C46 is used. There are still Tunas with mechanical movements (Seiko’s best 8L-movements) but most collectors would agree with my statement: The typical Tuna is a quartz watch. This movements were and are high-quality movements, you can’t compare them with today’s usual cheap full-plastic movements (even from Seiko). The 7C46 is a plastic/metal hybrid movement, adjustable, with 7 jewels and a high torque motor to move the heavy and big hands of the Tunas. On the other side this movement uses an ordinary quartz battery which is available all over the world. And it needs very few power. Seiko guarantees a five year battery life but mostly you’ll have to change the battery after 7-10 years. There is a scale engraved at the caseback where a watchmaker can mark the quarter/year of the battery change. And if power runs low, the second hand jumps two seconds at once. This is a professional movement for a professional watch. No need to thrill up your nose if you only like mechanical movements! The Tuna is therefore a real professional watch: highly reliable, highly legible and almost undestructible.
Of course with this construction Tunas are nothing but small watches. The smallest 300m Tunas have a diameter of ca. 47,5mm. But have in mind, that Tunas don’t have real lugs (just stubs). So the watch dimension is not only 47,5mm from left to right but also from up to down. Believe me, the 300m Tuna is one of my most comfortable watches on my 17,5 cm wrist! Ok, the 1,000m Tunas with a diameter of ca. 51,5mm might be a bit too big for many people (including me).
Let’s now look at the Solar Tunas, which appeared about 3 or 4 years ago. The movement is a V157 solar quartz movement. That’s a good movement, ok, but in no way like a 7C46. It’s a rather simple quartz movement, used in many Seiko quartz watches. It’s not adjustable, contains no jewels and is made of plastic. The Solar Tuna might look like a Tuna, but contains no L-gasket, the shroud is made of hardened plastic (the professional Tunas have metal or ceramic shrouds) and the movement is rather simple. They have a 200mm water resistance. The Prospex sign on the dial classifies them as ISO-Divers. But nethertheless they are a lot more fragile with their built-in solar panels and the plastic movement. So if you are thinking about getting a real Tuna for about 1/3 the price of a professional Tuna – forget it.
If you are looking for a cool watch with interesting design and no battery change for normal every day use, the Solar Tuna might be a good choice for you. What they have in common with their big brothers is a very comfortable feeling on the wrist and high legibility day and night. But the differences are far greater than the common grounds.
A serious Seiko collector should have a “real” professional Tuna in his collection. You can get one for about 1,200 Euro. That’s a very very good price for a high quality professional watch.
Hope you are all well and wishing my readers a happy and healthy New Year 2020!
My first blog entry in the new year is – of course – about Seiko. I know there are many articles about the first automatic chronograph, but with now two vintage Seiko chronographs in my collection I decided it’s a good theme to start the new year.
As usual we start with history. Back in the beginning of 1969 chronographs were only available with manual winding. Chronographs are a lot more complicated than the usual three hand watches and although the first attempts to create an automatic winding movement dated back to the 20s (the Harwood watches) it took more than 40 years until the first automatic winding movements apperead
It’s a long discussion which company was really the first. Was it Zenith/Movado with their “El Primero” (the name claims the first place for itself), the companies Buren, Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton and Dubois Debraz with the Caliber 11 or Seiko with the 6139?
Facts: The El Primero and the Caliber 11 were shown in March 1969 but were not ready to use (not for industrial manufacturing). The Caliber 11 never was good enough for a reliable production, it took some time and the Caliber 12 to satisfy the requirements. The El Primero too had some minor improvements. But in May 1969 Seiko began to sell the 6139 in the stores with production date numbers starting April 1969. So you can with good arguments say: the first really working automatic chronograph movement was the Seiko 6139. Why didn’t they made a big fuss of it in 1969? Well maybe they were Japanese…Another even better explanation is that in 1969 another invention from Seiko was more important for them – and with good reason. In 1969 the Seiko Astron was released, the first quartz wristwatch ever. To complete the history I will mention the first quartz analog chronograph movement, the 7A28, released in 1983 (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/11/29/seiko-7a28-7040-quartz-chronograph-went-analog/).
The Caliber 11 was an automatic movement with a chronograph module, while the El Primero and the 6139 were genuine chronograph movements. The 6139 is a construction with a column wheel. Until today this is the best and most reliable approach to construct a chronograph movement. All new developments in the last 10 years followed this principle. Only the famous Valjoux 7750 is different in construction (and because of this difference bears some disadvantages, for instance stiff pushers and sometimes a not exact starting second hand).
Seikos first chronograph ever was released only five years before the 6139, the 5717 monopusher, shown at the Olympic Games in Tokio 1964.
The El Primero is the only one of this three first movements which is produced until today. It survived the quartz crisis under strange circumstances – but that’s another story.
The 6139 was produced almost unchanged until 1979. One year after the 6139 the second automatic chronograph movement from Seiko appeared, the 6138. Why the second movement had a minor number, I don’t know. The two movements were produced simultaneously.
Let’s have a closer look at the differences between the two movements.
The 6138 offers handwinding, the 6139 doesn’t. So to start the 6139 you have to do the famous Seiko shuffle. None of them offers hacking – a senseless feature without a continuous second hand in both movements.
Both offer quick day-date set but in a completely different manner. The 6138 works like most modern movements, be it automatic, manual winding or quartz: Pulling the crown to the first position allows adjusting day and date. The 6139 adjusts day and date similar to older Seiko movements: Push the crown to change the date. Push the crown even stronger to change day and date.
Both movements are counting seconds with a big central second hand and minutes with a subdial at 6 o’clock. The 6138 also counts hours with a second subdial at 12 o’clock.
Both movements were sold at the same time in the 70s in many variations: with tachymeter bezel, without bezel, with blue, black, white, champagne, golden dials and many more.
The most famous 6139 is for sure the legendary Seiko “Pogue” (first Seiko in space) with a Pepsi bezel and a golden dial. Some other colors have also special names, for instance the “Cevert”.
The most famous 6138 are the “Panda” and the “Kakume”, other interesting models are the “Bullhead” or the “UFO”.
In my collection I have the famous blue Kakume (Japanese for “square eyes”) in excellent condition and with original bracelet. Really a highlight among all my watches. It’s an export model with English/Roman day-wheel and “Chronograph Automatic” written on the dial. The JDM Models have a English/Kanji day-wheel and “Seiko 5 Speed-Timer” on the dial. Also the hands are different.
You can see a JDM dial on my 6139 with English/Kanji dial.
If you want to buy a 6138/6139 take the best example you can find. Repairing one of this beauties can be rather expensive and difficult. You must first find someone who is able to do this (like my friend ajiba54) . Your usual watchmaker might not be the right person for this watches. And beware of watches with aftermarket parts – which only an expert can tell.
While the 6139 can be found in rather good shape starting at about 500 Euros (some models are more expensive), prices for a 6138 are a bit higher, especially for the Panda and the Kakume. If you fell in love with the panda but you are not the vintage guy – Seiko released an excellent reissue of this watch recently, the SRQ029. Unfortunately not a very affordable piece (retail price is 3.900 Euro) with a high-end chronograph movement.
I don’t think a Seiko collection is complete without a 6138/6139 watch. So look for them while they are still affordable!