Seiko SBDY049 / SRPE03: Long live the King

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.

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.

New bezel
Comparing old (upper watch) and new 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.

Golden details

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.

Waffle dial

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.

King Turtle on Uncle Seiko Bracelet
King Turtle on original bracelet

Seiko SPB089: The true Story about the Blue Alpinist (really!)

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.

Epilogue:

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.

Alpinist in natural habit
Processed With Darkroom

Seiko SBBN017: Real Tuna and Tuna Style

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.

Golden Tuna 7549
7549 Movement (picture by ajiba54)
Golden Tuna 7549 and Golden Tuna Reissue 7C46 (picture by ajiba54)

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).

My SBBN017 on my 17,5cm wrist

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.

Solar Tuna SNE498

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.

SBBN017 on an Erikasoriginals
Lume on the Solar Tunas is equal good as on the Professional Tunas
Caseback of my SBBN017 with year/quarter marks
Most Tunas are JDM models with Kanji dials
Lugs? What lugs?
Shroud 1
Shroud 2
Signed crown (only old Tunas)
The other Marinemaster
Lume pip
Heavy hands
Domed Hardlex
SBBN017

Seiko 6138/6139 – Automatic for the People

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

Homepage Harwood

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.

Seiko Monopusher 5717

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.

Seiko catalogue from the 70s with 6138 models

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.

Seiko Kakume
Roman day-date wheel
“Chronograph Automatic” – an export dial

You can see a JDM dial on my 6139 with English/Kanji dial.

Seiko Speedtimer
Kanji wheel
Seiko 5 Speed-Timer – a JDM 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.

Seiko Panda Reissue (picture copyright ajiba54)
Comparison Seiko SRQ029 Panda Reissue and Seiko 6138-8020 Panda (picture by ajib54)

I don’t think a Seiko collection is complete without a 6138/6139 watch. So look for them while they are still affordable!

Seiko SRPD29 – A Monster on my Wrist

Dear readers,

Today I will tell you something about my newest acquisition, the Seiko SRPD29 aka Black Monster. A monster? Yes, that’s the nickname the Seiko family gave this watch. To be more specific, it’s the fourth generation of the Monster family.

The Monster is one of the three entry level series to Seiko ISO Divers. The other two are the extremely popular Turtle (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/11/08/seiko-new-turtle-the-watch-with-many-faces/) and the Samurai.

The Monster first appeared in 2006 as part of the SKX series. Yes, the famous SKX007 and SKX009 are not the only SKX watches, although if you are speaking of a SKX you mean the 007/009 this days. As part of this series they have the same specs as the famous SKX: The movement is the 7S26, they have 200m water resistance and a screwed down crown. They get the nickname “Monster” not because of the tooth-like indices as many Seiko fans believe, but for the monster tooth profile. Otherwise the 4th generation would be no monster at all – they have square indices.

The Monster Teeth profile

The first generation of the monster contained a black (SKX779) and an orange version (SKX781), two collector items these days. Especially the orange monster seems to play a big role in some people’s watch collection – or is it a coincidence that three of six interviewed collectors named the monster as a special watch for them (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/12/06/instagram-a-glimpse-at-the-watchfam/)? The first generation has also square indices like the newest generation.

SKX779 – 1st generation (picture copyright TIMEX SOCIAL)
SKX781 – 1st generation (picture copyright TIMEX SOCIAL)
SKX779 wristshot/lumeshot (picture copyright TIMEX SOCIAL)

The second generation changed the indices to the tooth-like ones most people identify with a Monster. So the dial resembles of a monster’s mouth… The second generation got the modern 4R36 movement with hacking and handwinding, two features the 7S26 lacked. The second generation is the most popular of all Monster generations.

SRP315 2nd generation (picture copyright uwiest)
SRP583 2nd generation (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)

In the third generation the Monster got another movement upgrade, the 6R15 was used. This is the same movement more expensive watches from Seiko normally use, like the Sumo, the Shogun or the Alpinist. As a consequence, the day feature was dropped, because the 6R15 doesn’t have this feature. And the magnifying lens appeared on the crystal.

A good overview of the Monster family from 2006 to 2016 you can see here: https://www.60clicks.com/ultimate-seiko-monster-collectors-guide/

The recent fourth generation got the day complication back and so the 4R36 is back too. It’s Seiko’s recent entry level mechanical movement used in the Turtle, the Samurai and many Seiko 5 watches. Not a very accurate movement with a typical accuracy of +/- 25 sec / day. But I must admit that all my Seikos with this movement have a far better accuracy and I own eight of them. The new Black Monster doesn’t have any deviation at all!

They also used the square indices like in the first and third generation and used a new lume: in daylight the indices and hands have a tritium-like vanilla look and in the dark a blueish light which is very rare in the Seiko family. The bezel is now smaller than in the previous generations – as are the indices.

Today the fourth generation only contains three watches: a steel version with black dial, a steel version with a blue radiant dial and an ion-plated black version with a black dial – my SRPD29. When the 4Th generation was presented in spring 2019 the black version was US-only but today you can buy it worldwide. In consequence my watch is a german version with a german day-date wheel.

I must admit I was no fan of the monster series. In my mind there was always the second generation with big bezels and the tooth-like indices which is definitely not my style. Some fans are not very satisfied with the recent Monsters because “they are no true Monsters”. I think they have the very popular second generation in their mind, which is indeed very different. But looking back at history, the second generation was the exception and not the normal design. For myself, this “tame” Monster is much more my style. I was looking for a good-priced blue one when the all-black version appeared in Germany. I have owned two all-black versions before: A Seiko Prospex Land and the recent Seiko Black Tuna. Both of them I sold some time ago, so there was no all-black watch in the box anymore. So it’s my third experiment with an all-black watch and time will tell if it will be a keeper. I also love the special bracelet of the new monster series, but I think the watch will also look great on a brown leather strap. I will try this in the near future. If you are interested how this will look like follow me on Instagram, as soon as I have the new leather strap I will post a picture.

Comparing with the other ISO Diver entry series the monster is a very small family, there are far more variations of the Turtle and the Samurai. I don’t think this will change in the future – the Monster is not everybody’s watch. But from now on I am part of the Monster lovers.

This is my last blog entry in 2019. A merry Christmas and a happy new year 2020 to all my readers! Next entry will be published in January 2020.

Diameter42 mm
Lug2lug48 mm
Height13 mm
MovementSeiko 4R36
Lug width20 mm
My Black Monster
Nightshot with blue lume
Square indices
Magnifying lens
Special bracelet
Bezel
Blue lume again
Prospex
Wristshot

Seiko 7A28-7040 – Quartz Chronograph went analog

Today I will show you my newest acquisition to my Seiko vintage collection: the Seiko 7A28-7040 from 1983. So we will talk a lot about history in this blog entry…

Let’s go back to the 80s. Quartz watches were common, but the great Quartz crisis from the 70s was almost over. You could see the first signs of a recovery of mechanical watches. In 1983 Jean Claude Biver bought Blancpain and the new credo of Blancpain became “Blancpain never sold quartz watches since 1735. And never will do”. Also in 1983 the first Swatch was released, a quartz watch, yes, but not with a digital display. People got bored from this digital watches and looking for old-school analogue displays.
But if you want to buy a chronograph you only had two choices: To buy a mechanical watch without the quartz accuracy or to buy a quartz watch with a digital display, normally LCD. Those LCD chronos were common at the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s and sometimes had some more special features like calculator, thermometer and even tiny built-in televisions. That’s the way Casio went and today I would guess 90% of this watches come from this other big Japanese brand

(Picture property of Casio)

If you want tot have the mechanical analog look and the precision of a quartz watch, well, you had to ask the good fairy of your favorite fairytale. Again it was Seiko to make the historical move. In 1983 they presented the first ever analog quartz chronograph – the 7A28.

Old ad (Picture property of Seiko)

Seiko did not intend to compete with the cheap LCD-watches. The 7A28 was and is a high sophisticated movement and the watches were advertised as a quartz milestone for hig-end consumers. And they were no cheap watches – my 7A28-7040 had a price tag of 675 Deutsche Mark, so it was more expensive than an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch!

The watches sold very well and there were 42 variations with more than 100 references of this chronograph. They were sold to private customers, issued to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense (the so-called RAF Gen.1) and the South African Air Force. Two models were featured in the movie “Aliens” because director James Cameron wanted “futuristic looking watches”. He chose the models today nicknamed “Ripley” and “Bishop” after the movie characters. Roger Moore wore a 7A28-7020 in the James Bond movie “A view to a kill”.

The relationship between Seiko and the UK’s Ministry of Defence started with this 7A28-7120, called RAF Gen.1. They were issued between 1984 and 1990. The RAF Gen.1 is one of most valued 7A28 among Seiko collectors (the other one is the “Ripley”). You can see a picture of this watch from my friend ajiba54.

Seiko 7A28-7120 aka RAF Gen.1 (Picture by ajiba54)

Let’s have a look at the technical side. Unlike most recent quartz movements the 7A28 featured 15 jewels (today: 0 for todays most movements), contained no plastic parts (today: almost entirely made of plastic) and could be regulated (not possible for most recent quartz movements). It is no problem to repair or service this movement, if you have the spare parts. It has four stepper motors, each protected with a rectangular plate. This sophisticated and robust construction explains why so many 7A28 are still working until today.

7A28 movement without the protecting plates (Picture by ajiba54)

Every subdial of the chronograph can be adjusted separately with the crown at 8 o’clock, first crown position. Watch the video for this:

The pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph, the pusher at 4 o’clock resets it. The pusher at 10 o’clock is for lap times.

Later Seiko also showed the 7A28 with a day-date complication (called 7A38) and a moon phase (called 7A48).

The 7A28 was produced until 1992 and was then replaced by the far simpler and cheaper 7T12.  The 7T family is used until today but the members of this movement family lack almost every expensive and elaborated feature of the 7A28. Nethertheless there were some interesting reissues of former 7A28 chronos. I will mention the issued RAF Gen2 and the reissues of the “Ripley” and the “Bishop” with more color options.

The 7A28 were also the first watches designed by famous Italian designer Giugiaro for Seiko (the fore mentioned “Ripley” and “Bishop”).

They were sold all over the world. Sometimes you can tell the JDM and the export versions by the dial: The labeling “Chronograph” is printed in cursive scripture letters on the dial for the export versions while the letters on the JDM versions were straight.

If you are looking for a 7A28 check this features:

  • Do the adjustments for the chrono hands work properly?
  • Is the dial clean?
  • Is the original bracelet attached?

Unlike other chronos correct setting to zero ist not essential because it is easy to adjust this. Replace a scratched glass is no big problem. But without the original bracelet the value of the watch is only half because it’s almost impossible to find an original bracelet for a good price.

To find one in NOS condition is not impossible, but you have to be very patient. It was sheer luck to discover this watch with original bracelet, never worn, no scratches, from the first year of the 7A28 release. And the bracelet fits my wrist perfectly. Lucky again, because there were no spare links in the set.

I think every serious Seiko collector needs a 7A28 in his collection. Happy I have my own now!

Top of the Pops: Grand Seiko Diver SBGA231

I am a long-term watch collector. Most of my pieces I acquired for less than 1.000 Euro, many even for less than 500. I do own many Seikos, some Swiss brands, some German and very few microbrands. So the acquisition of a Grand Seiko is not a normal thing for me – it’s very very special, it’s top of the pops in my collection. And I don’t mean the price point. Well, at least not only…

Let’s have a look at history first, because history is important for every serious watch collector. The first watch called Grand Seiko was released 1960. It was manufactured at the Suwa Seikosha factory (today: Seiko Epson). The movement was the handwinding 3180.

First Grand Seiko (Picture copyright by Seiko Corp.)

In 1967 Daini Seikosha (today: Seiko Instruments) produced their first Grand Seiko, the 44GS. The design became a milestone for future Grand Seikos, you can see the genes of this design even in the recent collection. The movement was a milestone too: The 61GS was a self-winding movement with an accuracy of +/-2 sec/24h (that’s what Rolex guarantees today) and it won some Swiss Chronometer competitions, something never heard of before. Another great movement was the hand winding 5722. You can see the beautiful Grand Seiko from 1967 with this movement, watch is property of my my friend ajiba54.

44GS from 1967 (picture copyright by Seiko cCorp.)
57GS from 1967 with 5722 movement

I cant’t list all milestones from Grand Seiko, if you are interested you can visit the Grand Seiko Homepage of your country, where you can find lots of material. Two more events I will mention:

In 1988 the first Grand Seiko Quartz was released, the 95GS movement had an accuracy of +/-10 sec/month, better than todays normal Quartz movements. Grand Seiko watches with Quartz movement in the recent collection have an accuracy of +/-10 sec – in a year!! All components are made by Seiko itself, including the selected Quartz crystals.

Grand Seiko with 95GS Quartz movement from 1988 (picture and watch by ajiba54)

The other important milestone was the release of the Spring Drive movement, first appeared in Grand Seiko in 2004. I think we should have a closer look at Spring Drive, because this is a movement like no other.

In 1977 a young engineer named Yoshikazu Akahane had the idea to put the best things from a Quartz and a mechanical movement together in a whole new type of movement to bring his vision to life: a movement that shows the continuing flow of time. The second hand should not make one step per second like in Quartz watches and not some little steps like in mechanical watches (the High Beat movements make up to 10 steps per second), it should move without any steps in a continuous move. It took him and his team 22 years until this vision came true. In 1999 the movement worked as he wanted. It took another 5 years to optimize the concept for a Grand Seiko with the 9R65 movement. This movement is used until today and it’s also the heart of my SBGA231.

9R65 Spring Drive (Picture copyright Seiko Corp.)

Spring Drive has a mainspring like any mechanical movement as the source of the power and a self-winding mechanism to power it up, so no battery is needed. The self-winding mechanism is more or less the same Magic Lever construction as in any automatic Seiko. But the accuracy of the watch is not controlled by a balance wheel like in mechanic movements but by a highly accurate Quartz crystal oscillator and an electronic circuit. The second hand is moved by a flywheel and is slowed down by an electromagnetic brake. So you have the advantage of Quartz (high accuracy) and mechanical movements (high tourque, no battery) combined and as a special attribute the continuous moving of the second hand. Because of the mechanical parts the Spring Drive movements don’t reach the accuracy of the Grand Seiko Quartz watches. Grand Seiko guarantees +/- 1 sec/24h or +/-15 sec/month. However my watch after five days doesn’t show any difference compared to the atomic time. But the reason I bought a Spring Drive watch was not accuracy, it was the moving of the second hand. Look at the short video.

In May 2019 I put my hands on first demo models of the new Seiko LX series and decided: Once I have the money I will some day buy the LX Land. All LX models are with Spring Drive movement and all are made of titanium which makes the watches very comfortable to wear.

Seiko LX Land

But when unexpected the money knocked on the door I want to be really, really sure to buy the best Spring Drive Seiko for me and I tried some other models, including the GS Diver, although it seems too big for me reading the dimensions: 45mm diameter, 50,4mm lug2lug size and a height of 14,2mm. But it’s not the first time a watch has a completely different appearance as you would expect. The curved case fitted perfectly on my wrist (I had this experience with the even bigger Sumo before) and the special conical bezel insert gave it a height of only 12,5mm on the edges of the watch – this watch would easily fit under any shirt cuff.

GS Diver Titanium SBGA231

The GS Diver SBGA231 is – like the LX models – fully made of titanium. Surprisingly it doesn’t look like titanium, there is nothing left of that typical grey colour. Compared to my other titanium watch, the Shogun Red Zimbe (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/12/the-red-side-of-life-seiko-shogun-zimbe-red-spb099/) it’s even more shiny. I don’t think anybody will identify the material as titanium just from the looks. He only will be suspicious when he gets the watch in his hand. Why is this watch so light weighted? The total weight with full bracelet is 131 g, compared to 201 g of the steel version SBGA229. It’s also 1.000 Euros more expensive, but it’s worth every cent, believe me, because this is an extremely comfortable watch in this version.

One follower of my Instagram channel asked me to compare the GS Diver with my Marinemaster 300 (SBDX017). The MM300 has a diameter of 44mm, a Lug2Lug size of 49,6mm and a height of 15,3mm. So the MM300 seems to be a bit smaller. But that’s not what your eyes see. Especially the conical bezel insert makes the GS Diver looks smaller. And the MM300 has a weight of 230 g. Because of its monocoque case it’s even heavier than the steel version of the GS Diver. And the height gave it totally other proportions. It lays heavy on your wrist, feeling indestructible whatever will come. If you like this feeling more than a very comfortable watch, then the steel version of the GS Diver or the new Marinemasters are the right watches for you. If not…

Marinemaster 300 SBDX017

Let’s have a look at the bracelet: The very beautiful polished and satin parts gave the watch a distinctive and noble look. Shortening is very easy with the typical Seiko collar/pin System. The clasp is technically the same as the Marinemaster clasp with the same diving extension system, but it seems better finished. You have also four normal positions for micro adjustments.

The case has drilled lugs for easy strap change. But why do you want to change this beautiful bracelet? The case has the beautiful Zaratsu polish, hand made by experts in Seikos Grand Seiko factory in Shiojiri. This is for sure the most beautiful watch case I have ever seen. And even the indices are hand polished, you can see the high quality everywhere you look at this piece.

All in all it’s a true masterpiece and really top of the pops in my collection!

Diameter 45 mm
Lug2lug 50,5 mm
Height 12,5 – 14,2 mm
Movement 9R65 Spring Drive
Lug width 22 mm
Golden GS Logo indicates the titanium version
Conical bezel insert
Power reserve indicator (all Spring Drive movements have a power reserve indicator)
Perfect hands finishing
Lume pip
Crown
Bottom with GS Lion Logo
Lumibrite
Masterpiece
Wristshot