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!