Monday, June 6, 2016

Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer 6138-0030 Kakume - Champagne Yellow, Blue & Orange

Now that I have a Seiko 6138 UFO, Bullhead, and the grail 8010 variant, I needed to have one of the most popular 6138s, the 'Square Eyes' or 'Kakume' variant!

The Kakume, with the contrasting square subdials, is instantly recognisable, and was produced in huge numbers in both JDM and export versions, so they are plentiful on Ebay and elsewhere.
Do note that aftermarket dials abound, so you really have to be careful, especially with the blue dial variant. Here's a pictorial guide to help you differentiate the several correct original dial variants from the corresponding aftermarket ones.
Be sure to do proper homework, guys!

In recent years, there's even been a modern interpretation of the Kakume, the Brightz Ananta SAEH005!
But we're not into modern watches here, so the rest of this post will concentrate on the vintage Kakume, the 6138-0030.

It's commonly regarded that the Kakume came in two dial flavours, a more common blue dial variant, and a less common Champagne, or Orange, dial variant - see this commonly referenced Worn&Wound post.

Not quite!
It seems there is debate out there that there's a 3rd dial variant that's not just an faded Orange/Champagne dial, but a distinct dial that's a paler Champagne Yellow, or Golden, variant!
See this SCWF post and this PhilippineWatchClub post for more info and see if you are convinced!
I, for one, am almost certain that the yellow variant is a 3rd variant, and not just a weathered orange variant.

As usual, I zoomed in and hunted specifically for the JDM variant that is marked 'Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer'. 
In addition, I specifically wanted one with the black 'arrow' style hands rather than another variant with silver hands - don't ask me which is original!!!
After hunting for some time, I found this rather honest specimen from Peru dating to Dec 1974 - it looked like the Yellow 3rd variant, and had the most hideous relume of the minute hand, but otherwise looked all correct and original, down to the bracelet, with a nice wabi-ed dial and worn bezel - just the way I like my vintage watches!
In the flesh, it's a nice watch with great wrist presence, with the yellow sunburst dial perhaps not as striking as the orange dial, but still distinctively and unmistakably 'Square Eyes'!
Would I buy an orange dial variant if I found one? Hell yes! But for now, this yellow Kakume does the trick for me, and is most definitely a keeper! =)

20 July 2016 addendum

I recently found an all correct Blue Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer Kakume!
It looked pretty beat up in the photos, but otherwise appeared all correct.
But in the flesh, it was stunning beyond description.

The gorgeous blue dial contrasted by the steel markers and the bright orange 'Speedtimer' script and the lemon yellow subdial and chrono hands....absolute pretty that even the scratched up crystal cannot hide!
Interestingly, the scratched up crystal looks far worse in photos than in real life, where it's actually good enough not to need an immediate replacement.
And of course, as with so many of these 40 year old 6138 movements - they're still happily and accurately ticking away - no service required!
I've gonna wear it 'as is' for now, and it does seem that I'm not going to need that crystal replaced anytime soon! Yay!!!!

Here's a couple of photos of the pair of 'em Square Eyes!
Don't they look pretty? =P

Oct 2016 addendum

Finally I complete my JDM Speed-timer Kakume trilogy!
I finally found the Orange variant of the ole 'Square Eyes'!

This guy was cosmetically acceptable for a March 1974 watch, but internally it was a mess, requiring a long stint at the watchmaker to be sorted right.
But now that it's back, I have full confidence that the venerable Seiko 6138 movement will happily and reliably tick away for many years to come!

Looking at the Orange dial and the Champagne Yellow dial variants side by side, there is no way the yellow is just a orange dial that's faded with time.
Look at the photos and decide for yourself - I am 100% convinced that they are 2 separate, distinct variants.

So finally I have the Trilogy of JDM Speed-timer Kakume variants - I'm a happy camper, I am!!! =)

The grail JDM Speed-Timer 6138-8010

This next one's a little special.

For any Seiko 6138 collector, this guy needs no introduction - it's widely regarded as the rarest and most beautiful 6138 of all, and often quoted as the 'grail' of Seiko 6138s.
See this page for a comprehensive review of the various Seiko 6138 models.

Most 6138s were produced in large numbers, both for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) and for international export. The JDM ones were usually marked 'Speed-Timer', with or without the 'Seiko 5 Sports' moniker, whereas the export versions were simply marked 'Seiko Automatic Chronograph'.
Not the 6138-8010 - this particular model was only ever released as a JDM model in 1972/73, and was apparently never released internationally, thus contributing to it's scarcity.
My particular piece dates to January 1973, and came with an original 'Seiko 5 Sports' signed bracelet that I believe is incorrect for this model, which possibly explains the relatively bargain price that I picked it up for! =P

The other feature special about this model is the beautiful 'Cotes de Geneve' dial in metallic iridescent blue, with a contrasting strip down the middle. It's the only 6138 as far as I know with such a blue dial and definitely the only 6138 with such a 'Cotes de Geneve' contrasting dial.
In real life, the dial is awesome to look at cos it changes colour depending on the angle of view and light, but it is incredibly difficult to capture in photographs.

Here are some of my better attempts, but trust me, the dial looks waaay better in real life.
I especially love the way the blue dial contrasts with the silver hands, the white of the lume markers and the 'Seiko 5 Sports' print, and the orange of the chrono hand and the 'Speed-Timer' script!
Seiko certainly got the design of this one perfectly spot-on!
Come to think of it...most 6138s I've encountered do look way better then they appear in photos!

I may have started my vintage Seiko automatic chronograph journey with the slightly older 6139 models (the first automatic chronographs available for mass retail), but over the years I have fallen even more deeply in love with the only slightly later Seiko 6138 - a movement that has so much going for it - powers 2 sub-dials, ability to hand-wind the crown, available in various 70s era funky case shapes, and has s stellar reputation for being a fuss free, low maintenance, reliable, workhorse movement - what's not to like???

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Two iconic Seiko 6138-0040 brown Bullheads

I had always been intrigued by bullhead chronographs.

There was just something about their look that appealed to me...possibly due to the fact that they're often big and chunky, the way I prefer my watches!
Famous swiss bullheads include the Omega and the Breitling Pulpitre, but there was another iconic one from the far east, the Seiko 6138-0040, from the mid-70s.

As with 6138s, these came in multiple flavours, with both JDM and import models, and also 2 colour variants, a brown fume dial one, and a blue/black variant.
In keeping with my theme of JDM variants marked Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer, when I found this brown one from Ebay, I had to have it.

When it arrived, I was astounded!
The watch was incredible - large, distinctive, and hefty on the wrist - dating to Sept 1976, it was everything I could have imagined and more.
Not only was the fume brown dial beautiful, but the metallic brushed gold subdials just had to be seen in real life to be appreciated...the stunning way it catches the light...absolutely gorgeous!
Plus it came in a nice Seiko box - which I promptly accidently dropped and cracked the plastic case - damn!

But there were a couple of minor details that bothered me...the dial had a blemish that ran across the 'Sports' script, plus the bezel looked suspiciously mint - likely an aftermarket bezel; and most importantly, the very nice and distinctive fishbone bracelet was wrong for this variant, which should have a 'Oyster' style, 'Seiko5 Sports' signed bracelet.

So it took me several months to hunt down another Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer 6138-0040 brown Bullhead with the correct bracelet....this one came directly from The Land of The Rising Sun!

This baby ticked all the boxes that the first one was deficient in - no blemish in the dial, and with the correct bracelet.

In addition, this one was unpolished, and has an appropriately worn bezel, and was also slightly older, dating to Oct 1975.

Note also the correct maroon red chrono hand, once again, correct specifically for the brown JDM Speed-Timers variant.

For a definitive read on how to buy your own correct 6138 Bullhead, refer to this excellent writeup by Isthmus.

You're welcome to enjoy these photos, but trust me, you will only truly and fully be able to appreciate the beauty of a Bullhead in the flesh, so quickly go get one for yourself!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Nov 1983 Citizen 8110A Walter Wolf Racing chronograph

There's generally a lot of interest amongst watch collectors in vintage chronographs with a racing pedigree, eg. the Siffert Autavia, the Bellof Montreal, the Jim Clark Enicar.
Here's one, my latest acquisition, from the other side of the world that is perhaps not so well known, the titanium Walter Wolf Citizen 8110A Chronograph.

This particular watch dates to Nov 1983 by serial number (gotta love these vintage Seikos and Citizens - their serial number allows one to date the watch to the month and year of production!), and is 39mm across.
Appearance wise, it's a little busy, what with cardinal directions on the countdown MH bezel, and the dial containing the prominent Walter Wolf logo, day (in Kanji)/date indicator, as well as the 2 subdials, all surrounded by the inner Tachymeter bezel.
But everything's arranged nice and neatly, and to me, overall, it's a pretty package!
The movement is the well regarded Citizen 8110A that ticks all the right boxes - column wheel, vertical clutch, flyback, 28800bph chronograph.
More details here.
Oh, and one point of criticism - the crown is way way too small for effective winding!!!

I had to do some googling to find out about Walter Wolf Racing, but it does seem to have fairly eventful, though short-lived existence.
Their debut year 1977 was most definitely their best year, with their driver Jody Scheckter winning 3 races (Argentina - a win in their debut race!, Monaco and Canada) and achieving 6 other podium finishes to eventually finish 2nd behind Nikki Lauda in the world championship, with the team achieving 4th place in the constructors championship!
More details here.

Anyways, I think it's a big shame that this little Citizen flies just under the radar, just slightly unknown and unappreciated.
To me it's a gorgeous watch, which should have it's deserved, rightful place amongst its much more well-known Heuer and Enicar brethren!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nov 1968 Speedmaster ST145.012-68SP

I had once owned a cal.861 ST145.022-69 Speedmaster pre-moon, but traded it off cos it didn't quite speak to me.
So I must have been pretty struck with the dreaded Watch Acquisition Syndrome when I started looking for a slightly earlier variant, the last Speedmaster variant to carry the column-wheel cal.321, the ST145.012.
ST145.012s from 1967 are fairly common, but I wanted the considerably less common variant, the ST145.012-68...these were literally the last c.321 Speedmasters, produced in late 1968 or so, before they transited to the cheaper to manufacture c.861 ST 145.022.

So I found this one on Fleabay - it's condition looked so-so - dial looked original but with the lume 'washed' off, hands likely service replacements, wrong DN90 bezel - under normal circumstances I would have walked away (and the experts at Omega Forum all seemed to agree), but it had one redeeming feature that I found irresistible - it came with Omega Archive papers stating the production date to be 11 Nov 1968. This meant that this watch was produced 'in the factory' at about the same time (give or take a few days) as yours truly!

When the watch arrived, it did appeal to me more than my previous cal.861 Speedy, but I wasn't satisfied with the 'washed' lume on the dial, so I promptly shipped it back to the UK to the master James Hyman to have the dial relumed - now I hear all the purists letting out a collective scream: "DO NOT RELUME YOUR VINTAGE WATCH!!!!"
I do know perfectly well that it will adversely affect it's resale value, but since I had no intention of selling it on, I felt no compelling reason why I shouldn't do whatever I wanted with it! =P

When I got it back from James it was much much better - but it was still not perfect - everytime I looked at it, the incorrect DN90 bezel bothered me immensely.
Trying to find a correct 'Dot Over 90' bezel is not impossible, but they were all super expensively overpriced.
Then I found one that was faded - extremely faded - in fact, faded enough to be termed a 'ghost' bezel.
There tends to be 2 distinct camps when it comes to ghost bezels, you either love it or hate it.
I, for one, love the 'I've had an honest, hard life' ghost bezel look - for sure a nicely faded ghost bezel is way more attractive to my eyes, than say, the flaked bezel of my previous c.861 Speedmaster 145.022-69 - so I took a gamble, emptied the wallet, bit the bullet, and bought the ghost bezel!
And while I was at it, I bought a correct, earlier 'pointy base' chrono hand to replace the later 'flat base' chrono hand of mine.
So when I finally put it all together....I was greatly relieved - my Speedy now looked pretty darn perfect!
It's by no means all original, but who cares!
It's mine, it ain't going anywhere, and it looks absolutely lovely (albeit in a Franken kinda way)!!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Big Triangle, ST166.024 SM300, from 1969

One of my greatest watch dilemmas - what's the most iconic vintage diving watch?
The Seamaster 300? Or the Submariner?
My choice is perpetually evolving - one day the Sub might prevail, another day the preference may edge towards the SM300.
Submariners are literally a dime a dozen (well, not quite, but I'm sure you know what I mean), so I decided to hunt for a rather famous variant of the Seamaster 300, the 'Big Triangle ' variant of the ST166.024 - first released in 1967.
Now these SM300s are frequently faked, so potential buyers will do well to exercise some careful due diligence - there's many online resources to help you sieve out all junk - this blog post by Arne Rasmussen is particularly comprehensive.
Also, as these were often actually used for their intended purpose (ie. diving), rather than the Submariner which were often more treasured and pampered, many of these vintage SM300s show evidence of having lived a hard life, fully exposed to the elements.

This ad showed up one afternoon just as I was heading off to work...coincidentally, it was a local sale, and I even knew the seller! Problem is - I really really had to leave for work, and I knew that if I hesitated, it would likely be gone in the next couple of minutes.
So I frantically contacted the seller, and thankfully he was nice enough to agree to hold it for me for a couple of hours. By the time I managed to find a few minutes away from work to get back to him, he had been inundated by an avalanche of offers, but to his credit, he held firm - he had given me a verbal promise, and he steadfastly kept to his word - what a gent!
So after cross checking a few minor details, the deal was done - thank you Jack!

This Big Triangle was by no means perfect, it did show it's age, and it most likely had a service (but all correct - down to the little dot on the Big Triangle and the 6 o'clock lume markers) dial; but it was honest, reasonably priced, and had a serial number dating to 1969 - the way I like my watches - wooohoooo!

In the flesh, it is indeed a handsome watch - tough, professional looking, without being excessively chunky or overbuilt.
I am very much a bracelet guy, but I found that I definitely preferred this watch on a leather strap.
What I couldn't accept, however, was the mismatch between the lume of the hands and the dial, but this was nothing that a quick visit to the renowned James Hyman couldn't fix!
So after the hands were relumed to match the dial - it's all much better - still not perfect mind you - I would prefer the lume and dial to show more patina, but no worries - that will develop over time! =)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Seiko 5 Speedtimer 6138-0010 'Yachtman' from 1970 - three of 'em!

Wow I can't believe it's been so many months since I last blogged!

I guess the harsh reality is that with alternative social media platforms readily available for one to share their thoughts and such to the wider world, blogging has become, sadly, passé!

No matter...better late than never right?
Anyways, let's not waste time cos I got a bunch of new watch acquisitions to plough though!!!

So although I love the historical achievement of the Seiko 6139 as possibly the first commercially available automatic chronograph, I intensely dislike the fact that I cannot wind the watch, and that I had to wear it on a daily basis to keep it wound.
I suppose it could have been Seiko's sly trick to 'force' the owners of these watches to constantly wear them, but hey, I'm a watch collector, damnit, and I've got more than one watch to wear!!!

So that got me looking at the Seiko 6138, a movement that came towards the end of 1969, a few months after the introduction of the 6139, but with one crucial feature (well, two, to be precise - it's also got 2 subdials instead of the solitary dial of the 6139) that sets it apart from the 6139 - the ability to wind the watch!

One of the earliest (and most popular) models of the vast 6138 lineup (See Jasui's awesome collection above) is the 'Yachtman', or 'UFO' as it is more widely known in the watch world.
These UFOs are not uncommon - a search on Ebay will reveal a million pieces - but most of these are for the international market - they're just simply labelled 'Seiko Automatic Chronograph'.
Since I like to keep things difficult for myself, and of course to keep within my collecting theme, I chose to hunt for the rarer JDM 'Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer', 'Proof' dial, 'Proof' caseback version.

When I was looking for 6139s, I used to come across these periodically, but had stupidly ignored them.
Then when I finally began hunting for them, they were nowhere to be found.
So this was the first one that showed up after some months - I hastily bought it despite the fact that it had the 'fatter' or 'blunt' arrow hands. Though correct, I preferred the variant with 'narrower' or 'pointy' arrow hands.

When it arrived, I had to replace the badly scratched crystal and the bracelet that was in terrible condition, but the rest of the watch was fine - the dial was in particularly good condition, and overall, this UFO from Oct 1970 was a wonderful watch - bright, colourful, and had great wrist presence!

So as with these things - the moment you give up and settle for a piece that is almost, but not quite perfect, a better piece will immediately show up.
Usually I wouldn't bite the bullet the second time, but I had to for this second one that came by, cos not only did it have the nicer and narrower arrow hands, but it also had the original Seiko 5 Speed-Timer bracelet, AND it was earlier - dating to March 1970 to be precise - and it had the necessary patina on the dial to proof it!

When it arrived, it had a unpolished case, which was a nice bonus, but internally it was a total train wreak - not only was it not functioning, it couldn't even be wound - the movement was all gummed up with gunk and other unmentionables!
But these 6138 movements did not earn a stellar reputation for being reliable work-horses for nothing - after a stint at my watchmaker, this little baby came back all cleaned up and ready to party with his younger twin and his 6139 cousins!!
And make no mistake - these are all JDM Proof Proof Seiko 5 Speed-Timers!

Addendum 8 July 2016:
So I unexpectedly came across another nice JDM Proof dial Proof back UFO recently, but what particularly piqued my interest is that it dated from Feb 1970 (one month earlier than my existing UFO), making it one of the earliest known Seiko 6138-0010s around! *** If anyone knows of any UFO/Yachtman dating to Jan 1970 or earlier, please contact me - I would be very interested to hear from you! ***
As an added bonus, it had a cleaner dial than mine, with the silver subdial free of the blemishes that mine had, plus it had been recently serviced and thus was good to go the moment it showed up - no visit to the watchmaker necessary....woohoo!!!!

In the flesh, these guys are dope with a capital D!!! Big, chunky, full of character and wrist presence. If you haven't tried one on your wrist, you owe it to yourself to do so!
Trust me, you will not regret it!