Thursday, February 25, 2021

1967 Rolex DateJust 1603 Steel Chronometer, Piepan Sigma Linen Dial

As an avid collector of 1960's Seiko watches, I have focused on the attributes that make Seiko watches attractive to me: the solid build quality which allowed these pieces to survive and be useable after more than 50 years, the cross-compatibility and availability of donor movements for maintenance and repair, industry-leading innovation, long and colorful brand history, classic design elements and extensive information available through books, forums, and blog posts.

One other brand provides all of the above and adds an additional attribute: a superlative brand image. That brand is Rolex. 

My passion for watches was kindled reading Rolex advertisements on the back cover of National Geographic as a youngster back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and an aspirational dream was born to one day own a Rolex.

Life - and priorities - came in the way, but the aspirational dream remained. Eventually, I was able to indulge in the watch passion, and vintage Seiko offered an affordable entry into vintage watches. I read, researched, and blogged my way into building up themed collections, which I traded up for fewer, better pieces, but Rolex prices kept increasing, and the brand remained at arm's length for me. 

After nearly 20 years of collecting I was finally in a position to celebrate a professional aspiration (two years of successful self-employment), sold much of my existing collection, and acquired my first vintage Rolex: a 1967 Rolex DateJust 1603 with linen dial and 18K white gold coronet, markers  (sigma dial) and hands and stainless engine-turned bezel:

The 36mm Oyster case is a perfect size - perhaps THE perfect size for a "gentleman's steel wristwatch" and together with the jubilee bracelet, engine-turned bezel, and cyclops date lens possibly the quintessential Rolex wristwatch. The steel engine-turned bezel is a discrete, sober alternative to the shinier 18K white gold fluted bezel of the contemporary reference 1601 DateJust.

The chronometer-certified 26 jewel 1575 automatic movement running at 19800 bph is currently within 1 second a day - a tribute to the precision and durability of a 53-year-old watch. Much of this precision comes from the trademark Rolex free-sprung balance and Breguet overcoil which are less susceptible to positional variation and state of wind than conventional fixed-inertia regulator balances. Together with automatic winding, vintage Rolexes tend to be awesomely precise, decade after decade!

The trademark of the DateJust is the instantaneous date changeover at midnight, facilitated by a spring-loaded jeweled yoke operating a cam mounted on the reverse of the calendar wheel. The date function on these vintages is non-quickset and requires you to invest a few minutes and quite a bit of hand-turning to change the date, but this is an acceptable compromise allowing you to own a pie-pan linen sigma dial only found on these vintage four-number series pieces from the 1960s and early seventies... it's the price of admission to an exclusive club!

While much of the robustness comes from the overengineered 1575 movement, the classic Oyster case with its trademark screw-down case back and screw-down crown provides a water-and dustproof environment that has protected the movement and dial from the ingress of the elements for more than half a century.

Vintage Rolex watches are far from cheap, but is the price justified? For me it most definitely is. The 1603 Datejust is a "portable, tangible asset".

To be able to purchase this watch, I had to release ten vintage Seiko pieces from the collection I had carefully curated over the last 10 years. While it took me six months to sell my Seiko pieces and realize my initial investment in them, there are always ready buyers for a vintage DateJust, especially for less-common variants with linen- or sigma dials, and prices have steadily increased - doubling over the last decade, corresponding to a very reasonable 7% return on investment.

Tangible assets are however more than financial investments. In the DateJust I attained my aspirational goal, a watch that speaks to me, connecting me to my boyhood dreams and lifting my spirits every time I wear it. 

In a single watch, I have a design icon that defines the canon of perhaps the greatest design generation - 1950-60s RayBan Wayfarers, Levi 501s, Zippo lighters, Porsche 911s... and the Rolex DateJust.

As a design icon, the DateJust is perfect for everything from a t-shirt and jeans to a formal business suit, and as a portable asset I can - unlike say a classic car - wear and enjoy it, and have it lift my spirits all day, every day.

So yes, a vintage DateJust is absolutely worth it. 

Check out my Instagram profile for more pictures and impressions:


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Seiko Gen 2 7T27-7A20 1995 British Royal Airforce (RAF) Military Issued chronograph

1995 Seiko Gen 2 (2nd Generation) Royal Air Force 
flight crew issued military analog chronograph

The 1995 Seiko Gen 2 (2nd Generation) Royal Air Force flight crew issued military analog chronograph was issued to Her Majesty’s armed forces from November 1990, following the issue of the Gen 1 quartz chronograph.

The caseback is inscribed with the "broad arrow" and NATO Stock Number (NSN) ‪6645-99 7683056‬ used for military-issued equipment:

6645 = Time Measuring Instruments
99 = NATO Country code United Kingdom
768-3056 = individual part number

In contrast to the commercial versions, the issued version has a 38mm case with a matte, bead-blasted finish, fixed strap bars and a "circle P” dial, indicating radioactive Promethium lume. 

The register at "12" is the 30 minute counter, the register at "6" is the continuous seconds and the register at "9" indicates the current hour on a 24-hour scale. 

The 7T27 (Gen 2) movement takes an SR927SW (395) 9.5 x 2.6mm battery.  

GEN1 (left) and GEN2 (right)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Seiko Gen 1 (1st Generation) 7A28-7120 Royal Air Force flight crew issued military analog chronograph

Seiko Gen 1 (1st Generation) 7A28-7120 Royal Air Force 
flight crew issued military analog chronograph watch 

The Seiko Gen 1 (1st Generation) 7A28-7120 Royal Air Force flight crew issued military analog chronograph watch was the first quartz chronograph watch issued to Her Majesty’s armed forces, with October 1984 being the first date of issue. 

This piece produced in August 1984 is thus one of the first issued of a total run of 11,307 Gen 1 chronographs, which were not replaced until November 1990.

The caseback is inscribed with the "broad arrow" and NATO Stock Number (NSN) ‪6645-99 7683056‬ used for military-issued equipment: 

6645 = Time Measuring Instruments
99 = NATO Country code United Kingdom
768-3056 = individual part number

In contrast to the commercial versions, the issued version has a 37mm diameter case with matte, bead-blasted finish, fixed strap bars and a "circle P” dial, indicating radioactive Promethium lume. 

The ‪3:00‬ o’clock register measures ‪1/10‬ths of a second, while the large center hand measure elapsed seconds.  The ‪9:00‬ o’clock register records chronograph minutes up to 30 while the bottom register is a continuous seconds hand.

The 7A28 (Gen 1) reference is Seiko's first analog chronograph, impressively over-engineered with metal gears and a 15-jewel movement which is able to be serviced and maintained. It takes a SR936SW (394) 9.5 x 3.6mm battery.

The Gen1 was originally issued on a nylon/leather Bund type (NSN 6645-99-527-7059) strap, which was later replaced with a nylon NATO (6B/2617, and NSN 6645-99-124-2986. Post war RAF straps also included the steel Bonklip (6B/2763 (17.5 mm), 6B/3224 (19.0mm), which were phased out in the early eighties but remained in issue until existing stocks were depleted.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

1961 Omega Constellation "Pie Pan" Chronometer Full Set

1961 Omega Constellation "Pie Pan" Chronometer

This steel, no-date1961 Constellation was sold at Thule Air Base, Greenland in 1962, has the original Omega box, full papers and original Omega stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp, and boasts the chronometer grade, self-winding, 24 jewel caliber 551, adjusted to 5 positions and temperature.

On its beads-of-rice bracelet, this watch wears more substantially on the wrist than its 35mm, making it the ideal dress watch for special occasions!

Monday, June 10, 2019

1964 Rolex ref1002 Oyster Perpetual Chronometer

1964 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer

This 1964 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer is stunning, with its rarity and collectibility due in part to its Dauphine hands and original rivet bracelet, dated I-65.

There is no 7205 stamp on the back of the largest link (correct for the period) and the clasp blade is stamped with the year (1965) to match this. I have never used the original bracelet in order to preserve its pristine condition, and I wear this watch on an additional aftermarket Oyster bracelet for daily use.

The original tritium dial is correctly marked "T SWISS T" (for pre-1965) with tritium plots. The dial is in excellent condition, with minor age marks visible under the loupe. The rare Dauphine hands show signs of aging, visible under the loupe.

The cal 1560 with its Microstella screws and Bregeut free-sprung hairspring was used until 1965 in a number of chronometer-certified models, including the legendary Rolex 1016 Explorer and the Rolex 5512 Submariner. The movement is clean, and accurate to a few seconds a day.

This watch comes with an original Rolex box, cigarette card, Bucherer Rolex spoon as well as a 1960s advertisement extolling the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 1002 as the chronometer chosen by Sir Francis Chichester to accompany him on his single-handed circumnavigation of the globe in 1966.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hodinkee: A Vintage Grand Seiko Chronometer Wristwatch With A Bargain Basement Estimate

Hodinkee, the world's leading online wristwatch magazine, published a report on a Grand Seiko 5277 Chronometer offered for sale on Antiquorum's Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces 2011 auction in New York.

The good thing is that a second generation Grand Seiko chronometer has made it into Antiquorum's Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces auction to be held in New York tomorrow.

The bad: well, let's see if we can spot the mistakes in their description:

SEIKO - GRAND SEIKO - CHRONOMETER Grand Seiko GS Seiko, Japan, No. 514855, case No. 5500504, Ref. 5722-9990. Made in the 1970's. Fine, center seconds, water-resistant, stainless steel wristwatch with date and a stainless steel Seiko buckle. C. Three-body, polished and brushed, screwed-down case back with embossed gold logo, inclined bezel, sapphire crystal. D. Matte silver with applied steel faceted baton indexes, outer minute track, aperture for the date. Steel dauphine hands. M. Cal. 5722A, rhodium-plated, 35 jewels, straight-line lever escapement, monometallic balance, shock absorber, flat balance spring, index regulator, hack mechanism. Dial, case and movement signed. Diam. 37 mm. Thickness 11 mm.

This particular chronometer was manufactured in May 1965 (serial no.5500504, case number 9990, caliber 5722A, acrylic crystal), and succeeds its immediate (and almost identical but infinitely more collectible) predecessor, the "Olympic" 1964 cal. 430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer. For more information on the significance of the 43999 and 5277 caliber chronometers, please visit my blog post at:

I would consider this a good investment for 1000USD, although a similarly priced 1964 production 43999 is more collectible and should be considered a better investment.

Actually, the 5722 is not that rare, and appears relatively frequently on eBay and Yahoo!Japan. Going prices seem to hover around the 1000-1500USD mark. It will be interesting to see the final price, but I'm personally not expecting it to go for more than the estimate. Things to look out for are condition of the medallion (often missing or damaged), the correct crown and possible redials. I'm surprised Antiquorum does not show the caseback and movement, perhaps one needs a subscription to view these? It is very rare to see an original bracelet and buckle, and I have yet to see one offered with original papers and box, although there was one on Rakunen some time ago IIRC. Again, personally, I would pay a premium for a cal.430/1964 caseback because of the historic link to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the pivotal importance of this event in Seiko's development.

It went for 2125USD, well over estimate. The WWII B-Uhre mentioned in Hodinkee's earlier post went for their estimates or below, despite their coverage. It will be interesting to see if their coverage and the very appearance of a vintage second generation GS chronometer on Antiquorum heralds a new era of popularity for vintage GS'. In a couple of years people may very well be looking back to the good old days where a vintage GS chronometer could be had for under 3K!

Now, why would Seiko be appearing on Antiquorums Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces auction in the first place - is it because vintage GS are now considered Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces in their own right, following the expansion of the line from Japan-only to global... or is there a conscious movement afoot to create this perception among buyers. If so, what (and who) could the drivers of this movement be?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My father's watch...

Often, a post will be made on a watch forum, where the poster has a question regarding the feasibility of restoring or repairing a watch inherited from their father. Almost immediately someone (often me ;-) will reply that for most of us, your fathers watch will always be the most valuable watch in your collection, and to have it repaired or serviced regardless of cost. Sometimes I detect a wistfulness on the part of those who never had the chance to secure one these most personal of bonds between a father and son - a shared mechanical marvel passed on between men...

I grew up in the 60s and 70s very aware of my fathers watch, and always associated it with a sense of stability, dependability and of being grown-up. At boarding school I once borrowed it for two months, sleeping with it under my pillow and hearing its ticking through the night. It was replaced in the 80s by a digital watch, and I was told it had been thrown out. I was devastated, but hey, who would have known what it meant to me. I really have nothing left of my childhood, but should I have wished to keep one thing - it would have been my father's watch...

Fast forward to this year, visiting my parents with the kids and my Mum decided to show my daughter the jewelery she had got from HER mother when they lived in Persia, the bottom of her jewelry box: my fathers Altus!! On its Fix-o-flex bracelet just as I remembered it! He looked as surprised as I did, I tried to describe to him how I felt and he of course gave me the watch, which I have had cleaned and serviced.

So here it is, an Altus handwind bought by him around 1960, probably just before I was born. The picture shows him wearing the watch on its present bracelet around Christmas of, ooh... 1976 or so, me beside him opening a parcel which IIRC contained a kit model car:

Funny how a photo and an old watch, each without much material value, become ones most valuable possessions when they are associated with a time and a person!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Speedmaster anomaly?

Ever since I first began my interest for the Speedmaster Moon watch, I asked myself: surely, given the importance of timing, NASA would have built timing modules into the space suits...a couple of stopwatches, mission timer etc...probably in a specially designed nylon housing with ultra large dials and indices, hands and pushers, backlight etc. It seems a little illogical that NASA would say: oh, we need a timer for EVAs, lets just buy a watch off the shelf...

After using the Speedmaster in space twice (Gemini 12; Apollo 11) Buzz Aldrin gives us a first-hand insight as to the effectivenes of the Speedmaster as a space watch:

"I had a watch on but I don't think I looked at it. Which would probably say that I should have had it set at something so that it was just not a normal time going around, but going from some specific...It was a lousy watch to have on the surface. It just didn't give good numbers as far as a stopwatch type thing. To have gone to all that expense and then to have crews out on the surface with just an ordinary watch, in retrospect, is a mistaken priority somewhere." Source:

And upon completing the EVA on the lunar surface (closeout):

111:34:43 Aldrin: I think my watch stopped, Neil.
111:34:46 Armstrong: Did it? (Pause)
111:35:01 Aldrin: No it didn't, either. (Garbled) second hand. (Pause)

Thinking about it logically, a regular watch worn outside the space suit must have been difficult to read, to say the least. Buzz Aldrin appeared to have problems reading his. In shadow - impossible. Pressing the pushers must have been a problem too, but I am not that sure they were used while "moon-walking". Muliple timing tasks - forget about it.

But, (amazingly to me) - NASA has stuck to off-the-shelf Omegas since. That's great for us who "dig" the whole moon-watch story, but has anybody else ever wondered at the "anomaly" of NASA using a regular sized, common-or-garden wristwatch (with a tachymeter scale ) as one of their most important pieces of EVA equipment, with essentally no development or change after 40 years?

Omega Speedmaster "Chronometer" donning & hacking, EVA preparation, Apollo 11 protocols

References to the implementation of the chronometers can be found during EVA preparations, i.e after the Eagle Lunar Module has landed.

The first reference comes on page Sur-27 of the Surface Checklist (at 106h49), where the begin donning the PLSSs (Portable Life Support System or backpack) and the Oxygen Purge Systems (OPSs). Chronometers are fitted to the RH gloves, which at this stage are not donned:

Page SUR-37 mentions the chronometer on the RH gloves:

The gloves themselves are donned at 108h42:

Click this bar to view the original image of 930x75px.

Prior to the EVA, hacking of the chronometers takes place:

Click this bar to view the original image of 876x108px.

And a little later:

Click this bar to view the original image of 880x193px.

And the rest, as they say, is history...


How to fit a domed sapphire crystal (Seiko 6309-7040)

Having seen a number of questions regarding the fitting of new crystals to Seiko divers, I have prepared the following simple guide. From the outset I would like to say that anyone can do this, with a few simple tools, even if their 9-year old son William is watching and has an inexhaustible line of questions.

Start with a clean work area. A sheet of printer paper gives a nice, dust-free work surface. The crystal is a domed sapphire crystal from Harold Ng (Yobokies), the watch is a wonderfully patinaed original vintage Seiko 6309 on a Super Oyster with Yobokies solid end links:

Using a sharp pocketknife, ease the bezel off by pushing the knife under the crystal and twisting gently. The bezel will pop off. Take care not to lose the small steel ratcheting ball.

Tell William to keep quiet. Use a rubber-ball (or other) caseback remover to...remove the caseback:

Press down on the retaining mechanism and remove the crown:

Turn the watch over and gently tip out the movement. Cover the movement with a shot glass:

Get another shot glass, pour a whiskey and tell William to keep quiet. Rummage in your box of tools and find the crystal press:

Remove the crystal retaining ring in the same way you removed the bezel:

Send William out to blow his nose. Crystal retaining ring removed:

Use crystal press to remove crystal. A firm squeeze:

...and it pops right out. Check the condition and orientation of the crystal gasket and wipe it with a smear of silicone grease:

Clean the surrounding area with a Q-tip:

Press the new crystal in with the crystal press, checking that the crystal gasket is not pinched:

Place the crystal retaining ring in position:

...and use the crystal press to snap it home:

Insert the movement and crown, making sure the chapter ring lines up:

Lubricate the caseback with a dab of silicone grease and fit, after which the bezel can be snapped on using the crystal press:

And admire your handiwork, after unlocking the cupboard and letting William out:

Time taken: a little over 10 minutes.

THE VERDICT: it was a pleasure to deal with Yobokies, in the same way it is a pleasure to deal with our other suppliers of Seiko parts. We really need to stop up from time to time and thank our blessings by having suppliers who also are enthusiasts

The crystal is a wonderful upgrade to the flat Seiko original. The gentle dome gives depth to the dial and creates a wonderfull play when moving the watch. The dome gives life to the watch and makes it look like it is under water, even when it is not. The AR coating on the inside of the watch gives fascinating blue reflections (see last picture) and makes the dial easy to read at all angles. The fact that it is a scratch resistant sapphire gives peace of mind in daily use. In all, a "mod" which improves an already perfect watch. SCORE: 10/10.