Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seiko SS 6309-7040 “SuperOyster” vs Rolex SS “Submariner” - impressions

I have, for years, lusted after a vintage 60s Rolex SS sub. I am fascinated by a number of factors, including (not in order of performance): history, prestige, toolishness/capability, design and looks.

Unfortunately for me, I will never afford a Rolex sub. Even though I probably have the money, I have other things that have a higher priority. Fortunately for me, I have a collection of Seiko 6309/6306 divers which fascinate me for the same reasons listed above. But I always wondered how the Rolex Sub would compare to the Seiko 6309.

Recently, I had the chance to obtain a very “accurate” Sub fake from a trusted buyer, for comparison purposes. The following is a thus “review” based on stylistic/design criteria, rather than quality criteria (although I am sure the venerable 6309 would fare surprisingly well in the quality stakes!)


The Rolex movement hacks, but more importantly, it hand winds! The Rolex date (even on the fake) changes at precisely midnight. I like that. Otherwise, the Rolex is a tried-and-trusted tractor, capable of excellent accuracy. 10/10

The 6309 movement is also a tried-and-trusted tractor, capable of excellent accuracy (although not as stable as a Rolex), but lacks a handwind capability. I would love to wind my 6309s once a week. 8/10

Dial, hands and crystal

The Rolex dial is very busy (lots of text), and a little blingy with the white-gold bordered indices. I am not a fan of the much-copied Mercedes hands, which I consider too thin for a tool watch. Both the Seiko and the Rolex have sapphire crystals (aftermarket for the Seiko), although the Cyclops in the Rolex is not my cup of tea. I would change the Rolex hands for MOD hands, and fit a new crystal. 7/10

The Seiko has day/date (a very important plus for me) rather than the date of the Rolex, the hands and dial are immensely readable and toolish, and in my opinion the Seiko-trademark arrow hands are aesthetically the most pleasing of any diver. The only thing I would change is to fit a black day/date and, of course, the sapphire upgrade. 9/10


The Rolex Oyster strap has solid endlinks (even on the fake) and a simple yet effective flip clasp with diver’s extension. I am a sucker for Oyster straps. 8/10

The Seiko is fitted with an aftermarket Super Oyster with solid endlinks from Harold (Yobokies). The clasp is more solid and detailed than the Rolex, with great pushbar opening. This strap has no dive extension. 9/10


The Rolex case is a much-copied classic; it sits well, looks purposeful and has stood the test of time. The crown and crown protectors are a bit dominant. 9/10

The trademark Seiko cushion case is another design classic, the crown protection offered by the case is nothing less than genius. The contours of the case mould to the wearers arm, making the Seiko hug the wrist. The case looks more balanced on a rubber strap than on steel. 9/10


The Rolex Sub is the epitome of prestige, in my neck of the woods. It is capable, dependable and bloody expensive. I would so love to own a vintage Sub (pre-“bling” model from the 60s), albeit with the mods suggested above. 10/10

The Seiko 6309 is also a prestigious watch – among divers and soldiers of my generation (40+), and increasingly among WIS tool watch enthusiasts. 7/10

I have given the Rolex a slight edge (44/42). The Rolex is about 10-15 times the price of a top-restored Seiko 6309. If you consider that both watches will resell for their original used buying price, then the pricing / value-for-the-buck issue diminishes. If there where no issues of price/prestige, and I could evaluate both watches as the capable, well designed and historically significant tool watches they are, I would be hard pressed to choose between modded Seiko 6309 with a handwind movement, or a modded (crystal and hands) vintage Rolex Sub. Unmodded, the vintage Sub would (by my criteria) narrowly beat the 6309, while the 6309 would beat a modern Sub hands down.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

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

Not Seiko, but the next best thing:

Omega Speedmaster cal 861 "Moon Watch" - first watch on the moon.

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:

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

And a little later:

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


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Seiko/Seikomatic 1964 collection

I have started a collection of 1964 Seikos, in part due to the fact that I was born in 1964, in part due to the immediately recognizable characteristics of 1960s Seikos which I find so appealing. In my opinion the combination of elegance and simplicity of Seiko steel watches of this era are unsurpassed. Design, case quality, hands, indices and dials are of very high across the range of Seikos from Grand Seiko to the mid-level Seikomatics, Sportsmatics etc. Resources appear also to have been spent on movements across the board, where high-jewel, slim movements like the middle-tier 8305/6 series must have caused quite a stir at the time (sic!).

Searching for these pieces on eBay is easy, as Seiko began using 4 digit movement numbers in the 60s, with the 3rd digit representing the grade of movement (a 39j 8325 being a higher grade than a 30j 8305) while the 4th digit indicates the display: 1 = no date, 5 = date only, 6 = day/date).

In the mid 60s Seiko (Suwa) developed the 66xx series, which includes the Sportsmatic and Sportman in my collection shown below. I understand these may have been the precursors to the Seiko “5” series. The 66xx’s in my collection do not hack, are manual wind or automatic.

The 83xx Suwa series (represented in my collection by two ´64 Seikomatic Slimdates) are also a product of the mid 60s, and are characterised by their thinner movements. In addition to the 8305 30j Slimdate, I have my eye open for the 8306 30j Business/Weekdater. With respect to movement quality I have seen these refered to as upper-middle, and they do have a relatively high jewel count.

From LEFT to RIGHT (some of the information comes from Japanese translations):

SEIKOMATIC - Slimdate Calendar
Caliber 8305B 30 jewel Diashock Automatic
Caseback: Seikomatic Slimdate 841990 4D01279 (Snap caseback)
Landmark slimline self-winding watch, calendar. Seiko's own early-haul system (Patent No.3097512) So it is very easy to use. (I understand this caliber uses a more complicated and efficient roller clutch in the winding gear train, rather than the simpler "magic lever" system). Abbreviation: MAMD
Temp frequency: 18000 times / hour 5 bps. Released start (Seiko sales data): February 1964 Earliest check individual: March 1964 The latest confirmation individual: September 1964.
Comments: This watch is in pristine condition and is the watch I use at work, replaced by a 6309-7049 when I leave for home.

SEIKOMATIC - Slimdate Calendar
8305B 30 jewel Diashock movement
Caseback: Seikomatic Slimdate 841990 44902906 Engraved: Den Nakayama 1968
Snap caseback, perimeter scoring pattern (Laurette ring) "to emphasize the feeling of luxury". Landmark slimline self-winding watch, calendar. Seiko's own early-haul system (Patent No.3097512) So it is very easy to use. (I understand this caliber uses a more complicated and efficient roller clutch in the winding gear train, rather than the simpler "magic lever" system) Abbreviation: MAMD
Temp frequency: 18000 times / hour. Released start (Seiko sales data): February 1964 Earliest check individual: March 1964 The latest confirmation individual: September 1964.
Comments: This is my first 1964 watch, and keeps excellent time. The case has been quite badly scratched, and the dial has some gouges.

Sportsmatic 17 jewels no date
Caseback: Seiko waterproof diashock stainless steel unbreakable mainspring 69990
Seiko Sportsmatic 4401542
Screw caseback
Seiko 6601B features automatic no manual wind sweep second Dm= 27.6mm, H= 5.45mm 17 jewels f = 18000 A/h power-reserve 38h Code SMAC intro 1961 5 beats per second (6309=6 beats per second).
Comments: this is a watch in reasonable condition with an even patina on the dial. I particularly like the simplicity of the no-date dial.

Sportsman 17 jewels diashock
Caseback: STP 6602-9981 Seiko Water Proof 5N01737
Comments: not a 1964, but I really wanted a hand-wind and saw this going for a very reasonable price so I snapped it up. Dial is rather weathered but still acceptable. No quick-change for the date. A nice, solid watch.