Thursday, January 31, 2013

Seiko "Tuna" and summary of Seiko's vintage Shrouded Divers

Having lunch with some new colleagues from Sales, I was wearing the "Tuna" Seiko 300m Professional Shrouded Diver 7549-7010 on its summer bracelet: a stainless steel solid end-link SuperOyster. One of the new colleagues leaned over and asked: "So, is that a Rolex?"

The 7549- 7010 300m Shrouded Diver, this time on a Monster bracelet, trying not to look like a Sub...

Quick as a flash I sized up the situation and said "Rolex!? Nooooo, what we have here is a heavy duty professional, 300m shrouded saturation diver designed and built over a quarter of a century ago by the legendary Ikuo Tokunaga, incorporating a revolutionary helium valve and with the high-torgue movement specially designed for this watch and its heavy duty hands.....see!" and I passed it over for him to see the hands.

For a second he was about to fall for it, when his face brightened and he roared with laughter as he shouted "HA! You almost had me there - it says SEIKO on the dial!!"

I just love WIS moments like that Anyway, here is a summary of Seiko's legendary Professional Shrouded divers:

... with the 7549-7010 as the first 300m professional diver with a quartz movement and protector (shroud) released by Seiko in 1978. Its stainless steel shroud looks like a can of Tuna, hence the nickname "Tuna".

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Japan: Clocker of the Games Time Magazine, Oct. 16, 1964

The following article appeared in Time Magazine, Oct. 16, 1964 and provides an interesting insight into Seiko production figures in 1963:

"Next to the athletes, the most vital ingredients in the Olympic Games are the precision timepieces needed to clock the contests, whose outcomes sometimes depend on milliseconds of difference. Last week, as the 18th Games got under way in Tokyo, the official timepieces were not European for the first time in Olympics history. They were Japanese, and they all bore one name: Seiko, the brand mark of K. Hattori & Co., Ltd., Japan's biggest watchmaker (1963 sales: $98 million).The switch made sense. Duplicating its efforts in cameras and transistor radios, Japan has quietly become a top producer of watches, aggressively competing around the world against the long-unchallenged watchmakers of Europe. Japanese watch production has ticked upward from 2,000,000 annually to 11,700,000 in a decade, now ranks fourth behind that of Switzerland, Russia and the U.S.Split-Second Timing.

Hattori, founded in 1881 by a clock salesman of that name, started out as a shoestring importer of foreign timepieces, later pioneered Japan's own watch industry. Destroyed by a 1923 earthquake, Hattori rebuilt, only to be leveled again by U.S. bombers. That disaster proved to be a blessing. In starting from scratch the third time, the company virtually scrapped hand-assembly methods, today makes 75% of its watches by machine. As a result of its super-efficiency, Hattori claims to have been for five years the non-Communist world's largest maker of jeweled-lever watches. Last year it turned out 5,900,000 wristwatches, 53% of the Japanese total, this year expects its output to rise to 7,000,000.In 1959, when Tokyo was selected as the 1964 Olympics site, Hattori shrewdly picked a delegation of technicians to attend the 1960 Games in Rome, where they carefully studied timing problems and techniques. When the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee asked whether there was a Japanese company capable of providing time clocks for the 1964 Games, for the sake of national honor, Hattori was ready.

Last week, after an investment of $850,000 in research, Hattori's men unveiled 1,300 ingenious Olympic time devices. They ranged from nine varieties of split-second stop watches to an electronic judge of swimming events that: 1) clocks swimmers to 1/1,000th of a second; 2) memorizes individual lap times of up to nine swimmers at a time; and 3) prints all scores on a sheet of paper the instant the race is over, thus eliminating time-consuming human calculation.Pushing the Undersell. For its services Hattori is paid only in prestige. "I hope some of the foreign visitors will remember us after the Olympics," says Company President Shoji Hattori, 64, second son of the late founder.

To refresh their memories, Hattori salesmen are stepping up their export drive, in the past year have broken the Swiss monopoly in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, where Seiko watches now sell at the rate of 9,000 a month. Another target is the U.S. market, which Hattori has heretofore tapped largely by supplying movements to Benrus. Despite forbidding U.S. tariffs, Hattori is beginning a U.S. sales campaign for Seiko, retailing 17-jewel wristwatches for $29.75, just over half the price of a Swiss equivalent."

The following are contemporary 1964 US ads:

(Source: eBay)


Thursday, January 24, 2013

1964 Olympic Seiko One-button Chronograph

Been looking for years for a very specific version of the 5719 one button handwind chronograph: the 1964, metal/black bezel, no lume version. Sorta like this one:

Actually, EXACTLY like this one! I'd actually seen this one on the bay and tried a few tentative offers to no avail. Did the same again with a higher offer and - suddenly it was mine!

The price I offered just made my own hair stand up!! But, thinking about it, this is exactly the one I have been looking for, for the last few years - and now I have it! Have seen them go for less, but I have never been around to pull the trigger! So, is it worth what I paid? Actually, yes - as an integral part of a 1964 Seiko collection, I would say its value is greater than as an individual piece. I know I am going to get a lot of bang for the buck doing the researching ;-) I think the caseback may be slightly above average too, and the October 1964 serial number coincides nicely with the October 1964 Tokyo Olympics:

I always factor into the price of my obsession that I - by researching and documenting significant (aren't they all!) vintage Seiko watches  - are paying back some of the knowledge, education and sheer entertainment provided on Seiko and watch forums by members who have paid their "dues" by investing their cash or time. I personally would have a hard time justifying costs if I couldn't share - or receive - the fruits of this obsession!

Here's an interesting piece of information from the Official Report of the Organizing Committee for the Games of the XVIII Olympiad 1964 - 50 Crown Chronographs were presented as Torch Relay gifts. One wonders if they were specially inscribed, or with a special bezel/dial combination - or... perhaps... 5718s?

To those not familiar with the 5717 Crown chronographs, they came in a bewildering variety: black dials / white dials; with/without lume; steel, plastic and steel/insert bezels; date/no-date. I tried once to summarize the different permutations below (please note the 4598 is probably an erroneously typed 45899):

(Figure reference: Vintage Seiko GS Chronometer Crown Liner 5722 5719 book /eBay)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

1964 Grand Seiko Chronometer box

In a previous blog post (1964 Second generation 43999 or 5722 Grand Seiko chronometer, box and owners manual) I wrote "The search is on for a Second generation 43999 or 5722 Grand Seiko chronometer, box and owners manual. I have never seen a set of these, or even photos, so I have attempted to reconstruct this information from what is available on the internet."

Well, I have not only seen the box and owners manual - after a successful bid I now am the owner of both the owners manual AND the elusive box:

The only other one I've ever seen was at and I quite honestly didn't expect to see another. This is the antiwatchman box:

... and another photo I had found on the net:

The box is identical to the first generation box, but has the GS lion rather than the "8-pointed star: Special Dial" logo:

Grand Seiko Chronometer - complete set at auction

This 1965 cal 5722 Grand Seiko Chronometer with box, papers etc. in nearly-new condition just sold for 498000JPY/4864USD/27000DKK, or about four times the going price for reasonable-condition heads without any paperwork, boxes etc.

With 133 bidders, it appears interest for early vintage Grand Seiko is increasing. The most comparable, modern Grand Seiko (SBGW033) appears to be retailing at around 6500USD making the 4864USD most reasonable for such a unique time capsule.

I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Monday, January 7, 2013


Another Seiko chronometer - this time a King Seiko High Beat Officially Certified Chronometer from 1969, fitted to a black leather Bund / deployant combination to highlight and showcase Taro Tanaka's "Grammar of Design" for high-end King and Grand Seiko of the 60's and 70's. This is a truly iconic example of Seiko design and technological capability from 1969 - the pinnacle of Seiko's mechanical capabilities - and the dawn of the quartz revolution with the introduction of the Seiko Astron in December 1969 - the world's first commercially available quartz-driven wristwatch.

Condition: Used, good working condition. Unpolished case retains original combination of brushed and highly polished surfaces. Some minor marks on case. Service history unknown but the movement is running accurately and with a good reserve.

Date: December 1969. This was a period of exceptional technical development: rising through the ranks since 1964, by 1968 SEIKO chronometers had secured 2nd and 3rd place in the International Chronometer Concours and, with the introduction of the first commercial quartz wristwatch movement by Seiko in December 1969 (the exact production date of my KS 5626 chronometer) -  the Observatory contests of Neuchatel ended. Also in 1969, Seiko lead the competition with the introduction of the world's first automatic chronograph, the caliber 6159.

Movement: Suwa cal. 5626B High-beat day-date (Kanji-English) chronometer certified, 28800 b/h, 25 jewels. Automatic, handwind capability, hacking. The 25 jewel 5626B movement is derived from the 5606A base movement (Seiko 5626B technical manual) and is again a refinement of the 23J 1968 5626A 21600b/h movement. The following video is best viewed in Full Screen mode, and clearly shows the distinct "ticking" of the low-beat 1964 GS chronometer versus the smooth "sweep" of the high-beat KS:

Comparable movements are the 5625 date only movements, where the fourth digit of the movement number denotes date ("5") or day-date ("6"). The movement is fitted with a rack and pinion regulation adjustment with external adjustment screw, to permit regulation without opening the case.

Chronometer certification:  During the early 1960s Seiko displayed the 'Chronometer' name on selected, precision watches which had passed the in-house Seiko chronometer standard testing, the equivalent of the BO (Basel Observatory) Chronometer standard, but stopped displaying the ‘Chronometer’ designation in 1966 due to the lack of independent CICC (Commission Internationale des Controles Chronometriques) Certification facilities in Japan. When the CICC-recognized JCA (Japan Chronometer Association) was established in 1968 in Japan, a few movements designated "Chronometer Officially Certified" (of which this KS caliber 5626 is one) appeared. From various sources, it appears that the non-chronometer 5626 was "A" accuracy graded with a mean daily rate of -6 to +9 secs/day, while the "officially certified" 5626 chronometer may have been manufactured to the entry-level Grand Seiko "AA" standard of -3 to +5 secs/day, or to the pre-1973 COSC standard of -1 to +10secs/day .

Case: width: 37 mm(excluded crown) / Length: 42 mm. Monocoque case (access to movement through dial). Case number 7040, stainless steel. Missing caseback medallion (I'm working on finding a replacement via Yahoo Japan). Lug width: 18mm.

"Grammar of Design": The 7040 case and bezel is a prime example of Seiko's "Grammar of Design" introduced by Taro Tanaka, who in 1962 noticed that Swiss watches "sparkled brilliantly" and realized that the design of high-end Seiko watches could be radically improved through the implementation of "flat and conical surfaces perfectly smooth and free of distortion". This "Grammar of Design" was implemented in Grand Seiko and King Seiko lines from 1967 and made these lines instantly recognizable as status symbols in the hierarchical Japanese business world of the 60's and 70's. Although often over polished by restorers unaware of the "Grammar", the sharp planes and facets of the bezel and case as well as the alternating highly polished and brushed surfaces are retained in this watch. Extremely difficult to "capture" in a 2-dimensional photograph, the wrist shot below gives an idea of the almost sensual lines of the case, which reminds me of the lines of the iconic Citroen DS... designed by Flaminio Bertoni and named ‘most beautiful car of all time’ by Classic & Sports Car magazine.

Citroen photo source:

Strap: Bund strap with stainless steel deployant clasp. The Bund strap increases the wrist presence of this watch, while framing and highlighting the distinctive KS "Grammar of Design" case.

Crown: Original KS.

Glass: Original mineral glass, flat.

Dial: Silver with applied indices. Original, untouched. Some marking/damage at dial edge visible under loupe.

Hands: Original, stainless steel baton with black highlights.


Selected references:




4) Seiko, A Journey in Time, Chapter 8