It’s been a few months – okay, ten, to be exact – since I bought this beauty on feeBay. In that ten months, it has proven itself to be one challenge after another before I finally got it to the condition and equipage that I wanted from the beginning. I won’t go into every nauseating detail, but there were times when I almost left it in the offering plate at the Church of the Nativity, though they’d never done anything to deserve such a punishment. Put another way, this beautiful, much-loved Seikomatic did not seem to want to be restored and re-beautified, and it fought me pretty much every inch of the way, from a service & oiling that almost morphed into an overhaul, to a nearly five-month search for just the right piece of wrist hardware – which I then had to wait the better part of a month-and-a-half to receive in the mail from Hokkaido.
Here are a few of the seller’s pictures as I first saw them on feeBay. You’ll no doubt note that it certainly didn’t look like the Watch from Hell…
As I’ve no doubt said a few times here and there, I love the clean, uncomplicated lines of watches from the 1950’s and early 60’s. There is a true elegance to them that is all but lost on many of todays’ would-be watch aficionado’s – at least those who go around with tea-saucers on their wrists, wearing that ‘bad boy’ proud, not to mention in good health. In addition to the size craze, it seems to me that it’s also gotten to be the norm these days to add extra details just for the heck of it. (I looked at just such a watch a year and-a-half ago, a very nice, 40mm Lucien Picard dress model, with a beautiful art deco design on the dial, and a single row of very nice, small but high-quality white diamonds around the bezel – yeah, I admit it; sometimes I like a few diamonds, if they’re set nicely and possess some brilliance. These certainly did. The problem was the tachymeter that had been added to the chapter ring for no discernable reason…Jeebus wept…) Sometimes it’s just a relief to reach for an automatic that’s just got three hands and some hour markers; no date wheels, no day wheels, no cutesy sun/moon dial, etc., etc.
Okay, now that I’ve already managed to digress a bit – and we were only on the third paragraph, too; dang – I guess it’s time to show you the particulars of this very special vintage Seiko.
Model Name: Seikomatic 30-Jewel Automatic Men's Watch.
Features: Diashock, Antimagnetic, Water-Resistant
Ref./Model Number: 6201 8950
Serial Number: 4O07405
Country of Origin: Japan
Date of Manufacture: 1964
Movement: Cal. 603(6201), signed ‘Seikomatic’ & 'Seikosha'
Case Material: Stainless steel
Case Measurements: 36.5mm (44mm lug-to-lug)
Bracelet: NOS Seiko STELUX 19mm stainless steel mesh
Miscellaneous Notes: Dial & hands original; aftermarket acrylic crystal and unsigned clasp extension. 38-hour power reserve. Extensive service (11 parts replaced, 7 NOS, 4 used from Watchmaker’s parts bin – please don’t ask, ‘kay? ‘kay…), oiling and testing completed 4/2014. Currently operating at ~+15-20 sec/day.
“To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” – My Watchmaker, speaking to my Seikomatic after Week Four of attempted service/repair.
It was that kind of watch for him – and, ultimately, for me, as well. Here were our starting points: Six parts broken. Three parts worn. Two parts worn excessively. Old lubricants the consistency of partially-dried boogers – and don’t you dare tell me you’ve never blown/picked your nose and “wouldn’t know about that sort of thing.” The caseback had to be exorcised by a New Orleans Shaman before it’d come off…okay, I’m exaggerating with that one; the Shaman was actually from Cielo Azul, NM, but hey, I was in a pinch over here. And the bracelet sucked; too short, broken in three places, and full of corrosion – oh, and there was also a long-abandoned, teeny-tiny little bird’s nest in the clasp.
Obviously, I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but you get the idea; the danged watch was in absolutely poopy condition, far more-so than the seller had admitted to. He said “it might be a little poopy here and there,” but lemme tell you, it was really poopy, from A to Zed…with Zed being the worst. Ever.
Anyhow, after a wait of several more weeks for parts – and developing a taste for Prozac™ milk shakes – during which time he’d taken apart the entire movement and cleaned it piece by piece, jewel by jewel, my Watchmaker doggedly set to work on replacing the old parts with the new ones, a task made rather difficult by their tendency to fly off his tweezers for no particular reason. And, of course, rather than land in the silk collection bag thingy just above his lap, they went off in wild directions, one of them – he swears – going into his daily Starbux fred Grandy Lattey. Fortunately, he only sips at his coffee, so there was no danger in his swallowing the expensive little thing. Unfortunately, he’s a cheap bast- er, frugal person who nurses his morning java all day, so we got no work done on that particular crape diem…which just happened to be a Friday, thankyuhverruhmuch.
And that’s the way things went for a couple of weeks until the last part clicked into place and he began to wind the Devil’s Contraption as he’d come to start calling it. It started out very promisingly, as he really had done a superlative job of dismantling it, replacing the needed parts, and then done all that running and testing and adjusting in the earliest parts of the day. It was only several hours later that I realized that my Seikomatic was running 54 minutes late. Then 57 minutes. And finally, the record: 63 minutes for a 240-minute (that’s four hours, for you folks in Rio Lindo) stroll. JEE-BUS, I thought.
Back to the Watchmaker it went, and after two hours of trying to keep him from committing Seppuku, he agreed to work on the “bloody-damned thing” again. And that’s when things started going terrific for him, though not so much for me. As he was building up some real momentum and making amazing progress, I was in something of a fight with myself over what type of strap/band/bracelet – or even string – to use in holding the thing to my wrist. As already mentioned, the original “brick-block” bracelet was a complete non-starter.
Ditto a fairly well-made faux crocodile strap that, at best, looked merely ‘okay.’ It had an 18mm width, which was a bit on the narrow side – or, put another way, you could easily tell, just-by-looking, how ill-fitting the piece was.
Hence, I ‘rediscovered’ a forgotten statistic: a goodly number of vintage Seiko (as well as their Citizen counterparts) featured bracelets with a width of 19mm. Ultimately, I came across a NOS Seiko bracelet that was a virtual copy of the original: 19mm wide, CHECK; Brick-Block Design, CHECK; Signed single-deployant, fold-over clasp, CHECK; 170mm-long bracelet, CH- oh, JEEBUS…6.7 inches long, DOWN-CHECK; my wrist is just a hair over 7.75” in circumference, and given the combined bracelet/case (36.5mm) size of 206.5mm, or 8”, there just wasn’t enough length there to gamble with the purchase of what would probably be an ill-fitting result. That, and the ends were not curved to better link them up to the case. Back to the old laptop…
And then, after another few weeks of searching, I came across a NOS Seiko-STELUX mesh bracelet that once again – and with fingers tightly crossed – looked perfect. Width: 19mm. Uh-huh. Signed Seiko fold-over clasp. Yep. Length: 180mm. Hmm, okay. Total bracelet/case size: 216.5mm or just under 8.5”. Curved ends: CHECK. (The watch’s serial number was even among the five or so listed as fitting the bracelet perfectly!) Location: Hokkaido, Japan. Not bad, not bad at all…what the hey, I thought. Let’s do this thing!
So, with that, I hit the ‘buy’ button on feeBay and became the proud owner of the truly gorgeous STELUX mesh bracelet…which turned out to be one-half inch shorter than had been advertised, or, put another way, was only 8” in length. (Jeebus wept again…)
Sometimes you just have to laugh at what’s been put in your way as you crawl inexorably toward that far-off finish line. But this wasn’t one of those times. Hey, I know that 36 bones for a NOS Seiko-STELUX bracelet isn’t a fortune, even when you’re a retired old Sailor like me. But it wasn’t the money; it was the month and-a-half wait that had gotten to me; that’s 40+ days I’d never get back, for cripes’ sake. I was finally ready to put this teufels uhr, this montre du le diable, this devil’s timepiece into the offering plate at Our Lady of Enduring Peace. (Venial or mortal sin be damned; my Jewish half would see me through!)
And then my Watchmaker said, “No worries, bruddah Mort; we got us a bracelet extender, brah! Dat gonna fix us up real good, Mahalo!” Which was really funny, because my Watchmaker is from Singapore, not Hawaii. Or maybe I needed a new medication…
At any rate, and in no time at all, that relatively small and simple, twice-folded piece of metal-with-little-holes-in the-side-for-spring-bars was installed and ready to bridge the vast channel that was my wrist. And the result was truly cathartic…
Obviously, the end result speaks for itself, but there’s so much more to this watch than the trials and tribulations that brought it pretty much all the way back from “piece of junk” to “treasured vintage watch.”
A quick glance at the Microsoft Word Count™ feature tells me that I’ve taken a bit too many verbal detours, so I’ll try to wrap this novella up with as little blood and feathers as possible. (Besides, the pictures really do speak for themselves…!)
- Simple, clean dial
- Simply cool ‘upturned bullet’ hour markers
- Great visual balance between the mesh bracelet and the clean look of the dial and case
- Semi-hidden crown at 4 o’clock (contributes to the clean, sleek appearance of the watch)
- Seikosha movement
- Lots of broken stuff
- Difficulty replacing broken stuff
- Finding period/brand-correct bracelet
- Seikosha movement
As always -- and I hope this doesn't sound disingenuous after so many repetitions -- thank you so much for sharing your valuable time with me and this post. I can't possibly put into words what it means to me, except to say, once again, that I'm truly in your debt.
Mortuus Praesepultus, Rancho Santa Fe, CA, December 2014