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Introduction To Vintage Seiko Part 1: History

A look into the crazed obsession of collecting watches of the past.

The hobby of watch-collecting is already a very niche topic. However, collecting vintage watches by this Japanese brand is even more so. Despite being a relatively small group, collectors in this sub-niche are one of the most active and enthusiastic ones out there, with a rapidly growing community. That is because vintage Seiko watches provide tremendous value and quality.

Why Vintage Seiko Is So Popular

No doubt, collecting vintage watches has been a niche with a tremendous amount of growth in recent years. But why collect the Seiko brand?


While it’s true that some vintage Seiko watches have shot up in value to a contentious degree, most models of the past still remain largely affordable.

Ebay Marketplace Search For Vintage Seiko Watches
Ebay Marketplace Search For Vintage Seiko Watches

In fact, you’re not only able to come across an interesting find, but one in good condition as well. While going vintage usually offer a more budget-friendly alternative, most brands, especially Swiss brands, have their vintage pieces selling at a higher ball-park due to the scarcity created with time. Not with Seiko though, this brand has produced an inconceivable amount of watches that even till now, saturate the market.


You probably can’t think of a watch-making brand with a greater range than Seiko. Aside from price, there is an array of complications and features even for their vintage models.

A collection of vintage Seiko watches
Image: Grand Seiko Guy

Additionally, Vintage Seikos are a place where collectors can find something out of the usual norm. From ‘TV’-shaped cases to the famous “Grammar Of Design” case. You’ve presented a wide collection of choices while the watches themselves remain classic-picks.


Aside from the common quality-control issues like chapter-ring misalignment for their dive watches, Seiko has always been known to be pretty reliable. I had personal experiences with my father’s old Seiko 5 left in an old watch box and was powered up and running soon after it’s revival. And we’re not talking about servicing-kind-of-revival, I’m talking about how just handling the watch casually jumpstarted the decade-old movement.

Seiko mechanical movements - Seiko caliber 7S26
Image; Strapcode

On the downside, Being seen as a reliable brand of watch for a long time led to the brand keeping a few movements for a large portion of the watch models. Now, while this case has been disputed in recent years, with Seiko adopting newer movements in their watches, I think of it as a win for vintage models. Here’s why.

Lower Servicing Cost

Because of how these movements are produced in abundance, you’re not only able to service them at a relatively lower cost, you can even replace them. And that’s the case for the 7S26 Movement. This movement is so affordable that it costs even less to buy a new one and replace it. Fortunately, it’s also found in a many vintage Seiko 5 and Dive watches.

Historical Milestones Of Seiko

Grand Seiko & King Seiko – 1960s

In 1959, Seiko was divided into two factories, Suwa Seiko and Daini Seiko, to promote competitiveness and innovation between them. Suwa came to produce the first Grand Seiko in 1960, which met chronometer standards and was rated and branded.

Grand Seiko SBGW252, The First Grand Seiko
SBGW252, Image: Monochome Watches

On the other hand, Daini, with the first King Seiko, only managed to meet the chronometer rating sometime after, in 1964. But now, in the eyes of collectors and experts, there was never really a winner. Both factories produced equally high-quality Seikos, which is why they remain extremely collectable even amongst modern offerings

Suwa Seikosha (left) and Daini Seikosha (right) logos with the VFA Branding
Suwa Seiko(Left) vs Daini Seiko(Right)

If you see a piece of vintage seiko produced in this era, it’s likely to be have a logo above it’s 6’o clock index. These logos determine the production factory. VFA, short for “Very Fine Adjusted” is one of the hallmarks of the brand during the production of these watches. Which just goes to show the determination this Japanese brand has for creating first-class timepieces.

Introduction Of Automatic Chronographs – 1969~

The story of the Seiko chronograph began in 1969, with the production of the 6139 movements, and later, the 6138.At that time, the appeal these chronographs have would be their value, as they were some of the cheapest automatic column wheels chronograph in that era.  

6139 Movement

Chronographs models contained the 6139 movements included the Famous ‘Pogue’ of the ‘Speed-Timer’ line. which was named after astronaut Colonel William Pogue for the 1973 Skylab 4 mission along with the Omega Speedmaster. It’s actually quite incredible that this discovery has only been made in 2007, with an enthusiast spotting the watch on images of past missions.

Seiko 6139 "Pogue", Vintage Seiko Chronograph

Colonel Pogue brought this Speed-Timer as part of his personal kit, and although it isn’t flight-approved by NASA, it’s a phenomenal story still that an astronaut chose it and even used it to time engine burns with the chronograph.

6138 Movement

The 6138, a two-register chronograph that followed the release of the 6139. Two iconic models possessing this movement includes the ‘UFO’, also known as the Yachtman, as well as the ‘Bullhead’, These models were nicknamed after what their case resembles, with the ‘UFO’ resembling a flying saucer, and the ‘Bullhead’ including a unique set of pushers on the top of the case, resembling the horns of a bull.

Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer 'UFO' and the Seiko 6138 Bullhead, Vintage Chronographs
Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer ‘UFO’ (Left), Image: VIntage Watch Inc
Seiko 6138 Bullhead (Right), Image: Analog/Shift

Both watches are relatively attainable albeit a much higher price tag, but are a collector’s dream to have on in great condition. As the spearhead of the automatic chronographs of Seiko along with the Pogue, these are truly collectible watches.

My only complaint though is that they are rather large. Both watches measure in at about 44mm while the Pogue is only at 40mm. As someone with a smaller wrist, I’m unable to enjoy these interesting designs at my preferred smaller-size. However, the sizing is probably one of the few setbacks these watches have for its large following.

Quartz Revolution/Crisis – 1970s

In watchmaking, the 1970s brought about the Quartz Crisis, a major disruption in the industry for which low-cost but highly accurate watches took away the appeal of traditional watchmaking, putting many Swiss brands out-of-business.  

Seiko Astron and The Quartz Crisis
Seiko Quartz AstronImage: Theo and Harris

At the helm of the revolution was Seiko. This brand from the far-east introduced the Seiko Quartz Astron (35Q). This watch democratized accurate-but-affordable watches by introducing the Quartz movement. Since then, buyers never see mechanical-watchmaking as an end-all-be-all part of owning a watch.

In the late 70s, Seiko introduced the Twin Quartz, as the name suggests, consists of two quartz crystal per watch. This design stemmed from the previous quartz model being inaccurate from temperature changes. The solution of employing two different crystals with different temperature in a single movement placed this line at one of the forefronts of vintage quartz watches to collect.

Seiko Twin Quartz King Quartz Blue dial
Image:WatchSite user Garfre

Final Thoughts

The allure of vintage Seiko watches doesn’t stop here. These models represent why aficionados collect these fascinating time capsules of the past.

It is unmistakable that collecting these watches have gained traction in past years. Do you owned a piece of Seiko’s History?  Check out our Instagram Page for our educational infographics as well as our Youtube video of the same topic. Stay tuned for our next week’s topic!

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