Fratello’s Top 5 Vintage Seiko 5 References Ever Produced
Another Friday, another Top 5! In this series, we take one watch or watch series and choose our five favorite references ever produced. Today, it’s time for the last of three articles on the Seiko 5 line. Last week, I focused on our favorite Seiko 5 Sports limited editions ever produced. The result was a colorful list of Seiko 5 Sports references that show the great diversity of the line. But this week, we’ll have a look at vintage Seiko 5 models. These watches are both great first vintage pieces and sought-after models by collectors. It’s time to look at the top five vintage Seiko 5 references ever produced.
After two lists with modern Seiko 5 Sports models, it was about time to go vintage. As I explained two weeks ago, when the idea of covering Seiko 5 in this series came up, it sounded daunting. I quickly decided to split it up into different articles to create some useful lists. The first article focused on the current regular-production models in the Seiko 5 Sports collection. In last week’s article, I dove into the world of Seiko 5 Sports limited editions, and this week, we’ll take a look at the best vintage Seiko 5 watches. It’s a wonderful world of affordable vintage classics. So whether you are looking for your first vintage watch or you are a seasoned vintage collector, the Seiko 5 series has something for you.
The principles of the Seiko 5 watches
As a short reminder, the Seiko 5 line of watches has been around since 1963. The series was based on the principle of having 5 attributes that defined the watches and also gave the series its name. The attributes are automatic winding, a day and date display, water resistance, a recessed crown at 4 o’clock, and durable case construction. Since the 1960s, we have seen a huge number of Seiko 5 models that perfectly represent the great variety of Seiko designs. And this week, Seiko introduced a 55th-anniversary edition of the first Seiko 5 Sports model that debuted in 1968. It’s another great reminder of the many great Seiko 5 watches we have seen. Now it’s time to find out what our five favorites are from the huge list of candidates.
Seiko 5 Sportsmatic 418970
Let’s kick this list off with the original Seiko 5 from 1963. The Seiko 5 Sportsmatic from “The Five” series from 1963 is notoriously hard to find. Unfortunately, most examples of this watch have not survived the test of time so well. Their biggest issue is the plated case, which is often in very bad condition. And when pieces do show up for sale or auction in decent or good condition, collectors are all over them. But that’s no reason to leave the first model out. After all, it started the Seiko 5 legacy, and it’s quite an interesting piece.
This watch featured a 37mm chrome-plated brass case that came with either a black or silver dial. Inside the case, Seiko used its 21-jewel automatic caliber 410 with an operating frequency of 18,000vph. Later, the movement would get the reference 6619, which, as you probably know, starts the later Seiko references. The watch is hard to find on its original bracelet as the quality of these bracelets was not necessarily the best. Then again, plenty of vintage watch bracelets have not survived through six decades. As mentioned, the watches are hard to come by, and they often need some TLC. A great example is the watch shown here, which is featured on My Retro Watches. Michael, who runs the site, shows the restoration of his first-generation Seiko 5 Sportsmatic.
Seiko 5 Sports 6106-8120
Our second pick is the first Seiko 5 Sports model from 1968. It’s the model that was reintroduced this week in a modern version. But the original Seiko 5 Sports 6106-8120 is still relatively easy to find, making it a great second pick. The watch came with a characteristic 39.5mm stainless steel C-case and a stainless steel bracelet. My colleague Mike Stockton’s 6106-8120 above is not shown on the original bracelet, but check it out as it is a very characteristic, almost-futuristic bracelet that makes the watch even funkier. The watch was available in three dial/bezel combinations — black/black, silver/black, and blue/blue. My favorite is the silver version, which just looks super cool.
Inside the case, Seiko used its automatic caliber 6016. The brand produced multiple versions of this movement, which were distinguished by the suffixes A, B, or C. Some differences were the use of two rotor screws on the A version (versus just one screw for the other two) and the presence of oil-maintaining Diafix jewels in the B and C versions. Caliber 6106C also featured the day in two languages for the international market but for a full breakdown of the differences, visit this link. All three movements had a frequency of 21,600vph and a 46-hour power reserve. Finding a 6106-8120 in good condition can be a challenge. But there are versions out there that make for a great vintage Seiko sports watch after restoration. Prices are roughly between €500 and €1,000.
Seiko 5 Sports Speedtimer 6139-6000 “Pogue”
Within enthusiasts’ circles, the Seiko 6139-6000 “Pogue” chronograph is one of the most instantly recognizable watches ever produced. The combination of the yellow dial (in the most popular variant) and the red and blue bezel is unique. The bold colors are supported by a case design that is typical for the late ’60 and early ’70s. Inside that characteristic case, however, is where you find the true magic of the watch. Seiko’s caliber 6139 debuted in 1969 and was one of the first automatic chronograph movements ever produced.
As Mike explained in his article about the Pogue, the watch gets its nickname from Colonel William Pogue. Pogue was part of the NASA Skylab 4 mission, and during it, he wore the colorful 6139-6000 chronograph on his wrist for 84 days. The yellow sunburst dial is certainly an acquired taste, but combined with the extraordinary story, the 6139-6000 has become an icon among watch lovers.
The first 6139-6000 also came with a silver or blue dial, the latter of which you see here. On top of that, Seiko produced a great variety of dial configurations. Among them are dials for the Japanese domestic market (JDM) that had the addition of “Seiko 5 Sports” at 9 o’clock. As these were JDM models, they are hard to come by, and you can expect to see prices differ greatly depending on the condition. But expect to pay close to €2K for one in good condition.
Seiko 5 Sports Diver 6119-8460 “Gene Kranz“
The next watch comes with a cool story, and that’s why it is a great addition to this list. The Seiko 5 Sports Diver 6119-8460 was worn by Gene Kranz. Kranz was the flight director of the Apollo 13 mission, and he wore the white-dialed version of this cool piece. As you can see, the watch does not have the typical Seiko professional-dive-watch style but a rather more conservative look, as Mike explained in his overview of the vintage Seiko Sports Diver series. The design feels very balanced and aesthetically pleasing thanks to the slim bezel, small diving-scale numerals, and large hour markers.
The watch featured a 38mm cushion case with a bidirectional rotating bezel. Inside the sleek case, Seiko used its caliber 6119, which had day and date indicators (like all watches on this list). The automatic movement operated at 21,600vph and provided a 46-hour power reserve. The biggest difference with the previously mentioned caliber 6106 is that the 6119 did not feature hacking whereas the 6106 did. Expect to see prices of roughly €500 to €1,000 heavily depending on the condition. You might be able to get one for a better price if you search long enough, and the “Gene Kranz” Seiko 5 is definitely worth it.
Seiko 5 Sports 6119-8300 Rally Diver
The last watch on this list is one of the illustrious Seiko Rally Divers. The 6119-8300 was one of the five Rally Diver references that Seiko produced, the others being 6106-7117(9), 6106-8227(9), 6119-7170, and 6119-7173. We have seen the design of the fan-favorite Rally Divers return in the past couple of years for several limited editions. Among them was the first collaboration series that Seiko and Rowing Blazers did. The Kosuke Kawamura limited-edition models also used the iconic checkered bezels that made these Seiko divers so instantly recognizable.
For this list, we picked the ref. 6119-8300. This model featured a 39mm case with a checkered bezel and minute track, both executed in blue and silver. Inside the case, you will find the same caliber 6119 that powered the “Gene Kranz” model. The watches were produced in the late 1960s and 1970s and embodied a look that garnered a lot of fans. Other brands copied the style of the bezel, but the checkered-flag design will always be connected to Seiko’s Rally Divers. Finding a Rally Diver today is not too hard, but they are very popular. And as with all vintage Seiko pieces, you have to do a bit of homework and be ready to spend some money on servicing and potential restoration. The prices for the Rally Divers vary on the condition, but you can expect to see them between €500 and €1,000.
There you have it — the five best vintage Seiko 5 Sports references according to us. But we realize that you might not agree with all the picks for this list. With literally hundreds of Seiko 5 models that have been produced over time, there are simply too many to choose from. That’s why we would love this to be the start of a bigger discussion. Let us know your picks for the best vintage models in the Seiko 5 series. We will see you next week for another Top 5 list!
For more information on the current Seiko 5 Sports collection, visit the official Seiko website.