Within vintage circles, collectors now seem to clamor for simple watches with distinctive designs. Today’s #TBT offers a choice within this theme and we even exhibit three different variants. Specifically, I happen to think that this week’s edition of our long-running series covers one of the more classically attractive series from that ever-discussed Japanese brand, Seiko. The Seiko 6106-8100 sport divers and their brethren are well known by the Seiko hardcore, but perhaps a bit unknown by others. Let’s take a deeper look.
A little over a year ago, I wrote an article on Seiko’s “named” Sports Divers. This was essentially a look at a handful of nicknamed watches with 70M of water resistance and either an internal or external rotating dive bezel. Outspoken Seiko collectors love to amble on about how these watches were not true divers due to their press fit crystals, lower water resistance and lack of any type of screw down crown. Fair enough, but we don’t really care as we aren’t going near “the drink” with what are now 50 year old collectibles much less the kitchen sink! What we, and many of the brand’s collectors do know is that the Seiko 6106-8100 family is made up of some great looking watches.
The Seiko 6106-8100 was introduced in 1968 and was made for a handful of years. Marketing ads actually did boast about its diving capability, that was “Proof” in 1969, all the way down to 229 feet! Other ads made it seem like the choice for surfers. Either way, it was seemingly a popular offering and the affordable, but not cheap, price of $75 when new likely helped. Oh, and as a note, models after 1968 often showed “resist” on the dial. That’s fine, but simply ensure that the case back also states “resistant”.
The stainless steel Seiko 6106-8100 was made in a number of dial colors: dark grey, white/silver, dark blue, dark green and an exotic dark blue with “chevron” indices. Dark grey is the most popular color with the others variants taking on other levels of rarity. The watch came on a stainless bracelet that has become a rare find due to its lightweight and stretchy nature, but the watch thankfully looks good on a variety of straps.
The Seiko 6106-8100 comes in at roughly 38mm and wears true to size with its slim c-case shape. It features 19mm lugs – seemingly a vintage Seiko staple – and a relatively flat screw down case back. The movement inside is, you guessed it, the reference 6106. Depending on the age of the watch, different movement generations were used. A firm push of the crown will tell all as early 6106’s only change the date while slightly later versions advance both the day and date. Speaking of the one “complication” on these, dual language dates are common.
I say that the Seiko 6106-8100 is a beautiful classic for a number of reasons. First of all, the dial is so well spaced out that the bezeled day/date window is somehow hardly obtrusive. This makes me chuckle as there exists such firm vitriol when it comes to modern watches with the indicators. On the versions with applied indices, the lume application combined with the slender lumed hands looks sporty but classy at the same time.
The same can be said about the dial finishes themselves. They absolutely sparkle in the light and are honestly finished better than so many of the Swiss watches I own from the same period. The way the chromed Seiko logo breaks up the dial adds a very expensive looking touch too. Writing? There’s not much and the little that’s there is purposeful and topped (or bottomed) with Seiko’s famous Suwa logo.
Add the case-colored bi-directional bezel to the list of attributes that I enjoy about the Seiko 6106-8100. It flows well into the radial polished case and strikes me as different versus most divers with their black scales. Again, it’s a touch of elegance.
Most of the writing on the Seiko 6106-8100 has been relatively general, but I’d like to segue, briefly, to a specific discussion on the chevron-dialed piece. When I was hunting Sports Divers, I came upon this piece while searching eBay. It was overpriced, it had been sitting for a long time, but I was so very drawn to it.
By this time, I had become accustomed to receiving small batches of Seiko’s in the mail and being positively surprised about the quality of the watches compared to the prices paid. So, when I took a close look at the seller’s photos and saw all the detail work on this dial – that gorgeous blue, the light blue outer track, those big fat lumed markers, and the white hashes – I knew I had to have it. And while, after negotiating, I still overpaid, I was floored when I received the watch. It’s a stunner and, in my mind, deserves higher praise and consideration than it currently receives.
If you’re thinking of competitors of the Seiko 6106-8100, it’s hard for me to come up with much other than Seiko’s own other offerings. The 6119-8460 would be a good candidate. From Switzerland, the Omega Seamaster 120 (ref. 165.027) seems pretty close and I’d guess there are some Tissots out there with similar looks. Value wise, though, the Seiko’s are still far less expensive. I picked up my the grey and silver dialed pieces for far less than $200 each and it was a bit more for the chevron.
Today, these watches seem to easily crest $300 and often settle around $500. I took a quick look at eBay and saw some with “dreamer” pricing – and many had problems as well. Don’t worry about non-runners (unless water intrusion occurred) or scratched/cracked crystals. Both are easy to fix and can allow for a heck of a deal if all checks out underneath and the bezel is included. Check to ensure that the hands are correct, the reference number is proper for the model and that the day/date chrome bezel is still affixed. By the way, the 8100 is often the 8109 on the caseback and that signifies that the watch was for sale in export markets.
The Seiko 6106-8100 is one of the brand’s purest designs when it comes to divers. Lithe, attractive and still affordable are just some of the characteristics that could be used to summarize any one of the variants. For me, these pieces represent watches that can easily take on the “big boys” from Switzerland in every capacity aside from depth rating. Until next week…