Today’s edition of #TBT takes a look at a watch from one of our favorite brands, but it’s a piece that few discuss or even mention. The Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer is a watch that I’d admired from afar for a long time and finally decided to buy – and I’m glad I did. From a brand that has issued its share of attractive and, let’s just call them, busy quartz chronographs, I’d count this on the side of the former.
In the early 1980’s, Seiko introduced the 7A28 caliber as the world’s first analog quartz chronograph (we looked at a 7A38 with date function). The brand created seriously styled stainless versions, gold plated variants, and even hooked up with Giugiaro to create some funky 7A28’s that found their way into Aliens. But it’s one watch, and consider this a preview of an article to come, within the series that seems to garner the most praise: the Seiko 7A28 Yacht Timer. Equipped with the same movement as the rest of the lineup, the watch combines just enough bright color with a white dial, massive pushers with a small crown, and a refreshingly traditional case. My example is shown above, pre-restoration, and will be covered upon its return, but let’s turn our attention to the legend’s successor, the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer.
In the early 1990’s, Seiko turned its attention to creating a far more focused set of regatta timers. Whereas the first Yacht Timer was little more than a 7A28 with the right color scheme, the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer was created to time races. Now, I’ll be very frank with you…ever since scuttling a crappy Hobie Cat somewhere in the Keys at age 12 while at a summer Sea camp, I’ve cared little for sailing. The memories of being lost, hopping out of this boat with a buddy, swimming through a bay to the seawall, and then having to climb a security fence to get to the nearest building to phone for help have left me cold on the “sport”. And while I won’t even attempt to explain the rules of competitive sailing, it doesn’t keep me from admiring the watches used in the activity. In sailing, the purpose of the watch is all about the countdown and ensuring one guides the boat at speed to the start line at exactly the right time. Therefore, this function is key.
With the introduction of the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer, the brand installed a new four jewel quartz movement called – you guessed it – the 8M35. Unlike the 7A28 that felt a bit more mechanical in operation with traditional pushers and time setting crown, the 8M35 uses its crown more as a selection tool (for a look at the original instructions head here). In its normal position, the crown can be moved forward or backward and this changes the mode of the watch. The mode is shown in the lower register and is highlighted by a black triangular hand that outlines the pie-shaped mode indicator. In time mode, setting the time is done by pulling the crown out one stop and then using the two pushers to change the hour and minute hands. Setting 15/10/5 modes moves the needle-like hand to the appropriate countdown area on the upper track. Then, the upper pusher stops and starts the timer and the lower resets. The general timer allows for a countdown function of up to 30 minutes and the “Match 0” function allows both hands to be reset to 12:00.
Using the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer is a neat experience. It’s entirely analog but feels digital. And, yes, I know that a very inexpensive Casio can do the job easily and likely could have back in the 90’s. Still, there’s something neat about toying around with a jeweled movement that simply works. The other thing I admire about the Yacht Timer is that it pulls in a reasonable amount of functional complexity into a simple, but (I think) highly attractive package. The dial combines the typical yachting timer colors of red and blue and everything is highly legible. Plus, with a tough-looking plastic and metal rotating 60 minute bezel, the watch looks like it could stand up to the typical knocking around that likely occurs on a boat. Note the slightly blue shade of the index surround at the 5-minute countdown marker (otherwise, known as 11:00). At first, I thought this was dial damage, but it’s on every one I viewed. Also, note the Daini symbol on the bottom of the dial and case back – proof that this still belongs in the vintage category.
My only real complaint with the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer is with its spindly minutes hand. For countdown timing, I understand its size as the hand needs to fit within the small scale on the upper portion of the dial, but it makes everyday time telling a bit of a hunt. On the other “hand”, I like the slim look of the hands. They’re not overdone or overbearing design wise – something that most modern watch designers seemingly struggle with today.
At a hair under 40mm, the fully stainless Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer wears wonderfully. Despite a water resistance of 150M and a stated anti magnetic rating of 60 Gauss, the Seiko is a very thin watch. Even the barely domed Hardlex sits below the bezel. Of course, a quartz movement enables this, but it makes for a really slick wear under a shirtsleeve. Compare this to, say, a modern Panerai Regatta and the difference is amazing. On its original 20mm rubber strap, the watch is lightweight and comfortable. Admittedly, though, I usually wear it on leather or a NATO.
If you have a relatively keen eye, you’ll note that the really cool caseback on the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer shows remnants of a sticker. This was likely there when purchased and the fact that you can still see this helps provide evidence that this watch was rarely worn. I picked this watch up on eBay for something like $180 and at any given time, there’s usually one in nice shape for sale. Pricing ranges from $150 – 350 and watches are found, correctly, with either a blue or black bezel. Now, if you’re at all a student of the Seiko game, you know that a 7A28 Yacht Timer now costs anywhere from $800 – 1500 depending on condition and location of sale. I won’t even try to convince you that the 8M35 is as purely attractive as its forbearer or that the movement is of the same quality, but to me this represents one heck of a deal on a very quirky, innovative and functional 27 year-old Seiko.
Vintage Seiko is hot right now and I realize that most of us, including me, prefer the mechanical side of things. Still, though, a watch like the Seiko 8M35 Yacht Timer adds enough character and mechanical functionality to make it an interesting buy – and one you won’t see at every watch meetup. I think it avoids the cheesy “throwaway” look of quartz watchs from the 80’s and 90’s with its fine details too. Have a look; this Yacht Timer is one of those “cheap and cheerful” packages to receive in the mail. Until next week…
Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became... read more