(Originally blogged April 2019)
This is a most wonderful example of a Retro Seiko watch from the 70s. This one dates from August of 1977 so has plenty of history behind it.
I found this one on eBay in France, It was not getting much attention in the bidding. It was listed as a non runner and only a few pictures which did not show any detail nor any of the caseback to give me the reference number from to do some research before purchasing. I could see it had potential for me, the dial in the grainy photo showed enough to spark my interest. I set myself a reminder on my phone for 5 minutes before the end of the auction as this would be when all the interest would show with other bidders.
I placed my bid in the dying seconds and when the auction ended I had that 10 second wait that feels like 10 minutes before being congratulated by eBay as I was the winning bidder!
I was very happy and also had a laugh that the postage charge to England would be higher than the price of the watch!
This is what I bid on and is the actual eBay main photo for the listing.
The watch did not take too long to arrive. Upon opening I knew this watch was going to turn out beautiful. even under the scratched crystal I could see the dial was stunning, clean and not aged at all.
That ever same night I decided to strip down the movement. I was interested to find out why it would not run. There were no obvious signs as to what might be preventing it from running and visually the movement looked nice and clean with only one service stamp in the caseback.
Taking the watch out of the case revealed the dials beauty. Wow. electric blue, iridescent and with texture and contrast. This must be hard to achieve and someone at Seiko in the 70s put allot of thought into this one surely.
The hands are perfect and like new. the lume has not aged along with the lume dots by the hour markers. This is remarkable in all of the Seikos I have worked on I have never seen one of this age in such a “like new” condition.
A large smile was across my face!
I started to disassemble the calendar works on the hunt for what had stopped it. I thought it would be unlikely the problem was on this side of the watch and my suspicions were correct. Everything looked nice and clean.
I moved on to the motion side. Removing the reduction wheel to then let the tension off the mainspring was simple enough. The usual dried oil could be seen but nothing remarkable. Plenty of tension in the spring though which was encouraging. I removed the train wheel bridge and could see some dirt but again just very unsurprising. What could be stopping this movement?
I examined all the train wheels as I removed them . All teeth are present and all very clean.
Off came the pallet cock and fork, I examined the pallet and jewels looked good. Hmm there is now only two parts left. The escape wheel and the centre wheel…..
Next out was the escape. Whats that on the wheel?? a big chunk of something… probably DNA .. yuck.
This nugget of crap was stuck fast the the escape wheel tucked under the centre wheel bridge. No wonder I could not see it. This was obviously what had stopped this watch. I removed the centre wheel bridge and wheel and the disassembly was complete.
In went all the parts to the watch cleaning machine for a well deserved bath.
Now all the parts were bubbling away in the cleaner I opened the barrel to remove the mainspring and give everything a clean. I tend to clean the barrel, lid and arbour in Essence of Renata https://amzn.to/2DRAVkK
This is because these parts are very dirty with old almost hardened oil and Renata acts as a great degreaser.
The mainspring however was not so good. I unwound the spring by hand and found that the bridal was broken off from the spring. Then on closer inspection I noticed this must have been done a long time ago as there was a loop at the end of the spring where the bridal had been tucked into. Unwinding had made it come out of that loop. Unusual as I had not seen this before but cleaned it all down anyway and one clean wound it back into the barrel by hand with relative ease . More on the spring later.
Once all the parts were clean I set about rebuilding the movement. I have done so many 7 series that it was quite uneventful. That was until I tested the barrel. My standard procedure is to install the train, escape & barrel then secure the bridge. Once happy I would then install the ratchet wheel on the barrel and wind the main spring to test the train. If they run nice and smoothly then I am set to install the pallet and balance then test on the timegrapher.
All this went as planned and everything worked as it should. On the timergrapher it showed a good trace so I continued on with the build.
Half way through the calendar side I suddenly heard a noise from the barrel. The mainspring had slipped under tension. Straight away I knew it was that dodgy fix on the bridal. I wound the spring again but it sounded awful so the decision was made there and then to change it. Fortunately I had a spare so I stripped the barrel back out and changed the springs. Once built back it was onto the timing machine to check.
The photo below is from the watch completely unregulated. It shows nice parallel lines and the amplitude is good. On old Seiko’s like this you want to achieve 200-250 amplitude. Once i regulate and oil the jewels this would improve to my satisfaction.
Next up would be the casework. I love doing this part I am slowly honing my skills now to get very desirable finishes quite easily. This case followed the usual Seiko finishes for the period. Polished sides and bezel and brushed case top. I removed the crystal and bezel and started on the polishing.
Sadly for you I did not take any photos of this process however I will write some more to explain some technique.
Polishing the sides I would first use thermal tape (on my tool page) to tape of the areas and sharp edges I dont want to get polished. I then work the sides, bezel and caseback though four types of polishing compound an wheels until I am happy with the result. The parts are then thrown into the ultrasonic to clean of all remaining compound.
The brushed case top would take a bit more work. I want to get a nice uniform parallel lined mark within the brushing. The way I did this was to take one of my maroon hand pads and lay it flat on a piece of wood. Again taping all the polished sides with thermal tape to protect it.
I then hold the case at a shallow angle so I am only applying a finish to one end. I push it lightly into the pad which then moulds to the case shape. I then pull the case along the pad towards me and the abrasive applies the finish. This would take a bit of time , firstly to get under some scratches and marks first but secondly to perfect that finish. Pull at a slight angle and the brushing reflects that. I am examining the finish constantly under my optivisor to see close up.
With some time and patience I finally get the desired finish, Tine for another clean and then I can case the watch! First I then sand down the acrylic crystal and polish back to make it look new.
This is the exciting part for all the hard work I put into these. You never truly get an idea of how it will look until its all together. The reveal of this one took my breath away. I was so pleased on the look and finish . My work on the case made that dial pop more.
This is what I saw.
Next my attention was to the bracelet. The one it came with was massive, it was not original and far too long.
I gave it a clean and removed some links but was not happy with it. I wanted a better one so searched on eBay for 19mm Seiko bracelets and found one that said it was a genuine 1990s version. Brushed and polished parts so perfect match for this watch so I bought it.
Once it arrived I was pleased but it felt of low quality and not like the 70s bracelets I am used to. I am unsure if it is really genuine if I am honest too however for £10 I will not protest. I feel it complements the watch well. What do you think? leave a comment below.
Here is a video on my YouTube channel of the watch running, the case finish and then me questioning the bracelet.
So here is the finished watch starting with some before and after photos.
Thank you for reading my blog, I would welcome any comments you might have.