Affordable Vintage: 60’s Seiko Sportsmatic

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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of vintage Seiko watches. Their innovation, timeless style and incomparable bang-for-your-buck value make them a slam dunk for me. Of all the Seikos I have had, there is one that stands out above the others for me, being the first vintage Seiko I acquired. Ironically, it’s one the simplest, and likely the least valuable (monetarily speaking…) in my collection: The Seiko Sportsmatic 6601-8930 from November 1965.

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Aside from the sentimental value of being “the first”, there are many aesthetic qualities to this piece that just click for me. The case measures a respectable 37mm wide, with the Seiko standard 19mm lugs. Such a perfect size, not too big and not too small….juuuuust right. There is a tiny ‘hidden’ recessed crown at four o’clock and a wide flat bezel, with nice fat lugs. The snap-on case back is lightly engraved with the classic Seiko dolphin logo (which I love), signifying water resistance. Sadly, the only flaw is that the case is chrome plated brass instead of solid stainless steel. Fortunately, my example has virtually no wear to the chrome plating, but so many other chrome plated cases have not survived the ravages of time and wrist sweat so well.

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The silver dial has a beautiful radial brushed finish, and a slightly depressed outer track ring that lends some depth to the overall look. Raised chrome baton style markers and no date with chrome dauphine hands complete the super clean look. Signed “Seiko Sportsmatic” with the cool Sportsmatic logo below the 12, and “Water 30 Proof, Diashock 19 Jewels” above the six. For me, the single greatest aesthetic quality of this watch is its symmetry. The nearly invisible hidden crown coupled with the no-date dial give it a simple, clean symmetrical style that is hard to find in a watch of any era or price range.

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The watch is powered by a 19 jewel automatic caliber 6601 movement. The autowind mechanism is super efficient owing to Seikos ingenious “Magic Lever” which allows the rotor to wind the mainspring in both directions. Many people don’t know this, but Seiko movements were made entirely “in-house”, making Seiko a true horology manufacture. They made every single component themselves, including the mainspring and hairspring, as well as the lubrication oils.

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The Sportsmatic line debuted in 1963 with the Seiko “5 Sports” designation. The “5 Sports” line was designed to provide reasonably priced automatic sports watches with a day/date window and three bar water resistance. The number “5” stood for: Automatic, day/date, water resistance, recessed crown @4, and durability. I can only assume that my watch here lacks the “5 Sports” logo since it does not have the day/date window.

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There is a plethora of really well made and great looking Sportsmatics out there, with a wide variety of styling differences. The best part is that these watches can be readily found for under $100! Now, this 6601-8930 is an exception as it is quite scarce compared to some of the other “5 Sports” Sportsmatics. Still, vintage Seiko Sportsmatics can be had at a very reasonable price, and are really not hard to source. Try finding a 1960’s vintage Swiss brand with a completely in-house movement for under $100!

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Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
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