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.
vintagediver
  • MikeInFrankfurt

    Nice article and great to highlight “every day” Seikos which are such great ways to get into vintage watches. I say it all day long to those who will listen…the quality of these pieces (along with almost any other vintage Seiko) are outstanding. Act now; the prices are only going in one direction. 🙂

  • Riccardo Zanetti

    Lovely watch. It looks very similar to my Longines Silver Arrow, both enjoying classic 1950s styling.

  • SEIKOdeluxe

    Great watches…classic styling, and as mentioned in other comments, prices are moving along. The days of picking up clean, crisp examples for virtually nothing may be gone…my 7619 from August 1966.

    • ross

      That’s a beauty. I love the classic 60’s Seiko 5 watches. I have a 1965 Sportsmatic 6619-9010 which has become my favorite watch to wear everyday.

  • M Ark

    Thanks for an informative article. Seiko is a fine watch, and there are many collectible models. There is an inconsistency about what the 5 represents; perhaps Seiko advertising is partly to blame. Here are varying representations.

    Automatic
    Day display
    Date display
    Water-resistant
    Shockproof
    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showthread.php?32480-What-does-the-quot-5-quot-mean-on-Seiko-5-automatic-watch

    Quoted from some mid 1960’s advertising . . .
    SEIKO No.5
    This sturdy watch has five special features: (a) self-winding mechanism; (b) calendar showing the date; (c) calendar showing the day of the week; (d) water-proofed and (e) recessed crown for flush fitting.
    It also has ‘diashock’ shock protection and the quality built into ultra-accurate Seiko sports timers . . .
    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showthread.php?32480-What-does-the-quot-5-quot-mean-on-Seiko-5-automatic-watch

    The most widely accepted explanation is that the 5 stands for the five main features of this model.
    Automatic
    Day display
    Date display
    Water-resistant
    Shockproof
    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070309100041AAQ78Be

    I have learned that the 5 in the Seiko 5 name signifies five key components of any Seiko 5 watch found across the entire line. These components are as follows;
    Automatic mechanical movement
    Day/Date display
    Water resistance (varies across line)
    Diaflex mainspring (commonly referred to as “unbreakable”)
    Diashock shock resistant design
    http://wornandwound.com/2012/09/26/seiko-5-snzg-review/

    Seiko 5 is the basic line of Seiko mechanical watch. It is the budget entry-level series. What is Seiko 5 stands for? The five refers to:
    1. Diaflex (unbreakable mainspring)
    2. Diashock (Seiko’s shock resistant design)
    3. Automatic winding
    4. Date/date indication
    5. Water resistant
    http://watchopenia.blogspot.com/2013/04/back-to-basic-seiko-5.html

    Tradition (and many an online watch forum entry) says it’s for the following five key attributes of all Seiko 5 watches:
    1. The Diaflex mainspring
    2. The Diashock system
    3. Automatic winding
    4. Day/date indication
    5. Water resistance
    (Some sources combine Diaflex and Diashock while separating Day and Date.)
    However, Seiko’s website commemorating the 50th Anniversary states a slightly different, somewhat more general set of attributes:
    1. Automatic winding
    2. Day/date displayed in a single window
    3. Water resistance
    4. Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position
    5. Durable case and bracelet
    http://gearpatrol.com/2013/09/17/timekeeping-icon-seiko-5/

    There seems to be different stories on why the Seiko called this success serie the “5”.
    The most widely accepted explanation is that the 5 stands for the five main features of this model.
    Automatic
    Day display
    Date display
    Water-resistant
    Shockproof
    http://members.chello.nl/~h.mennink/watches/_private/seiko5.htm

  • A.C.

    The Sportsmatic line was introduced in 1963. But not all Sportsmatics were “Sportsmatic 5s”. The Sportsmatic 5, with the ‘5’ representing the features listed above (or some variant thereof), was a sub-model of the Sportsmatic series. The watch above lacks the ‘5’ designation because, for one, it lacks any kind of day/date feature.

    The “5 Sports” was yet another a different line, and debuted in 1968. It featured the characteristics of the ‘5’ line with additional features such as increased water resistance, rotating bezels, etc, and was intended for active outdoor use.

    Sportsmatics, particularly the 66-series, are fantastic watches.

  • One of the classic bring-backs from the RVN.