Affordable Vintage: Seiko Quartz LC 0624-5009 LCD

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There is no shortage of beautiful and innovative vintage watches out there, but few are quite as cool as the Seiko Quartz LC 0624-5009 LCD digital watch. That’s right, a digital watch, but allow me to backtrack a bit and set the scene. In 1973, Seiko introduced the 06LC in Japan, the world’s first six-digit display LCD watch. At the time, this was groundbreaking technology and the culmination of Seiko’s pioneering efforts in the area of producing more energy-efficient LCDs. As one might expect, today the 06LC is a bit of a collector’s item among Seiko die-hards, and great examples of the 06LC can be rather rare and expensive.

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Seiko released the 06LC for the Japanese domestic market in 1973.

A year later, Seiko came out with the 0624, which was the first Seiko LCD watch to be exported to other countries, including the US. Fortunately for lovers of great vintage gems, they can be found on eBay anywhere from around $150 all the way up to $1000, with the price depending on the condition of the watch, inclusion of box and papers, and of course the seller. The 0624 is believed to only have been in production for two years—from 1974 to 1975. And while Seiko has a long history of LCD watch production and many innovative designs that go along with it, the 0624 is one that really stands out above the rest.

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The 0624 features a stainless steel case, and measures 35mm wide by 40mm long with a thickness of about 14mm. In terms of design, the 0624 has a sleek space-age aesthetic that still looks futuristic to this day. The top and sides have a straight brushed finish, with a slightly rounded, mirror-polished bevel on either side of the case. The watch has two buttons just below the LCD screen. There are several early Seiko LCD models that have this dual button design, and it makes for a very distinctive look. The 0624 was also available in a yellow gold-plated case, a scarcer variant than the steel version. The said, the gold plating on this model is grossly inferior, and I have yet to see any example without significant wear on the finish.

seiko-0624-12The integrated bracelet, designated as model B194, is made of articulated solid steel links and features a long deployant style buckle that is signed “Seiko SQ.” It’s a perfect match to the case, and the 0624 is one watch that would not look good (in my opinion, of course) on anything other than the OEM bracelet.

In terms of construction, the case has a sort of two-piece clamshell design. The back fits into the top half and is held in with a flat steel spring that acts as a sort of retaining ring. There is a slot at the bottom edge where the two halves meet and where this retaining spring shows. When compressed, it releases the spring’s tension on the upper half and the two pieces can be separated. It’s quite an unusual setup, and one that took me some fiddling with to master. Furthermore, there is a rubber gasket that is seated between the halves, but this is not a watch I’d consider to have any sort of water resistance.

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The 0624 wears extremely well on the wrist.

The LCD panel is unique in that it has a yellow gel that sits between the glass crystal and the actual LCD panel itself, a small detail that gave rise to the nickname “lemon face” among collectors. The LCD readout is in hours, minutes and seconds, and that’s it. Time only! As a fan of no-date analog watches, I find it neat that this one has no date as well. The LCD is surrounded by a black area under the crystal that is signed “Seiko” on top and “Quartz LC” with the stylized Suwa factory “S” symbol on the bottom.

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There is crown-like button on the right side of the case which Seiko calls the “lock switch,” and its position determines the function of the buttons. With the lock switch in, the left button turns on the backlight for the LCD display, and the right button does nothing. Pull the lock switch out and you can set the time. The left changes which part you’re setting (hours, minutes, seconds) and the right button changes the time. Very simple and easy to use, as it should be.

seiko-0624-15The 0624 is battery powered, and the battery is easy to change thanks to the battery hatch on the back—a detail commonly seen on military watches. A nickel works perfectly to fit into the hatch slot, and a quarter-turn will get it released. The batteries are available today at just about any grocery or drug store.

What is not readily available, however, is parts. The crystals can be found, but that’s really it for NOS components. And finding someone to fix them is another matter entirely, as the brave souls who can fix the inner workings of vintage LCDs are few and far between. As with all vintage electronics, a vintage LCD watch can be tricky. Sometimes they’ll run forever, and sometimes they’ll just up and die. Case in point, my example here which was purchased on eBay as “untested.” For those not in the know, this is eBay seller speak for, “I tested it and it doesn’t work, but let’s bring on the bids.”

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Swapping out modules: 1) taking the case apart, 2) note the corrosion on the old module, 3) old vs. new, and 4) it works!

I took a chance on it anyway since it appeared to be in NOS (New Old Stock) condition. Of course, it arrived dead with the module (the electronic “movement”) having been damaged by battery corrosion, a common problem with these old LCDs. Fortunately the module is a single unit that is replaceable, if you can actually find one to replace it with. After some major digging, I was lucky enough to procure the last NOS module from a supply house and endeavored to swap it out myself, hoping that the LCD panel was still good. Armed with a technical manual downloaded from the Internet and a vodka tonic to steel my nerves, I went to work. After much finagling, I was able to perform the surgery without breaking anything. I popped in the battery and voila! It lived! Or rather, I should say it held on for a year before dying again. That was when I reached out to a buddy in the UK who works on Seiko LCDs for a more permanent fix, and he was able to resurrect it.

seiko-0624-1The moral of the story? Know going in that if you want to own and collect vintage LCDs, they can be very finicky and quite the headache. They’re certainly not for the impatient. That said, they can be a fun project for those with a do-it-yourself bent, and the reward is often a fantastic watch that you’ll adore wearing. The gorgeous 0624, with its space-age fluid design and iconic yellow LCD, is certainly well worth the effort.

To read up on a more recent LCD watch from Seiko, check out Mark McArthur-Christie’s take on the Seiko SDGA001.

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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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