@vintagediver’s Top Ten Vintage Seikos (Part 1)

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Not too long ago, I decided to do a rundown of my top ten favorite vintage watches on Instagram. As most collectors would agree, it is not an easy exercise narrowing down the top pieces in any collection, let alone actually ranking them in order. After much hemming and hawing, I did manage a ranked list and ended up really enjoying the process of rationalizing each pick. So, I thought it would be a fun idea to do a top ten list for our readers here, and decided to come up with a list of what I feel are the top ten vintage watches from one of worn&wound’s favorite brands, Seiko.

Now, keep in mind that this is, of course, an entirely subjective endeavor, and while I could have gone any number of “Top Ten…” routes, this list is merely what I feel are the top ten vintage Seiko watches based on my many years of collecting. Your mileage may vary.

Today, we are going to tackle spots 10 to 6, with 5 to 1 not far behind. Without further ado, let’s get started (with a watch familiar to many of you).

10. 6309-7040/9 150m Diver

Produced from 1976 to 1988, the 6309 is an extremely popular and fundamental vintage diver from Seiko’s historical catalog. With its large, now-iconic cushion case, screw down crown, big ole 60-click bezel and matte dial with great lume, the 6309 is a classic that should be in the collections of every dive watch lover. Despite its large size, it is a comfortable watch to wear and makes for a great daily beater. seiko_6309_dialThese are robust and reliable, and can still be made waterproof with readily available replacement gaskets. And for the budget-conscious, the 6309 remains, perhaps due to their availability, relatively affordable within the realm of Seiko’s vintage divers, at least for now. eBay is still a great place to pick one of these up, but buyers should be mindful of examples with incorrect aftermarket parts.

For more information on the 6309, click here. For our review of the reissue, click here.

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9. J13049 Champion Alpinist

The J13049 Champion Alpinist is one of a number of Alpinist-branded models produced for a short time during the early 1960s. Marketed to amateur mountaineering enthusiasts, the Champion Alpinist was designed with reliability and ruggedness in mind.

seiko_alpinistThis model makes my list almost solely on the merits of its wicked cool sector style dial. The two tone dial has lines radiating out to each of the hour markers,  giving it a unique look that is all the more attractive since it has no date window to break up the symmetry. Powered by a simple Seikosha manual wind movement, this rare beauty was an easy one to include in this list.

8. 4520-8000 Grand Seiko

The 4520-8000 Grand Seiko is an example of dress watch perfection. Made in 1968 and 1969, the case is the first design to emerge from Seiko’s “Grammar of Design” philosophy pioneered by Taro Tanaka. The concept incorporated perfectly flat surfaces with razor sharp angles delineating the different planes, along with a mix of high polish and brushed finishes. This case is the ultimate expression of the Grammar of Design, and the result is stunning.

seiko-4520_8000There are a multitude of Grand Seiko models utilizing this case or one that is nearly identical, with variants featuring no-date, date only and day/date configuration, powered by both manual wind and automatic movements. This model in particular appeals to me because of the no-date hand wind movement, which was the same movement inside the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer watch that won awards at the Neuchatel Chronometer competitions.seiko-4520_8000back

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7. 44-9990 King Seiko

This is the second-ever King Seiko model produced, and far and away my favorite from the line (read more about the Suwa/Grand Seiko and Daini/King Seiko split here). Manufactured through the 1960s, the 44-9990 is another example of Seiko’s masterful approach at creating watches that appeared outwardly simple, but that were in fact deceptively complex.

seiko-44_9990There are two variants of the 44-9990, and both were powered by a caliber 44(A). The earlier version has a shield and a gold medallion on the case back, and an interesting hacking mechanism which consists of an external lever that presses on a fine-toothed wheel to hack the second hand when the crown is pulled out. The later version has a simpler gold medallion with just “Seiko” on it and a more conventional internal hacking mechanism.

seiko-44_9990move
Note the unusual hacking lever, which arrests the sweep second gear to hack the watch.

In terms of design, the best features of this watch are the super fat lugs with large, sharply beveled sides. These give the case a stand out, dramatic look, and combined with the classic silver dial with steel markers finished to Seiko’s excellent standard, you have a real winner.

6. 6138-0030 5 Sports Speed-Timer Chronograph

What’s not to like about this one? Debuting in 1970, this is easily Seiko’s best looking chronograph, and it’s powered by what is arguably their best chronograph movement–an automatic, column wheel chronograph with hand winding and a quick-set day/date. It’s about as solid as a movement can get.

seiko-6138_0030pairThe watch came in two color variants: a blue dial with white square sub-dials and a champagne dial with black square sub-dials. It’s easy to see why it’s been nicknamed “Kakume,” which translates to “big eyes.” Furthermore, the big block steel case is a serious chunk of wrist funk, and the artfully constructed bracelet even comes with a spring-loaded buckle for added comfort. It goes without saying that both are absolutely stunning examples of 1970s styling at its peak. These two could have easily grabbed a higher spot on my list.

For more information on the 6138-0030 “Kakume” chronograph, click here.


That’s it for the first half of our top ten list of best vintage Seikos. Stay tuned for the final five, and let us know what your favorite vintage Seikos are in the comments section below.

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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
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  • chenpofu

    Great list so far. But for the Tanaka case GS, I like the earlier 44 GS better. It is lower beat, but the hands and indices don’t have the black insert and look better in my opinion.

    Can’t agree with you more on the 44 KS, it is under rated I think. While easily comparable in quality to its contemporary GS watches, it can often be found for a lot less. The problem is finding one that hasn’t been polished and yet not so beat up. Polishing really takes away a lot of the beauty of these early GS / KS watches.

    One vintage Seiko I really like and would love to get one someday is the single button chrono 5717/5719.

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