Affordable Vintage: the Ultra-Thin ’60s Seiko Goldfeather

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My preferred watches tend to lean toward the dressier side. The simplicity of classic dress watches have always been a breath of fresh air to me, having everything a watch needs and nothing it does not. Plus, having so little elements one can play with in terms of the design makes designing a dress watch an art all of its own.

One of the features of a proper dress watch that is often taken for granted is its thickness, or rather, its thinness. Imagine a slim sliver of a watch hiding within a well-tailored shirt from Savile Row, ever ready to present what it was made to do when called upon, which is to simply tell the time. Yet as simple as the task might be, to be able to do this via a beating mechanical heart containing hundreds of minuscule parts—arranged in an efficient manner with super-tight tolerances—rather than with a quartz movement makes it a micro marvel of engineering all by itself!

Today, we’re going to take a look at what is possibly the dressiest watch Seiko ever produced, and it’s one with tons of vintage cred to boast of. Manufactured only for a short span of time between 1960 and 1966, the Seiko Goldfeather utilized a movement that was and still is Seiko’s thinnest three-handed, manually-wound caliber—the 60M. (It’s not the thinnest Japanese caliber of its kind–that title belongs to the Citizen Diamond Flake–but that’s a story for another time.)

A ’60s Goldfeather print ad.

 

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The Movement

The Goldfeather was made at a time when movements were assembled and regulated largely by hand and still labelled under Seiko’s old name,“Seikosha.” The assembly of the caliber 60M was especially challenging for the brand given the thinness of the movement at 2.95mm. For comparison, Jaeger LeCoultre’s caliber 849 (first introduced in the ‘90s) is 1.85mm thick, while Seiko’s own thinnest caliber currently in production is the 6898 standing at 1.98 mm thick. However, do note that these two feature just the hour and minute hands and no center-seconds hand.


For reference, some of the competition for thin movements at that time included:

1958—Citizen Deluxe—3.65mm
1960—Seiko Liner—3.35mm
1961—Citizen Hi-Line—3.25mm
1960—Seiko Goldfeather—2.95mm
1962—Citizen Diamond Flake—2.75mm


 

A cursory search for information on the movement yields little information. Even the naming convention seemed somewhat off in comparison to other Seiko caliber names, like the 6139 or 8L75. What I learned in this regard was that the 60M moniker came from its designation in Seiko’s movement table, and it was never given a proper numbered name.The 60M features a flower-shaped diashock absorber for its balance, which some have argued is a detail that indicates a higher-end movement when you compare it to the bar-shaped absorbers commonly seen in today’s 4R and 6R watches. (To give this idea more credence, the flower-shaped diashock absorbers are currently found inside modern Grand Seikos.)

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Another clue to the movement’s pedigree are the individually serialized movement plates, something that is generally indicative of some form of testing or extra care being taken before being cased. Perhaps it allowed Seiko an easier way of tracking servicing history if and when the watch was ever returned for service.

As per the traditional style of construction, the large balance wheel comes seated on a balance bridge rather than a balance cock, promising additional stability to the balance wheel. This is similar to how Rolex constructs their bullet-proof movements.The 60M came in two jewel variants—17 and 25—and it beat at a leisurely 18,000 bph, which is a typical beat-rate for its generation.

Despite its incredible thinness, the caliber had a diameter of approximately 27mm, which lent itself to watches that were relatively large for that era. My own model featured here clocks in at 35mm.


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Dial and Hands

Seiko produced many Goldfeather models throughout the lifespan of the line. Some of the models featured a star logo on the dial. In certain vintage Seiko collections like the King Seiko and Grand Seiko lines, these stars indicated that the dial featured some sort of noteworthy finishing; for example, an eight-point star usually meant that the hour markers were made of solid gold, while a four-point star indicated some form of a special treatment being applied to the dial. I can’t speak for other four-point star dials, but my example here has a brilliant starburst effect.

 

An ad showing a different, simpler Goldfeather design.

The hands are gold-plated. The second and minute hands are curved right at the end to match the dome of the dial–a detail, while not unique to this watch or to older watches, is quite desirable even today.

The dial of this particular model is also different from that of most other Goldfeather variants I have seen for sale. It is reminiscent of some pie-pan or sector dials one can find on vintage Omegas. There’s a middle portion of the dial that is raised above the outer ring where the hour markers are. To aid in time telling, each hour marker has a thin black line extending to the raised portion, with the black lines being longer at the cardinal points. In a watch as visually simple as this one, small details like this really count.

Case

Most Goldfeathers were gold-filled, though some rarer examples feature solid gold or stainless steel cases.  My own example is 14K gold-filled and save for some tarnishing at the lugs and crown, it has largely withstood the test of time.Being wide and flat, the watch is certainly very wearable today, and arguably it is far more wearable than other dress watches from its generation that came under 35mm. It also certainly helps that the bezel is exceedingly thin, which, when coupled together with the radiant silver dial, make the watch wear bigger.

The case is wonderfully thin (though do note that there is no crystal in this example). Image source: The Watch Spot

What’s Not to Like?

At this point, it sounds like I’m completely smitten with this watch. But like many older watches, this one is not without its issues. The first problem I had with the watch was that the crystal (I never did determine whether it was original or aftermarket) was so badly scratched and cracked, I had to find a replacement. The first crystal I sourced for it was so domed it nearly doubled the height of the entire watch! That’s a no-go. The second crystal I sourced was domed but it lacked the appropriate clearance. It pressed down on the seconds hand, causing the entire watch to seize up. I eventually found one that fit, but it was a bit of rial and error.

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The second issue was the case itself.  Unlike a simple stainless steel case, which can be lightly polished, there’s no way to polish a gold-filled case. The same for parts where it has already been tarnished. There’s absolutely no way to restore it short of re-plating the entire case! Thankfully, much of the tarnishing was localized at the lugs and crown. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting.

All in all, I’m actually very pleased with having a fairly good example of a Goldfeather, which is undoubtedly one of the milestones in Seiko’s watchmaking history. So, what do these run? Examples can be sourced for around $200-300, which makes the Goldfeather a tremendous buy, as most vintage Seikos usually are! If you’re in the market for something vintage, something thin, and something that won’t break the bank, the Seiko Goldfeather might be right up your alley.

ZQ’s a die-hard Seiko lover, an obsession first sparked by the purchase of a Seiko Orange Monster, the original 7S classic. ZQ has yet to find his way out of the Seiko rabbit hole, dabbling in both vintage and modern, but his love extends to watches of all kinds. This isn’t ZQ’s first foray into the writing about watches, and he’s excited to bring his bank of knowledge to worn&wound. ZQ currently resides in Singapore with his family.
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