There’s always room for another Seiko diver on the blog, even when it looks like this…
(Click pictures to enlarge)
Although I’ve written about this model before on the blog, as you’ve probably already guessed, this watch needed a little more work than usual to get it back up and running.
Time hadn’t been kind to this watch and neither had the water that had found its way inside. As you can see from the picture above, the moisture had caused some serious deterioration to the lume and also the hour frames and hands. Opening the watch too revealed something of a grim picture.
The automatic winding mechanism had broken off, probably due to the ball bearings rusting solid, and although the winding rotor and upper half of the mechanism were present, it was well beyond repair and would need to be replaced. In addition to being scored by the winding rotor, the balance cock too was incorrect for this calibre as it had the orange painted markings usually found on a 6106 or 6119 calibre, so that too would need to be replaced.
The case was still in reasonable condition although it had been polished by a previous owner and so had the crystal which is notoriously difficult to get right. In most cases, the crystal surface is left with scored lines or is slightly opaque which was the case here, so a replacement was ordered. The bezel insert although marked and missing its lume pip was original to the watch and deserved to stay.
Out of the case the true extent of the water damage to the dial and hands was clear. The lume was totally shot throughout and the dial surface had ‘bleached out’ due to the moisture sitting on it for what must have been at least couple of decades.
The ideal solution would have been to source a replacement dial but being one of the early models with the ‘water 150m proof’ text that would be no easy task. Watches from later in the production run were marked ‘water 150m resist’ due to a change in the US law regarding the water resistance markings for watches. In 1968 it was deemed that all watches sold in the US should be marked ‘water resistant’ rather than ‘water proof’.
Seiko responded quickly to this change and made the necessary corrections for all watches destined for the US in 1969 but they took their time with watches bound for other markets, most of the changes being made during 1970 and 1971.
It’s for this reason that you’ll often see early Seiko divers being referred to as ‘Proof/Proof’, meaning that both the caseback and dial are marked water proof rather than water resistant… and being less in number the collectability (and price!) goes up accordingly.
With no option for a replacement dial, the first job was to remove all the old lume from the dial markers and hands followed by as much cleaning as was possible. As I’ve written about before on the blog, the chrome plating on the markers and hands get tarnished and can’t be restored and while the dial marker frames can be repainted silver, it’s often better just to leave them as they are, this is a vintage watch after all.
With a cream lume applied across the board things were much improved but the bleached out dial remained a problem and would have spoiled the overall look of the watch, so it was decided to oil the dial to restore the colour.
This involves putting an very thin layer of oil across the dial surface so that the bleaching effect is removed. It’s very important to do this carefully as you don’t want to apply excessive oil or it may pool or worse, seep off the dial edge over time. This restoration technique will remain something of a last resort for me, but the results are surprisingly good when correctly applied. Here’s a before and after…
With all the cosmetic work taken care of, the movement was cleaned, serviced and the necessary parts replaced. The case was then cleaned and a new set of gaskets and crystal installed and the watch could be rebuilt. Although it’s not perfect, it’s always good to give a second chance to a watch that could easily have become a parts donor.
** Many thanks to Dieter Deschacht for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **