Icons: Seiko 6139

Seiko is a brand that is often times overlooked and even disrespected.

Part of the reason why is totally justified. Seiko invented the Quartz movement and that almost single handedly wiped out the entire mechanical watchmaking industry.

Something that would have been unforgivable.

And they also make a lot of inexpensive, i.e. "cheap" watches.

But as described in an earlier post here, Seiko, despite it's flaws has true pedigree and has made more than it's fair share of worthwhile horological innovations.

One of those innovations was their very first automatic chronograph movement, which debuted across Japan in 1969, the calibre 6139.  

Most people credit Zenith with being the first company to introduce an automatic chronograph, the now legendary 3019 PHC "El Primero", because the 3019 PHC was the first working prototype.

Others, meanwhile will have us believe it was the Heuer calibre 11 that deserves the credit as first ever automatic chronograph, because it was the first available for purchase world wide

But Seiko's 6139 was available for purchase even before the Heuer, but only in Japan. 

So, who's wins?

In my opinion, the title goes to Zenith (more or less). A working prototype supersedes all others, but I'd then give 2nd to Seiko, because available for purchase is available for purchase regardless of whether it was world wide or not. Not to mention they released their 6139 for purchase weeks after Zenith released their prototype, which was not ready for purchase, meaning Seiko probably had their prototype ready months before, but just didn't tell anyone.

Regardless, the 6139 is a serious and important movement, and worthy of icon status.

It represents an achievement that no other brand (excluding Zenith and Heuer obviously), could match for decades.

And yet, 6139's are no where near as sought after as other vintage automatic chronographs.

That's a shame, but also a huge opportunity.

An opportunity I decided to take advantage of when I bought my first Seiko 6139 not too long ago for under $500.  

My watch is an all-original 6139-6010 made in August 1969. 

It has a gorgeous black dial, is about 38mm in diameter, and was delivered with an extremely rare "chicklet" stainless steel bracelet.  

I soon discovered the bracelet is so rare, most collectors didn't even believe it was real until some old Seiko ads surfaced with the bracelet visible.  

It was kind of like the lockness monster except real.  

And remember, all this for under $500.  

Had such a rare bracelet have been found on a vintage Patek, it literally be worth millions.  

But it's not a Patek, it's a Seiko, and without question it's a watch icon.