After a long hiatus, I recently fell back into the watch hobby. Those who know, know how dangerous this could be… In any case, I rediscovered a post I wrote eight years ago about my small collection. There’s been some additions since then (and probably a few more to come, and hopefully some subtractions), but I thought it would be nice to repost it as-is.
Definitely a work in progress! Photo links are to external sites and aren’t my photos, just examples from people with more photographic skill!
Watches are awesome. Why? Well, probably the same reason that all guys like things that spin, have gears inside, blow up, blow things up, or make lots of noise.
I guess I’d put photos here of my collection! Which isn’t much. Just some Seiko automatics and a Marathon Navigator that I bought after catching the watch bug, as well as a few cheapo watches I’ve gathered over the years that aren’t as interesting.
Seiko is well-known as the pioneer of quartz watches, but they also make a hell of a lot of automatic mechanical watches. Currently both of these watches are powered by the venerable 7S26 movement, Seiko’s low-end autowinder that doesn’t hack or handwind. Despite the apparent shortcomings of this movement, I liken it to the AK47 of watch calibers: Cheap, durable, mass-produced, and accurate enough. And hey, very few fancy swiss watchmakers actually build the movements inside their expensive watches. Seiko is fully in-house!
Black Monster (SXK779 / 7S26-3050)
The first time I saw mention of this watch (along with its nickname), I thought to myself “man, that’s ugly!” Probably six months after that I owned one, and wear it almost every day. Diving watches are quite popular nowadays and in the past even for non-divers due to their durability and functional look. Seiko has been making automatic dive watches for over 40 years now, with a clear lineage that can be traced from the earliest models to the current “classic” SKX007 200M auto diver. I might pick up one of those in time, but it’s more likely that I’ll get a vintage diver for the classic design. The Monster is not a classic design, however. It’s a bit funky, with the crenelated bezel and rocketship-shaped hands. The Monster is also famous for its incredibly bright lume in the dark. It really does last all night, and the initial brightness after exposing it to light is almost shocking. The overall build quality can’t be beat for the price, including the fantastic solid link bracelet. Highly recommended for the first-timer, but you might get addicted…
Seiko 5 “Flieger” (SNK809 / 7S26- )
This one was somewhat of an impulse buy, and the second Seiko automatic I bought. It’s actually a military-style design, with a dial design that originated with WWII-era German pilot’s watches. The separate hour and minute tracks are neat, as is the white-on-black day/date wheels. It would really throw the look off on this one if the day/date wheel was black-on-white. The overall case is slim and a lot smaller than a diver since it lacks the thick caseback and crystal, rotating bezel, and crown guards characterizing most dive watches. Like most newer Seiko 5s, it has a display back, so you can marvel at the remarkably unfinished 7S26 beating away inside (fun to show to people). The case design is very basic and beadblasted for a low-gloss finish, keeping with the military theme. It’s currently sitting on the original bracelet which is of a rather cheap folded-link design. I’m planning on replacing it with a thick leather strap soon, which should complement its looks nicely. Even though it’s a military-style watch, I’ve been using it as my dress watch as it fits below shirtsleeves more easily than a massive diver!
(Image – Not my pic, but it looks good on a strap)
A review of the Black Monster with great photography and a detailed photographic teardown and analysis of the 7S26 movement
Seiko Diver Reference – An exhaustive history of the Seiko automatic dive watch from the 1960s till today. With pictures.
TimeZone Article on how a typical automatic watch movement (anchor escapement) works. A perfect first link for learning about the guts of almost all autos.
My first, and second, and probably third and fourth watches as well were digital. That’s just what you had in the 80s! In high school I learned to appreciate analog watches, but still kept some Timex Ironmans around for timing. Those were good watches, and I still have them (but the batteries are dead). Nowadays there are some seriously cool G-Shocks and other digital watches worthy of note. In fact, the original G-shocks were awesome, and perhaps one of the few truly modern (for 1983) classics of watch design! I used to give G-shocks a lot of crap for being generally overstyled and oversized (except for the iconic 5600 series, which were the very first models. A true classic!). But I’ve softened on that, and started to lust after some models. These days you can get all kinds of neat features like Tough Solar (it never runs out of battery since it’s got a solar cell) and Waveceptor (it never needs to be set since it receives time signals over the radio from an atomic clock). You can even get both features stuffed into a case that looks just like the original G-Shock! That’s 1985 style with 2005 engineering and pretty much the most durable watch around. I was even planning on getting one of those…
Casio G-Shock “Raysman” (DW9300)
…But then this particular model seemed to have become a popular item in the G-Shock circles, and I found one being sold on the trading forum for an unbeatable price. Only after ordering it did I realize that it’s actually the THICKEST G-shock around! But the (relatively) subtle styling and reportedly supurb build quality set it apart. It also has all the useful features (including Tough Solar) besides Waveceptor. I think I can live without, as long as I can live with something so big on my wrist!
I love things that are mil-spec. There’s something that rocks about gear created with the emphasis on functionality and durability instead of style. And to me, the ultra-functional aspects of military design creates a style of its own – A fact not lost on the product designers who copy military style! This is true for watches as well. Military watches have a long and varied history of interest to the collector, but are considered by some to be a dying breed. After all, it’s cheaper for the government to buy a product available on the civilian market that meets the requirements than to comission a company to build an item to spec.
Marathon Navigator Composite (WATCH, WRIST: NAVIGATOR’S)
This watch is current issue for the US military, although it doesn’t seem that Marathon’s military-issue watches are very widely distributed in the armed forces these days. Most of our guys seem to be sporting Timex, Suunto, or G-shocks. Still, the Navigator traces its design all the way back to the Benrus Type I and Type II dive watches issued to special forces in the 60s, so the design is pretty classic. The similarity ends with the basic case design, since the modern issue watch is made out of fibeglass/nylon composite (aka “plastic” to you and me) with a domed acrylic crystal, and houses a cheap but durable quartz movement. The neat part about this watch besides the military heritage is the dial and hands. They feature tiny glass tubes filled with tritium gas and coated with a phosphorescent compound. Tritium is radioactive, and as it decays it causes the phosphorescent compound to glow. So no matter what the light conditions are, this thing is glowing constantly without requiring exposure to light to charge it up.
(Image – 2000 issue version, mine’s a 2003 with less dial text, otherwise the same)
Military Watch Resource – The authority on all things milwatch. Good forum here with some seriously hardcore folks.