Vintage Seiko 2220 Buying Experience

Followers of this blog would be aware that I am mainly focused on contemporary Seikos with my oldest watch in the collection being my mid 1990s Credor 4S.

There are several reasons for me not owning a vintage time piece:

  1. Cosmetic condition of vintage watches are usually not top notch. I know some collectors dig all the scratches, dirt, rust, water stains, warts and all. However, as a matter of personal preference I prefer my watches pristine, both inside and out. Hence it is either NOS, or no vintage. Polishing a watch is also a no-no as it usually destroys the clean lines that a factory fresh watch came with.
  2. NOS vintage watch usually cost a bomb. Even NOS Seiko, after taking inflation into account, might cost more now than when it was first released.
  3. It does not make sense to me to pay so much for a vintage watch, when I can easily spend the same amount of money on a modern watch that will run for at least a decade before sputtering.
  4. Many watch manufacturers are starting to sit up and take note that the old is in vogue (yet again). Tudor and Longines are 2 of the foremost manufacturers in my point of view that are doing a great job in tapping this I-hanker-for-the-good-old-days market. As such, collectors of vintage watch designs now have an option of buying a re-issue (official or not) of most models that they have taken an interest in, with updated materials, movements, etc.
  5. You never really know what went inside your vintage watch to get it running again or look good. Besides, if it breaks down again, it will be hell to repair it, assuming you can even get parts from a donor watch. As we all know Seiko does not keep parts for movements 7 years after they are discontinued.

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Having said all that, I know when a modern interpretation of a vintage classic just doesn’t cut it for you. For example the Seiko Astronomical Observatory anyone?

For myself, I have not really lust after any vintage watches (mainly due to their ridiculous asking prices) but I recently softened towards a particular Seiko vintage that I talked about in my previous post.

This is the Seiko Daini 2220. This small movement is handwinding only, 24 jewels and beats at 28,800 bph for 40 hours. It has no seconds hands and does not hack, making it perfect for a ladies watch or gentleman’s watch. These appear to be produced in the early 1970s and come in a whole array of case designs and dials.

Trio of 2220 with 3 different variety of dials. Linen, Matt, Checkerboard. Photo thanks to KM.

Trio of 2220s with 3 different variety of dials. Linen, Matt, Checkerboard. Photo thanks to KM.

Mr. Chow first introduced me to his 2220s with hammered and linen dial designs. I was astonished at the splendor and beauty of these dials! The only modern equivalent Seiko dial I can think of is the Grand Seiko Snowflake dial.

Look at the snowy landscape on the dial! SBGA011

Look at the snowy landscape on the dial! SBGA011

With most 2220S having an average asking price falling below USD 200, it was a no brainer for me to grab my own.

A round case 2220 with hammered dial came up for sale from a friend of Jude and I quickly transacted with the great seller.

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I bought this watch knowing that it had issues with timekeeping and its price reflected this as well. It lost 6 mins within the first 12 hours and this loss accelerated such that it lost almost 1 hour in the first 24 hours.

This vintage was definitely ticking all the wrong boxes for me! Its time keeping is driving me nuts, considering how particular I was about the timekeeping aspects of watches that I owned.

So off it went to my local watch repair guy here in Bangkok. Before approaching him, I also checked with Seiko Thailand, but they are unwilling to take in vintage watches (duh) and also a local watch repair chain called Expert Watch, but they said they needed 2 weeks and could not give me a repair estimate on the spot.

He checked my watch with his timegrapher first (always a sign of a good watch technician). My heart sunk when i saw that it only had an average amplitude of 180 degrees (dial up and dial down positions) and a beat error of 5 milliseconds!

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He then quoted me a repair cost of 650 THB and a turnaround time of 5 hours. Now this is a ridiculously cheap and quick overhaul, inclusive of a rubber gasket change. Nevertheless I decided to give it a go given how cheap this excursion was.

5 hours later, I asked to see the rate results on the timegrapher. It dropped to 150 degrees although the beat error is now much better at <2ms on average.

Now if an overhaul is done properly, I would have expected the amplitude to go to at least 270 degrees to 300 degrees. Seiko is well known for low amplitudes so asking for an amplitude above 300 degrees is asking for too much.

I told the guy that the amplitude is too low and told him I will be back tomorrow instead. I made it very clear that I expected a much better amplitude than what I am seeing now.

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The following day I went back and the amplitude was slightly better at an average of 200 degrees. This is not perfect, but given the low price, quick turnaround and without any replacement of the mainspring nor any other parts, I was pretty satisfied with the overhaul. I timed the watch over 2 days and its timekeeping is now within a min a day.

Superficially this is good for a vintage watch without any worn parts being replaced. However I am under no delusion that the movement is operating with utmost efficiency given its less than desirable amplitude.

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Has this changed my perception towards vintage watches? Not really. But I must say that certain unknown vintage watches/brands provide good bang for the buck, assuming you do not fret over the amplitude and beat error of your vintages. But then again, how many people, WIS included, even bothers about them?

Selected References:

Seikoholics information page for calibers 2202, 2220, 2242

Grand Seiko Snowflake pictorial review from Jikan

Tweaking the MARK XII: BASIC PRINCIPLES OF WATCH ADJUSTING

Seiko’s Astronomical Observatory Chronometer by SJX

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