This article comes with a twist at the end.
I’ve always entertained the concept of a daily beater watch. Something that I can wear daily to the office without 1) getting bored of it 2) being too strenuous physically to wear (i.e. no heavy watches 3) looking out of place in an office setting (definitely nothing that screams “Look at me, I’m wearing a 10,000 dollar watch just because I can!”).
Being the person I am, this usually also means something from the stable of Seiko and nothing commonplace in terms of the movement. It would also help if it was not a brand new piece that I would not bear to wear like many of my 4S pieces. Thus, I narrowed my search down to something affordable and vintage, something that looks timeless yet is used enough over the years by prior owners that I would have no qualms wearing it myself going forward.
Amongst the stable of vintage Seiko pieces,the most interesting movement families are the hand wound 45es, and the automatic 61es, 52es and 56es. You might have noted that I’ve excluded movements made before the late 1960s/early 1970s. This is because the late 1960s is really the turning point in terms of the manufacturing capability of Seiko which led to many outstanding movements which are still working well today, with little to no servicing. Movements made after the mid/late1970s are well, generally quartz movements or lower end mechanical movements, hence we can ignore the movements made outside of the time period.
If you understood the stream of numbers that I threw out earlier, you would no doubt know that I’m thinking about the Grand Seiko and King Seiko families. To me, a beater watch should be automatic, and self winding, hence I’ll exclude the super hi-beat 45es.
No offense 45, you are certainly the most decorated movement Seiko has ever made, but your beat rate causes excessive wear and tear, not to mention the fact that I have to wind you daily.
That leaves me with the three automatic movements. 61es are great but the super hi beat causes excessive wear and tear, not to mention that any watch with the 61 inside fetches sky high prices these days. That leaves me with the 52 and 56 movements. To me, its pretty obvious that the 56 will be the ultimate choice, simply because the 56 movement is a lot more affordable than any KS with a 52 movement inside (google KS 52 Special and you’ll know what I mean) !
Besides that, I already have tons of modern 52/4S movements in my collection, so it makes sense for me to get a 56KS. I specifically did not look for a 56 GS simply because the GS has a modern reincarnation, while the KS is somewhat overlooked by the boys playing with watches these days, except for hard core Seiko fans/watch collectors. That’s all good as it keeps King Seikos much more affordable.
The 56KS has quite a few variants, including but not limited to no date, date only, date/day and chronometer variants. To me, the simpler it gets the better as there’s less chances for anything to break (i.e. a day/date wheel and its corresponding parts). That leaves me with a 5621 no date movement.
Another point that I look out for is lower maintenance and this includes having a monobloc case . Not many people know this, but a certain generation of King Seiko do indeed come with a monobloc case, i.e. the movement can only be accessed from the front via the glass/dial. No caseback gasket to worry about! You would sacrifice the famous KS gold medallion at the back, but this is a worthy exchange, since the gold medallion do deteriorate with sweat over time.
Having decided on the exact model I wanted, off I went to the Bay and YJ to search for my new beater watch! There were a few promising auctions, however the condition were too unsatisfactory or the prices were too high. Another factor was that it’s much harder to find a no-date anything, compare to its date or day/date cousin.This was simply because models with date and/or day usually sells much better than the time-only variant (but the asymmetry just breaks my innate sense of cohesion).
I looked a little closer to home and found the the exact watch of my goal for a fairly reasonable price. Some readers might be aware of this website Antique Watch Bar, and I highly recommend it. The site is run by a guy named Eric and is located in Singapore (but ships overseas), and he updates it with his rare finds regularly every Monday. I have dealt with him in person before and I have no qualms dealing with him again.
The pictures of my acquisition target did not look that great and it was probably 20% more than what I would have usually paid for it, however when I saw it in person, I have to agree that it was a good buy.
The body was not in perfect shape, however it was in a used, not abused condition and still show the excellent Grammar of Design cues. There are no major nicks on the case however there was a small dent at the back. Thankfully the dent is fairly shallow and will not impact the winding capability of the watch.
The crown is signed as well. Always a lovely touch and you know you’re getting a quality piece when the crown is signed with the model you are paying for, rather than a general “S” branding which Seiko is too frequently capable of these days. Or worse, a generic unsigned crown.
Now the star of this piece is the immaculate hands and dial.
I have handled a fair number of vintage KS in my earlier posts, and there’s usually some flaking of the black paint the in middle of the hands or some tarnishing on the shiny parts of the hands. However this piece was as close to factory fresh condition as it gets.It was either really lucky to have a very very conscientious watchmaker removing its hands during each servicing or it had not been serviced ever!
There are some signs to this, as there was some dirt ingrained so deeply between the case and the crystal, that the crystal would have to be removed first before the dirt could be cleaned away.
The same can be said for the dial. For most vintage pieces, if any flecking of the paint or printing occurred, this flecks would contaminate the dial and cause discoloration in the surrounding area over time.
Another potential issue is that of water staining of the dial. This usually happens when the gaskets are no longer doing its job and one can see dark stains/spots appearing right at the edges of the dial.
However this example’s dial is perfectly flawless and one can still see the faint sunburst effect as light plays over the dial. I’ve tried to capture it in the picture below, but it’s much easier to see the sunburst effect in person.
Overall, this was the beater watch that I was looking for. It is not an immaculate piece, but it’s retains its usability and is not something that needs babying daily. The flawless dial and hands are a great bonus for sure!
I mentioned earlier that there is a twist to this article. Here it is.
I actually bought the exact same model 4 years ago in 2013 (you can see it here), and I only realised it when I did a general google search for the same model! Imagine my surprise when I got a hit from my own blog!
I probably forgot all about it over the years and I cannot even remember why I sold it away then. My 2013 post was actually a sales post as I needed a place to host the pictures. Such irony that I went one big circle and bought back the exact same model I sold years previously! Well this watch is a keeper this time (fingers crossed).