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Old 03-24-2015, 08:00 AM
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Default Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: March 2015

Howdy, and welcome to the March 2015 edition of Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month. Normally, as I begin the rather time-consuming process of selecting and researching my monthly picks, I always approach the task knowing exactly which watch I want to share with my horological brethren and sistren. That was certainly the case this month, or so I thought it would be, when I began assembling my background info a few days ago.

Without going into a long, lugubrious retelling of my "interesting times" (in the Chinese sense) as a USN officer and nasal radiator, I'll just tell you that, in the years since I retired, I have accepted a goodly number of offers from the Veterans Administration to avail myself of their myriad programs designed to assist veterans in dealing with issues they may have developed during their time in service. I won't bore you with a list of titles for the programs I've attended in the last seven years, but I will tell you that each and every one of them have been of excellent quality and have genuinely been a worthwhile help to me.

By way of info, the program I'm currently attending is geared toward helping vets deal with the bitch-kitty known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short. Once more, I will not bore you with the details of how I came to require said-same treatment, but I promise that I'll connect it with this month's MMMMotM post haste (that means "very soon," for those of you in Rio Lindo). This particular program is conducted in a group therapy setting, and runs a total of 24 weeks. As I write this, I'm one week away from the half-way mark, and each of the dozen-plus members of my group have, in their own way, become like family to me. There is one member, however, whom I have come to trust and relate to even more than the others, and it is he who suddenly caused me to change my mind about which of my moldy machines I would ultimately share with you this month. We'll call him Bob because, well, that's his name. He is a Vietnam veteran who did a couple of one-year tours of duty over there while serving in the U.S. Army.

So it's last Tuesday, and Bob is telling the group about an incident in the Mekong Delta, when I happened to glance over at his left wrist. There was (of course) a watch there, and it looked to have a nice, dark yellow dial that was almost orange in color. When I looked again a few moments later, I saw what looked very much like a 3/4 blue and 1/4 red bezel, AKA a "Pepsi bezel." A couple more glances confirmed this, and I realized that, despite the fact that he was wearing it on a leather strap, his watch was almost certainly a vintage Seiko automatic chronograph from some time in the 1970s. A very cool watch, and an equally cool coincidence, because this is what was on my wrist that self-same afternoon:









My Seiko model 6139-6002, which had arrived from a favorite seller of mine from, of all places, Vietnam, only three weeks before. It was for me one of those long-desired-but-never-seen-in-good-enough-condition-and-at-a-decent-price watches, and I had finally found one I felt good about buying. My Vietnamese friend somehow manages to track down some amazing vintage watches, and then sells them at some damned good -- and sometimes amazingly damned good -- prices. Okay, Mort, that's enough; we don't want to turn this into a commercial for your friend. That would suck. I mean, I can just see it now: Don't go buy a piece of tin, go get a watch from Ho Nguyen! (That last name is pronounced "Nu-win," for you folks in Rio Lindo.) I'd never do that...ahem.









Anyhow, after our group sessions, many of us sit around and talk, including old Bob, so I approached him and, instead of telling him about the watch I was wearing, I held my wrist up next to his and showed him. Other than the bracelet on mine and the scarred up case and cracked crystal (the watch's third) on his, the two watches were twins. He silently looked back and forth between the two pieces, and then began to chuckle.

"I got mine at the Da Nang PX in 1970. I imagine that that's not where you acquired yours."

"Nope," I said. "There's this guy in Saigon, named Nguyen, and..." I'll leave the rest to your imagination. In the meantime, let's have a look at the technical blurbage.



Technical Blurbage

Brand: Seiko
Country of Origin: Japan
Model Year: 1969
Date of Manufacture: April 1977*
Model Number: 6139-6002 (AKA the "Pogue")
Type: Automatic Chronograph
Calibre: 6139
Functions: Analog time, chronograph time (second hand and 30-minute repeating subdial at 6 o'clock), day & date (3 o'clock)
Bezel(s): Outer - Fixed tachymeter; Inner - Movable chapter ring, set by crown when in 'closed' position.
Case Material: Stainless steel
Case Back: Original, stainless steel
Case Measurements: 40MM diameter, 46MM lug-to-lug
Crystal: Original, "Hardlex"
Bracelet: Old stock (replacement from similar model), stainless steel
Clasp: Signed single-deployant with five 'micro-adjustments'
Misc. Notes: Time is set by pulling crown out to first (and only) position. Date is set by pushing the crown to one-click depth; day is set by pushing the crown to two-click depth.





*This particular date of manufacture is based upon Seiko's well-known, six-digit serial numbering convention, wherein the first digit reflects the year (within its specific decade) of manufacture, and the second digit is the month of manufacture. This particular watch has a serial number beginning with "74," hence its manufacture date above. (A quick shout-out to my Aussie mate, jason_recliner, for teaching me how to read Seiko's serials.)









Background

There is certainly a rich supply of information available on the interwebs about this watch, so much so that I was almost 'snowed-under' by all the data I encountered. Still, I suppose it's better to have too much information than not enough, right? Right? Fellows? Er, that's right, Mort. (Just look at what watch collecting does to you; it's got me talking to and answering myself...I'm sooo dead...oh, wait...)

At any rate, the 6139 is Seiko’s first automatic chronograph movement, a single-register chrono with a 30-minute counter, no continuous seconds and a quick-set day-date display. It was produced from 1969 until around 1979. The 6139's came in a range of dial colors and case styles, and were marketed under a number of names, the most common being the "Speed-Timer." However, among the ranks of 6139 aficianados, one model is more famous than all the rest: the 6139-6002, AKA the "Pogue."





The ‘Pogue’ is named after the late (and forever great) Col. William Pogue, USAF, an astronaut and former Thunderbird Demonstration Team pilot who was a member of the 1973 Skylab IV mission. During this mission he wore the distinctive looking, yellow-dialed Seiko 6139-6002, along with his NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster. The 6139 was his personal watch, and despite not having NASA authorization to do so, he used it to time the engine burns on the Saturn V rocket assembly that took him and his fellow astronauts into space. He had used the Seiko during the extensive pre-launch training periods prior to being issued the Omega, and he trusted the capabilities of the Japanese watch more than he did the 'unknown quantity' that was the Swiss timepiece. Pogue noted that even in zero-g conditions, the watch worked superbly, and he did not have to make any extra arm movements to keep it running.







Col. Pogue eventually sold his Seiko 6139-6002 at auction in 2008 for only $6000 USD, a steal (IMHO) for any bona fide 'space watch,' but an absolutely, unbelieveably small price to pay for what was recognized as the first automatic chronograph in space. Even so, it netted considerably more cash than the original $100 USD retail price (see above). Interestingly, my friend, Bob, told me that he paid $63 USD at the PX for his. I suppose that this watch is one of those exceptions that prove the rule about never buying a watch as an investment.

Over the years, the follow-on Seiko automatic chronograph (model 6139-6005) also came to be called 'the Pogue,' although the good colonel never owned one. This was almost certainly due to the two watches being virtually identical to each other, but it's still a fitting tribute to a larger-than-life American hero.

(I'd like to take just a moment to thank my three primary sources for this background information: the Hodinkee Blog, the Gearpatrol.com website, and the Dreamchrono Blog, excellent oracles all.)









Engineering


It's always a little intimidating to discuss the engineering aspects of any watch with a sitefull of WIS, even when you're among friends, as I am here -- as well as the two other sites to which I belong -- but despite each watch's common internal layout, there lies in each a personality based on its individual functioning. In the case of this classic Seiko, there isn't really anything per se bad to say. It's ruggedly built, and has that "tight" feel to it that I associate with a new car. I've inadvertantly smacked it on a couple of door jams here and there, and the result has been, well, nothing. Of course, I've yet to drop it or step on it, or even accidentally smack it over the fence with an aluminum baseball bat, but I'm pretty sure I can avoid the latter two 'incidents;' in true Cali Native Style, I tend to go barefoot about 96% of the time around Casa de los Muertos, and I don't even own an aluminum baseball bat. Still, it's nice to have all contingencies addressed...





A good percentage of WIS I've encountered during my relatively short watch collecting career have been -- and still continue to be -- owners of watches equipped with the Valjoux 7750 Swiss automatic chronograph movement. I own several myself, and one of the first things that stood out about the watch was its legendary "wobble" on the wrist. Many a geek has waxed eloquent over this experience, but I try not to let that stop me from enjoying that sensation, though, in all honesty, it often makes the watch feel top heavy and can even sometimes get a bit on the annoying side. Most of the time, the whole 'wobble issue' passes quietly as you go about your day and you get used to the feel of the watch. Still, it's very nice to snap this venerable Seiko onto my wrist and feel, well, nothing (again). Yes, you can hear the rotor moving about if you shake your wrist, but it stays blessedly silent during everyday hand and arm movement. (Unless, that is, you happen to be a professional -- or even amateur -- butter churner, a rug beater or giver of hand jo-, er, hand shakes.)





But Mort, you ask, what about accuracy? Well, that's a doggoned good question, and it just so happened that I was going to get to that when, in the finest Tim Temple Tradition, I interrupted myself with a question I already knew the answer to. At any rate, and per my usual time-checking practice, I set the watch to the same time as the clock at the U.S. Navy Observatory, engaged the chronograph (because the watch has no continuous seconds hand), and wore it every day (and at night) for what I assumed would be a four- or five-day test period. That was just over two weeks ago, and it's still keeping exact time. (Of course, it could be off by as much as, say, a half-second or so, but there's no way to really check that, I'm afraid.)









There is but one down-check for this watch, and it almost certainly will come as no surprise to those who have owned more than a couple Seiko sport or diving watches over the years. This watch has an internal rotating "bezel" (or, more accurately, a moving chapter ring) that is controlled by turning the crown when it is in the fully-closed position. The movement of this ring is both firm and easy to set, but, unfortunately, it has a tendency to move all by itself when you're moving about. I will say that it doesn't move as easily or as much as the internal "bezel" in my Seiko 5 kinetic watch, and it takes a bit of wrist shaking to get it to move at all, but, IMHO, a booger is a booger, whether it's a big'n or a little'un...









Appearance & Comfort


I'm pretty sure that just about everyone in the watch collecting biz has seen at least a few pictures of this watch over the years; for those of you who had yet to experience this marvelous sensation before reading this rather wordy e-pistle, you've now seen a pretty decent number of my shots, featuring this iconic -- do I dare say it? Sure, Mort! You go, dead bro! -- timepiece. (Down, boys! Down!) And because it truly is iconic, it would be my calculated guess that most WIS (or WIS-in-Training) will find it to be a very sporty, very attractive watch. For myself, lover of vintage watches that I am, I will go a bit further out there on that horological limb and say that I find this watch to be beautiful, both inside and out. Which is to say that, although it hasn't got the gold-colored workings of a Seikosha movement, and has, in all honesty, a very plain-looking set of innards, I still see the very rare beauty of how they function in concert to make this truly one of my favorite wrist-tickers in my modest little collection of moldy mechanical machines. Heck, it even has almost all of the original lume still in place, and still shining nicely.







Obviously, it doesn't flood the room with light, but it easily passes both the Conjurer Quick-Glance-in-a-Darkened-Car Test and the Mortuus Quick-Glance-Inside-a-Darkened-Skyhearse Test. (Yes, that is shameless product placement...)





But is it comfortable? you ask. Well, in a word, yes. Even with the bracelet, which is quite a bit thinner and weighs less than the average oyster configuration, and even though it's an automatic chronometer, it's surprisingly light and comfortable on the wrist. As someone who wears his watches firmly (not tight) on the wrist, this lightness is something I genuinely appreciate, but even if you're a loose-wearer kind of person, this watch will still suit your comfort needs. My aforementioned friend and fellow veteran, Bob, who wears his with a leather strap, told me that he has worn a few smaller (and presumably lighter) watches over the years, and none of them have anywhere near the comfort of his '69 Seiko "Speed Timer."









Conclusion


As I said at the beginning of the Engineering section of this write-up, I can't find much that's wrong with this watch; put simply, it's beautiful, comfortable, and works superbly (save for the aforementioned "booger bezel"). The style is iconic but still fresh, even after more than 45 years on the market. It's a marvelous timepiece, and I genuinely love owning it, so much so that I can say without hesitation that it's a keeper.









So Bob and I sat on the bench outside the VA clinic for more than an hour that afternoon, talking mainly about watches in general, and his Seiko 6002 in particular. He said that the PX's back then, particularly the ones overseas, offered quite a selection of Seiko watches at very modest prices, and it became an almost talismanic practice to buy one upon arriving in-country, the idea being that doing so would somehow ensure that your 365 days would pass quickly and still find you safe and alive, waiting for your plane to rotate you back to the 'States. Of course, and regrettably, this did not work for a goodly number of those kids who were sent to Vietnam more than forty years ago, but it certainly was common to see the flash of a Seiko watch when a fellow GI raised his hand to wave to a friend.

Sadly, most of our Vietnam vets were treated pretty lousy back in the day, having to endure verbal insults and even being spit on by people who claimed the war was unjust. Bob got another taste of this when, a year or so after he got back home, he took his '6002 to a watch repair shop for a cleaning and oiling. The watchmaker opened it up and, after just a few seconds, replaced tha caseback and handed the watch back to my friend.

"I won't work on this watch," he said, scowling. "I suggest you take it back where you got it from."

Of course, nowadays Bob would probably slug the guy for that (I know I would've), but at the time he was pretty much numb from having done back-to-back tours of duty over in South East Asia, not to mention coming home and finding out that he was considered a war criminal by so many who hadn't seen what he had over there.

"I guess it's just one of those things," he said, still looking down at his battered -- but still beautiful -- old Seiko. "One thing I am glad for, though. I'm very glad I got this little gem. It's been my best friend for just about 45 years now. It was with me in Vietnam, and it's been with me every day since. If someone called me a 'baby-killer' or some such thing, I'd just look down at my watch, check the time and move on. I wouldn't trade it for a Rolex or a Patek what's-its-name. I love this damn watch."









As I always seem to say at right about this point in my many watch narratives, I hope you've enjoyed this month's edition of the MMMMotM as much as I have enjoyed writing it. This was a very special piece of writing for me, as I don't often get the chance to share the story of a brother veteran and his experience with a very special watch. In fact, and if no one minds, I'd like to dedicate this bit of prose to two very fine gentlemen whom it has been my pleasure -- and honor -- to get to know over the last couple of years:

The first, of course, is my friend, Bob, late of the U.S. Army, and veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam. I hope that you got at least a sense of what an amazing, resilient person he is from this narrative. As someone who has heard about a good many of the things he went through over there, I can tell you that he is, without doubt, a peerless example of personal integrity and raw courage. One day, as some vets sometimes do, we discussed how we'd like to be remembered, and the subject came around to what we wanted on our respective tombstones. Bob said he'd like his to read, "American Fighting Man." After thinking about it for a good three minutes, the only thing I could think of was, "Rocky the Flying Squid." He laughed loud and long at that, and finally said to me, "Dammit Mort, you almost made me spit my teeth out." "I didn't know you wore dentures," I answered. "I don't," he responded. It was my turn to laugh loud and long after that.

The second of my dedications is our fellow watch collector, good friend and Marine Corps veteran, Bigedsurf, who left us last month for what I fervently hope are greener pastures. Ed has been a very special friend of mine, almost from my first day as a self-declared online watch fan. He was there for me when I got my stupid self banned from WL, and he was the first to inform -- and congratulate me -- when I was welcomed back. Most recently, we exchanged a couple of TAPLAP watches over at WF; Ed loved watches so much that it's my guess he picked up more of them than anyone else who participated in the TAPLAP. I'm also pretty certain that each of us here has had one or more very special experiences with this very kind, very special gentleman.

Thanks so much for stopping by and having a read. Your time and care are far more appreciated than you'll ever know. Be safe and well, all.







Mortuus Praesepultus, Rancho Santa Fe, CA., 22 March 2015
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Old 03-24-2015, 05:06 PM
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This is the finest watch review I've ever read, you damned old goat.
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Old 03-24-2015, 08:43 PM
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Many thanks, John...coming as it does from a published author, not to mention someone who personally knew Louis Breguet, that is high praise indeed.
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Old 03-24-2015, 08:43 PM
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This is the finest watch review I've ever read, you damned old goat.
I agree....exceptionally well done and informative.
Not the mention that Seiko is forever totally cool
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Old 03-24-2015, 09:35 PM
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Nicely done Mort. Informative as usual and great photos to go with the narrative. Really quite a color combination, who would have guess that it would work so well! Thanks for taking the time to work up this presentation. It is certainly appreciated on this end.
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by JAS1125 View Post
I agree....exceptionally well done and informative.
Not the mention that Seiko is forever totally cool
Thanks so much, JAS! And I couldn't agree more with you regarding Seiko; it is the forever cool brands...
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by jrgrey View Post
Nicely done Mort. Informative as usual and great photos to go with the narrative. Really quite a color combination, who would have guess that it would work so well! Thanks for taking the time to work up this presentation. It is certainly appreciated on this end.
Many thanks, JG...this presentation of the MMMMotM was a joy to put together, particularly the narrative, which flowed so easily that I sometimes wondered if I was channeling someone...or maybe not.
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Old 03-26-2015, 04:23 PM
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Mort, this is certainly the most beautiful write-up of all those many beautiful write-ups you did.

You nearly made me weep, man.

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Old 03-26-2015, 07:10 PM
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Thanks so much, James. This one was very special to me, as well. It certainly came from the heart...
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Old 11-08-2017, 06:18 AM
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Somehow - this write-up escaped me and I'm the big loser here. Without a doubt - the US Army's PX system started me on a long quest for wristwatches and a special place in my heart and wallet for Seiko. The breadth and scope of this story is astounding.

Don - you might want to check to see if the Cols widow is alive - and if so - a way to get this too her. It would mean much to her for sure ...
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Old 11-12-2017, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by mikiehorn View Post
Somehow - this write-up escaped me and I'm the big loser here. Without a doubt - the US Army's PX system started me on a long quest for wristwatches and a special place in my heart and wallet for Seiko. The breadth and scope of this story is astounding.
Many thanks for the bon mots, Mikie. It is, without doubt, one of my favorite pieces I've worked on over the years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikiehorn View Post
Don - you might want to check to see if the Cols widow is alive - and if so - a way to get this too her. It would mean much to her for sure ...
Hmmm...I'll see what I can do. She might be in one of the Air Force Officer retirement communities, so that'd be the first place to look. I'll let you know if I have any success.
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