It is easy to identify where all this started. A rash Ebay purchase landed a Seiko 6105-8110 diver’s watch from November 1976. The Seiko 6105-811x divers watches are perhaps the most desirable of the middle market Seiko automatic divers, partly because of the beautiful case design, partly because they are considerably thinner on the ground than the 6309 that followed but also because they were built without obvious compromise when it came to component quality. This particular model is the second version of the second generation of 150m Seiko diver’s watches (the preceding models being the 6217-8000 sometimes refered to as the 62mas and the 6105-8000, a smaller cased version of the watch described here). One claim to fame of the 8110 and a key reason for its iconic status derives from its appearance on the wrist of Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.
The 8110 variant of the 6105, in addition to the much larger cushion case, has a ‘lockable’ crown, a bi-directional indexed bezel and the hacking version of the 6105 movement, the 6105B. Although they crop up reasonably regularly on Ebay, it is difficult to find examples in really decent condition, the dials in particular vulnerable to any water ingress and subsequent corrosion. At 44 mm across, there is no doubting it is a large watch but its profile is low and the relatively compact lug-to-lug dimensions means that they wear much smaller than the real estate occupied by their footprint would suggest.
But it’s a hefty old thing, particularly on the steel bracelet mine came on and I still remember the unfamiliar weight on my left wrist as I walked home from the local post office sorting depot, unaware at the time that I had bought anything other than a completely pukka and original watch. By the time I had got my eye in sufficiently to appreciate what to look out for, I’d left my positive feedback and it was too late. Just a little bit more research would have (and in fact did, after the fact) reveal the dial and bezel insert to be aftermarket reproductions. These replacement parts may superficially provide a clean and tidy impression but they are of such poor quality compared to the originals that they spoil much of the appeal of the watch. You should be able to see the contrast here between the scruffy original hands with the characteristic traffic light seconds hand (with a repainted red dot by the look of it) and the applied marker repro dial.
The reproduction dials have none of the charisma of an original which should look something like this:
You can see some of the, now, obvious differences from this comparison. Notice the flat, matt tops to the markers (punched through from the rear of the dial – not cheap plastic applied markers) – the sharp corners, the thicker minute and hour indexes, the presence of the dash ‘-‘ before the 8009T, the crisper, thinner printing of the text and the clear differences in the appearance of the SEIKO logo.
Removing the back reveals a correct 6105B hacking movement but sporting an incorrect rotor.
One of the other apparent flaws with this particular watch was a date wheel with many of the numbers partially worn away. With a couple of brave pills swallowed, some watch makers tools procured, I dove in, removing the movement from the case, then the hands and dial, to reveal the calendar side of the movement:
Replacing the date wheel was relatively straightforward and I ended up with a marginally improved watch but one which I came actively to dislike, that cheap dial grating and still smarting from having over-paid (not by 2012 standards mind). With the probability of finding an original dial in decent condition seemly vanishingly small I elected instead to try something completely different and to modify it. Modified 6105’s are seen rather infrequently, I think partly because it is too easy to ruin the aesthetic of the watch but mainly because of the existence of the ubiquitous SKX series divers, which have become the default modders watch. At the time I was considering my options, Bill Yao was still selling parts and after a look over his Seiko fit products I identified a bund dial to my liking (designed to fit the much more recent 7S26 movement) and one set of white Omega-style sword hands and a set of Type I orange and white hands.
I thought the dial was going to be the biggest problem but in the end I was able to fix it by removing the feet and using adhesive buds cut into thin strips. The biggest problem was with the hands. After my first attempt the watch kept stopping every minute or two and I eventually traced this to the second hand, whose tube was slightly too short causing it to somehow snag on its journey, stopping the movement. Luckily, I had a spare box second hand which popped on easily and solved the problem. I finished off the watch with a new sapphire crystal and a replacement aftermarket bezel insert.
The watch then went through a number of iterations over the course of the next year or three, subsequently transforming into this
with the substitution of a bezel insert from a modern Seiko SBBN007 ‘Tuna’ diver’s watch and the Type I hands. It stayed like this for some time, eventually reverting to a more sober style, with the addition of a proper black, Seiko insert, this one from a SKX007:
The scrape incidentally is not deliberate. This was the result of an incident involving me, my bike, some black ice, and a trip in the back of an ambulance. I’ve since replaced the insert with a new one.