A year or so after the release of their first automatic chronograph (the 6139), Seiko followed up with the 6138A, based closely on the 6139 but with the addition of an hour register as well as the facility to hand wind.
I’ve owned just one 6138 before, the 6138-0011, which I sold some time ago and had not really planned on getting another. But my experience rebuilding a 6139 recently tweaked my interest again in these old chronographs and all it took was a dodgy looking eBay auction from a UK seller that was cheap enough not to cause me to hesitate. This one is a 6138-8020, sometimes referred to as the Panda. Here’s the seller’s photo
and one I took a step or two into the strip down process
It would have been tempting to conclude, upon receipt, that this one was beyond help (at least mine at any rate). The seller claimed it had been in a drawer untouched since conking out a decade or two earlier, but it was clear to me that someone had been ‘at’ it. The sweep seconds hand was sitting at a tilt and colliding with the minute hand. The watch would not run. Nor hand wind. And the paint on the minute and hour sub-register hands was flaking off from cack-handed attempts to remove them in the past. On the plus side, the dial was really rather nice, aside from some minor scratches on the panda eyes. So, in I dived. I won’t go into the same detail as I did with the 6139B (here) because the architecture on the winder side is largely the same and if you are interested in how the chrono works, you can look at the earlier post. But the strip down did reveal one or two other nasty surprises.
With the automatic winding mechanism and chronograph bridge removed we get a view of the minute recording wheel, the intermediate minute recording wheel, the centre chronograph wheel and the reset hammer.
Removing the minute recording wheel and we hit something of a snag:
The shaft and heart had become detached from the wheel. This is something that I had seen before on Rich Askham’s blog (here) and is apparently quite a common problem with 6138’s although not on the 6139. It may be that when resetting the chronograph, the additional length of the shaft required to reach through to the dial side of the thicker movement increases the torque on the wheel beyond the point where it can survive the forces transmitted, and over time it fails. This would have been a show-stopper but I managed to find a new minute recording wheel on Cousin’s site, by a rather circuitous route, but it saved the day.
The next photo shows, I think, why the sweep seconds hand was askew. The photo is not so good but you can just see that the lip on the coupling lever on the balance side of the movement is sitting above the clutch ring on the chrono wheel rather than below it. The only way I can think that this might have happened was perhaps a previous aborted attempt at disassembling the movement although I believe the chrono wheels can list to one side if the spring weakens unevenly. We will see in due course whether that turns out to be a problem with this one.
With most of the rest of the parts on this side of the movement now removed, it is worth pausing to look at the barrel arbor hole in the main plate. On the 6138 this is jeweled to accommodate the intermediate hour recording wheel that is mounted on the bottom of the barrel and which emerges onto the dial side of the movement to mesh with the hour recording wheel.
On that note then, let’s turn the movement over and see how it differs from the 6139. Dial side with day wheel removed we see another problem although it turns out not too serious:
You may just be able to make out that the day jumper has been bent out of shape, both in the horizontal and vertical planes.
Fortunately I was able to bend it more or less back into shape without breaking the spring. With the calendar parts removed we can now see the additional calendar plate that sits on top of the main plate:
With this removed we finally gain access to the hour register mechanism as well as the quickset, keyless works, minute wheel and so on.
To the left of the minute wheel and cannon pinion, we have the hour register wheel. Circling round from bottom left to top left of that wheel is the intermediate hour recording wheel stop lever (phew) whose job it is either to move the stop lever itself against the hour wheel, stopping it, or to release its grip. These two actions are facilitated by the stop lever spring which you can see due south of the hour recording wheel. The strength exerted by this spring is controlled by an eccentric screw in which the spring is mounted. When the chronograph is started, the coupling levers on the other side of the movement release the cluch ring by moving apart and the outward movement of the second coupling lever pushes a pin connected to the reverse side of the intermediate hour recording wheel stop lever, pushing it against the spring and releasing the stop lever’s grip on the hour recording wheel.
Stopping the chrono again reverses the process
Resetting the chronograph moves the hour fly-back lever (north north east of the minute wheel) against the hour hammer which impacts upon the hour heart resetting the hour register wheel.
All of the gif files above taken from the 6138 service manual found here: http://people.timezone.com/kohei/6138manualPDF.PDF
So, removing this lot completes the dismantling of the movement:
Cleaning, reassembling and oiling (the latter now undertaken with a degree more attention to lubricant type – thanks Richie), a snapshot part way through the process
and onto the case. The usual cleaning of grot
fitting of dial and hands
and another minor snag. Stem snapped in two, replaced not with a 6138 stem but a 6119 that differs in no way significant to the correct operation of the watch
with pushers cleaned and gaskets replaced and greased, it looks like we are done:
Or so I thought. The eagle eyed among you might have spotted something amiss in the photo above. The hour register is not functioning. Back off with the hands, dial, calendar mechanism, and plate and some fiddling and cursing. Eventually, it turned out that releasing some of the tension on the stop lever spring by turning the eccentric adjuster screw released enough force from the stop lever to allow the hour register wheel to function correctly:
And now we really are finished (although I really want to replace the sub-register hands, both of which a bit glumpy*). A closing snap to prove it works properly:
* For the solution to glumpy hands and an update, see here and for a reassessment and further update, please take a look here.
Amazing work, is this watch for sale, or your 6139?
Thank you. I’m afraid neither watch is for sale at the moment. Sorry!
Anthony Rosales said:
how much would you charge for this restoration service?
Hi Anthony, I do this for my own amusement and not as a service for others. That way, if I screw up, I only have to answer to myself!
Alnahyan Sarwar said:
great job man
I have this watch but now is not working, I’m looking for the chrono shaft or the clutch, can anybody help me?
That part is obsolete but you do see them come up for sale now and again on Ebay. Keep your eyes peeled and sooner or later you’ll find one.
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Can I be cheeky and ask for some advice? I bought a Seiko `Panda’ watch about 10 years ago because I thought it looked distinctive. I’ve never used it and now would like to sell it. The problem is that I’m confused as to which model it actually is. The face has Japan 6138 and 8040T, but the case has 6139-7080, the serial number is 673981. I would be grateful for any information.
It sounds like your watch has the wrong case back fitted. The 6139-7080 is one of the later models of 6139, having a distinctive hexagonal case, designed to work with an integrated bracelet. The dial code for the 6138-8020 should be 6138-8040 and so if your watch looks like mine in all respects other than the case back, then it’s just the case back that is wrong. The serial number dates the watch to July 1976 but of course not your watch but the one to which your case back was originally fitted!
Many thanks for this, yes the watch is identical to the one in your post. It was doing my head in trying to work out what model it was given the case back didn’t seem to match. I’m going to put it on Ebay, so it’s very handy being able to describe it accurately.
Alex McGee said:
Could you elaborate a bit about the correct type of lubricants to use on this movement? I’m about to tackle my first 6138 and want to make sure I’ve got everything I need.
Hi Alex, I used pretty much the same selection of lubricants as I did with other 6xxx series of low-beat Seiko movements at the time but my choices have developed a bit since doing this one. From memory, I think I would have taken a fairly conventional route and used Moebius 9010 for pivot holes on the faster moving wheels, 9020 for the train wheels and diashock cap jewels, Synt-HP 1000 for slower moving stuff including the barrel arbor, and probably KT22 for some of the keyless works. For the pallet stones either 941 or 9415.
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Charles Merrill said:
A magnificent article, of deep interest to me. In ’73 I bought the same Panda, used it daily till the early ’90’s–and just after its last (botched) “service,” put it away. Want to try rebuilding it now, after 4 years of “hobbyist” work to gain experience. Believe mine has the same minute recording wheel failure (won’t zero out), + sweep hand tends to catch at 0.57. At my age, doubt I can tackle this more than once. So, this request for advice. Should I try to obtain all the chrono-specific parts (if still possible), or hope for the best with just the minute and sweep hand wheels? OK, a dumb question–but all else seems still functional, including good basic time keeping.
Lastly…this is the best article of its sort I’ve ever seen. Congratulations.
Charles, many thanks for your comment. When it comes to parts replacement, I generally take the more parsimonious route in assessing which parts need replacing once the watch has been dismantled and then to seek them out. Sometimes it may be prudent to buy a difficult to obtain part as and when you spot them to squirrel away for a rainy day but that is only a strategy worth following if you intend to dabble on a regular basis. The part that fails commonly on the Seiko 61 series chronographs is the chrono wheel but these are difficult to find and can be expensive. By the way, the seconds hand stopping at 0.58 may simply be down to the mainspring being insufficiently wound but if it still happens on a full wind then you need to look at the minute recording jumper and/or intermediate minute recording wheel to see if either is impeding progress. There is a whole section on this issue in the 6139 technical guide. Good luck!