I find myself somewhat conflicted by the whole gilt/gold watch thing. With a solid gold watch it’s the ostentation I struggle with. If it’s gold plate, then there’s not only the question of the pretence, but gold-plated watch cases simply do not age well. The plate wears off, exposing the brass beneath and then it simply looks tatty and nothing short of replating can begin to return it to anything approaching its former state. However, gilt highlights on a steel watch can be fabulous, if done well. I don’t mean two-tone in the style of the stereotypical 80’s gold and steel Datejusts, but all steel watches with gilt dial print, gold markers and or hands and, with the right watch, even a gold coloured dial. Seiko have a history of doing the latter rather well, the Seiko 6139 Pogue being an iconic example (see here). In fact the whole 6139 (and 6138) line of automatic chronographs were used by Seiko in the 60’s and 70’s to let their hair down a bit and enter into the spirit of that age.
The subject of today’s post is a Seiko 6139-6015 from 1977 which ticks the wrong box on the gold-plated case front, but hits the jackpot in the choice of colour for the dial and dial ring.
I had been on the lookout for one of these for some time with a specific project in mind but needed at the very least the dial and dial ring to be in first class condition but of course at a cost hopefully not much more than a round or two (drinks not golf) at the local on a Friday. My patience paid off with an auction from a seller in Canada whose photos disguised the promising state of this particular example. You can see in my photos above how the plating is worn away from the corners of the case and the ends of the chronograph pushers but that is of incidental interest because my cunning plan is to rehouse the contents in a sample 6139-6012 case recently acquired from a seller in Brazil (with the accompanying NOS bezel sourced from Sweden).
However, these watches also need a serviceable movement with no obvious faults and this one looks decent enough:
Although needing a clean, it’s a runner and the chronograph functions appeared to work well, both second and minute register hands snapping to attention when reset and with the seconds hand seemingly running in time with the rest of the movement. Removing the autowinding mechanism reveals what you expect of a watch which has not been messed about with but which has gone some time without a service:
The dial though is in really super condition, with just a very minor flaw on the 10 minute marker on the minute register sub-dial:
Removing the hands requires more than the usual care, the tiny minute register hand in particular needing a delicate touch with a pair of hand levers and suitable dial protection. I have found that levering the dial up a little from the 6 position moves the register hand sufficiently up its post to provide the clearance necessary for the hand levers to finish the job. With the dial and hands off, we can take a look at the calendar wheels and again, all looks very nice.
The architecture beneath the day/date wheels betrays the close relationship the 6139 has with the base 6106 movement, the quickset, keyless works and main plate on this side looking all but identical to the later editions of the 6106.
So, on with the disassembly then, proceeding from the top of the movement and the removal of the chronograph bridge:
to reveal the centre chronograph wheel at the centre, arguably the most important component of the watch, the minute recording wheel to the top of the photo, and between the two, the intermediate minute recording wheel. I’ve written about how these three interconnect before (here) but the idea is that once per minute the finger mounted on the top of the chrono wheel turns the intermediate wheel which in turn, rotates the minute recording wheel 6 degrees i.e. one 60th of a complete revolution. The precision with which it does so is regulated by the minute recording jumper mounted on the chronograph bridge.
With the minute recording and intermediate wheels removed,
we get a better look at the two coupling levers whose job it is to lift the clutch ring on the chrono wheel thereby disengaging the centre seconds axle from the rotation of the fourth wheel and thereby stopping the chronograph.
Next, we remove the barrel and train wheel bridge,
which in the photo above has already had the pillar wheel removed, and we are now in a position to access the chronograph centre wheel.
From here it’s pretty standard stuff, but let’s pause briefly at the half-way point to appraise the main plate, with balance remounted minus its Diashock setting, prior to the cleaning stage.
Reassembly starts with the barrel and train wheel bridge because we have to re-mount the pillar wheel before fitting the bridge to the main plate. The role of the pillar wheel is to prevent the chrono reset action from operating when the chronograph is running.
A quick once over to admire how clean it all is after its bath
pausing to take a closer look at the chrono wheel, minute recording and intermediate wheels
and in particular the pesky hammer spring over to the right hand side in the photo above, whose fitment is particularly fiddly. One more with the chronograph bridge and balance fitted to check it all runs satisfactorily.
We are pretty much ready now to case the movement, but in a staged process to allow correct fitting and alignment of the hands. Here’s the cleaned case, complete with new bezel, and crown and nickel pushers from a spare 6012
having first straightened up the pushers, both of which to varying degrees a bit wonky.
With the case ready and waiting, and with the calendar parts refitted to the movement, we can mount the dial and fit the hour and minute hands followed by the minute register hand. Rather than refit the original gilt hands though, I decided instead to fit an identical nickel-plated pair farmed from a spare 6139-6012 (seen previously, minus its hands here).
This is where I think getting the right balance needs some care. Arguably, the original gold coloured hands trump nickel in the bling stakes but to my eye, they make the original dial/hand combination a bit flat. The nickel hands provide just the right amount of contrasting highlight to set the wonderful dial off to its best effect. The minute register hand, incidentally, required three attempts to get it aligned perfectly. Before fitting the chrono seconds hand, I wanted the movement in the case to provide an accurate reference point, provided by the 60 marker on the dial ring,
to properly align the seconds hand
All that remains is to fit the new crystal and bezel
check all of the functions and regulate the movement
refit the automatic winding mechanism
close her up and admire the completed watch.
I have to say, I am really very pleased with this one. In the flesh it looks stunning, eye-catching and rather special. So much so, that the dour Yorkshireman in me thinks the perfect finishing touch has to be a black NATO strap
and finally, one with its slightly less showy brother
Excellent posting as usual and although I don’t do gold in any form myself on my watches that has indeed turned out rather special!
John Paul Herold said:
Unbelievable! Great details and choices for the final build. Black nato with brushed hardware really finish it off nicely and tie in the black elements on face/hands. The gold face looks so good with everything. I want to try to source the parts to build one myself (/with help from a watch maker ha).
Ian Larsen said:
This is a great entry!
I’m hoping you can answer a question: I’m restoring two Seiko 6139 Pogues. In both cases, the Chronograph bridge is missing the tiny metal “jewel” that should hold the intermediate minute recording wheel in place. I’m new to this hobby, and I don’t know if that kind of metal jewel (if that’s what it’s called) can be purchased by itself or if I’ll need to replace the entire chronograph bridge for both watches. Any thoughts would be very helpful.
Occasionally the pivot holes can be pushed out if the bridge is tightened down with the wheel not properly located. I imagine they might work loose though normal wear and tear too. My guess is that a skilled watchmaker might well make a repair by replacing the metal pivot hole with a jewelled setting in which case they would fit the jewel with a staking tool. In your case, I suspect that the best solution would be to source a replacement bridge. I’ve seen these recently for sale from a seller on Ebay although not sure whether they still have stock. Alternatively, find a spare movement and raid for parts! Good luck.
Ian Larsen said:
Thanks so much, Martin. This is very helpful.
Fuzzy Elliott said:
Hello, Do you recommend any sites for purchasing the replacement band? I currently bought a “Pogue” but it’s missing the band. Thanks for your help.
I’ve seen a few sellers on Ebay selling reproduction bracelets for the Pogue variants, the best of which was that sold by a seller called Mr Seiko but unfortunately he is no longer trading.
Ian Larsen said:
Hi, guys. FWIW, I’ve had good luck for 6139 bracelets and other parts from an eBay seller based in Thailand.
Edit: Ian, I’ve edited your comment to remove direct reference to that seller. I would prefer not to endorse sellers with whom I’ve had no personal experience.
Nice site, i’ve a question about the pillar wheel mounting, why do you have to re-mount the wheel to the bridge before you fitting it to the main plate? is it impossible to do it after the bridge is mounted ?
Thanks in advance. Thommy.
I found the business of refitting the pillar wheel a bit fiddly, particlarly in trying to get the wheel to remain seated whilst relocating the rather stiff jumper. I would generally much prefer doing this with the bridge off the movement for fear of inadvertently damaging something else in the process, particularly with that delicate centre chronograph wheel sitting so nearby. I don’t have the service sheet with me at the moment, but I seem to recall it also suggested performing the operation in this order.
Thank you for the fast answer, i just found the service sheet for movement and you’re quite right, a matter of precaution, i guess i have to remove bridge again so i don’t break anything.
if you choose to sell this, let me know! awesome build!
Very Good Job.
Thanks for sharing!
Lord Dunsany said:
You’ve inspired me to do something similar with a gilt ’72 6015 retrofitted into a ’71 6012 SS case. I found a NOS black dial ring, which looks stunning with the all-gilt dial (including the subdial, as with yours). My gold dial ring was faded beyond readability.
I brought this same Seiko at the PX when stationed at Camp Pendleton wore it through hell and high water came home lost it found it after almost 50 years. It’s still running like a champ on the back it says waterproof I happened across an old Seiko add from back then it’s says it’s tested to 229ft . It’s gotten wet but not at that depth mostly fishing water skiing freshwater and saltwater fishing surfing back in the day. But could this watch go that deep it doesn’t look like a typical dive watch.
Hi Marc, I always enjoy hearing from people who wore and used these watches at the time that they were produced. Thank you. The depth rating of 6139’s would have been 70m which, as you say, is 229 ft and with fresh gaskets and mating surfaces free from pitting or corrosion, I see no reason why they should not be good for that. Having said that, they were not designed as dive watches but were supposed to be able to deal with swimming or water sports type of activities.
I found a Seiko 6139 6015 gold tone in my late brother’s thing I see how you’ve converted yours to a steel case can you also exchange out the dial so it’s not a gold one
Absolutely, yes. The only difference between the gold plated and steel cases is the material. The movement and dial will be compatible between the two cases.
Darrin dlc said:
I was comparing the back of your watch to the one I have and they’re different do you think that mine could be a knockoff
Hi Darrin, the caseback design depends on may watches on the date of manufacture and so it may not be sign of any problem if yours is different in design to mine. If you wanted to send a photo, then feel free to do so at the email address linked in the Contact tab.
My brother’s watch had been saying in a packing crate from us last 20 years I almost threw it out to the truth. What will it do the to the value of the watch if I change it to a stainless steel case and perhaps change the dial? Not the case is in any great condition it is well worn.
Gold-plated cases tend to age poorly and the value will have suffered as a result. If you change the dial too then it turns the watch into a bitsa watch but it may still retain a reasonable value if it presents and performs well and operates correctly.