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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
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