The Blue Bell. A very small but perfectly formed, no nonsense traditional Edwardian pub in the heart of York. Hyacinthoides non-scripta, a wild woodland flower, native to Western Europe, almost half the world’s population of which is found in the UK. Neither of these, you won’t be surprised to hear, is the subject of today’s post. However, they do provide a source of inspiration as we anticipate the light of spring emerging from the long dark tunnel of winter, as our inclination shifts from the draw of a burning fire in a cosy hostelry, nursing a pint of real ale, to the anticipation of carpets of blue announcing the arrival of a new season.
And what better way to celebrate that prospect, than to combine both the visual and sonic pleasure that can be had from a Seiko Bell-Matic: the visual, from the colourful flamboyance of a blue bezel inlay combining with a glossy blue dial encircled by green; the sonic from the anachronistic sound of a mechanical alarm trying to make itself heard over the bleeps, shrieks and electronic burps of the modern age. With that out of my system, may I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, our subject, a 17 jewel Seiko Bell-Matic 4006-6029 dating from February 1971.
The Bell-Matic and I have some history insofar as my earliest memories of the watch as an object of tactile fascination were of my father’s 4006-7010, worn by him for 20 years or so through my formative years. That watch is thus largely responsible for my current infatuation with vintage Seiko watches, yet, ironically I’ve never quite fallen for the Bell-Matic as a staple wearer. I like the model range enormously, I admire the clever engineering, but for some reason they’ve never quite lit my fuse. Having serviced my first a couple of years ago, I felt at the time that perhaps the Bell-Matic and I had run our course. There was, however, the small question remaining of the two or three Bell-Matics sitting in my to-do box awaiting attention. One of these, the watch you see above, I’ve had for ages, yet continued to pass over partly for lack of obvious incentive to attend to it but also because the hands looked irredeemably grotty and I was waiting for a new set to appear from one of the usual sources before pressing on.
So why now? Well, taking inspiration from the jolly green giant of our previous post, I thought it would be nice to continue our colour theme, but shift a little further towards the shorter wavelength end of the visible spectrum. The tipping point in prompting action was the realisation, upon closer inspection, that the grotty hands were not in fact grotty, but simply smeared in liberal quantities of grease, easily removed. But I am getting ahead of myself. The watch itself looks fine externally, barring some conspicuous impact damage to the lower left side from which the bezel has clearly born most of the brunt.
The inlay in the region of the depression had compressed and cracked and so a fresh bezel will be needed further down the line. To get a sense of the state of the innards, I popped it on the Timegrapher on a full wind.
As you can see, very decent amplitude and beat error but running very slow. The view from the rear with the case back removed reveals a degree of tarnishing commensurate with a considerable period of time having past since its last service, but it otherwise looks very tidy.
With the autowinder mechanism removed, we get a good impression of just how well this movement fills the case. It does so not because the case is small but because the movement is impressively girthsome; 13.5 ligne (30.4 mm diameter) plays the 12 ligne of the 61 series (27 mm) and the 11 ligne of the rather more diminutive 51 series (24.8 mm) we met a few posts back.
Before we can separate the movement from the mid case, we need to remove both the crown and the alarm/quickset button, the latter providing an unpleasant clue as to the length of time that has passed since the last service.
Without the scuffed and cloudy acrylic crystal obscuring our view, the glossy blue dial reveals itself to be in lovely condition, largely free of blemishes and tarnishing.
An additional step required at this stage in proceedings for a Bell-Matic is the removal of the alarm setting wheel, which is accomplished by first removing the two alarm wheel holders and screws.
The resultant absence of the alarm wheel reveals the extent to which the movement itself exceeds the diameter of the dial.
The dial and hands come off in conventional fashion, providing access to the calendar workings. I’ve covered much of what follows in some detail before and so I’ll try to condense the dismantling from this point (or at least cover details I may not have emphasised last time). Fast forwarding to exposure of the calendar plate follows:
The condition on the movement on this side is entirely consistent with my initial impressions. Plenty of tarnishing but everything otherwise appearing to be in fine fettle. It is worth pausing to observe what lies beneath the calendar plate.
It’s not exactly a work of art but undeniably complex. It somehow brings to mind the view under the bonnet of a 1970’s Jaguar XJS V12. Plumbing all over the place with no sense at all that a V12 should be an objet d’art, there to stir the soul in how it appears as much as in how it performs and sounds. But the design here is born of application not aesthetics and it does its job admirably. I’ll skip the rest of the process, stopping only to take a gander at the near naked main plate, with the barrel containing the mainspring proper still in place, in close proximity to the second mainspring, this one powering the alarm hammer.
While the movement parts percolate in the cleaning machine, I turn my attention to the case. The absence of the bezel in the shot below highlights the crystal profile, as well as providing another view of just how unsanitary watches can become if left to their own devices as depositories for a diverse collection of detritus.
The view from below is not any better in this respect.
While we’re on the subject, let’s take a closer look at the alarm button.
It looks like someone has been trying to establish a vegetable patch in there. This seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge that we have reached the half-way point in proceedings. With all parts clean, and free from as much besmirchment as I can manage, we start as is conventional, with the reinstatement of the now cleaned and lubricated mainspring, noting that it has to be wound clockwise, as entry is gained from above rather than below when opening the barrel. As in the case of the 5106 recently encountered, this requires that my right handed mainspring winder be used in a left-handed fashion, completely counter to its design.
What follows, I am afraid, is all rather disappointingly straightforward, this particular movement reluctant to throw too many curve balls my way. The assembly of the setting parts, centre wheel, barrel and train wheels, train wheel bridge and alarm mainspring winding train all proceeded smoothly. The only minor fly in the ointment was that many of the small parts were heavily magnetised and I had to demagnetise them part-by-part before fitting.
The movement is ready at this point to receive the balance and so with the two Diashock settings complete (and inserted the correct way round, the calendar side cap jewel being thinner than the balance side cap), we can wind in some power and make a provisional assessment of the health of the movement post clean.
And away she goes, decent amplitude, timing curves free from noise but with a touch of beat error. The full timing adjustment can wait until the movement is complete, installed in the case and fully demagnetised.
Setting the movement aside for the moment, I can turn my attention to the case. A thorough clean has purged all of the mulch and a light refresh of the damaged lower left side has smoothed away some of the scarring from its historic impact. We are ready to instate a new crystal, this one my last remaining original Seiko 325T02ANS.
The acrylic crystal comes pre-fitted with a fresh tension ring and so having removed as much paper residue fluff sticking to its surface as I can, it is out with the crystal press to install the crystal into its new home.
The profile view of a decent top hat acrylic crystal provides a weird yet undeniable source of pleasure.
One of the very small number of virtues I have acquired in my middle age is the ability to play the long game. Some time after buying this particular watch, my search for a new old stock bezel with blue inlay paid off, and it has been waiting patiently to be put to use. The payoff of that patience is the satisfying clack as the new bezel clicks home.
The case is now finished and so we can return to the movement, focusing on the reconstruction of the alarm and calendar parts.
The only problematic part of this exercise is getting the alarm hammer and alarm wheel pinions to locate in their respective holes in the calendar plate before tightening down. I ought to mention at this point that working on the 4006A is hugely aided by the availability of a dedicated movement holder, sourced from an enthusiast in Australia. In the fourth photo above (lower right), you should be able to see the hour wheel in the centre, with its three characteristic projections standing proud of the surface of the wheel. These need to be lubricated before fitting the unlocking wheel.
In the bottom half of the photo above, we see the date finger mounted (incorrectly) on the day and date driving wheel. The role of the finger is to flick the date over more or less simultaneously with the action of the pin on the wheel on the day wheel. If you fit the finger with the pin located on its right hand side (as above) then the day will flick over about 12 hours after the date. The technical manual warns the watchmaker to ‘be sure to position the date finger against the day driving pin correctly’. This is the sort of instruction that is all to easy to miss or ignore and you only discover your error when you notice a lack of synchronicity between the date and day wheels (fortunately I double checked and was able to back track before I got too much further).
So that is the movement pretty much complete, barring the fitment of the autowinding mechanism, and we can now move on to fit the hands and dial. You will remember I mentioned the apparently sorry state of the hands earlier.
What I took for damage and corrosion when initially appraising the watch has turned out to be nothing more sinister than grease and this cleans off quite easily. With both hour and minute hands looking a great deal better, I refitted the dial and hands.
The correct alignment of the alarm setting wheel requires that the hands first be to set to 12 o’clock, following which the crown is pushed into the second position to allow rotation of the intermediate alarm setting wheel until the alarm sounds (having wound in power to the alarm mainspring and primed the alarm by pulling out the alarm button). At this point the alarm setting wheel is set into position with its indicator aligned with the 12 marker, fixed into position with the two holders and then tested again for correct alignment. Plus or minus 5 minutes is deemed good enough according to the technical manual.
The crown gasket on these watches is captured and very difficult to replace (more so even than on the 62MAS crowns). Fortunately, I’d squirreled away a new crown complete with still supple gasket for this particular rainy day.
Swapping crown required the stem to be trimmed a bit to get the new crown seated correctly around the crown tube.
With fresh gaskets all round, the final piece of the jigsaw is to fit the rotor.
On with the case back, and a quick checkup suggests everything functions correctly, the crystal allowing free passage of the alarm setting wheel.
I’d been somewhat worried about what to do on the strap front. This is a model that I don’t think works particularly well on any sort of leather strap and so for once I opt to keep with the original specification and fit a steel bracelet whose design is as close as possible to the original. Fortunately, I’d bought one such, intending to use it with another 6139 project lurking in the wings, and had been oblivious when I bought it to just how perfectly it would complement this Bell-Matic. The finishing on this new bracelet leaves a little to be desired but I cannot complain really at the price and its design is absolutely spot on.
One more head-on shot to appreciate the obvious ‘70’s vibe.
And a profile view that illustrates just how much thought goes into elements of the case design that are not as conspicuous as those presented in full-frontal aspect.
I’ve been wearing this all week and think that just maybe I’ve found a Bell-Matic that pushes all the right buttons. It’s comfortable, slightly quirky, colourful and just about the perfect size for me.
I think my Dad would have approved too.
Done so well Martin, it is not always the immediate attractions or the most esthetically pleasing which resonate longest,the cognitive process develops a unique appreciation…all things considered. That is a funky piece.
Keep on keeping on. Gilmour
Hi Martin, your blog is always fascinating and insightful so firstly thanks for taking the time to post them. I’ve become quite a fan of the Bellmatic myself and have a couple of 4006-6040 one of which requires some work. I wondered if you have any ‘go to’ places for Seiko spares (ive joined a number of forums to search for spares) and if there are any good guides for home servicing you could recommend (keen to attempt a service myself but as a relative novice I’d rather reduce the risk of breaking it completely. Thanks again, I’m off for a pint of London Pride in a pub… ☺ Andrew.
Hi Andrew, pleased to hear you enjoy the blog. As for parts, I use a combination of watch parts materials houses such as Cousins (I sourced the bezel mentioned in the post from the US equivalent Jules Borel), smaller parts suppliers, eBay and Yahoo Japan. As to guides, I am self-taught for the most part having got to the point where I sort of know what I am doing as a result of plenty of trial and error, involving lots of the latter. Practice on sacrificial watches can help build confidence before you progress to projects that matter more. Martin
karl kane said:
Can you tell me if you any Seiko watches for sale at the moment. I am interested in purchasing one for a family member.
Karl, I do sell from time to time to but not through the blog – that is not a motivation for me. When I do sell, it is generally through watch fora sales corners or very occasionally through Ebay (maybe once). At the moment though, I am not actively trying to sell anything, although that may change.
Martin, I apologize because you most likely get comments all the time asking “Is this watch for sale” or “Can I send you my vintage watch for repair” etc, but in my investigation for more information on the Seiko Bell-Matic 4006-6020, I came across this blog on a slightly different reference. Needless to say I have spent far too much time now reading through your fascinating articles on horological history and transformations and I cannot help but wonder: would this watch be for sale by any chance? Or if I were to purchase a used 4006-6020, do you repair watches for a fee? I’m replying to this comment because you responded to the other reader: “At the moment though, I am not actively trying to sell anything, although that may change.”
Regardless, thank you for the incredible documentation and information for curious people like myself.
Joshua, I always welcome comments – the more the merrier. As to my Bell-Matic, I am afraid it is not for sale. Coincidentally, I’ve been wearing it for the past week or so and have been greatly enjoying it. As to your other question, I do not take in work. I am just a hobbyist, and simply do not have the time to work on other people’s watches. The rate at which I post articles is a fairly accurate representation of the rate at which I make my way through my increasingly large stockpile of old watches. In other words, a sedate process that provides me with the luxury of taking my own sweet time!
Thanks for your kind comment though – I appreciate it.
Tony G. said:
My name is Tony. I really love the look of the KS 4502 and was thinking of pulling the trigger on one with a discolored dial. I came across your blog a while back (which is amazing by the way) and remembered that last year you had restored one. To cut to the chase I wanted to know if you take on clients. I would love to be able to have the 4502 restored but am afraid to do it myself. Unfortunately I live in Las Vegas, Nevada USA and good watchmakers are hard to come by. Please let me know I’ll leave my email below. Thank you for your time, keep up the good work.
Hi Tony, I am pleased to hear you enjoy the blog. I am asked quite frequently if I take in work and I am afraid that I always give the same answer: I am just a bungling hobbyist and my comfort zone sits squarely with the rather pedestrian rate at which I work my way through my own watches. I have a busy worklife and this is my means of keeping sane! There are competent watchmakers in the US, some with expertise in vintage Seiko. You might give Spencer Klein a try. I think he is based in the Colorado area and probably the best way to get in touch is through his YouTube channel. I have no personal experience of his workmanship but he seems to be highly regarded in the Seiko community. Alternatively, if you are prepared to ship overseas, then give Duncan Hewitt a try in the UK.
Tony G. said:
Alright, not a problem. I appreciate your reply and understand. I might just get into modding and restoring as well to blow off steam but I too need to find the time first. I’ll look into those two fellas thank you for the recommendations.
You jinxed me! Not really but my blue belle wouldn’t hold a wind and kept stopping. So I opened it up today and thought it was the barrel. Everything looked fine but decided to oil up the barrel spring. Well the oil helped pop the spring straight out of the barrel. I don’t have a spring winder but have been able to put in other seiko springs by hand. I snapped off the “Y” piece of the spring trying to figure out how to get it back in. Luckily I had an extra broken belle to swap a new barrel. It’s chugging along fine now but we’ll see.
Do you have any pics or videos of getting the spring back in via the winder? It’d be good reference for the future if I find myself in a similar situation. Obviously a winder would be ideal but I couldn’t visualize how it was supposed to go back in.
By the way took me like three hours getting the alarm bridge back on. Did you use a jig or somehing?
Apologies for the jinx 🙂 Regarding mainspring winding and fitting, if you take a look at the Seikomatic Silver Wave post from July 2016, I run through the main steps in refitting the mainspring and that should give you a reasonable idea of what is involved.
As to the alarm bridge, no tricks or tips really, just make sure that the respective pivots are as close to their correct positions as possible before attempting to fit the bridge. As is often the case with these things, experience seems to help but I can offer no insights into why!
Nicholas Cross said:
Great watch , they don’t make them like the that any more , as a matter of curiosity how accurate measurements do you think they might be adjusted to, and would the 27 jewel movement be any more accurate or require any lesser service intervals
Not all of the additional jewels will contribute to better time-keeping but they will typically provide better protection against wear. Seikos of this period sometimes have jewels that serve no function at all! Anyway, these Bell-Matics can be regulated to run to 5 s per day or better.
Mike Mundy said:
Thank you, I appreciate the restoration photos. I have a restored BellMatic. See it here:
The work was done Terry Halmshaw in Beulah Australia.
That looks like a gilt dial and hands in a steel case. An interesting combination.
John Durban said:
Hi Martin, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your Bell-blog immensely and really appreciate your workmanship. I too am a self-taught watch tickler and have had a particular interest in Bell-Matics for a few years now. I have a small but growing collection that I have restored and now enjoy owning, but noting quite like the quality of your 6029. It looks like an absolute peach! A beautiful and quite sought-after specimen. Congratulations!
Thank you John. Yes, I love this one but curiosity have not worn it a great deal. I think I should rectify that oversight!
Thank you so much for this blog. I picked up a Bellmatic recently and the day / date was changing at the wrong time and out of synch plus the alarm setting wheel was incorrectly synchronised. With your walkthrough I have been able to rectify these issues. Brilliant ! Thanks.
Thanks Georuiz! It’s great to hear that the post was helpful for you. Well done!