Since 1965, Seiko has been manufacturing dive watches, and countless fantastic models have been released over the course of the last half-century. With that in mind, and with the understanding that creating a short list of great models is like choosing between excellent whiskeys (there are many to choose from and tastes may vary), here are 5 great vintage dive watches from Seiko’s long and illustrious history.
The 6306/6309 series is probably the most well known from Seiko’s dive watch portfolio, and was even re-issued (with some changes) under Seiko’s Prospex line in 2015. Manufactured between 1976 and 1988, 6306-7000/1 and 6309-7040/9 watches earned their “Turtle” nickname due to their rounded, cushion-shaped cases, and are often seen as a popular entry point into vintage Seiko collecting.
A number of variations were manufactured during its twelve-year production run, which further adds to the excitement and pursuit for collectors. For example, 6306 watches were exclusively produced for the Japanese domestic market, and received different movements that had Kanji day wheels, and the addition of a hack-seconds feature. Prices for vintage Seiko Turtles can range significantly; however regardless of the iteration, a 6306 or a 6309 is a true must-have for any collector of vintage Seiko dive watches.
For many, the appearance of Seiko’s various “Tuna” watches is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of aesthetic; however, the 6159-7010/9 “Grandfather Tuna” represents a true milestone in dive watch design and history. First released in 1975 in response to complaints from professional Japanese saturation divers, the “Grandfather Tuna” boasts a number of industry firsts, including a titanium case, ceramic-coated shroud, use of L-shaped gaskets, and vented rubber strap.
The 6159-7010/9 “Grandfather Tuna” gets its name from its large and instantly recognizable, tuna-can shape. While it very well may be the antithesis of a dress-diver, and will likely never be able to effortlessly slip under the sleeve of a shirt, the Grandfather Tuna represents the other side of dive watch design; it is a true, purpose-built timepiece (with a hi-beat movement), engineered for professional underwater use.
The 6217-800/1 “62MAS” was Seiko’s very first dive watch from 1965, and as such, will always hold an incredibly special place within the company’s history. Much like the Seiko Turtle, the 62MAS was re-issued under Seiko’s Prospex collection (albeit with some changes) in 2017; however the original version of the 62MAS, the 6217-800/1 is a true classic, and is almost guaranteed to be on the “future acquisitions list” of every vintage Seiko collector who does not currently own one.
Although the original 62MAS had a depth rating of 150 meters, which was quite impressive for the time of its release, it did not have a screw-down crown. Consequently, many 62MAS watches sustained some degree of moisture damage within the last half-century, once their gaskets began to wear out and deteriorate. Finding a surviving example of an original 62MAS with all of its original parts is becoming an increasingly difficult task, and it is quite common to find 6217 watches with aftermarket or refinished dials and hands.
Two years after the release of their first dive watch, Seiko entered the “professional” dive watch market with the 6215-7000/1 that featured a screw-down crown and monobloc case, which allowed it to have an increased depth rating of 300 meters. Additionally, the crown on the 6215-7000/1 was moved to the 4 o’clock location, which has since become one of the defining characteristics of many of Seiko’s dive watches, both vintage and contemporary.
The 6215-7000/1 was only in production for a single year before it was phased out and replaced by the visually similar, 6159-7000/1, which used a hi-beat movement borrowed from Seiko’s top of the line, Grand Seiko watches. By 1969, production of both watches had ended, and although both “300m Professional” watches had been manufactured for only one year each, 6159-7000/1 watches significantly outnumber their 6215-7000/1 predecessors.
Produced between 1970 and 1976, the 6105-8110/9 is the second generation of 6105 watches that Seiko manufactured. Nicknamed the “Apocalypse Now” or “Captain Willard” due to its famous appearance on the wrist of Martin Sheen during the 1979 film, Apocalypse Now, the 6105-8110/9 has a dial design very similar to its predecessor, but in a larger and asymmetric, Turtle-esque case.
The 6105-8110/9 was often available through PX stores on U.S. military bases, and was popular with American soldiers during the Vietnam War. A relatively large number of “Captain Willard” watches were manufactured, however many saw rough use (sometimes gunfire) and were lost or damaged long ago.
Additionally, since the 6105-8110/9 uses a “push and twist” locking crown rather one with than a more traditional, screw-down design, a decent number of surviving examples now have refinished or aftermarket dials and hands, from when moisture breached their cases and destroyed their original components.
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