Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seen in 1983, bought 26 years later - Seiko's 7A28

In April 2013 I received an offer from a gentleman in England, who was looking for a nice 7A28-7039 as a wedding present for himself.
The image in the background of the above photograph comes from a 1983 edition of National Geographic, a magazine to which I subscribed for several years in the late 1970s and through to the mid 1980s.
When I saw that Seiko chronograph I fell for it hook, line and sinker but to buy one back then would have been an extravagance, what with a three-year old daughter, a brand-new baby son, a single income and a mortgage on our new home.

The years passed and life's events changed until one day last year, whilst culling some old magazines, I happened upon that issue of National Geographic and as soon as I saw the advertisement I determined to track down a nice copy of the featured watch.
And I did, and that is it, sitting on the back cover of the magazine and posing for the photo above.

The watch is Seiko's 7A28-7039 and my example comes from March 1983, completely original right down to the bracelet which, after 27 years, is showing some minor signs of wear in those areas which are recessed and filled in black.

Other than that it is in excellent condition.
The dial is unblemished, the three main hands (hour, minute and sweep stop-watch) all without blemish, although the lume on the hour & minute hands, and on the hour indices, will only glow for about 15 seconds after being held under a light.

The 7A28 runs perfectly, keeping accurate time. I have never adjusted it since it was received in August 2009.

It wasn't a cheap purchase, coming as it did from a collector in Japan via an intermediary here in Australia, but I got exactly what I wanted, and that's the main thing.

Railways, railroads and Seiko.

(Click on any image for a much larger view)
There was a time when timekeeping for the operation of railways/railroads was ultra-critical - literally a matter of life or death at worst. In "dark areas" (no signals) trains operated on warrants which gave them permission to be in a location at a certain time - or within a window of time.
Therefore it was essential that the timepieces used on railways/railroads be accurate and easily read.

Enter the railroad timepiece, be it clock or watch.
In many cases they displayed a 24-hour scale in addition to the conventional 12-hour face and some variations had a 12-hour scale but with an addition of a 60-minute scale.
Their dials were very distinctive, with large, clear numbers and indices, usually black and red on a white face.

Nowadays the timepieces used are electronic and highly accurate but watchmakers have continued to produce examples of the type with the traditional face, albeit controlled by the magic of a quartz crystal and powered by battery.

I bought a nice example of a Seiko model - the 7N43-9A00 from August 1991 - which features the traditional  face, with black hour numerals, a sub-scale of 24 hours in red, period-style minute and hour hands and a red sweep second hand.
Something that the old-timers didn't have were readouts for day and date, which this modern version includes.
Size is a mere 36mm across the case (not including crown) and a dial diameter of 30mm.
The watch comes on its original Seiko stainless-steel bracelet.

The Citizen "Altichron"

(Click on any image for a much larger view)

In the 1980's, Citizen released a trio of very special watches, all designed for the rugged, adventurous outdoorsy type of male who was really into diving into the depths of the Marianas Trench, climbing Mount Everest or leaping out of high-flying aircraft and hoping that your parachute opened.

This group of watches was termed the "Promaster" series and each had something special about it.
The Aqualand differed from traditional diving watches in that, as well as providing elapsed time info, it also had a depth sensor.
The Aqualand came on a rubber strap.

The Aerochron also sported elapsed-time capability but it came with a sensor that gave altitude readout. Good for knowing the minimum height at which to pull the ripcoard.
This model was fitted with a stainless-steel bracelet.
The Altichron - the Promaster model which I obtained - is similar to the Aerochron in that it also gives a barometric readout and elevation data (in metres, as compared to the altitude readout in feet of its sibling).
The Altichron was sold with a leather strap, almost the watch equivalent of a holster.

This is not a small watch.
It is 48mm across the widest point - from the extremity of the sensor on the left to the curve of the case on the right - and is 41mm from top to bottom of the case, yet the actual clear dial diameter is only 29mm.
The overall thickness of the watch itself is 11mm and then it is backed by 2mm of the leather strap.
The Althichron is a reasonably heavy piece of kit, too. Not uncomfortably so, but it's no lightweight titanium item, either.
The face is very easy to read.
Where the 11, 12 and 1 numerals would be located is a window in which the day/date and barometric information is displayed in digital format (LCD).
Large, easy-to-read numerals are provided at the remainder of the hour locations.
There is a sweep second hand with arrow-head pointer which, like the hour and minute hands, is "lumed" and, in daylight, easily seen against the black face of the dial.
An adjustable compass bezel surrounds the dial externally and is clickable into 5-degree positions.
There is a conventional crown located at the 4 o'clock position with which the time is adjsted.
All other functions are handled by the three pushers at the 2, 8 and 10 o'clock positions.

The barometric sensor sits within the housing which protrudes from the left of the watch.
The case-back is a flat plate, held in place by four screws.

The leather watch strap is a work of art in itself and is made in three pieces - the buckle section, the tongue section  and a separate piece on which the watch sits. All three sections are laminated, the front and rear sandwiching a fibre material.
I bought this watch for its rarity and the technology that it features.
I've never worn it (too cumbersome to be worn to work and I don't climb mountains) but I have used check rising/falling barometer. I have also determined the altitude of my home. It works perfectly in that respect and also keeps excellent time.

When the battery dies I'll undo the back and see what is inside but until then the Altichron sits on a shelf and occasionally tells me what the weather is going to be like.

UPDATE April 2011
This watch has been sold to a chap in the USA who bought one new in 1991 when he was serving in the first Gulf War. That watch was stolen in 1992 in Turkey and he had been on the lookout for another ever since, to no avail. I was glad to help him find a replacement.
A happy ending to the story. :)

A Selection of 8M32 Seikos

(Click on any image for a much larger view)
These aren't recent acquisitions; I've had them for a while but had never featured them here and, with the recent purchase of the "Golden Belle" (see last update) I had thought it time to add some more of my collection to the blog.

Around June last year (2009) I came across a Seiko model I had not seen before - the "sports timer", or 8M32 type.
There were several versions- one was aimed at timing soccer games, another was intended for several different sports and a third was designed for use by yacht-racing aficionados.
They all had several things in common - the same type of quartz movement; no sweep second hand; multi-function timing capability and a very colourful face.

The first one I acquired was the Soccer model, a handsome piece with its original leather watch-band and in excellent condition.

It is an 8M32-801B, from August 1989, and still retains the hologram sticker on the rear of the case.

Some time later I came across the mother of all 8M32s, the 8M32-8030 Sports timer from 1990, a watch that allows several different sports to be timed accurately, with countdown times provided for Water Polo, American Football, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Volleyball, Hockey, Rugby and Soccer.
Finally, this 8M32-7009 from 1991, the "USA Olympic" model.

Why it is marked as such, I have no idea, as the previous summer Olympics were held in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea and the next were to be held in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992.
(Winter Olympics were also held in those years but neither were in the USA)

This watch is a very attractive item, with the gold highlights contrasting nicely with the shade of blue used on the dial and the dark blue around the outside face of the case. It is matched to the original black leather band.

Like the Sports Timer, this model also allows for several different sports to be timed namely Soccer, Field Hockey, Handball, Basketball, Water Polo and Boxing.

I don't wear these watches as I find them impractical for every-day use: they don't have a sweep second hand; the minute hand looks like a second-hand and is not easily seen at first glance and there is no day/date readout.

So, whilst attractive and certainly interesting, they are more for the display cabinet than the wrist.