Monday, November 5, 2012

A modern "Bellmatic"? Seiko's Cal. 8V36

SOLD November 2015.

Here's an interesting modern take on the genre of analogue watch with an alarm capability.

Back in the 1970s Seiko introduced the brilliant Bellmatic (Cal. 4006) - a completely mechanical watch, with automatic movement and a hand-wound alarm that actually had a tiny striking-arm make contact with the internal "chassis" of the watch. I have two of these watches and they operate perfectly and the alarms work - and are usuable for reminders whilst the wearer is concious (or daydreaming).
But unless one is a light sleeper and has the watch sitting right outside one's earhole then it could not be depended upon for a wake-up call.

In the 1980s the mechanical Bellmatic faded out of production and a replacement model (Cal. 7223) was introduced. (I have one in my collection but have not yet featured it here).
This was also an analogue but with a quartz-controlled movement and an electronic alarm, still set in an identical fashion to that of the original Bellmatic.
However, the alarm on this watch, whilst more piercing than the mechanical device in the Bellmatic, would still be hard-pressed to wake a sleeper.
Good for reminders, such as appointments etc. but not an ideal alarm clock.

Now, some 30 years after the original Bellmatic, comes this 21st. century version, the 8V36. Ultrasonic Alarm.
Still an analogue watch and quartz-controlled, this version not only does away with mechanical strikers but also eschews electronic chirps.
The 8V36 uses an ultrasonic motor to vibrate the watch. There is no sound emitted at all.

Does it work?
Yes, it certainly does, still wouldn't wake a sleeping wearer unless he or she was susceptible to having their sleep disturbed by an alighting blowfly.
This latest incarnation of Seiko's analogue alarm watch is eminently suitable for reminders but I wouldn't rely on it if I needed to wake up to catch a flight or make an important meeting.
That aside, the watch presents a very attractive face.
It is encased in a titanium & base-metal enclosure which features a snap-on back-plate.
This particular item, a very recent purchase from a collector in Singapore (many thanks, William), still has its protective plastic film on the rear plate and the entire watch presents very close to mint condition.
Speaking of the back - you may notice the oval shape which projects about 1mm from the surrounding flat surface.
This is to ensure that close contact is maintained with the wrist so that the ultrasonic vibrations are efficiently transmitted.
The case is 42mm lug-to-lug, 39mm diameter and with a dial 30mm in diameter.
A fixed bezel (titanium) decorates the face of the case. Two unsigned stainless-steel crowns protrude from the right-hand side at 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock.

The dial is finished in a plain white with the hour and minute indices in black. Arabic numerals denote the hours.
There are four hands - three cover the regular time-keeping requirements of hours, minutes and seconds whilst the fourth - the long red hand - is used to set the required time for the alarm.
The hour and minute hands are "lumed".
On the left, at the 9 o'clock position, is a 24-hour dial with a silver hand within a silver ring. I'm not sure why this feature is included because the alarm is confined to a 12-hour cycle; set it for 6:00 AM and it will also sound at 6:00 PM if activated.
Maybe it was to give symmetry to the face because on the right, at 3 o'clock, is a little display, again with a silver hand within a (smaller) silver ring and a red and black quadrant.
When the second crown (at 4 o'clock) is used to activate the alarm the hand snaps from the black, OFF position to the red, ON position.

The core of the watch - the ultrasonic motor - is recessed behind the little circular window at the 6 o'clock position. This window is also framed with a silver ring, somewhat more decorative than the plain circles used for the other two.
Behind a flat metal probe that projects into the window from the right is a disk and when the alarm operates this disc can be seen moving. Well, it moves so fast that it just appears as a silver blur.
This is the rotating section - the rotor - of the tiny motor and when the alarm is running for its 20-second alarm time it does so in bursts of approximately 1 second each.
When activiating the alarm - by pulling the second crown out - the alarm gives 3 bursts to confirm to the wearer that the alarm is now active.

The 8V36 is set off by a very nice Seiko (signed) black calfskin strap with a signed silver buckle.
A different watch, certainly very wearable and I could imagine it being of use to someone needing to keep appointments, although the cynic in me says that  in 2012 that person would most likely be using their smart-phone for the same purpose, thus rendering the 8V36 little more than a curio.

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