The most important Seiko dive watch to surface in years

Introduction

It was on a buying trip to Japan back in December 2017 that I first laid my hands on a Seiko 6215-7000.

My knowledge of the watch prior to that trip was only cursory. I’d certainly admired it from afar, but had never really felt any strong inclination to add one to the collection. I was, after all, just a vintage Grand Seiko guy at heart, and the 6215 is – aesthetically at least – about as far removed from anything in the vintage Grand Seiko range as you could get.

And then I strapped one to my wrist.

It was in the members lounge of hotel in Tokyo. I had traveled to Japan on a buying trip to acquire some vintage Grand Seikos, and was meeting up with one of the top Japanese dealers the evening before a large watch fair to check out some pieces that he had been holding for me.

It could hardly escape my notice that he was wearing a 6215, and despite the spread of extremely attractive Grand Seikos laid out in front of me, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. And then I did something I almost never do – I asked if I could feel what it was like on the wrist.

Now, I will readily admit to being a little weird in this regard, but I really don’t like trying on watches that I don’t own – not even briefly. Unless I have almost a 100% certainty that I will purchase a watch for my own personal use, it doesn’t go on my wrist.

I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have pass through my hands some of the most desirable and collectible watches out there. I’ll pick up a watch, examine it respectfully in great detail, spend inordinate amounts of time with it in front of the camera to capture it as well as I can, but I don’t strap it on. Imagine you were entrusted with the CHF6.2M Patek Philippe 5208T-010 from the 2017 Only Watch collection for half an hour. Admit it – you’d strap it on immediately for the wrist shot to end all wrist shots, wouldn’t you? Not me. See, the thing is, it’s not my watch. And if it’s not my watch, I just don’t think it’s right to put it on. For me, if you said “here, try on my watch”, you’d get the same response as if you asked me to try on your silk boxers. Thanks but no thanks – I don’t have to wear them to appreciate how great they are.

There is something almost intangible to me about how a watch can instantly change from being a beautiful and remarkable object from that hallowed cross-section of the arts and sciences – an object that one can enjoy and admire from a detached, rational, and indeed, objective perspective – into something that can have a deep and profound personal impact on you the moment you put it on your wrist. It ceases to be “just a watch” – something changes when you wear it.

Well, I did warn you I am a little weird on this topic.

And when I tried on that 6215-7000?

Oh. My. God. Now I get it. Now I understand why collectors of vintage Seiko wax so lyrical about this reference.

Now I had a deeply personal connection to the reference, and I knew that at some point in the future, one would enter my life. What I didn’t have any idea about was just how important “the one” that would join my collection would turn out to be, nor what it would lead me to uncover.

Acquiring my Seiko 6215-7000

Over the years, much has been written about the 6215 and its place in the pantheon of Seiko dive watches. Since the purpose of this article is to delve into the nuances of my particular example, and explore some long-forgotten aspects of its history, I don’t want spend any time going over what is already known about the reference.

So rather than regurgitate what has already been written, those who are interested in a deep dive on the reference, along with a wider context of where it sits in the timeline of Seiko divers, could do no better than to read Michael Stockton’s superb write-up over at Fratello.

I acquired my watch – the one pictured at the top of this article – on February 3rd 2020 from an auction in Japan. The day job (if you could call it that) involves me spending a lot of time scouring the globe for vintage Grand Seiko, and in my searches, I naturally get to see a lot of other interesting watches. 6215’s in good condition typically sell for anything upwards of $10,000 – it’s very rare to be able to get your hands on a good one for four figures US. I was extremely fortunate to catch the listing for the watch I was to buy within 30 minutes of it going up – fortunate, because the watch had a “Buy it now” price of just 798,000 Yen (around $7,500).

Opportunities like this don’t come around often, and I knew I would need to act fast – it could be snapped up at any moment. A quick check of the images and Google translation of the description seemed to indicate it was a good “honest” watch –

Here’s the translation of the lot description –

“It is a vintage item. 6215-7000
Super Rare 62 Diver! Please decide today!
I will make it cheaper only today!
44mm stainless steel case 300m diver automatic winding
62 diver
super rare made only for 2 years in the 1960s . The rubber belt is what SEIKO is selling now.
There are scratches on the glass. The machine is working fine, but it is sold without a machine warranty.
The night light shines a little, so maybe I put it on. I can’t say anything because the second hand matches in two colors.
It is a super-discount price unique to purchased products! !!
Since this watch is a diver watch, it is not in good condition. This watch has scratches on the glass, but I think it is in good condition.”

The seller was clearly looking for a quick sale, and he got one. A week later, and I had it in my hands. I was delighted – I’d finally got my “grail” dive watch, and for a great price too. Condition-wise, it was far from mint, with multiple dings on the case, and with a quite heavily scratched crystal. It certainly looked like a watch that had actually been used for what it was built for, and I loved it all the more for that.

And then, I noticed something rather odd…

The serial number on the back of the case indicated that the watch had been manufactured in December 1966.

Whilst I had never done any proper research on the 6215-7000, this did “feel” a little early to me. I posted a shot of the caseback on Instagram with the comment “Well now. What to make of this?” and left it at that.

Bonhams’ “Making Waves: Seiko” auction

Fast forward 6 months, and Bonhams launched the first of a two-part online auction dedicated to Seiko, with all the watches coming from a single owner. The auction certainly lived up to its name, and had what can only be described as a rather rocky start, but what caught my attention was one of the star lots – a 6215-7000.

Ultimately selling for $9,000 (including premium), this watch was particularly interesting because of its gilt bezel. There was a lot of chatter amongst the community about this bezel because it has been speculated for a long time that, whilst “most” (and the reason for that being in quotes will be explained shortly) 6215’s that we see today have silver coloured print on the bezel, there are marketing photos of the 6215 from when it was launched that show it with gilt print.

Regardless of the background to the bezel on the watch sold at Bonhams, it did make me wonder how many other examples of 6215’s that I could track down also had the same gilt print. So off I went to do a bit of digging.

Building a mini database of 6215-7000’s “out there”

It turns out that the 6215-7000 is actually relatively common. Relative that is, to other Seiko grails such as the 5718 counter chrono, the platinum Grand Seiko First, or the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer. Whereas searches for sales of those references might turn up just single-digit examples, I found no fewer than 58 transactions of 6215-7000’s over the past 5 years or so.

58 examples of a watch is a pretty good number to get a handle on whether there are any interesting variants existing, and also some clear insight into the production timeline.

With regards to the Bonhams lot, I didn’t find a single example of another watch with a gilt bezel. In fact, I couldn’t even find an example of another bezel like it from a Google image search. What that tells us I will leave for others to investigate and comment on.

There was another interesting detail regarding the Bonhams watch, and that was the handset. It was clearly different to that which we see on the catalogue shot of the 6215-7000, as seen below, scanned from the supplement to Seiko’s “Number 2” catalogue, published in 1967.

It’s commonly thought that the reason for this difference in handsets is that at service, the handsets might be replaced with those intended for the later 6159-7000/1. Whether Seiko themselves carried out this change, or third parties did, is very hard to ascertain.

What we do know from the old parts guides is that the 6215 – like the Grand Seiko VFA’s – was a “return to manufacture” model when it came to servicing. There are no parts for the watch listed in the parts guides. If you took your 6215 to a watchmaker to be serviced back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, he would not have been able to order parts for it. Therefore, possibly he would resort to using the parts that he could get – those from the 6159.

Naturally one of the 58 watches in the database was my personal one. And it was whilst I was studying all the watches in detail to note down the colour of the bezel print (all were silver), and the type of handset (41 have the original handset, across the remaining 17 watches there are three other handset types), that I noticed something very odd about my watch.

Every other example of a 6215 that was in the database – and that I have seen photos of online – had a gilt printed chapter ring. Mine was white.

And then, looking closer, I started to notice some more differences. The lume in mine was a different colour to that seen in all other examples – it was much greener. Also, there seemed to be a very pronounced bevel to the edge of the dial that is not seen on any other watch; the minute hand seems to be just a little narrower than those found in the “regular” production watches…

Now, whilst it is possible that the dial and handset have been relumed, someone who is more well-versed in these matters than I suspects that they have not, basing his opinion on the way the lume has settled into the indices, and also that on some indices (such as the one at 12), there are examples of deterioation of the index that spills over on top of the lume held within it.

Here’s a macro shot to show some of the details mentioned above –

But whether the watch has been relumed or not is a bit of a red herring. What is important is that it is very clear the construction of this dial is very different to that seen on all other examples. As can be seen from photos of the dial from the Bonhams watch, side by side with a close-up of mine, the dial profile is completely different –

What had started as an investigation into other examples of the 6215 to compare with the one at Bonhams was rapidly surfacing some very odd details about my own watch.

I already knew that the watch was an outlier due to its December 1966 production date, but the more I looked at the watch, the more intriguing things I was finding. But about that production date – just how much of an outlier was it? Well, I now had a good sample of watches to answer that questions.

Of the 58 watches sold over the past 5 years that I had added into the database, the caseback serial number was known for 33 of them. A very respectable sample size that should enable a fairly good sense check against the common claims that the 6215 was in production for just one or two years.

Well, it turns out the 6215 was in production for a lot shorter time than that. 32 of those datable examples were produced between March and July of 1967 – a production period of just 5 months. The 33rd? That was mine from December 1966.

What on earth is going on here? What is my 6215 doing being manufactured 3 months prior to any others that I could trace? Why would Seiko manufacture some watches in December 1966, then wait three months before making any more – seemingly with some design changes?

But before we go off on a very long tangential tour to try to answer those questions, there is…

One more thing

Having discovered some very strange differences in my watch, I thought it would be fun to post it again on Instagram and pose a question to see if any could spot the odd thing about the chapter ring. So I did, asking… “And there is (at least) one other thing about this particular 6215 that is different to all other examples I have seen. Can you spot what it is?”

Not much escapes the eyes of the Seiko community when posed a challenge such as this, and sure enough, someone noticed it. Then, Chris noticed something else that I had missed entirely. In fact, not just I had missed it – nobody had spotted this on any of the other occasions that I had posted photos of the watch on Instagram.

The ‘m’ is missing after the 300 value!”

“Holy f#ck,” I exclaimed.

How on earth do you go about solving a mystery such as this? A watch manufactured 3 months prior to any other known example, a watch that has a multitude of differences to all other examples that have ever turned up to date?

Well, fortunately, as part of the work done behind the scenes for this website, over the years TGSG has built up an extensive library of catalogues, advertisements, dealer newsletters, and internal Seiko company magazines.

Maybe I would be able to find something in the archive that would explain it all?

Seiko and the Japanese Antarctic Research Expeditions

Japan has a long history of carrying out research in Antarctica, starting with the first “JARE” in 1956, and continuing to this day. Seiko often talk about how they have supported many of these missions by providing timepieces to the researchers, particularly highlighting in modern day marketing materials that the 62MAS diver was used on the expeditions from 1966 through to 1969.

One of the things that has struck me as a little odd, is that as far as I can ascertain, there is no mention in any of the modern marketing materials of the 6215 – Seiko seem to skip directly from the 62MAS to the 6159-7000. Those of you who have read Michael Stockton’s article that I linked to earlier will I am sure appreciate just how significant this reference is, and yet it doesn’t get a mention at all.

I wondered – surely the 6215 would have seen some action on these research expeditions? It’s clearly on another level to the 62MAS – would Seiko really not make their top of the range, professional, dive watch available for these intrepid explorers?

Perhaps the mystery behind my 6215 would be found in the documentation of these expeditions?

Spoiler alert – it wasn’t, but what I uncovered re-writes the history of Seiko’s contribution to the Japanese Antarctic Research Expeditions.

JARE 8 and JARE 9

It didn’t take long to realise that it was pretty much impossible for my watch to have been manufactured in order to make it available to use on a JARE mission. Why? Because the dates don’t work.

JARE missions commence with a ship departing Japan for Antarctica. It is a little confusing, because JARE missions are described as “Summer” and “Winter”. The “Summer” expedition comprises a crew that leave Japan late in the year – typically around the end of November or beginning of December – and return before the harsh Antarctic winter sets in around March, four or so months later. The “winter” missions are, I believe, much longer – they would leave on the same voyage as the summer explorers, but would not come back on the return leg, rather, staying on for a full extra year.

What is important for the context of this article is that, to the best of my knowledge, the ship supporting the expeditions only makes one round trip per year to Antarctica. It leaves November/December, supports the summer expedition on site, and then returns to Japan March/April.

For JARE 8, the ship Fuji – which supported the Antarctic expeditions for 18 years, commencing in 1965 – left Japan on December 1st 1966. With my watch having a production date in the same month, it is clearly not possible that it was used on this expedition.

For JARE 9, Fuji left Japan on November 25th 1967. Obviously this is long after both the production of my watch, and all the others that I have tracked down. You’ll need to read to the very end of this article to understand why it is extremely unlikely that my watch went on this expedition either.

So then, it would seem that it isn’t possible for a 6215 to have been used on JARE 8 (after all, if it didn’t get on board that ship, how else would a watch have managed to make the journey?!).

But perhaps it was worth digging a little more into JARE 9 – maybe something of interest is hiding in the archives regarding that expedition?

November 1967 – an in-house Seiko magazine

Above is the front cover of an in-house Seiko magazine titled (according to Google Translate) “Miyakubo”. TGSG acquired a collection of over 200 different issues of Seiko in-house magazines a while back. I later gave the entire collection to a good Japanese collector friend as a thank-you for a watch that he had incredibly given to me as a birthday present, but before handing them over, I looked through them all and scanned any articles that looked like they may be of interest.

Whilst I do wonder now what I might have missed, I at least have scans of some articles which help fill in a remarkable gap in Seikos “official” history of their dive watches being used on the JARE expeditions.

The article of interest in this publication can be found on page 5 –

 

At the top of the page, we can see a photograph of a 6215-7000. The translation of the text makes for fascinating, and extremely important, reading.

As always, I am completely reliant on Google Translate to make sense of it (and would welcome a better human translation should someone wish to provide it), but even the machine translation provides us with what we need –

Seiko ???. Diver Watch 300m Water Resistant Clock – Antarctic Research Expedition Diving Survey.

Seiko, which provides a timekeeping device to the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition every year and cooperations with Observation Survey 1, will depart Japan on November 25th this year, the 9th Antarctic Research Expedition (Captain Murayama). At the request of Mr Masayoshi, we will provide various watches.

Therefore, low temperature tests on watches and other studies that adapt to Antarctic weather and climate conditions are being promoted. Among the, this wintering party skins to the sea in Antarctica as the first attempt.

Seiko is a watch for divers worn by investigators who dive in the cold sea, while diving and conducting diving surveys underwater…

It is said that four 300m water resistant watches will be provided.

This underwater survey in the Antarctic waters is mainly for studying the state of aquatic organisms, and the observation team members are also careful. From the 24th of the monthe we also practiced diving at the Manazura Diving Center in Kanagawa Prefecture. For this training, Captain Murayama Koshifuyu and other researchers in charge are skin diving.

I participated in wearing a suit, but in order to measure the prescribed dive time, Seiko Diver Watch 300m waterproof watch was worn on each person’s arm. Seiko, a member of the group who participated in the exercise. The impression of the diver watch is “not only is it the best diving ability among Japanese watches, it is not inferior to foreign products. It shines well with luminous paint, and I do not feel any inconvenience

For anyone interested in the history of Seiko dive watches – or indeed, dive watches in general – this is huge.

The article – published the very month that Fuji left Japan to support the JARE 9 expedition – describes that various watches will be provided by Seiko to the expedition. Including four examples of a 300m dive watch. This of course can only be the 6215, and it is the 6215 that is pictured alongside the article. The article also comments that the divers tested the watch at the Manazura Diving Center prior to departing for Antarctica.

But it gets even better…

Seiko Sales, November 1967

In the same month that the above article was published in an internal magazine only distributed to Seiko employees, we find another relevant article in Seiko Sales – the magazine that was distributed to Seiko retailers.

The front cover doesn’t even hit at the seam of historical gold that awaits us when we turn to page 37 –

Here we have a photo of two divers wearing Seiko watches. As we will see from the translation of the text, these are the two divers who will be heading to Antarctica, and who have just been testing the watch at the Manazuru diving center as mentioned in the internal magazine.

The full article translation as provided by Google Translate is as follows –

Test diver watch in SEIKO’s watch diving exercise to the 9th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition.

At the Manazuru Diving Center in Kanagawa Prefecture, a diving exercise was held by observers departing to Antarctica in November. This exercise was made because the local sea diving survey is scheduled for the first time in this observation schedule. SEIKO prepared four specially adjusted 300m diver watches, the test results one of the members was very well received, saying “The luminous paint shines well and is easy to use”.

(The photo shows both Okubo and Fukui (from left) having a meeting with the first Antarctic winter captain (left))”

Now, I’m not going to be bold enough to claim that the photo shows 6215’s on the divers’ wrists, but perhaps there is someone out there who can somehow identify the watches?

Regardless, the text of the article, and the corroboration from the internal magazine, clearly establish beyond any doubt that the 6215-7000 was used on JARE 9, and prior to departure, two divers were testing the watch at a diving center in Japan.

There is also one very interesting section of text in the translation that is easy to miss the nuance of – “This exercise was made because the local sea diving survey is scheduled for the first time in this observation schedule”. The important words are “for the first time”. Possibly Google Translate hasn’t done a perfect job, but is this article really saying what it seems to be saying – that this will be the first time there will be a dive carried out on a JARE expedition in Antarctic waters?

Could there be any more evidence out there to uncover regarding this expedition?

Oh yes. You bet there is.

The National Institute of Polar Research – “Antarctic Record”

More years ago than I care to remember, I studied Physics at university. Had things turned out differently, who knows, I might have ended up being a scientist.

But despite forgetting almost everything I ever learned about quarks and the like, one thing that was instilled in me what scientists do. They study, they experiment, and they publish.

So it dawned on me that of course – the people who would have gone on the JARE expeditions were scientists. They would write papers about the expedition. And these papers would be published in journals. Surely there must be a journal out there that JARE scientists – possibly even JARE divers – would have written papers for?

Well, it turns out there is. And they did.

For those of you who speak Japanese, you can read the full “Report of the Summer Party of the 9th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in 1967-1968” from the NIPR’s archive of the journal “Antarctic Record”, available here.

Unfortunately it is beyond my abilities to translate the entire text of the report into English, but the abstract is available in English, and it gives a tantalising glimpse into what transpired on that expedition. Here is the abstract in full –

“The 9th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (1967-1968), consisting of fourty members, was led by Mr. Masayoshi MURAYAMA, also leading the wintering party of twenty eight men. The deputy leader (the author) led the summer party of twelve members. On November 25, 1967, the icebreaker FUJI under command of Rear Admiral Toshiharu HONDA, with fourty expedition members and four news reporters, left Tokyo and headed for the Antarctic via Fremantle of Australia. At Fremantle, Mr. M. SPONHOLZ, American meteorologist, got on board the FUJI as an observer. On December 29, 1967, the FUJI reached the northern part of fast-ice of Lutzow-Holm Bay, 40 nautical miles northeast of Syowa Station, and from there the first helicopter flight to the base was made carrying personnel and cargo. Afterwards the FUJI penetrated the hard fast-ice to make an approach to the station, and after eight days of great efforts she succeeded to approach the station. On Junuary 12, 1968 the FUJI reached coastal bay-ice of the Soya Coast near the station, and unloaded three oversnow vehicles (KD60), sleds and fuels for the scheduled traverse trip to the south pole. Next day the FUJI reached and anchored at the coast of East Ongul Island. Unloading of about 500 tons cargo and transportation to the station was carried out mainly by two S-61A helicopters, of which nearly 140 tons of heavy materials were transported over ice by oversnow vehicles. Construction work was carried out throughout the period of anchorage. A new living hut (wooden, 20m×5m), a new generator hut (metal, 14m×18m) and corridor were almost completed before the ship left. On January 29, the FUJI moved to the southern part of Lutzow-Holm Bay, from where two research parties were sent out, one for the Lang Hovde area and the other for the Skarvs Nes area. In the Lang Hovde area an underwater research was attempted by SCUBA diving. On February 1, the FUJI returned to the Syowa and left there on February 3rd, taking the same route to the north, and escaped from fast-ice after three days. Then, the FUJI sailed to the east and visited Molodezhnaya Station (USSR) on the 8th of February. Next day two field parties were sent by helicopter to the rocky areas of the Prince Olav Coast. On February 9, several members of the 9th expedition team at Syowa Station found the body of Mr. Shin FUKUSHIMA, who was lost in severe brizzard in October, 1960, on the west coast of West Ongul Island, nearly 4km southwest from the station. After the Buddhistic cremation was performed, his ashes were transported to the FUJI by helicopter next day. On the 11th of February the station was officially turned over to the 9th wintering party, and the FUJI took her departure homeward. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented the visit to the South African SANAE Base on the 17th of February. After staying at Cape Town from the 1st to the 7th of March, and at Colombo from the 23rd to the 27th, the FUJI returned to Tokyo on April 12. Shipboard scientific programmes were successfully carried out throughout the voyage with the following subjects : cosmic rays, VLF studies, radio noise observations, proton magnetometer survey, surface and upper-air meteorological observation, surface-ship gravimeter survey, oceanography, and marine biology.”

The bit that is of interest to us is this –

On January 29, the FUJI moved to the southern part of Lutzow-Holm Bay, from where two research parties were sent out, one for the Lang Hovde area and the other for the Skarvs Nes area. In the Lang Hovde area an underwater research was attempted by SCUBA diving.”

SCUBA Diving near Syowa Station, Antarctica for Surveying Benthos

One of the problems with the publication of scientific papers is that they can be published quite some time after the actual experiments have been carried out. It took quite a bit of searching to uncover this paper, but then it dawned on me that you can search by author. If there was a paper specifically about the dive mentioned in the abstract of the report on the JARE 9 summer expedition, presumably it would be written by one of the divers.

And we know the divers names, because they were mentioned in that article in Seiko Sales.

30 seconds later, and I found it.

Authored by Yoshio Fukui, in English, published in the September 1968 issue of The Polar Research Journal – Antarctic Material, the paper is archived here.

Since the paper is published under Creative Commons licensing, I am able to share the entire article –

After all this research, there is just one disappointment. Despite detailing their SCUBA and camera gear, there is no mention in the paper of the watches the divers wore, nor do any of the provided photographs include any wristshots.

But, given the preponderance of the evidence, I think it safe to say that Fukui-san and Okubo-san would have had Seiko 6215-7000’s strapped to their wrists for the dives.

Importantly, the article confirms what was hinted at in the earlier Google translation of the Seiko Sales publication. And that is that the dives on February 2nd 1968 – almost exactly 52 years prior to the acquisition of my personal 6215-7000 – were the very first dives ever undertaken on a JARE expedition.

That Seiko today make no mention of this hugely important historical fact is, to me, quite staggering. Maybe following the publication of this article, we can look forward to the 6215-7000 getting the recognition from Seiko that it so surely deserves.

But we haven’t yet addressed the question that I set out to answer in the first place.

What is the story behind my watch, that was manufactured 3 months prior to any other example that has publicly surfaced to-date, and has so many little differences between all others that we see?

Well, it turns out those internal Seiko company magazines have one more secret to reveal…

“Miyakubo”, August 1967

As we mentioned earlier, the 6215-7000 was first launched in the supplement to Seiko’s “Number 2” catalogue of 1967.

The launch of the watch didn’t escape the attention of the “Miyakubo” internal Seiko company magazine, as we discover when we turn the pages of the August 1967 issue to page 7.

The middle article of the page features a photo of the 6215-7000. One final time to Google Translate, and let’s see what it says…

High-precision waterproof wristwatch released (Suwa Seikosha). Diver watch 300 meters water resistant.

From the end of June, Seiko Diver watch 300 meters water resistant (35 jewels) of Suwa Seikosha.”

Starting off by announcing the watch was launched at the end of June 1967, the article then goes on to detail the key characteristics of the watch, before closing with this:

… has been commercialised as a result of collecting functional data of underwater activities and continuing to improve it after conducting field tests with the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s underwater disposal team.

And with just one sentence, all the mysteries regarding my watch are solved.

Why did Seiko manufacture some examples of the 6215 in December 1966? Why was there a three month gap between the manufacture of my watch and the regular production? And finally, why does my watch have so many differences to all the others that we see?

Now we have our answers.

Seiko had a pre-production run of 6215’s that were provided to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s underwater bomb disposal team for the express purpose of testing the watches so that feedback from the tests could then be used to improve the commercial production run of watches.

Just think about that. Think about how seriously Seiko took this watch all those years ago – the effort that went into its design and testing, its use on the first ever dive in Antarctic waters by members of the JARE expeditions.

The 6215-7000 has been a bit of a sleeper hit amongst Seiko collectors for many years now, with very little recognition in the wider watch community. But frankly, I reckon the history uncovered in the research for this article really does take it to a whole other level.

As an aside (and to answer a question hinted at much earlier in the article), it’s worth noting that, given the purpose of the testing of the watches with the MSDF was to find out improvements that could be made to the main production run, it doesn’t make sense that my watch would have gone on JARE 9, because presumably the production watches would have been considered to be superior.

A serendipitous conclusion

When I reflect on everything that has led me to write this article, I can’t help thinking that there have been on heck of a lot of little things along the way that, had any one of them not occurred, would have meant this article would never have been written.

Quite probably some of the content above isn’t entirely new. It’s certainly the case that the Japanese collecting community is somewhat disconnected from that outside Japan, and possibly nothing contained in this article is truly newly rediscovered history.

But humour me by letting me close with everything that had to line up in order for me to put this all together.

Had my dealer friend in Japan not been wearing his 6215 that fateful day in Tokyo, I would never have tried it on, and I would never have had that “oh, now I get it” moment that started my quest for a 6215 to add to my collection.

Had I been checking the auctions just 30 minutes earlier, the watch I ended up buying would not have been listed. Had I been checking 30 minutes later, someone else would have almost certainly had snapped it up. And this, 52 years and a day after it turns out two 6215’s took a dip into the icy waters of Antarctica?

Had that watch been from the regular production, my desire to get to the bottom of its production date would never have been kindled. It would have been “just another 6215”.

Had Bonhams not included that example in their “Making Waves” auction with the gilt bezel, my interest to research just how rare that bezel was would never have been piqued, and I would have never created the database of the 58 examples I’d tracked down sales for.

And without looking in detail at those 58 watches, I’d probably never had realised all the differences in my watch. Heck, even after I did start to notice them, the most obvious one that was staring in my face the entire time escaped me!

Without my interest in vintage Grand Seiko, I’d never have put together a library of Seiko publications from the 1960’s and 1970’s, which would mean I’d never have been able to discover the riches that lie within that archive relating to a watch that for the longest time I never intended to add to my collection.

I’d like to think serendipity has had a hand in bringing this watch to the “right” home.

C’mon Seiko. Show the 6215-7000 some love.

Gerald Donovan

September 2020

 

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