Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Seiko 6206-8040 Seikomatic

Every couple of months, I get together with a group of fellow horological nerds. We meet at a local restaurant, toss a bunch of watches on the table, and proceed to geek out over drinks and dinner. It's a good time that has also led to the expansion of my collection. We don’t actually do much buying or selling at the table, but when you have an eclectic selection of new and exciting watches at your fingertips, you inevitably find one that speaks to you and you walk away thinking, “I’ve got to get me one of those!” That is how I ended up with this 1965 Seiko 6206-8040 Seikomatic.

I was vaguely familiar with Seikomatics and Weekdaters having seen them pop up in forum discussions and my Instagram feed. I liked their clean lines and sometimes offbeat date window arrangement, but I never held one in my hand until a friend brought his Weekdater to dinner. It was a handsome watch in a modest size with a slick mid-century look. As he explained a bit of the model’s history, I was even more intrigued.

The Seiko 6206 is essentially an early 60’s 400 caliber automatic simplified from 33 jewels to 26. It is gold finished, has an 18k bph vibration rate, and Diashock protection. The 6206 was their workhorse movement at the time. Variants included higher and lower jewel counts, and a wide range of day disks: full day or abbreviation, English or Kanji, and 3, 6, or 9 o’clock placement. The Weekdater name only applied to certain models, but I’ve found that many enthusiasts use it to describe the entire family of day/date watches that was produced from 1963 through 1967, using both the 62 series and (briefly) the 400 movements.

There were some cosmetic variations as well, with different branding and text, framed or unframed windows, gold cases, plain or decorative bezels, and black, white or silver dials. These were businessman’s watches, to be paired with a suit and worn to the office every day. My friend’s watch is a silver, late 60’s model with a 35 jewel movement, framed windows, and a full-length English day display in the lower dial. Everything about it - proportions, layout, quality - all clicked for me. I knew I would eventually get one, but because the overall designs were similar to others in my collection, I decided I would hold out for a full Kanji day version. I had long planned to get Japanese domestic market watch with this particular complication, and I also figured it would also take some time to find the right piece.

Lo and behold, two weeks later, what should pop up on my Instagram feed but a December 1965 Seiko 6206-8040 Seikomatic with framed windows and a full kanji date. The watch was offered by @two_vintage_seikos, a pair of Aussie enthusiasts who sell exclusively in 24-hour Instagram auctions accessible only to their followers (I’ll have more about them soon). It wasn’t perfect, but nicely preserved for a vintage piece and bidding started at only $150 AUD ($112 USD). Just 24 hours and $210 USD later ($305 with shipping) the watch was mine. The Seiko made its way to my doorstep in about two weeks

I’ve had the watch for a couple of months now, and it has become a regular in my rotation. It measures a discreet 36mm wide, 42mm long, and 13mm thick to the top of the acrylic box crystal. Between that 3mm dome and the convex caseback, the case cuts an appealingly slim profile. It fits my 6.5” wrist perfectly and with a thin strap, it will tuck neatly under a tightly buttoned shirt cuff. It polished stainless steel that has weathered the years quite well; only minor scratches and nicks betray its age. The threaded caseback is equally clean, showing all of its text and the dolphin decoration in sharp relief. It claims to be waterproof and was most likely rated for 30m back in the day but as with any vintage piece, it would be foolish to test it now. 

One notable feature is the thin, recessed, 4 o’clock crown. It looks great tucked away like that but it is a pain to use. A coin edge helps, but it is small and uncomfortably close to the lug. Oddly, this may have been intentional. As Guest Bum and vintage Seiko collector, GuTuna pointed out to me, in the 60’s day/date automatics were still relatively new in the affordable mass-market segment. Hiding the crown let buyers know that they would not need to set and wind this watch every day. Of course, I don’t, so I have learned to navigate the procedure of setting the non-quickset day first, then the time, and finally the quickset date. Not knowing Japanese is only a minor a problem because the days are color-coded: black weekdays, blue Saturday, red Sunday. If I have forgotten to look up the day translation, I can count from Sunday.

The dial is a pale silvery white with applied faceted markers, applied logo, and faceted dauphine hands. Text is limited to the Seikomatic name and “Diashock 26 Jewels” below. The watch has a printed chapter index that has slipped almost one full position clockwise. I knew about the flaw when I bought the watch and figured I could live with it until it needed servicing (which it currently does not) but because it is almost - yet not quite - one minute off, it is beginning to drive me nuts. I may be dropping it off at the watchmaker sooner than anticipated. While I’m at it, I may also replace the cracked crystal. This is the only other flaw in the watch, and it too was disclosed in advance. It is not noticeable, but you know, once you’ve got it apart, you might as well do it all. On the other hand, I might just get used to these minor flaws, chalk them up to character, and save my money for a little while longer. I am a pretty cheap bastard, you know.

The watch arrived on a new 19mm black croc print leather strap. It was perfectly fine, but I wanted something with some character. A quick trip to Cheapest NATO Straps yielded a lovely tan ostrich print leather two-piece for just $9.95. (Actually, $7.96 once I applied the 20% for five deal because seriously, has anyone ever visited that site and only purchased one strap? It would be like eating just one potato chip.)

I could not be happier with this purchase. I got a quality vintage watch with a solid movement, filled the need for a Kanji day in my collection, and learned a little something about 60’s Seikos in the process. Seikomatics and Weekdaters are still very much affordable watches, rarely trading hands for much more than $500, and as I discovered, there are plenty of good ones out there for less than half that. If you want vintage charm and practical everyday dress watch, these 1960’s Seikos will certainly fit the bill, and @two_vintage_seikos on Instagram is a good place to start your search. ⬩

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