Interview: @Two_Vintage_Seikos

Recently, I purchased a 1965 Seiko Weekdater from @Two_Vintage_Seikos on Instagram. These "two vintage men" sell Seiko and Orient watches in online auctions conducted on Instagram. The auctions are only open to followers, last 24 hours, and there is a strict "no sniping" policy. Impressed by their unique sales model and genuine enthusiasm for these watches, I peppered them with questions. Enjoy.

So, tell me about yourselves. Who are the @two_vintage_seikos when they are not selling watches on Instagram? 

James (aka @seikoman35): Just an average guy (insert the lyrics of Denis Leary ‘You’re an asshole’), working full time running a warehouse in Melbourne,  Australia. 3 kids (ages 12, 9 and 9 months). Enjoy football, porno, and books about war... Oh, hang on that was Denis Leary speaking again! I have a number of passions that drive my family mad. The Green Bay Packers, Collingwood Magpies, Star Wars and Masters of the Universe figures (just grow up), Cars, movies and porno (“fuck off Denis”). Like playing the PS4 but never get much of a chance these days as it gets utilized by the 12-year-old boy for around 16 hours per day...

Paul (aka @vintageseiko): Well I have worked in health for 25 plus years. I’m currently managing a Medical Imaging practice in Canberra.  I live rural (by choice) in a small town outside Canberra, Australia. Definitely ‘punching above my weight’ in the wife stakes. She is smarter, healthier and way better looking than me! By some miracle (according to my wife!) we had a ‘pigeon pair’ (Ben 12 and Matilda 15) who are now beginning to show vague signs of becoming decent, kind humans (although after the last few weeks the jury is still out).

I have a few hobbies other than watches. These generally relate to rural living and the need to get around and have fun while doing it. So I own a 1972 VW superbug, a 1998 TJ 4X4 Jeep and a Honda CRF trail bike. Love the outdoors. Love getting out and about with family. We have also been renovating a 1950's house and garden for 8 years and have an eclectic vintage/antique/gemstones collection. I’ve also played guitar since ... well, longer than I care to remember.

Why aren’t you “Two Vintage Citizens” or “Two Vintage Enicars?” What is it about Seiko that calls to you?

J: Well we are both Seiko fanatics that have been around the brand and collected them for many years. There is so much to like about Seiko. The history, quality, range, affordability, styling, etc. Not to say we don’t like other brands. I do have a small collection of Citizen, Bulova, and Omega that are brilliant! 

P: Despite our combined ‘Seiko age’ (that’s years around Seiko), we both still learn stuff every day. It never stops with Seiko. I owned a couple of Seiko’s in the 80's/90's. I liked them but didn't think much about it. I can remember wearing a watch right back to my primary school days. Now that I think about it, they were mostly Lorus or Pulsar, both sub-companies of Seiko. Around the age of 30, I started to think back to those watches. It was the Seiko’s I remembered most fondly. So I got onto eBay (as you do), and tried to replace one of them. It was my second Seiko, a 7002 Pepsi diver from the 1990’s. I knew it was ‘laid to rest’ at the bottom of the ocean many years ago. No luck at the time. All I remember seeing were watches full of aftermarket (AM) parts. Poorly modified watches. Watches that were made to look shiny and new again.  Watches I now refer to as ‘polished turds.’

So instead, at that time, I stumbled on a black and gold 1972 ‘6139 6012’ that was still going pretty cheap. It was listed as 'runs but stops-for repair.' The crystal was ‘cloudy’ with so many scratches, but it appealed to me. I bid some lowly figure -- and WON! Once I’d paid my heart sank a little. I was sure I had just flushed money down the toilet.

When it arrived, I could instantly see its potential. I bought some cheap basic tools and opened it up. With no prior watch experience, I was able to diagnose the problem. I bought a junk 6139 movement, swapped out the problem part (a pawl lever) and away it went! I then added a new crystal and all of a sudden I had a stunning mechanical watch that I could wear and use. Anyone who fixes or restores anything knows that feeling.  I still own that watch, and I am certain it was directly responsible for just about every Seiko purchase since. Ironically, that particular 6139 was manufactured in my birth month and year, something I only discovered some 12 months later.

So, really my love for Seiko can all be said right there. The craftsmanship and quality materials used to produce these older Seikos, make them a pleasure to restore and wear. Add to this the awesome fun designs, the colours, the attention to detail, the ‘nonpretentious prices’ (sadly changing), and the history/milestones/stories associated with vintage Seikos, and you have a recipe for lots of fun.

Seiko 6139 "Pogue"
Seiko 6139 "Pogue"
Not to poach your sources, but where do you find these watches? 

J: We source locally here in Australia and directly from Japan. Both local and overseas estate sales and flea markets can be a treasure trove of old 60’s and 70’s Seiko pieces! Picture a few old retired Japanese men wandering through the streets and markets of Japan. They pick up the vintage pieces we like at good prices. They bundle them up and sending them to us so we can put them on the wrists of collectors. 

P: James needs to take much of the credit here. He has a wonderful knack of finding good honest pieces offshore. We also believe that we have great ‘watch hunting’ ground here in Australia. Perhaps it’s due to our close proximity to Asia? Don’t get us wrong, It’s by no means a ‘Seikofest’ down here, and caution does need to be taken when buying from the warmer wetter humid north. That equatorial climate is definitely harsh on watches. But we are southerners. We know what it feels like to be cold. There are good watches around these parts.

Numbers here do seem to be dwindling, but Seiko was so prolific. There is there is still plenty of fun to be had, and we never lose hope for the next cool finds. So we will also definitely also source from eBay. Many sellers here will not ship watches overseas. So if the prices are fair, we might buy and then list on TVS. This gives our international buyers opportunities to buy watches they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. At the end of the day, we don’t care where they come from as long as they are good, honest, original watches we will buy them and offer them for sale.

Maybe I’m not as social media savvy as I think, but I can’t recall seeing any other vendor hosting Instagram auctions like you do. Why Instagram and not eBay or some other platform? 

J: For years, I used to sell on eBay. Some of the ‘clientele’ are definitely difficult to deal with. The fees are high (for sellers), and the return policy can also be hard to deal with. eBay is definitely a great platform for the buyer, but it’s also high risk when it comes to vintage watches. You never really know what’s going to turn up in the mail and that's really where TVS is different. We want our buyers to know exactly what’s going to turn up.

P: Of course you are right, we made it up. So here's the how and why? As James mentioned, we have both bought and sold on eBay. Without going into that too much, it's actually where I ‘met’ James. I used to follow his sales a fair bit. Never bought much from him but definitely watched most sales. It's a great way to learn about watches and their current market value. So when James joined on IG (which I can't remember if I influenced or not), I had an idea.

When a buyer returns a vintage watch because the red SUN(day) was ‘too faded’ on the day wheel (true story!) and that’s considered a legit reason by eBay, you start to wonder if there’s a better way. It is important to note that the concept for @two_vintage_seikos (TVS) did not just come from unhappiness with eBay fees and pesky patrons returning watches for petty reasons.  We thought there was possibly a gap in the ‘vintage Seiko’ market. A gap somewhere between the excellent restorer/ sellers and the ‘wilds of eBay.’ We wanted to provide a buyers platform for Seiko enthusiasts to get hold of good original watches at fair prices. Honest watches. 

Our watches always run and keep reasonable time. We don’t sell nonworking watches, but the condition will range from unrestored/unserviced through to NOS (new old stock). Most importantly, and due to our ‘overly descriptive’ listings, buyers will know exactly what they are bidding on. 

We source watches, clean them up, check them out, time them, check that parts are original, and sometimes do small repairs. Once we are happy with a watch, we write a detailed listing, take decent pics/short videos and then auction it over a 24 hour period. The shorter auction format came from our personal frustrations with long auctions. We wanted to keep things moving. Who wants to ‘watch and wait’ 10 days to land a watch? No one! 

In the listings, we aim to point out both the positives and negatives of the watch. We then post them up, and the fun begins. We both still find our auctions entertaining as there can be lots of twists and turns, particularly when a ‘desirable’ hits the page. We have sold everything from 6105 Willards to Pandas, Pogues, Bullheads, Spoons, 6218’s, Lord Matics’s, King Quartz, King Seiko, Grand Quartz and the list goes on.  [Check out a review of some vintage Seiko quartz models here. - TB]

Our auctions start at the lowest possible reserve. Popular models do well. Less popular models go for (what we consider) bargain prices, but at the end of the day we see ourselves as providing a 'Seiko community service.' Profits are generally poured straight back to the acquisition of more watches and on it goes. This is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, it’s a hobby, a passion. Our service is based on trust. 

We have also aimed to bring 'gentlemanly' behavior back to the vintage watch game. Auctions can be ruthless, and we have a few basic rules to minimize ‘unsavoury behavior’. Occasionally the ‘block’ button is used but rarely. Our buyers kind of ‘know each other’ too, so there isn’t the anonymity of other auction sites. We like to think buyers are accountable for their behavior and we have to say, on the whole, our followers seem to understand what we are trying to do behave accordingly. When you see the second place getter congratulating the winner, you know you have good people around. 

Will there ever be a offering direct sales?

J and P: We have discussed a website -- and this may happen! However, we are very happy with how the IG platform works for us at the moment. An important part of our philosophy is to keep prices as low as possible. Websites, packaging, etc. all come with a cost that we aim to avoid, this helps us bring lower reserve/start prices to the ‘punters’ (buyers). By not having fixed prices, we are allowing our community to decide what a watch is worth. Mostly, our audience gets it right, but let us say this: eyebrows have been raised (by us) as we have seen some great watches being posted out to our punters for much less than we anticipated. And that’s fine, that’s why we are here. We all love a bargain, and thankfully they are still around. We have just hit the 12-month mark and have 3000 followers (buyer club members) and more than 500 watches have passed through our hands. That’s been a great outcome for 2 guys who still haven’t met in person!

What do you have in your own watch collections?

J and P: Don’t ask! Actually, we both hold a similar philosophy here. When the box is getting around the 100 mark (meaning you can potentially only wear any one watch about 3 times a year), it’s time to let a few goes. 

J: Well I have a collection of around 100 from Divers to dress Quartz pieces from the 70’s. My favorites are the 6105, 6138/6139 chrono, 6218 Weekdater, JDM Bell-Matic, GS and the late 70’s Twin Quartz range.

Seiko King Quartz, Twin Quartz 8 jewel movement
Seiko King Quartz, Twin Quartz 8 jewel movement
P: Firstly and foremost, I’m a huge vintage Seiko diver fan. Most dive watches from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s interest me. I look for good all original examples. I look for watches that have honest wear and history. I’m definitely not a ‘safe queen’ kind of guy. I appreciate and value a good well worn (even beaten) original watch as much as a mint or NOS example. There are a few vintage divers that would like to own but don’t, but that may well be a topic for another day.

Sadly (happily) my collection extends a little further than the dive watch. At one point I had 30 or 40 Seiko digitals mainly from the 80’s. I’ve ‘thinned the herd’ a little lately mainly to keep the ‘battery bills’ down and make my collection a little more manageable. The C ‘calculator’ watches, the D138 ‘Running Man’ watches and the G757’s. These are the watches I wanted (but couldn’t afford) during high school. They are great watches but can bring grown men to tears, particularly when they have intermittent problems.

My third great passion is the automatic chronograph. The 6138/6139 in particular. Honestly, you could spend years chasing these, and you still won’t have probably even them all. The vibrant colours, the subdials, the history, the rotating bezels... these are crazy watches and super fun to wear. Of course, add just 3 letters (JDM) to any of the categories above, and then things get ‘next level.’

What trends do you see in vintage Seikos?

J: Originality! A few years ago the mod scene was huge. Hard to find a 7002 not hacked to death now! I think the savvy collector looks for ‘all original’ pieces, especially with the bracelet. Moving forward, honest, original examples will become more and more desirable.

P: James has hit the nail on the head right there. People don’t want to fork out their hard earned money on a watch, only to have it turn up with, or find out later that it has aftermarket (AM) parts. Seiko didn’t make those parts, so is it a Seiko? Well yes and no. Without wanting to get into the debate of AM vs. OG (original) parts, most collectors I know do care. It’s ridiculous to think that an AM gold 6139 ‘Pogue’ dial manufactured cheaply in Asia 2 years is going to compare with a dial made in Japan, in the 1970’s by some of the best watchmakers of all time. Sure, at 20 feet, they may look like the same watch. You might look over and think that guys wearing a Pogue. But when you have one on your wrist, and you are reading or setting the time, you will definitely notice the difference. If you don’t, it might be time to start a new hobby. Maybe get into synchronized swimming or something like that.

What is the next big thing in vintage Seikos? Is there anything in particular that we should be looking for now while they are still cheap? 

P and J: There are! But before we say, we think it's a trap to get caught up in this type of speculation. Our advice is never to buy any vintage Seiko (or watch) because you think it's going to make you money. Buy it because you like it, buy it because you want to wear and enjoy it. Buying watches and locking them up to appreciate in value, that’s not watch collecting to us. That’s not Seiko. That’s the stuff of fund managers and financial gurus. That’s pretty boring stuff. So to us, it's not really about what will appreciate well, but more about what's a good deal. What's NOT so popular (or desirable) that prices have really gone silly. 

If you look at the TVS page, you will see the watches we think are great value at the moment. The Lord Matics, the Lord Marvels, Grand Quartz, King Quartz, 6218’s, 7002 divers, 7a28/38’s, less popular 6139’s, Bell-Matics and the late 60’s 6119/6106 ‘Sport Divers.’ These are the watches we love to sell as they can still be found at prices below their true worth.

Seiko 4006-7010 Bell-Matic
Seiko 4006-7010 Bell-Matic
What should a novice buyer look for in a watch? 

P and J: Unserviced 'barn find' watches can swallow money faster than a fat kid chasing an ice cream van. You can throw good money after bad. We have both done it. This may sound bloody obvious but when you start buying vintage Seiko watches, look for the basics of any watch. Does it run? Does it keep reasonable time? If there are additional functions (chronographs, day/date functions, lights, etc.) do they run? Do they reset? Do they work? If it’s mechanical watch what is the power reserve like? Check the basics because there is nothing worse than wearing a watch that disappoints you. Trust us, If it doesn’t hold time, doesn’t do what it should and annoys you, you won’t wear it. It will likely end up back on eBay, with all the other troubled souls. 

P: As far as pricing is concerned, I've always had a price point that I won't go beyond. I’ve maintained that discipline for 15 years. It has had to change a couple of times, but it has stayed relative to the market. I've tried to hold the best, cleanest, sharpest examples under that price point that I can. It started out at AU $250 and ended up at $1000. In the world of wrist watches, that’s chicken feed. Guys who follow other brands trade bezel inserts for that (and more). Of course, these figures will be different for any one individual, but the point is if you have limited funds you can still have a lot of fun and build a great collection with limited funds.

Seiko has rolled out some desirable reissues in recent years. Pretend for a moment that the folks at Seiko are reading The Time Bum for inspiration. What would you like to see them revive next?

J: Love to see a 6105 redone -- as would most other Seiko tragics

P: I could talk a lot about reissues, and probably most people wouldn’t like what I have to say. It is great that Seiko is looking back to its past. Any watch company that has been around for a while needs to understand why they are still around, but the hype, the prices, the limited editions, the subsequent ‘over-inflated’ prices of the originals ... personally, I'm not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, some of these reissues are incredible watches, but give me vintage and give me the original watch any day of the week. 

As James mentioned the asymmetrical cased 6105 8110 is the one we all want. It will happen I have no doubt, but like the other LE reissues, I’m happy to sit back and watch the show, rather than participate. If previous reissue strategies are followed by Seiko, we will see an overpriced ‘limited edition’ version which will be a great watch, but only ever worn sparingly and passed around the hands of collectors. Then we will get a ‘modern interpretation’ version which will be cheaper but quite different from the original. But wait!, then before you know it, you have a ‘6105 PADI’ with a red DLC coated case, a blue dial and white hands! What I don’t understand is why Seiko just doesn’t drop the LE strategy and make a proper reissue (like the SLA017/25’s) and put lower spec movements in and sell them under $1500. They would sell in the 10’s of thousands I have no doubt about it. But let us see what 2019 Baselworld brings. After all, this year is the 50th anniversary of the auto chrono! Could it be that the 6139 600X reissue is about to land? Will 2019 see the reissue of the iconic gold ‘Pogue’? ⬩

Photos courtesy of @Two_Vintage_Seikos, @Seikoman35, and @VintageSeiko

Seiko 6105-8110 "Willard"

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