Thank you for bringing this one up, Brucy. I’m putting dinner on hold for the moment, so I can respond to this as the auction in question ( http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing ... 1243703174 ) is closing in a couple of hours, and there may well be those following this post that are thinking of bidding. Here is a screen shot of the item on TradeMe:
Firstly regarding Seiko dial code, located at or near the bottom of the dial, these are just that—a code for a particular dial. The first part is, as you may already know, the movement calibre, which in this case is "7002”. The second part is a identifier for that particular dial, and would not normally correspond with the case reference that is stamped on the case back. So, correct case reference plus correct dial code that was offered for that particular reference would equal a match.
In this instance, what you see is actually an aftermarket reproduction dial and hands, which I will take this opportunity to talk about further.
However, what I’m about to discuss next is old news for seasoned vintage Seiko Diver enthusiasts and buyers, as this has been the norm for at least a decade. So, if you are one of those people—and I’m referring to the hardened vintage Seiko Diver nut, not just the Google-warrior —then you can skip this post and spend the time instead with your partner, kids, or dogs, in no particular order.
Still here? …okay, let’s get into the Darker Side of vintage Seiko Diver on the market today, and I’m referring here to anything from the Seiko’s 1st Diver (62MAS), 6105, 6306/9, 7002, as well as the mainstream Quartz Diver 7548s. I am not covering modification, or modding, of current entry-level Seiko Diver in the SKX range (Cal 7S26, 200m).
For the layperson who is not a watch enthusiast, aka watch muggle, buying a vintage Seiko diver often involves looking at photos to see whether the item is in “good” condition, runs, or whether they come with their original packaging from four decades ago. These buyers often overlook or ignore key words within the listing that shout out to those of us more experienced. These key words can include:
new xxxx, replacement xxxx, refurbished xxxx, aftermarket xxxx, original dial professionally repainted, refinished xxxx
…when xxxx refers to the parts of a watch that was never intended to be replaced, i.e. movement, case, case back, bezel, dial, and hands.
Many buyers say they are in fact aware and did not miss those key words. They just like their vintage Seiko to look new, and don’t really understand why enthusiasts fuss over such thing. Well, I personally see it as individual preference whether or not to replace the non-consumables on a watch you own, or whether a dial should be redone or repaired in any way. However, what you do to a watch you own is very different from whether you should buy a watch that someone else has already done it for you.
As an analogy, if were in the market to buy a used Toyota Hilux, and you found one in good condition—it drive okay, and is being sold at a bargain—would it make your short-list?
…Possibly. Looks okay right? Cheap, right? Yeah.
…but would it matter to you if this vehicle, not that long ago, used to look like this:
Would that make you rethink the purchase? Would you buy a written-off ute when there are others of the same model and age to choose from?
Sure, the seller claims to have "overhauled" or "serviced" the vehicle…of course. ...But do you trust them, considering that the claim supports their interest, and that they are doing this for profit? Is it even possible to fully repair or overhaul a wreck to make it as good as new?
Coming back to watches, diver's watches from 1960s to late-1980s most likely left their stores for one reason and one reason only—to be used as they were intended and to get wet—really wet. Fashionable divers and desk divers were yet to be invented by people like us. Like most tools, many were simply discarded when they got damaged, costly to repair, or simply no longer needed. Many were thrown away where ever the need for that watch ended—places where recreational scuba divers flocked to in those decades, like The Philippines.
Starting to get the picture? …So, as these abandoned diver’s watch became valuable collectibles, many otherwise unusable watches, damaged beyond repair, surface again and are sold to buyers worldwide. Most are sold in their honest original condition, like this one for just NZ$64 shipped:
…in a condition that not even the most risk-averse punter on TradeMe would buy. There are some people though, even certain watch repairers, who see these things as an opportunity to make some bucks. However, Seiko no longer produces nor stock replacement part for these watches, and new old stock dials are either impossible or unfeasible to obtain. Thankfully/unfortunately, there has been a flourishing industry in places like The Philippines to manufacture reproduction parts for the now-popular vintage Seiko Diver.
Initially, the quality was rough and a keen observant eye would spot it from a mile away (okay, a few centimetres to be exact ). Then, they made improvements over the years, and it is now a lot harder—though never impossible—to tell the Repro from the originals. These dials are available for a low cost. Here’s one for only NZ$11 delivered:
One can also buy aftermarket reproduction hands, chapter ring, bezel insert, crystal, and rubber straps for very small sums. Aftermarket reproduction parts are available for vintage Seiko Divers and Chronographs, which have seen an increase in market value over the last few years. There may soon be, if not already, reproduction parts for vintage Seiko Navigators and Rally Divers. Order in bulk at wholesale price with combined shipments, and it is not hard to end up with a decent looking Seiko Diver stocked full of Repro parts. Clean the case a little, dust and oil the movement to get it moving and running—even for just a few minutes is enough to sell for many less-than-honest traders.
I've just checked on TradeMe, and currently, there is not a single Seiko Cal 7002 Diver that is original. All three listings are made of repro parts:
http://www.trademe.co.nz/jewellery-watc ... 029015.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/jewellery-watc ... 043451.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/jewellery-watc ... 041147.htm
(Disclosure: I do not know nor have dealt with the seller in these listings, as am only using them to illustrate examples)
The above listings would fall into what Seiko Diver enthusiasts deem “acceptable” in that that the seller discloses the fact that some parts are “new”, “aftermarket”, or “reproduction”, so I personally have no issues with these. I do however feel that the terms “new” and “replacement” can be misleading when used to mean “aftermarket reproduction”. That is, I feel it's different when you sell, say, a current Seiko SKX007 on shark mesh bracelet and refer to the latter as a “replacement”, compared to when you say it has a “new bezel insert" that is in actual fact, a non-Seiko-reproduction. It's not the same, agree?
There are, sadly, other traders who frequently list such watches without the proper disclosure when more than likely, they are very much aware of the origins.
To many buyers, what I have just explained will be of little relevance, as they do not nor ever will view watches the way that we on this forum do. But to you reading this and considering one day buying a vintage Seiko diver, please take my advice and choose only specimens with original dial (including chapter ring) and hands, and make sure they are original to that example. If you find a clean honest specimen, components like aftermarket bezel insert and Z22 straps are no deal-breakers, but it is crucial that the dial and hands be original. The reason is not some kind of kinky collector’s fetish, but it at least ensures that the watch has never been flooded, that moisture has never intruded the case, and an indication that previous owners know how to take care of dive watches—a paramount factor in choosing any good vintage watch.
When a watch is in such a bad state that its dial and hands have to be replaced, its movement is more than likely rusted and corroded, sometimes to a level that cannot be salvaged. Would the guy who invested money to redo this wreck for sale get stopped by anything non-salvageable? ...of course not! ...He'll find some way around it, and trust me, you don't want to buy this watch! Revisiting the Toyota Hilux again, having original dial and hands is like having original interior in a Hilux—you don’t want to see new interior, new seats, and headlining, as you can’t be sure where it has been.
For those reading this who had never understood the importance of originality in buying watches, I hope that this has made you see things in new perspective. For anyone who love watches, originality is not only a desirable attribute we seek, but also a tool to help assess the true state of what we cannot easily see.
Thanks for reading.