Welcome to Watches You Should Know, a biweekly column highlighting important or little-known watches with interesting backstories and unexpected influence. This week: the Seiko 6105.
Though once largely excluded from the discussion of fine watchmaking, Seiko now competes shoulder-to-shoulder with prestigious Swiss brands. Ironically, it's the robust everyman watch with its reputation for value upon which the Japanese giant built its name. Early Seiko dive watches might not be the bargain they once, but one of the most iconic and influential examples remains the quirky-come-classic 6105.
Produced from 1968 to 1977, the 6105 was made in two distinctive body styles: the cushion-cased 8000/8009 and the larger, asymmetrically-cased 8110/8119, both viewed with great admiration by vintage Seiko enthusiasts. Together, they followed first true dive watch made by Seiko, the 6217 ("62MAS").
You can see the 6105's influence right down the line of watches that followed it: There's the 4 o'clock crown common on many Seiko divers today, and the cushion-shaped case found its way onto the Seiko reference 6309 of 1976 — a watch that became a Seiko collector’s piece in its own right. Later watches like the SKX series and the modern "Turtle" line are directly descended from the 6105’s design heritage.
During the Vietnam War, U.S. troops were known to buy 6105-8000/8009s at the PXs (Post Exchanges) on bases in Southeast Asia. Many soldiers wore them through the rigors of combat, as Army-issued watches were known to fail in the jungle environment. Lots of pieces made their way back to the States on the wrists of service members after their tours were done — and that's a testament to the watch's toughness, a heap of story and character, as well as a powerful source of nostalgia.
In the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, the character Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen) portrays such a US soldier in Vietnam while famously wearing a 6105-8110. This combination of history and popular culture are just the sort of thing that gets watch nerds worked up into a delighted frenzy — and that’s before taking into account the 6105’s technical specs.
The 6105-8000 features an easy-wearing 41mm cushion case with a signed crown (a rarity for Seikos of the time) at the 4 o’clock position. The in-house automatic 17 jewel 21,600 bph cal. 6105A powers the watch; some were hacking, others were not, and all had quick-set dates and could not be manually wound. The rumor is that the early models with “waterproof” on the dial were non-hacking, and that the later models with “water resistant” were hacking, but there are conflicting reports. All of the watches were water-resistant to 150 meters.
Combine the 6105’s history with its quality features and you have a winning combination. If you’re looking to pick up a vintage model, be wary of watches that have been significantly overhauled with replacement dials, hands, or even new movements. As with other vintage Seiko watches, however, the 6105 has been "discovered" by the wider collector scene and no longer dirt-cheap. In response to public enthusiasm, Seiko has released modern remakes that offer a lot of attractive features — if not the genuine character of those that have traversed the decades.