1985 SEIKO 6309-8239 REVIEW
The following is what I hope will be the first of many reviews to find it's way into this section. Here is a review of a much appreciated vintage watch that often gets overlooked by the collecting public, in favor if it's Diver brothers. The Watch is the 6309-8239. In particular This is a review of my black dialed 6309-8239 from May 1985:
First let's start by saying that this watch does not have any nicknames. The design is a casual design that is equally at home dressed up and dressed down. The watch measures roughly around 40mm in diameter, but seems smaller because of the effect of some of the design features and it's relatively narrow lugs (more on that later). I find this watch to be of special interest for a few design quirks and for what I see (I'm not claiming this as a fact) as it's design influence on a very popular modern Seiko, The Sumo.
For the movement review, I'll borrow the description I last posted on the 6309 Diver Buying guide: 6309’s use a form of Seiko’s workhorse 17 jewel 6300 series automatic caliber. The movement cannot be manually wound; is non-hacking; and has crown operated quickset day/date calendar mechanisms (Spanish/English on my watch). For tips on what to look for when inspecting a 6309 movement, check out the 6309 DIVER Buying Guide.
This is one of the nicest parts of this watch, and one of the main reasons these watches get chopped up for modding of 6309 divers. the dial is not black, but rather a very dark iridescent charcoal gray. The hour markers are rectangular applied metal markers with polished edges and filled with lume. The markers at 0600 and 0900 are larger than those on the other hours and the one at 1200 is a double rectangle. There is no hour marker at 0300. Instead there is a metal framed day/date window. The dial itself is very simple, and has the seiko logo applied in metal, with the words Automatic and 17 jewels printed in silver and a very smalle chapter ring printed on the periphery of the dial. the rehaute around the dial is very small, silver, polished and almost vertical - it is designed to accent the dial but not be a part of it.
Sadly too many of these watches get chopped up for their nice dials, which in some ways resemble the dials used in 6105 divers yet are drop in swaps to the 6309 diver. While nice, It is a bit of a shame to chop up such an original piece to make a 6309 mod.
The case is a solid, one piece stainless steel design with a six-notched screw-type caseback. The caseback has no special artwork engraved on it and follows the standard Seiko practice of including the movement-case number, the serial number, water resistance marking and metal composition (Stainless Steel).
The case design is very interesting in that it is made up of multiple sloping curved facets of alternating finish (satin and polished). The overall layout and design of the case is highly reminiscent of the same approach taken in the design of the modern family of "Sumo" divers.
Even more interesting is that the 6309 case also mimics the Sumo case in it's use of multiple different bulk reduction tricks, such as downward sloping outer facets and long faceted [18mm] lugs which curve both inward and downward. An even more interesting and telling similarity between the two cases is their bezels.
Now I understand that both bezels are different designs (on is a rotating diving ring and the other is solid and not designed to move). the similarity here is in how they are designed to fit into the case. In both designs the bezel fits into a cut-out on the top of the case, which causes it to be partially recessed into the case when installed, but only fully visible when viewed between the lugs.
Obviously, the sumo bezel does this to a much higher degree than the 6309, but the 6309 definitely did it 25 years ago. While I'm not saying that this particular 6309 is the design inspiration for the sumo's case, it is very interesting to note that where the Sumo differs from the Marine Master's case design, it seems to borrow elements that Seiko included in this particular 6309 twenty-five years ago. At the very least, Seiko seems to have mined it's own design history when styling the Sumo (as opposed to Omega's more recent designs, which it is often said to have done). To me, this speaks very highly of this little 6309.
The crystal is a flat beveled acrylic crystal held in place by a tension ring and locked in by the bezel which does double duty as a crystal retention ring. Here is where mine differs from the seiko original. the original casing manual calls for this crystal to have a slight rounded bevel between the top and the sides. Jonathan Koch, who restored the case for me, installed an NOS replacement, but me being as picky as I am, didn't care for the final look of the original crystal. To me the bevel clashed with the soft curves of the case's facets. To Jonathan's credit he begrudgingly swapped the crystal with an NOS domed Seiko crystal of the same size and general design from a different seiko. The end effect is much nicer, and IMHO matches the case much better. IN both instances the crystals project above the edge of the bezel.
I have seen pictures of this watch on a folded bracelet. Mine did not include one and is currently mounted on an 18mm wide roll-padded black leather strap with contrasting stitching which plays well of the dial design. I've considered mounting the watch on a bund strap, but have not made up my mind on how well the final look would work.
CLOSING OPINIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Overall I really love this watch. It's one of those pieces which at first glance doesn't look like much, but when you look a little closer, ends up being far more detailed and clever than originally thought. If I could give anyone any advice when sourcing one of these is to find the absolute best case you can before you buy, since the narrowness of the facets make them very difficult to work on and restore without rounding off all the edges - this is especially true of the lugs and the bezel. If you plan on having one of these restored, I highly advice you to have someone who is very good at metal work, like Swedefreak or Randall Benson do the metal work for you.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the review. If you have any questions, please let me know.