Hi WUS fam! As usual this will be a bit of a long read but I wanted to share my experience with a recent vintage Seiko purchase and my quest to find a watchmaker I trusted to service it. I’m excited to say that I found one, a really good one, and here is the story how:
Recently, I purchased a stunning vintage 1970’s JDM yellow hands Speedtimer Kakume (6138-0030) from another collector and decided to put it through a proper service since it would be a keeper for a while.
The watch was running when I received it but it was averaging about -41sec/day on and off the wrist, the crystal had some chips in its edges, chronograph would not always reset correctly, and the hour chrono register had stopped working. I’ve been dealing with another watchmaker who will remain nameless that’s had another vintage Seiko of mine for about twice as long as anticipated (8+ months) and has not been a good communicator. Having been through a couple of watchmakers now that haven’t met my expectations, I knew I needed to seek out someone who was a master at their craft, honest, communicative and who wouldn’t have unnecessarily long lead times. Frankly, the collector community needs more resources like that.
As I’ve been building my Instagram community, I came across a DC based watchmaker not far from where I grew up named ClockSavant (Eric Greenberg). What originally caught my attention were his posts detailing his forensic, detailed approach to servicing rare vintage watches and the problems that he faced with questionable work from other watchmakers in the past. Following a few DM conversations, I was convinced that Eric was the one I was looking for even though his specialty was vintage Swiss and American watches. Although the market for quality watchmaking work for Seikos really has not been that big in the past, with the meteoric rise in vintage Seiko prices and more serious collectors getting into the brand I gave him my opinion that there would be more people like me looking for quality service work for these aging chronographs. He was willing to take a flier on my project and dive into my Kakume.
From the beginning of the ClockSavant process, it was like night and day compared to my past watch service experiences. I received a login to a web-based portal where he communicated his initial pre-service assessment and where we could chat back and forth throughout the service. A cloud-based photo album was also created to document pics of the entire process. I have probably 75+ pictures of the service documented for posterity! Here is an Imgur album I hosted with some of my favorites: https://imgur.com/a/4imQfLX
What impressed me out of the gate though was his desire to go “all in” and understand the project before it began. While my Kakume was in the mail to him, he purchased two of his own 6138s to disassemble and service (including a beautiful Bullhead that’s currently for sale on his site) so that he could know what to expect from these old chrono movements. This Kakume was, as it turned out, plagued by gremlins from a heavy handed, careless watchmaker in the past so the experience was super helpful going into it.
Right out of the gate, some of the causes of the timing and chrono register issues became apparent. The mainspring barrel was filthy and overflowing with excessive, dirty grease. Excessive oil was used throughout the entire watch and he also found human hairs left inside the movement in a number of places.
Due to possible direct bare handling of the movement, there was more rust on some of the watch levers that led to weakening of the metal. They were cleaned and strengthened where possible, and he ended up replacing the flyback lever altogether with an OEM replacement due to a concern that it could fail at some point in the future. The chronograph mechanism needed significant attention including replacement of worn and incorrect parts and improper adjustment of something called eccentric screws. As I learned from Eric, eccentric screws are essentially the “brains” of the chronograph mechanism, guiding sensitive tolerances and motion between chronograph parts. If these are improperly adjusted by a past watchmaker, the work to correct them can be very complicated. The forensic approach that Eric took helped to reveal to me why, for a watch you really care about, it is super important not to just accept the lowest priced watchmaking solution. A simple “clean and oiling” is not adequate, a watch must be fully disassembled and inspected to diagnose current and possible future issues. As I learned, cleaning and oiling is only one part of the total work involved— diagnosis, adjustment, optimization, and repair of past servicing errors and wear are essential. While not as beautiful and more industrial in design than their Swiss counterparts, these old Japanese chronos are actually quite complicated. I am very much in the “buy once, cry once” camp for things I really care about, and a poor watch service can lead to more sunk costs and another broken watch in the future.
After the course of a few weeks and a lot of communication, I came back from a long business trip to some final pics of my Kakume, crystal replaced and movement running like it did when it left the factory! Eric provided detailed performance measurements of my watch pre- and post-service (amplitude, rate, and beat error) in six positions so I could see the huge performance improvement. From what I was able to glean on the Internet, my watch is now running at top performance.
Following my flawless experience, I knew that by sharing this glowing review that I was at risk of being too unselfish and could face the possibility of longer wait times for future service from him. But I really believe that the community needs more watchmakers like this one, not just for vintage Swiss makes but also for these valuable vintage Seiko’s that need to be properly preserved. It would not be cool of me to keep this incredible watchmaking resource to myself. If you’re in the market for quality service for your vintage pieces, I would encourage you check out his website as well to see his pedigree and past projects: https://clocksavant.com/. I will say that the investment of a high quality, documented service with full disassembly will not only save you money in the long run, for a savvy collector it should also add to the resale value. If you made it this far, thanks for looking!
Edit: For some reason, my embedded photos aren't working, so for before and after pics please head over to that link provided above - https://imgur.com/a/4imQfLX