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An Atypical Team-Up? 

Seiko and Isuzu Motor Corporation

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Back in the late 1960's, Heuer and Zenith had taken hold of the entire sports watch industry by racing to become the first to produce an automatic chronograph.  It has been widely debated who won, but in the background of this skirmish, Seiko quietly created their own at the same time, beating the Swiss at their own game – the Seiko Ref. 6139.

 

During the early months of 1969, Seiko put the final touches on its revolutionary 6139 chronograph - in fact, the Japanese company first began putting the 6139 in automatic chronographs as early as January of the same year.

 

Seiko published its first advertisement for their new automatic 6139 chronograph in February 1969, easily beating the Swiss - however, the company was concentrating on the release of the world's first quartz watch, the Astron, which would completely disrupt the watch world as it was known at the time (again, much to the chagrin of the Swiss watch industry, we're certain).  We possess 6139 dials dating back to October 1968, indicating Seiko beat all other rivals to produce the world's first automatic chronograph.  Period.

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The world of horology is filled with highly unusual watch collabs, and some that just fit - Heuer and Japanese racing company Racing Mate for the latter, the oddly paired KITH clothing company and TAG Heuer for the former.  Some work, some decidedly do not.

Readers of our articles here have most likely surmised that we love unusual Seiko collabs, in particular when it involves the iconic first automatic chronograph in the world, the legendary Seiko 6139.  Like an atypical Seiko and Isuzu Motor Corporation team up, available here

A rather tongue-in-cheek vintage 1970s Seiko 6139 advert

(Photo Credit: Seiko)

Following the debut of the world's first automatic chronograph, Seiko no doubt sought unique collaborations with other Japanese corporations dominate in their respective fields, like Isuzu Motor Corporation, Limited.  Founded in 1916, shortly before the Second World War, Isuzu gradually spread throughout the globe following its recovery from the war. 

 

My obsession with Isuzu began at a young age in high school, following the random purchase of a 1989 Isuzu Trooper RS following brief and unsatisfactory ownership of a Ford Bronco II.   

The Gen 1 Trooper RS is something of a rarity - the RS (Rally Sport) featured an upgraded off-road package and was only imported to the US for about six months and fewer than 800 examples came to America.

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Vintage 1980s Isuzu Trooper advert (Photo Credit: Isuzu)

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The evolution of the 1989 Isuzu Trooper RS SUV (L, circa 1996, R, 2022; Photo Credit: DCVW)

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The 1989 Isuzu Trooper RS, courtesy of a Hodinkee 4 + 1 article (Photo Credit: Hodinkee)

As the second owner and with time to spare (remember, I was a teenager), I commenced with improvements - three-inch suspension lift and requisite larger tires (33 x 12.5 BFGs, thank you), along with an audio system worthy of the 1990s, the Golden Age of hip hop.

 

I also read anything and everything I could on Isuzu, bolstered by my father's own purchase of his own Trooper, the newer more aerodynamic (the Gen 1's windshield is completely flat) Gen 2 Trooper.

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The Seiko Isuzu FORWARD 6139 case back (Photo Credit: DCVW)

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So naturally - fast forward a few decades (and the evolution of the same Trooper RS into the family hauler, becoming the kids favorite car, and covered in watch periodical Hodinkee) - when I heard unsubstantiated rumors of the Seiko / Isuzu pairing, my interest was - as usual - piqued.

Just like other Seiko team-ups (such as the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces issuance of the Seiko 6139-7010 "Military" to its fighter pilots we covered previously), the devil is usually in the (scant) details.  Suitable time blocked off to concentrate on it, the deep dive began.

The Seiko Isuzu FORWARD 6139 automatic movement, the first in the world (Photo Credit: DCVW)

Following the debut of the world's first automatic chronograph, Seiko no doubt sought unique collaborations with other Japanese corporations dominate in their respective fields, like Isuzu Motor Corporation, Limited.  Founded in 1916, shortly before the Second World War, Isuzu gradually spread throughout the globe following its recovery from the war. 

 

While the company withdrew from the U.S. market in 2008 following lackluster sales (partly due to a reputation for manufacturing low-quality SUV engines in the late 1990s), it retains a presence in the trucking industry, while also remaining present on all continents via direct Isuzu sales or partnerships with other car manufacturers (such as GMC).  In 2023, it employed nearly 45 thousand and had $1.6 billion in sales with nearly $1 billion in profit.

Back to the search, I soon realized this was easily one of the rarest Seiko 6139’s (more so than even the legendary Seiko 6139 “Teal Sunrise”), as information on this watch was quite scant, almost certainly due to a limited dial production run.

I started off with the watch forums, which can be a powerful research tool but are also filled with quite a bit of unfortunate erroneous claims by self-proclaimed experts that - having had handed a few watches - fancy themselves well-versed in all things Seiko.  While providing some possible leads, I found nothing of much substance, but photos were at least provided proving the dial existed for the 1970s Seiko 6139-6032 SpeedTimer "Coke" (so named for its red and black bezel insert) chronograph.

 

Per my subsequent research, Seiko most likely worked with Japan-based Isuzu to release a rather limited edition of the Seiko 6139, the Isuzu FORWARD Coke, in early 1970s.

From what I discovered, Seiko issued this 6139-6032 with Isuzu to commemorate the success of the Isuzu FORWARD (otherwise known as the Isuzu F-Series).

 

Although Isuzu has used different “FORWARD” nomenclature fonts on its F-Series trucks over the decades since its 1970 debut, my research revealed the font the Japanese company used in the early 1970s and 1980s was quite similar to that used on the Seiko 6139 dial.

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The Seiko Isuzu FORWARD 6139 chronograph, on its original SpeedTimer bracelet (Photo Credit: DCVW)

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Similar font used between the Seiko 6139 dial and 1982 Isuzu FORWARD truck (Photo Credit: Auto Trader)

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Japan Ground Self Defense Force Isuzu FORWARD truck, towing an anti-air defense system (Photo Credit: JGSDF, 2014)

The Isuzu FORWARD remains an enormously successful line of medium and heavy-duty commercial trucks manufactured by Isuzu beginning in 1970 and continuing to the present day.

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1989 GMC FORWARD W7 platform truck, manufactured with Isuzu (Photo Credit: eBay Motors)

Although not to be confused with the GMC-badged Isuzu light commercial trucks sold in the U.S., the GMC variant light truck also uses the same FORWARD name and similar font as the Isuzu F-Series.

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The Isuzu FORWARD medium-duty truck, manufactured from 1970 to present (Photo Credit: Isuzu)

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The Seiko Isuzu FORWARD 6139 box & papers (Photo Credit: DCVW)

The Seiko 6139 "Coke" in a Seiko catalog (Photo Credit: DCVW)

The watches were most likely provided as an award to key senior Isuzu employees - given the infrequency these watches surface - involved in the development of the Isuzu FORWARD line.  

 

It goes to rationalize that, had Isuzu meant the dials produced by Seiko for more mainstream marketing and promotional purposes, a much higher number produced for general public consumption.

 

Isuzu continues to produce the F-series to this day, and the truck is available in 2WD and 4WD, in addition to a variety of cab styles and engines; the truck is also used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force for rear line duties, to include supply and logistics.

The Seiko Isuzu FORWARD 6139 SpeedTimer "Coke" automatic chronograph (Photo Credit: DCVW)

Almost certainly related, the Isuzu/Seiko 6139 collab was not the first time Isuzu had provided a Seiko to its employees – nor was it the first evidence of a relationship between the two I had stumbled upon - in the 1960s, the Japanese company awarded King Seiko 44-9990 Chronometer-rated watches to loyal employees.

A 1968 King Seiko gifted to an Isuzu employee (Photo Credit: DCVW)

Vintage 1970s Seiko 6139 SpeedTimer "Coke" adverts (Photo Credit: Seiko)

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