The Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph – a historical movement in its own right, like this just serviced all original 1970 Seiko 6139-6011 "Bruce Lee" for sale here – was one of the first automatic chronographs created and ranks with Zenith’s El Primero and Heuer’s Calibre 11. Back in the 1970’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 a feat debated who won, but in the background of this skirmish, Seiko quietly created one theirs at the same time – the 6139.
We all know Omega was the first watch on the moon, mostly because Omega won’t let us forget (ever). However, the first automatic chronograph in space was the more humble and less publicized Seiko 6139-6005, named after US astronaut Colonel William Pogue, who wore his on the 1973 Skylab 4 mission-despite not obtaining NASA authorization–to time shuttle engine burns due to his familiarity with the watch and trust in its capabilities…trusting the lives of himself and fellow astronauts to the reliability of his Seiko! When asked about his 6139, Pogue confirmed the story and sold his in a 2008 charity auction for $6k.
The 6139 was the first chronograph to have a vertical clutch, a feature considered by many to be one of the hallmarks of a superior automatic chronograph movement. The 6139 features a single register chronograph allowing time to be measured in increments of 30 minutes, and also features an automatic column wheel timing control, vertical coupling mechanism, and is an integrated chronograph – the first in the world – which means the entire 6139 movement was designed and built to be a chronograph, vice being an automatic movement with a mere timing module added.
Of note, this Seiko 6139 variant received its nickname by regularly being worn by Bruce Lee - yes, that Bruce Lee. Unfortunately, this bit of research appeared to have escaped the watchful eyes of the producers of Quinten Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood," but we digress - vintage Citizen deserves the limelight for once!
With this movement, Seiko set the standard, which was followed by the Swiss watch industries 20 years later. The same movement configuration was adopted by Rolex when it made its own in-house movement for the Daytona in 2000, 30 years after Seiko released the caliber 6139 and 6138.
This 6139 includes a leather strap, NATO strap, springbar tool, and Pelican travel case.
1970 Seiko 6139-6011 "Bruce Lee" Automatic Chronograph
DIAL: Original black proof-signed dial, with original minute, hour, and red chronograph hands – lume continues to shine. Day/date complication – with Spanish/English variants – at 3 o’clock position works nicely.
CASE: Original 39.5mm x 43.5mm stainless steel case; crown is recessed. Caseback has clear "water resist" nomenclature, revealing this 6139 as a transitional example. When Seiko was transitioning between "water proof" and "water resist" markings on their case back and dials to meet a 1972 deadline set by the United States government, it used a mix of dials and casebacks, meaning - like with this example here - some had proof dials with resist casebacks. Case received a light polish at some point, but caselines remain, per pictures.
CRYSTAL: Hardlex crystal, no deep scratches.
BAND: This 6139 comes with a dark brown leather strap, with cream accent stitching – a great sporty compliment to the inherent vintage nature of this Seiko 6139 chronograph. This 6139 also comes with a dark blue, yellow, and red NATO strap.
MOVEMENT: Original Seiko 6139A automatic movement, manufactured in November 1970. A complete service was performed on this movement in early January 2020.
CROWN: Original recessed unsigned stainless steel crown.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Chronograph pushers depress with a satisfying click, no stick, with a snap back for both chronograph hands, as designed, to zero with no issue.