The Seiko 6139 "Pogue" automatic chronograph – a historical movement in its own right, like this full serviced late 1970 Seiko 6139-6001 "transitional Pogue" here – was one of the first automatic chronographs created and ranks with Zenith’s El Primero and Heuer’s Calibre 11.
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 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 to be one of the hallmarks of a superior automatic chronograph movement. The 6139 features an automatic column wheel timing control and an integrated chronograph, which means the entire movement was designed and built to be a chronograph, vice being an automatic movement with a mere timing module. The 6139 movement features a single register chronograph allowing time to be measured in increments of 30 minutes.
The transitional 6139 inhabited the time period between when the Pogue debuted in early 1969 and late 1971, but more likely sometime from 1970 through 1971. In January 1969, it was sold with a "waterproof" signed case and dial, 6139A automatic movement, two-piece chronograph second hand, and a "notch" in the case over the crown. However, Seiko, to comply with a U.S. legal deadline of January 1972, changed the 6139 to feature a case and dial marked with "waterresist" nomenclature, single piece chronograph second hand, 6139B automatic movement, and no "notch" above the crown in the case.
In between these two 6139 models was the transitional model, like this example here, which usually feature a proof-signed dial, two-piece chronograph second hand, and a 6139A movement, but also a "resist" caseback and no notch in the case - these transitional 6139 Pogue's are not common.
This Pogue comes with a leather strap, nylon NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1970 Seiko 6139-6001 "Pogue" Automatic Chronograph, Transitional
DIAL: Brilliant gold sunburst "waterproof"-signed dial; matching baton minute and hour hands, with matching two-piece red chronograph hand on main and subdial. Day/date - with English/Spanish day variants - at 3 o’clock position works nicely. Inner tachymeter ring is original and rotates smoothly as designed. Lume plots are in outstanding condition, and shine following exposure to strong light - that said, please note patina around the subdial, common for Pogue dials.
CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 41mm (w/o crown, 42mm with) x 46mm - no deep scratches - with "waterresist" signed caseback. Red and blue “Pepsi” bezel insert, with little fade evident. Case lines are sharp, with zero evidence of machine polishing.
CRYSTAL: Hardlex crystal, no deep scratches.
BAND: The Pogue comes with a dark brown leather strap with stainless steel hardware, with red and blue accent stitching - a great matching compliment to the Pepsi bezel insert. It also comes with a dark blue and red nylon NATO strap, another nice compliment of the same bezel insert.
MOVEMENT: Seiko 17-jewel 6139A automatic movement, manufactured in October 1970. We have performed a full service on this transitional Pogue.
CROWN: Recessed unsigned stainless steel crown.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Chronograph pushers depress with satisfying click – no sticking. Red chronograph main and subdial hands reset as designed to zero.