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The Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph – a historical movement in its own right, like this full serviced 1969 Seiko 6139-6011 SpeedTimer "Bruce Lee" here, on a vintage stainless-steel rally bracelet similar to that worn by Lee – was the first automatic chronographs created and ranks with Zenith’s El Primero and Heuer’s Calibre 11.

 

And this example here ticks all the boxes - colorful red and blue dial writing w/little UV fade, check; correct two-piece large chrono hand and smaller hand in vibrant red, check; lume throughout the dial and handset the pearly white and sugar cube-like texture we love to see on excellent examples, check; stainless-steel rally bracelet, check; strong case, check; and - finally - no dial blemishes, check!

 

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 widely debated who won, but in the background of this skirmish, Seiko quietly created one theirs at the same time, beating the Swiss at their own game – the Seiko Ref. 6139.

 

Of note, this black-dialed Seiko 6139 model received its nickname by regularly being worn by Bruce Lee - yes, that Bruce Lee.  Numerous photographs of the era reveal Lee as wearing his unmistakable black-dialed Seiko 6139 chronograph, on a series of stainless-steel rally bracelets.

 

From the 2021 GQ article, "Why I Bought Bruce Lee's Watch" - "Be Water," ESPN’s moving documentary about Bruce Lee, artfully reframes the martial arts icon as a protest figure who spent his entire life fighting for equality and respect both onscreen and off.  It’s also got a lot of footage of Bruce Lee wearing dope stuff.  The first time I watched it last June, I caught a glimpse of something intriguing in an archival photo of Bruce in a production meeting.  There, on his wrist, was a mysterious shiny band with a series of holes along the side.  Was it a bracelet? A watch band?"

 

"A few minutes of Googling delivered an answer: it was a Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph, Bruce’s watch of choice in the final years of his life.  Just like that, I had a dream watch.  I’d already been considering a Seiko as it was, for their value, reliability, and understated good looks.  But a Seiko co-signed by Bruce Lee?"

 

"That’s a whole other level of covetable...Daniel Dae Kim, noted watch guy, is the proud owner of a Bruce Lee Seiko.  Same with The Good Doctor’s Will Yun Lee, and The Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng.  All three sourced their Seikos through the exact same dealer: Los Angeles-based DC Vintage Watches."

 

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.

 

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 (**ahem** Swiss chronos at the time).

 

This Japanese Domestic Market (JDM)-only Seiko 6139 comes on a stainless-steel rally bracelet, and with nylon strap, springbar tool, and rugged travel case.

1970 Seiko 6139-6011 SpeedTimer "Bruce Lee" JDM Chronograph, w/Rally Bracelet

$1,999.99Price
  • DIAL: Black proof-signed SpeedTimer and dial, with striking red and blue font - writing is crisp with next to no fade.  Matching minute and hour hands, with light patina, are in overall good condition.  Dial lume is the white color and suger cube-like texture we love to see on good 6139 examples.  Day/date complication – with Kanji Japanese/English variants – at 3 o’clock position works as designed. 

     

    CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 39.5mm x 43.5mm; recessed  crown, with matching caseback.  Case lines remain sharp, with no evidence of machine polish.  The light brushed finish the watch case top left the factory with more than a half century ago remains.

     

    CRYSTAL: Seiko 6139-correct Hardlex crystal - no scratches or blemishes (disregard dust and reflections in crystal photographs).

     

    BAND: This SpeedTimer comes on a stainless-steel rally bracelet, similar to the one worn by Bruce; it will fit up to an approx. 7.5 inch wrist.  This Seiko 6139 chronograph also comes with a black nylon strap.

     

    MOVEMENT: Seiko 6139A automatic chronograph movement, manufactured in August 1970.  We have performed a full service on this Seiko 6139.

     

    CROWN: Recessed unsigned stainless-steel crown.

     

    CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Chronograph pushers depress with a satisfying click, no stick, and both snap back as designed to zero with no issue.

     

    A portion of the sales from all of our vintage Seiko 6139 "Bruce Lee" watches are donated to Stop AAPI Hate, a U.S.-based coalition dedicated to ending racism and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAs & PIs).

     
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