The Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph – a historical movement in its own right, like this just serviced, all original 1970 Seiko 6139A-6011 Japanese Domestic Market (JDM)-only SpeedTimer "Bruce Lee" 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 - check out the last picture for evidence of this. 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," and Bruce wasn't wearing his in the movie, but we digress - vintage Citizen, like the one Brad Pitt wears in the film, 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 rally strap, NATO strap, springbar tool, and Pelican travel case.
1970 Seiko 6139A-6011 JDM SpeedTimer "Bruce Lee" Automatic Chronograph
DIAL: Original black SpeedTimer and proof-signed dial, with original minute, hour, and red chronograph hands – lume on dial and hands is in good condition and continues to shine. Please note wear on dial between the 10 and 12 o'clock and between the 2 and 3 o'clock positions - the sole con on this otherwise great looking SpeedTimer. Day/date complication – with Kanji Japanese/English variants – at 3 o’clock position works nicely.
CASE: Original 39.5mm x 43.5mm stainless steel case; crown is recessed. Original caseback has "water resist" nomenclature, identifying this 6139 as a transitional example.
CRYSTAL: Flawless Hardlex crystal, no deep scratches.
BAND: This 6139 SpeedTimer comes with a red leather rally strap, with stainless-steel hardware. It also comes with a dark blue and red nylon NATO strap - a great sporty compliment to the colors and inherent vintage nature of this Seiko SpeedTimer.
MOVEMENT: Original Seiko 6139A automatic movement, manufactured in December 1970. A complete service was performed on this movement in late April 2020
CROWN: Original recessed unsigned stainless steel crown.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Chronograph pushers depress with a satisfying click, no stick, and snap back as designed to zero with no issue.