The Seiko 6139 "Pogue" automatic chronograph – a historical movement in its own right, like this full serviced 1971 Seiko 6139-6005 "True 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 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 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.
As noted above, this is an example of the elusive "True Pogue" dial variant, which earned its sobriquet due to the fact it was the variant worn by the legendary Colonel Pogue, and as such, highly sought after by vintage Seiko collectors. True Pogue variants were gold-dialed 6139-6005's made from 1971 through circa 1973, and feature the following:
- "Seiko Automatic" just below the 12 o'clock position;
- Spanish/English day language wheel;
- "Water 70M Resist" at the 9 o'clock position;
- the Suwa factory symbol and "17J" above the 6 o'clock position.
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 movement features a single register chronograph allowing time to be measured in increments of 30 minutes.
This Pogue comes with its a high quality Uncle Seiko H-link bracelet, nylon NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1971 Seiko 6139-6005 "True Pogue" Automatic Chronograph, w/Uncle Seiko Bracelet
DIAL: Brilliant gold sunburst dial, in excellent condition; baton minute and hour hands, with orange chronograph hands on main and subdial - we suspect the orange chrono hands, which are original Seiko (and not aftermarket), are replacement service hands when a previous owner sent this Pogue to Seiko for a service. Of related note, a Seiko ad from circa post 1972 also appears to show a Pogue with orange hands, but it could be the lighting. Regardless, we rather like these orange hands, which bring a unique touch to this True Pogue! Day/date – with Spanish/English variants – at 3 o’clock position works nicely. Inner tachymeter ring rotates smoothly as designed. Lume plots shine following exposure to strong light.
CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 41mm (w/o crown, 42mm with) x 46mm, with matching caseback; wear on pusher side. Red and blue “Pepsi” bezel insert in good condition. Case lines remain sharp, with no evidence of machine polishing.
CRYSTAL: Seiko 6139-correct Hardlex crystal, no scratches or imperfections.
BAND: The Pogue comes with a high quality Uncle Seiko stainless-steel "H-link" bracelet, which will fit up to a 8.5 inch wrist. It also comes with a gray nylon NATO strap.
MOVEMENT: Seiko 17-jewel 6139B automatic movement, manufactured in March 1971. This watch has received a full service.
CROWN: Recessed unsigned stainless-steel crown.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Chronograph pushers depress with satisfying click – no stick. Red chronograph main and subdial hands reset as designed to zero.