The Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph – a historical movement in its own right, like this 1970 Seiko 6139-6011 Japanese Domestic Market (JDM)-only SpeedTimer "Bruce Lee," naturally paired with a bracelet similar to Lee's own rally example – 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.
Those who know vintage Seiko - in particular 6139 chronograph's - know these early 6139 SpeedTimer's come up for sale rarely. We have seen 6139's dating back to January 1969, 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.
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," and Bruce wasn't wearing his in the movie, but we digress.
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 stainless-steel rally bracelet, nylon NATO strap, springbar tool, and Pelican travel case.
1970 Seiko 6139-6011 SpeedTimer "Bruce Lee" Chronograph
DIAL: Black proof-signed SpeedTimer and dial. Day/date complication – with Kanji Japanese/English variants – at 3 o’clock position works as designed. Hour and minute hands replaced with correct NOS set; original ones - with patina - come with watch.
CASE: 39.5mm x 43.5mm stainless steel case; recessed crown, with matching caseback. Case lines remain sharp, with no evidence of machine polish.
CRYSTAL: Seiko 6139-correct Hardlex crystal, no scratches or blemishes.
BAND: This SpeedTimer comes with a stainless-steel rally bracelet, which will fit up to an approx. 7 to 7.5 inch wrist. This 6139 also comes with a brown leather strap.
MOVEMENT: Seiko 6139A automatic movement, manufactured in September 1970.
CROWN: 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.