The "True Cevert"
A 1970 Seiko 6139-6009 Resist
Within the Road Rat automotive magazine Autumn/Winter 2018 debut edition, an article was included on the Seiko 6139 automatic chronograph – the first automatic chronograph in the world – and its connection to Formula One (F1) racing legend, François Cevert, marking the first widely(ish) publicized link between the dark blue-dialed 6139 and Cevert. Following our research into the “true” variant of the 6139 Bruce Lee, we endeavored to do similar to discover the “true” variant Cevert wore – after research, we assess the “True Cevert” to be a 6139-6009, most likely dating to 1970.
Scouring Online Photographs: Multiple images online feature Cevert wearing the 6139, but particularly helpful is Getty Images online database, which features – for the most part – accurate dates for the images, rendering this quite useful for the task at hand. Several images of Cevert wearing the watch exist within the Getty database dated from April though December 1971, highlighted below. The earliest found was July 1971. Why the need for such precise dates? 6139 dial variants during this era changed several times in the span of only 36-ish months, beginning in January 1969 through 1972.
The Road Rat Magazine: Most useful is the Road Rat magazine article itself, which features one of the best photographs found of Cevert wearing the 6139, and asserts the picture was taken “pre-season 1971.” Given the 1971 F1 season ran from March 6 through 3 October, this would place the photograph date as sometime in January – early March 1971. When this photograph – one of the most detailed found, thanks to its professional calibre and positioning of the watch to the camera – is examined, two important clues are provided as to the variant Cevert owned: 1) a simple line of text on the dial at the non o’clock position, and 2) what strongly appears to be a notch carved out over the crown position. Even if we don’t take the date given by Road Rat at face value, Cevert is featured in his F1 racecar, emblazoned with the “12” number – Cevert’s racecar number changed multiple times, despite his short career. Resorting to the Getty database, multiple images of the FI racecar with the 12 number exist – and all appear to be dated solely to 1971, providing further evidence the Road Rat photograph was taken in at least 1971.
More Evidence in the Getty Images Database Online: Within the Getty database, Cevert is pictured several times in the 1960s and 1970 wearing a non-Seiko 6139 watch; importantly, the latest – March 1970 – provides us with a useful bookend. Granted, Cevert could have owned multiple watches (perish the thought), but the March 1970 date is useful here; when Cevert was pictured wearing a watch after this time period, the watch is, you guessed it - the Seiko 6139. If above is taken into account, and we also assume Cevert was the type to wear one watch - like most of humanity - this would strongly indicate Cevert's 6139 dates to 1970/early 1971.
The "Notched" 6139 Case: As noted, Seiko 6139 dials – and cases – during the 1969 – 1972 era changed multiple times. But what we are concerned with here are the dial variants during the era Cevert likely owned his watch, ie: the earliest known example dates to January 1969 (the so-called “Deep Blue” 6139 variant) and the earliest Cevert is seen wearing his 6139, early 1971. As noted, the Road Rat photograph reveals what is most likely a notch in the watch case, indicating a quite early 6139 variant; however, the presence of a simple line of text at the nine o’clock position on the dial – and none of the “Seiko 5 Sports” nomenclature seen on the early SpeedTimer dials – indicates this is either a “proof” or “resist” dial. However, of note here - based on a valuable observation gleaned from a watch forum - is the 6139-6009 variant also, along with the 6139-6000, featured a notch case and simple line of text at the nine o'clock position. The 6000 was destined for the Japanese Domestic Market, and the 6009, North America.
So the next line of analysis is - where did Cevert travel, to the best of our knowledge, during the March 1970 through early 1971 time period? Thankfully, we have a ready list of travel destinations in the form of the F1 Grand Prix racing season! The 1970 Grand Prix season would have taken Cevert extensively through North America - the Canadian Grand Prix, September 4, 1970 (placed 4th); US Grand Prix, October 4, 1970; and, the Mexican Grand Prix, October 25, 1970 (placed 9th). Importantly - no race destinations were in Japan or Asia. As noted, the 6139 makes its first appearance on Cevert's wrist before the 1971 season, so we can rule the 1971 season dates in the US out.
Conclusion: When the notch case, simple line of text at nine o'clock, and Cevert's travels to North America during the 1970 F1 season are taken together, this indicates the most likely candidate for the True Cevert as a 6139-6009 resist dial, with notch case, likely manufactured in 1970. The 6009, despite being manufactured as early as 1969 and paired with a notch case, looks to have not been produced with a proof dial - given the 6009's largest market in North America was the United States, and the aforementioned law passage in 1968 before the 6139 came out, its easy to see why Seiko would have produced the 6009 variant with a resist dial and caseback from the start.
Notes: Mention must be made of Seiko selling, in limited quantities, the so-called “transitional” 6139s - the transitional 6139 inhabited the time period between when the 6139 debuted in early 1969 and late 1971, but more likely sometime from 1970 through 1971. In January 1969, the 6139 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. law passed in 1968 that watch companies had to prove their watches were waterproof to carry the claim on the watch itself - and a legal deadline of January 1972 to remove proof nomenclature - 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 – it would go on to eventually drop the resist dial nomenclature altogether by late 1972, for the most part. In between these two 6139 models was the transitional model, like this example here, which featured a proof-signed dial, two-piece chronograph second hand, and a 6139A movement, but also a "resist" caseback and no notch in the case. The lack of the notch in the transitional case would strongly suggest Cervert’s 6139 was not transitional.
As with Seiko 6139’s Pogue and Bruce Lee, once the “true” variant is known does not preclude the labeling of other variants of the same dial with the term Pogue, Bruce Lee, or Cevert. Rather, the simple affixation of “True” in front – ie: “True Cevert” – will remove any confusion. As such, we will continue to label all dark blue dialed 6139’s as “Cevert.”