Well I’m still struggling to move through my backlog of watches awaiting service but that certainly doesn’t mean the desire isn’t there. I’ve got a lot of stuff coming which I hope to have posted at regular intervals and some exciting calibres to debut. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the goods actually arrive on time and we can all bask in the nerdery that is my chronograph obsession!
Today’s watch is part two of my Seiko chronograph journey. I serviced a Seiko 6138 chronograph movement back in 2020 (a lovely 6138-8021 Panda chronograph) and here we have the Seiko 7018-7000 One-Eyed Panda to showcase.
Right off the bat I should be honest and say I made a mistake with this watch. I bought it thinking the discoloration on the dial was just a bad crystal but had I done my research I would have known this particular watch has a mineral crystal and they don’t tarnish. No, it was the dial which was damaged. Despite this the price paid was still fair and I figured in the worst case scenario I would have a lot of useful parts for my next attempt.
As usual I had to wait a bit for the watch to arrive but once in hand the cause of the damage was sussed out swiftly- the crystal had detached from its retaining ring and fallen right out. Sometime in the 1970’s Seiko had come up with a new type of watch crystal where the glass was attached to a retaining ring with adhesive; the ring and glass were pressed into the case and further secured with a bezel ring. The 7018-7000 chronographs utilize this system. It may be that what we have here is not an original Seiko crystal or perhaps time just caught up with it, whatever the case, the crystal came off and the dial was ruined. It’s a shame.
These things happen, especially to older watches, and although I don’t like to think of something originating in the seventies as old, reality is what it is. We’re talking about a different era of watchmaking when mechanical watches were being phased out by quartz, LCD, and LED watches. Seiko moved almost entirely to quartz movements by the eighties before the pendulum swung back and enough people started clambering for the less accurate but more luxurious mechanical watches to make that business profitable again. By then Seiko was a different company.
The 7018 line of Seiko chronographs were produced by Seiko’s Daini factory (as opposed to the Suwa factory which produced the earlier serviced 6138-8021) and was marketed in Japan during the 1970’s (there must have still been hearty demand for mechanical watches there). Daini Seikosha produced a beautiful line of 7016 and 7018 chronographs which were more technologically advanced than the 6138 and 6139 chronographs being produced by Suwa Seikosha. These 70xx chronographs were also smaller and more elegant (or less sporty) which has resulted in them to be somewhat overlooked by collectors today.
The 7018-7000 came with two dial configurations: the One-Eyed Panda here (white background with a black sub-register) and the Reverse Panda (black background with a white sub-register). I personally like the Reverse Panda more but admit they are harder to find.
Taking stock of my prize I found that regardless of the ruined dial the watch worked as intended; obviously a full service was still in order and I was itching to get started. First thing’s first though- I decoded the serial number using the tool at retroseiko.com and determined this watch was manufactured in 1971 .
Taking a look at the Caseback I could see it’s the threaded type for exceptional water resistance and underneath it the movement had some scratches on the Oscillating Weight but otherwise looked quite good. Perhaps things were looking up.
I removed the Caseback to get a clearer reading from the timegrapher and although the movement functioned, it did not run well. The pre-service reading on the timegrapher was sick. It was running slow with a bit of a beat error and very little amplitude.
I released the Stem from the movement and out the movement came accompanied by the Movement Ring.
Yes, the dial was a disaster. It was a real train wreck, but under the dial things looked much better. It looked familiar too. I think there is a lot of engineering shared between the 7018 movement and the 7002 movement in my father’s watch. For example, the calendar works have a lot in common.
The automatic works (auto-winding mechanism) appears to have a lot in common with the 7002 also. Both use Seiko’s Magic Lever design which requires very few parts for operation and is dead reliable.
Inside, the chronograph mechanism is engineered in a much different manner from the Swiss chronographs I’ve written about earlier. Seiko used a vertical clutch system where the gear on the Center Chronograph Wheel turns independent of the post onto which the Chronograph Hand is attached. When the Balance Stop Lever (clutch) is disengaged, pressure from the diaphragm spring in the Center Chronograph Wheel is released locking the post to the gear wheel and rotating the Chronograph Hand. Pierce had a design back in the 1950’s was something like this (you can see the images in my earlier Pierce posts) but their movement was unreliable and fell out of favor pretty quickly. Today this vertical clutch system is the preferred design as it eliminates any hand stutter when the chronograph is first engaged.
If all that in the above paragraph sounds like gibberish, then just feast your eyes on the image below; Seiko’s genius is inescapable!
Suwa Seikosha’s 6138 and 6139 chronographs use a vertical clutch system too but they have more parts in them. If forced to chose between the two Seiko chronograph designs (Daini and Suwa) I would chose the Daini design. For one thing there are almost no wire springs in the chronograph mechanism and although wire springs are cheap to produce and easily replaced (you can form a new spring from a bit of wire) they are notorious for flying away when you are breaking down or assembling a movement and that’s always hard on my knees. Milled springs, on the other hand, are much easier to work with as each spring is secured in place with a screw.
Daini came up with a simple solution in the 7018 for resetting the minute counter of the chronograph by separating the Minute Recording Wheel Axle (on which the minute counting hand is affixed) from the Minute Recording Wheel. The two are joined via friction using a wire spring; this allows the hand to be reset to zero without rotating the Minute Recording Wheel. Slick.
Still, if there is a knock against Seiko it is that their chronograph is utilitarian and inelegant. Oh yes, all the parts you would normally expect to see are in there; they’re just engineered for a purpose and nothing more. Seiko didn’t waste a lot of time or money on making it look good on the inside, they just made it work.
Having fully broken down the watch movement, everything went into the cleaners and came back for inspection. There wasn’t anything exciting to report here and that’s because nothing was lost and nothing was broken. Joy!
As always assembly was the reverse of disassembly but this part always goes a whole lot slower because you’ve got to keep the dust out the clean movement and make sure everything installed is properly aligned and lubricated. It doesn’t help that I’m working out of the garage now- keeping things clean can be a real job. Someday I hope to have my own workshop again.
I also wish I had a few “under the microscope” images to share from assembly but I’ve been experimenting with using my iPhone for pictures instead of my wife’s digital SLR and I haven’t figured out how to get a good image through the microscope with the iPhone. I had to move away from the SLR when our old computer died and we upgraded to a new one. The new computer doesn’t accept a Compact Flash memory card nor does it like the image import software. I’ll have to come up with a new solution for good macro images.
Thanks to some good luck, no parts in the movement were replaced this go around, not even the Mainspring. This I pulled from the Mainspring Barrel, gave it a good clean, and reinstalled it in the with new braking grease. I try to avoid replacing Seiko Mainsprings as the replacements are generally New Old Stock which have also been stuck in a Mainspring Barrel for fifty years or they are ill fitting aftermarket replacements. Often times there is a bit of life left in the original spring but I know a newly manufactured one would be better.
After getting the movement together and giving it a day to settle in I checked the reading on the timegrapher and was pleased with what I saw. Seiko watches generally run at a lower amplitude than Swiss watches and a reading of 240 or 250 degrees is usually the highest amplitude I am able to muster. Here we have 238 degrees, which is just fine in my book.
But… Unfortunately during all time I was working this movement no replacement dial had come available. So I had to button things up and set the movement aside for the day my luck would change.
Several weeks passed and finally a 7018-8000 dial and case showed up on eBay. The 7018-8000 case is a lean in comparison to the more chunky 7018-7000 case and the outside of the dial is scaled from zero to 100 instead of zero to 60 but otherwise the watches are pretty much identical (Vintage Watch, Inc. has a wonderful write-up on all the 70xx models out there).
This meant I needed to remove the black stripe from the hour and minute hands to match the 7018-8000 handset so it was a good time to also replace the worn luminous paint. I first tried green lume and that was all wrong, so it was stripped and re-lumed again in white.
The movement fit perfectly in the new case which had been given a proper cleaning in preparation. I ordered a set of gaskets for the Chronograph Pushers, Crown and Caseback from Vintage Time Australia and sourced NOS crystal via eBay. There were some stumbles ahead though.
The Chronograph Pushers are secured to the case with the tiniest circlips I’ve ever seen. Despite this, I like the circlip way better than securing the pushers with the Movement Ring (as was done with the 6138-8021) but as you’ve probably guessed, disaster struck and I lost one of the circlips. I hunted and hunted for that little bugger but it was gone to Elysium. Eventually I threw in the towel and pulled a replacement from the old 7018-7000 case. Weeks and weeks passed and one day I’m using my little ball of rodico (that’s a watchmaker’s tool that is a bit like Silly Puddy) to dab dust from another movement when I feel something under my thumb. Wouldn’t you know it- that circlip was hidden in the rodico for months! Amazing.
I reinstalled the Oscillating Weight back with the movement in the case and tightened down the Caseback. Done… well after the obligatory workbench testing.
Naturally this is not a Seiko 7018-7000 watch anymore- it’s a Seiko 7018-8000. I’m not sure which of those I favor. Seiko’s 7018-8000 model seems to be a little less common then the 7018-7000. It sports a different case, a slightly different dial and handset, and a plastic crystal instead of a Hardlex crystal.
And of course I wasn’t really finished with this yet as it needed a bracelet or strap in order to be worn. I happened to have couple of older Seiko bracelets in my box of accessories and one turned out to be a good fit. That’s a good fit for the watch- sadly it’s too small for my wrist but it does look nice.
And there we have it. A 1970’s Seiko 7018-8000 One-Eyed Panda chronograph. That’s one more off the bucket list!