Sunday, October 29, 2006

Collection Part 5 - Old watches with cool names (Marvels and others)

The two main parts of my collection are seikomatics and really old vintage seikos and fancy 70s seikos --- sorry, The three main parts of my collection are --- (OK wont go there), but really after a brief chrono elation at the start, I have always liked the vintage "old man style" watches. The clean design with well worked dials and markers is excellent. The technical evolution from the crude 9 jewel movements of the early 50s to the slim 25j caliber of the Goldfeather in the 60s is to some extent a parallell to the Japanese industrial development during this time.

As usual, Dons and Kevins summaries are very helpful for background information and most of my info here come from them as the Japansese sources are less accessible for this period than for later periods. Without their work, these posts would have been pics only;>>

Apologies for the lack of movement pics but my technical capabilities do not yet extend to opening these types of cases. Nakahiros site has excellent movement pics of a lot of these watches;>
Aos collection is also a good source for pictures.>

The epson page also contains some good info on the Super, the Marvel and the Gyro Marvel.>

The relevant timeline for this period would be;


Super (July 1950-56) Unique
Marvel (Sept 1956-)
Gyro Marvel (1959 ?) Cronos (May 1958-)
Laurel (1959-)
Crown (March 1959-)
Liner (1960-) ---- Goldfeather (Feb 1960-)
SkyLiner (1961-)- Champion (1961-)

The Super was the leading watch in the Japanese market during the first half of the 50s. It was the first centre-second watch produced by Seiko evolved from 8j through 9, 10, 11, and 15j to end up with 17j. Watches here are probably 9 and 15j.

The Super was replaced in 1956 by the Marvel. If you believe the hype by Seiko / epson, the Marvel had 7 out the the 10 best watches in Japan in 1957 and 8 out of 10 in 1958 and established the reputation of Japanese watches in the rest of the world. Suffice to say, the Marvel is probably the most well known of the vintage Japanese watches and had quite a number of technical refinements from the Super (see epson link). It did represent a large step towards the high technical quality and manufacturing effciency that was typical of Seiko watches in the first half of the 60s. The Marvel was also an evolution towards the larger watches of the 60s. The Marvels here are actually 17j and 19j even if the dials could make you think differently.

The Gyro Marvel was obviously developed from the Marvel and most descriptions say that Seiko just added an autowind function to an ordinary Marvel movement. Excellent Gyro Marvel page with pics is here. If you can watch this page and not want to buy a Gyro Marvel, you are a lier;>

As mentioned above, the Cronos was Dainis effort to counteract the Marvel and this was also a pretty advanced watch targeted towards the medium end of the market. No extra points for seeing that a second hand is missing. Rumour has it that Cronos Specials did not have second hands but I do not think that is true.

Shortly after the intoduction of the Cronos, Suwa introduced the Crown. When the Crown was introduced, it seems like the Marvel was phased out. Both the Marvel and the Crown was produced in a very large number of dials and cases and were the mainstream Seiko trademark with Marvel from about 1956-60 and Crown from 1960-64. I have seen a number of styles which the Crown obviously inherited from the Marvel. The main caliber initially for the Crown was the 560 but you also get Crowns in 57 and 57XX calibers.

It is seriously hard to research the Laurel as most hits regard the newer watches from the 90s. From what I have been able to find out, the Laurel was sold between 1959 and 1960 as a slightly cheaper brand to the Marvel. Most Laurels are very similar to Marvels but tend to have the 17j SS caliber rather then the 19j copper one of the Marvel of the same period.

As Kevin mentions, the Liner with the 3140 caliber (like the one in the pic) was the predecessor of the 62XX Seikomatic series.

It could be argued that the Skyliner should be included in the next generation as it is more contemporary to the Seikomatics and more anchored in the 62XX series than in the 2/3 digit earlier series. I have taken more of a design decision and put it with the earlier watches. This is a 402 caliber Skyliner which was first produced in 1961 and not very similar to later Skyliners (see following collections) so I will leave it here.

Don has a great post on Goldfeathers which really cannot be beaten so I will just say that this is one of my favourite watches and just let you sit back and look at the dial and hands of this GF.>

The Champion is the Daini mainstream watch from the early 60s and seems to be positioned in the market pretty much as or slightly lower then the Crown. If turns up in a number of shapes and sizes and seems (like the Crown) to be a trademark rather than a consistent line of watches. As with the Skyliner, a lot of Champions are more like Sportsmatics, Sea Horses and similar, but I have made the cut here after the dress vintage watch but before the sportier ones.

As the prices of the watches here fluctuate significantly according to quality, my price indications are less valid than for other watches. The safest indication would be to say that you pay about USD 60 for bad ones, like the Skyliner and the Laurel above, about USD 200 for the really good ones like the Goldfeather and the Gyro marvel and about USD 125-150 for the others.

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