If you have already read my previous article on spotting fake Seiko watches, you may have learned how to distinguish the counterfeits from the real ones. Some are fairly easy to spot while others need careful scrutiny to determine whether it's fake or not.
Recently I came across an auction by a well known eBay vintage watch seller from the Philippines and what caught my attention was the fact he described the watch as "controversial". This popular Power Seller eBay merchant has never peddled fake vintage watches in the past and he would know a fake one from an original Seiko.
However, this particular watch for auction stumped the seller and after looking at photos of his listing I have to admit that the watch stumped even me. The seller couldn't verify whether this watch was a fake or probably a one-off Seiko model that nobody knew about, so he listed the watch as a "controversial Seiko diver".
Not soon after, another vintage Seiko diver fitting this description was auctioned by another seller and the subject of this watch was discussed extensively in the Seiko & Citizen Watch Forum.
Even the seasoned forum "Mythbusters" mulled over the authenticity of this so-called 6319-7040 vintage diver. I'm one of those who like participating in conspiracy theories and naturally, this particular subject caught my undivided attention.
A short background on Seiko 6309 divers
Before we go on analyzing this controversial watch, we need to know a little about the history of Seiko's 6309 divers.
In 1976 Seiko introduced its third generation 6309-704x divers to replace its ageing 6105-811x models which was due to be phased out a year later.
Oh, by the way when I use the "x" in a caseback number (e.g. 704x), it covers all variations of the watch. In other words, it includes both the 6309-7040 and 6309-7049 models which are essentially similar. The last digit denotes the export market the watch was intended - in this case a -7040 is for most overseas countries while a -7049 is specifically for the North American market.
Two popular vintage 6309 caliber divers: the 1st generation 6309-7040 (left) and the 2nd generation 6309-7290 (right)
The 6309-704x is easily identified by its fat cushion styled case (it was in fact, the only other cushion cased Seiko diver other than its predecessor, the 6105-811x), round index markers and the distinctive sword-like cross. Early 6309-704x divers were made at Seiko Japan's Suwa factory while later batches were assembled in Seiko's overseas plant in Hong Kong (now part of China).
For some reason Seiko decided to discontinue the cushion case look and its 2nd generation 6309-729x models adopted a slimmer case, almost similar to the contemporary 7s26-002x divers (such as the SKX007) that is being sold today. It also sported all-rectangular hour markers and a V-shaped 12 o'clock index.
By and large, many vintage Seiko enthusiasts prefer the 6309-704x model over the 6309-729x types. My guess is that the 6309-704x feels more comfortable on the wrist due to its expanded case shape and has that very classic vintage Seiko diver look. Another matter is the quality of the dial itself. You can easily find a used 6309-704x with almost pristine looking dials but looking for an equally well preserved 6309-729x dial is a real challenge.
Of course, there is also the ultra-rare orange dialed 6309-729B which is sought after by serious collectors and these fetch handsome prices on the used market. In fact, I know of someone who coughed up USD700 just to own a decent condition, orange 6309-729B!
Also noteworthy is mentioning the rare and very collectible, Japan market 6306 diver which looks exactly like the ubiquitous 6309-704x diver. The 6306 can be distinguished by its English/Kanji (Japanese) language day calendar and of course, its unique ability to hack the movement (to stop the second hand for time setting and synchronization).
Analysis the controversial 6319-7040 diver
There are several indications that suggest that this "6319-7040" Seiko is not an authentic model.
Let's have look at the front of the watch first. We’ll begin with looking at the case.
The case follows the cushion cased design of the original 6309-704x divers, which is the trademark of the first generation 6309 divers. I have to admit if this was a replica the shape of the case sure looks like the real thing.
Dial, hands and bezel insert
The dial and hour/minute hands are certainly patterned after the SKX007K model. Strangely enough the second hand is of a design that Seiko has never used whether in the past or current. If this watch was made during the 6309 era, the dial design falls afoul of anachronisms. Seiko only introduced this dial layout in 1996 with the birth of their 7s26-based SKX007K diver. Prior to the SKX007K, Seiko made the 7002-700x divers which, like the 2nd generation 6309-729x models, had rectangular hour markers.
Top: Note the dial index similarities of the 7002-7001 diver (left) and the 6309-729A (right). The very obvious difference is that the 7002 is a date-only watch (no day calendar).
Could the dial had been an experimental, one-off design - a precursor to the SKX007K? Could be, but it doesn't make any sense to me at all. The bezel insert also doesn't reflect the standard that Seiko used at the time. 6309 and 7002 divers had a wide triangle marker on the bezel insert with a large lume pip or indicator. This one had a small lume pip, reminiscent of SKX007K divers.
During the years of the 6309 and the 7002 divers, Seiko used the standard "Water 150m Resist" description on its watches. The suspicious watch has "Diver's 150m" instead. Seiko divers were rated to 150m water resistance from its early 62 MAS models right to their 1st generation 7002 divers and they never used the format "Diver's 150m" on the dials.
It wasn't until the later phase of the 7002 divers that Seiko upgraded the water resistance of its dive watches from 150m to 200m. Following the change, Seiko introduced the following characteristics:
A change from the traditional "Water 150m Resist" mark to "Diver's 200m".
A uni-directional rotating bezel with 120 graduations instead of 60 clicks.
The 2nd generation 7002 divers were also dubbed the "transitional divers", in reference to the upgrade from 150 meters' to 200 meters' rating. Since then all automatic Seiko dive watches were rated to 200m.
Above: A close up of the 7002 "transitional diver" dial. Note the newly introduced "Diver's 200m" print back then.
Caseback and markings
Now, let's have a look at the caseback of this "6319-7040" diver. This is where it gets really interesting!
As you can see, the caseback looks like a typical 6309-7040 diver, right down to the "Tsunami" wave symbol. It also has the usual, "Seiko" "Water Resist", "ST Steel" and "Japan A" markings, including the famous Suwa logo. Nothing suspicious about these markings as genuine 6309 divers also have them stamped on their casebacks. For a fake watch, the quality of the stamping is pretty good.
The strange thing is that it's marked "6319-7040", suggesting that it used a 6319 movement. Was this a one-off experimental diver based on the 6319 caliber?
Which leads to another question: was there such thing as a 6319 caliber? Yes, there was but Seiko used the 6319 caliber for their Seiko 5 dress and sports watches, never divers - not any that I know of anyway.
Above: Two Seiko watches using the vintage 6319 movement. Historically, Seiko never used the 6319 in their diver's models.
Here's the visual cue that tipped me off that this watch is a total forgery. If you've already perused my article on reading Seiko serial numbers, you'll know that Seiko doesn't use 8-digit serial numbers. It's usually six digits and seven digits for old Seikos predating the year 1967.
Well, this "controversial diver" had a total of 8 digits for its serial number. And it begins with "1N", suggesting that it was from November 1981. Another interesting fact is that the other watch that was auctioned actually had the same 8-digit serial number, also beginning with "1N".
What are the odds that two very rare Seiko divers have the same serial numbers? One in a million? One in a billion, perhaps? Never!
All genuine Seiko watches have unique serial numbers and no two watches of the same caliber and model can share the same serial number. It is not unusual for counterfeit Seiko producers to stamp the same serial numbers on all their fake products.
After going through all the clues and visible tell-tale signs, I have come to a conclusion that Seiko never made such thing as a 6319-7040 diver. So it's a fake Seiko diver but a rather convincing one at that.
It might interest you that this watch was sold to the highest bidder for slightly over USD180, which in my opinion, is rather a ridiculously high sum for a fake vintage Seiko diver. You can get genuine vintage 6309-704x divers (with original dials and hands) for USD130 thereabouts.
By no means I am accusing the eBay seller of listing a phony Seiko watch - it's just that he wasn't sure if it was a genuine model. Therefore he did caution potential buyers in his listing and described it as a "controversial diver".
The time-old, sensible advice "caveat emptor" (let the buyer beware) certainly applies when it come to buying mysterious vintage Seikos that you're not sure about. Do some research into the particular watch that you're about to bid or buy.
Did the winning bidder know what he was getting into when he won the watch? Well, I don't really know. He could have thought it was a genuine rare Seiko diver and was determined to win it at all costs. Then again, he may be aware that it's a fake Seiko diver and wanted it for his private collection.