Vintage Icons: A Seiko 6138 Chronograph Collector’s Guide

Posted by Mike Johnson on in Articles, Collector's Guides

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The 1970’s were a golden era for mechanical chronographs. From the iconic motorsports chronographs produced by Heuer to the austere military chronographs produced by Hamilton, Precista and CWC, the decade produced an incredible amount of unique vintage pieces.

Chronographs of this era are defined by their intricate dials with colorful accents, daring angular case shapes, and innovative mechanical movements. There is just something about the funky designs of the 1970’s that tick a lot of boxes for vintage collectors.

Yet some of the coolest vintage chronographs currently on the second-hand market came from Japan, most notably from Seiko. During the 1970’s Seiko released dozens of automatic chronograph models, most notably their 6138 (dual subregister) and 6139 (single subregister) line. Out of this group came several watches that have since become cult collector classics, with memorable nicknames like the “Pogue”, “Bullhead”, and “Kakume”.

And for collectors just getting into the vintage watch market, the old Seiko chronographs represents an incredible value. Although prices have been skyrocketing over the last few years, many amazing vintage Seiko watches can still be acquired for under $500. And I’d venture to say they are still cheap, considering the 6138 and 6139 line of watches represent a major milestone in horology – the world’s first automatic mechanical chronograph.

Today I’m focusing on the 6138 series of vintage Seiko watches – the much-loved dual subregister Japanese chronograph that has accrued many fans and admirers worldwide.

Vintage Seiko 6138 Model Overview

Nickname Reference Movement Size Rarity
“UFO” / “Yachtsman” 6138-001X 6138 44mm x 15.5mm x 19mm Common
“Tokai Zara” 6138-002X 6138 43mm x 15.5mm x 19mm Rare
“Kakume” 6138-003X 6138 43mm x 14mm x 18mm Common
“Bullhead” 6138-004X 6138 44mm x 16mm x 20mm Common
“Jumbo” 6138-300X 6138 42mm x 15mm x 19mm Common
“Calculator” 6138-700X 6138 44mm x 14mm x 19mm Rare
“Panda” 6138-802X 6138 40mm x 13mm x 19mm Common
“Baby Panda” 6138-800X 6138 40mm x 13mm x 19mm Rare

The 6138 Movement

Seiko 6138A Movement

Seiko 6138A Movement

The 21 jewel Seiko 6138A was first released in 1969, and was the first fully integrated two-register automatic chronograph with a column wheel and vertical clutch. An iteration of this movement was later released, called the 6138B, that had 23 jewels. Both of these movements are handwinding, automatic, and quickset day/date – an amazing technical achievement for the time, and one that beat many high-profile Swiss counterparts (including Breitling, Heuer, and Zenith) to the market.

Seiko was (and still is) one of the few distinguished watch companies in the world to produce their movements and parts in-house. From the proprietary alloys used to strengthen the mainsprings to the lubricating oils used to keep the parts moving freely, everything in this watch was produced by Seiko.

Not many companies can do this, even today, putting Seiko on-par with Rolex for achievements in technical manufacturing. In fact, it is speculated that Rolex adapted the layout of the column/wheel and vertical clutch mechanism in this movement for the Daytona, a watch that was released 30 years later.

Notes on Buying Used

The Seiko 6138 line of chronographs were affordable watches at the time of their release, and as a result they weren’t often treated with much care. That means that most vintage examples are well-used, and many of them have gone through some type of restoration or polishing.

The most important aspect of buying a used 6138 is ensuring that the movement has been recently serviced and is working well. The cost of servicing a vintage 6138 movement will likely exceed the cost of the watch itself, so take care when choosing a second-hand model.

The second most important aspect of buying these watches used is to inspect the case and ensure that no over-polishing has occurred. A hallmark of 6138 design was the intricate cases, with their blend of finishes and subtle curves and sharp lines. It’s very easy for a clumsy polishing job to completely destroy the subtle edges and facets that make these watches so attractive.

Finally, there are currently several aftermarket parts available for this model. The mineral crystal for example, is very easy to source, so don’t be put off when buying a used model that has a scratched or damaged crystal. The tachymeter bezel is also relatively easy to source, just be aware that this part may be a reproduction, and any 6138 with a spotless bezel is most likely to have other aftermarket parts. “Franken-watches” are common, and watches that contain a mish-mash of parts from several vintage models (the 6139 and 6138 had several interchangeable parts) are not as valuable as watches that contain all original parts. Buyer beware.

Seiko 6138-001X “UFO”

Seiko 6138 "UFO" (Photo Credit @timeforme84)

Seiko 6138 “UFO” (Photo Credit @timeforme84)

One of the earliest releases in the 6138 line has been lovingly coined the “UFO” by vintage Seiko fans – a tribute to it’s vaguely extraterrestrial case shape and tendency to “float” on the wrist with its hidden lugs. Also referred to by Seiko as the “Yachtsman”, this colorful chronograph is a favorite amongst collectors.

One of its primary defining features is the use of a large and small subdial, with several color schemes utilized for the accent colors on the hands and dials (red, orange and yellow).

The 6138-0010 is the Speedtimer version (Japan Domestic Market) while the 0011 and 0017 were produced for export. The differences between these two are strictly cosmetic; the 0011 has a red sweep hand, lighter orange checkerboarding on the sub dial, and no mention of water-resistance on the dial, whereas the 0017 has a yellow sweep, darker checkering and is marked 70m water-resistant.

Seiko 6138-003X “Kakume”

Seiko Kakume (photo credit @Jen.Sen71)

Seiko Kakume (photo credit @Jen.Sen71)

The “Kakume” is a highly collectable model in the 6138 range, and is named for its two square subdials (“Kakume” is Japanese for “Square Eyes”). It can be found in two colors, blue and a champagne colored dial (which is the rarer of the two options). There is also a JDM version that is branded with “5 Sports Speed-Timer”, while the exported versions were labeled with “Chronograph Automatic”. The champagne dial has a radial brushed satin finish with an orange outer track and black subdials, whereas the blue version has white subdials and a blue outer track. Both variants have solid orange hands on the main dial and subdials.

It has a large 43mm case, with short and narrow lugs (only 18mm), which can look a bit strange when compared to the proportions of modern sport watches of that size. It’s a beautiful combination of brushed and polished finishes, with many facets and curves that were a hallmark of Seiko design at the time.

The 6138-003 came with two bracelet styles, an angled oyster style bracelet (export) and a fishbone styled bracelet (JDM). These bracelets are incredibly difficult to find individually, so make sure the watch you’re purchasing comes with the original hardware.

Seiko 6138-004X “Bullhead”

Seiko 6138 Bullhead (photo credit @Jen.Sen71)

The “Bullhead” 6138 is widely considered to be the most sought after model in the 6138 series. The nickname “Bullhead” is widely shared across many brands, and it generally refers to chronographs with pushers positioned at the top of the watch case (“Bull horns”). Although never really adopted in modern watch cases, the design was intended to prevent the wearer from accidentally setting off the chronograph while wearing the watch. My guess is that this wasn’t actually that big of a problem as they thought it might be.

The “Bullhead” was released in two primary colorways, a brown version with a reddish-brown dial/bezel inlaid with golden subdials, and a black version with steely blue subdials and black bezel. It’s big, measuring in at 44mm in diameter and 16mm thickness. This makes it one of the bulkiest watches that Seiko has ever produced, so don’t expect it to slide under your shirt cuff.

Like many other 6138s, this watch had two releases (one domestic and one export). The “Sports-timer” (JDM) release actually differs from the export in two primary ways, most notably the bracelet style and presence of lume on the dial.

Finding one with the original bracelet can be tricky, and there are two variants to look for. The “JDM” version have a steel oyster style bracelet engraved with “Seiko Speedtimer”, the export versions had a fishbone style bracelet engraved with “Chronograph Automatic”. Both variants were asymmetrical, meaning they had different sizes for the top and bottom lugs, and this can be an easy way to determine if the bracelet is original.

Seiko 6138-300X “Jumbo”

Seiko 6138 Jumbo

(photo credit @Jen.Sen71)

Although both the “UFO” and “Bullhead” are larger than this watch on paper, the counter-intuitively named “Jumbo” actually appears the largest visually. The reason is that the dial itself extends all the way to the outside of the case, and the lack of bezel really accentuates the size of the watch face.

The “Jumbo” has a stripped-down, military-inspired design that uses yellow hands to accent the stark black and white dial. Subdials protrude slightly into the outer track, which is also slightly raised, giving the dial a bit more visual dimension.

Of all the 6138 watch designs, the “Jumbo” may actually be the most classic looking, and appears similar to many of the designs Seiko still releases today. At 42mm, it is also quite wearable, despite what its nickname may suggest.

Seiko 6138-700X “Calculator”

Seiko 6138 "Calculator" (Photo Credit @golfsohol95)

Seiko 6138 “Calculator” (Photo Credit @golfsohol95)

The 6138-7000 – known as the “Calculator” – is one of the most unique 6138 chronographs available. It features a double external bezel, one rotating and one fixed, to carry out a host of mathematical calculations. Although made completely obsolete by digital calculators, performing these calculation mechanically is quite amusing. Those familiar with using a slide rule should be able to utilize the 6138-7000’s bezels with little effort.

One thing that makes this model unique to the entire series is the use of acrylic glass instead of the Seiko proprietary Hardlex. Although Hardlex is much more durable than acrylic, the plexiglass crystal was much more common on watches of this era and definitely adds to its vintage character.

It was only available in one color configuration, black and red, and is difficult to find on the used market. As a result, prices can be a little higher for this unique iteration of the 6138.

Seiko 6138-802X (Panda)

Seiko 6138 Panda (Photo Credit @somwatches)

Seiko 6138 Panda (Photo Credit @somwatches)

One of the coolest looking vintage chronographs on the market, the 6138-8020 is quite possibly the perfect vintage chronograph. Drawing visual comparisons to the Chronomatic watch released by Hamilton during the same time period, this 40mm watch with contrasting black and white dials may be the most wearable of the bunch.

It’s worth noting there is also a “Baby Panda” model, marked 6183-801x. This version was also 40mm, but had smaller subdials than its more popular sibling. This model is extremely rare though, with mostly damaged and non-working examples found on the market.

“Panda” watches are extremely popular amongst collectors, and the price of this one in particular has rapidly increased over the years. Still, compared to the Hamilton Chronomatic, or the Heuer Autavia, it’s one of the most affordable of the iconic vintage panda chronographs.


Sometimes overlooked by serious collectors for their affordability and ubiquity, there is no denying that the popularity of vintage Seiko chronographs is on the rise. Although the 6139 line of single-register chronographs seems to get the most recognition, the dual-register 6138s are just as cool and make a great everyday vintage piece.

These watches have fantastic designs, a real horological pedigree, and are common enough to keep prices relatively affordable. That makes the Seiko 6138 a great starting point for those looking to purchase their first vintage chronograph. And if you follow a few common sense rules, you should be able to find a piece that will serve you reliably for years to come.

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About the Author

Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson is the managing editor and primary contributor to Born into a military family as the son of US Navy pilot, Mike spent many of his formative years studying Computer Science and User Experience Design. When not obsessing over watches, Mike spends time hiking, traveling, and spending time with his family in Phoenix, Arizona.

Comments 33

  1. Gareth Thomas

    Hey Mike,

    Can I pick your brains ? My Dad has a ‘Jumbo’ that he bought when he was in the Marines (Royal) in ’75. We are having trouble in that we can’t find someone who can repair the watch, but we have found out that it is apparently down to a single worn part. Have you any suggestions as to what/where we could look to getting it repaired – the closest we have got was in one Seiko dealer who’s eyes popped when he saw the watch and it was he who said what part had worn but that he could not get it repaired although he did offer my father a £500 voucher as a straight swap for the watch which was declined.

    The watch has many fond memories attatched and so I would really like to get it repaired for Dad as a gift.

    Thanks for your time and well done on producing such an interesting site.


    1. Post
      Mike Johnson

      Gareth, most of the reputable Seiko repair guys seemed to be booked out for months, unfortunately. I’ve heard good things about Seth from Hub City Vintage though ( — you could try reaching out and seeing if he has any availability.

    2. Phil Nash

      Did you get your Dad’s watch sorted?
      There is a guy her in Victoria Australia who specialises only in Seiko’s and calls it straight.
      Let me know if you need his contact details.

      1. Clark Davey

        I lived in Melbourne and have an 8020 that needs some work. Can you please send me the contact details for the specialist repairer?
        Many Thanks

        1. Chris Finley

          Clark, you\’ll want to contact Adrian at Vintage Time Australia. He serviced a 6138-3002 for me and did a great job.

  2. Tom Hickman

    Hi, this popped up on a forum recently. It’s a good guide but a couple of things would make it better – please can you change out the pictures of the jumbo and the calculator that have aftermarket parts in them – this is just going to be too confusing for anybody reading it.

    The 0011 and 0017 reference to the UFO did not change the colour of the sweep/sub dial indices. Nor did it dictate if the dial had ‘resist’ on it.

    Calculator is not the only 6138 with an acrylic – the Panda also has the acrylic.

    The Kakume has a third, Stelux, bracelet. It’s a bit odd in that the end links are just straight. Some think it’s a service replacement – maybe, but I see many original examples with that bracelet.

  3. Bruce Mahlin

    Question : The Jumbo I have has the days of the week in English and Spanish. Are they all that way? Watch has no band crystal is slightly chipped otherwise is in great shape. Any idea as to its value???

    1. Post
      Mike Johnson

      The US Market watches have Spanish/English date wheels and the JDM models have English/Kanji date wheels … as far as value, they usually go between $400 and $600 dollars depending on condition.

    2. Cobrajet

      Which secondary language a watch has depends on where it was originally shipped. A watch shipped to the United States would likely have an English/Spanish daywheel, as Spanish is a very common secondary language here. One shipped to Canada, on the other hand, would have an English/French daywheel for the same reason.

      A watch shipped to Germany would have an English/German daywheel, one sent to the Middle East would often be English/Arabic, etc. Some daywheels are rather uncommon…like English/Dutch, English/Portuguese, or English/Thai.

      All daywheels feature English.

  4. Bruce Mahlin

    Thank you for the quick reply.
    Mine functions perfectly, case is about 95%, dial, hands etc. Like new. Guess I’ll have it serviced, new crystal installed and scrounge up the correct bracelet. As much as I dislike jap stuff sometimes ya have to go with what you have…

  5. Francois

    Hello, I’m a happy owner of a very nice / mint dial 6138-8020. I have a question though…I’m trying to find out if the case should have some brushed parts ( sides ) ? Mine is fully polished but still have sharp edges.
    Couldn’t find any reliable info on the internet…
    Thanks for your help !

    1. Paal

      Francois, fully polished case is correct. I have seen brushed cases, but that’s not original. Sharp edges are a great thing!

  6. Scott Lang

    I have a 6138-0011 that I bought in Viet Nam in “71. I have to take exception to the description of the dial face of this watch, specifically the statement “..and no mention of water-resistance on the dial”. Mine definitely has, under the day/date windows, the following: WATER70mRESIST . Except for that, the description of my 6138-011 is correct. And yes I have checked the numbers numerous times it is a 0011 and not a 0017.

    1. Cobrajet

      Early watches…up to sometime in 1972…have water resistance indicated on the dial. Later watches do not. It has nothing to do with the case number.

      This is true not only with the 6138, but also with most Seiko sports watches (except for divers).

      It is also worth noting that the early versions of this model have shorter hands than later models.

  7. Cobrajet

    Great article! Not to nitpick, but as someone who has been collecting these for nearly 20 years I thought I might offer a few small corrections as I am sure many eyes will see your work…

    The 6138A was introduced in 1970, not 1969, and it had 21 jewels. The 6139 was released in May of 1969, with serial production having started in January of that year. Why did the “6139” precede the “6138”? The design for the 6138 was started first, but, being a simpler movement, the 6139 was readied for production first.

    The 6138B was introduced sometime in late 1971 or early 1972. It was produced in two versions: a very common 21 jewel version, and a VERY rare 23 jewel version (almost always seen in JDM watches).

    There are a couple models missing on this list: the 6138-8010 and the 6138-803x. The 6138-8010 is very, very rare, and was only made for the Japanese market. It was only offered with a blue sunburst dial. The 6138-803x is fairly common, and was offered with a black dial/blue subdials or a black dial/gold subdials. The -8030 is the smallest 6138 in terms of diameter at only about 40mm.

    The nickname “Yachtman” (no ‘s’) for the 6138-001x comes from an old magazine advertisement put out by the marine products division of a company called Unimetrics back in the early 1970s. While this was a real vintage print ad for Seiko watches, the ad was NOT created by…nor was the watch named by…Seiko themselves.

    I really enjoyed the read!

    1. Mike

      Great value added to the read! Thank you so much for your input, i am just starting out my journey as a SEIKO collector and this level of knowledge is impressive at the least. Do you have a Channel on Youtube or a website with more information? Merry christmas and stay safe, best regards, Mike of sweden

  8. Ditoy_Eagle

    Nice read!

    Agree that the article forgot to mention the most coveted that costs highest among the 6138s – the “Grail” JDM 8010 with the “Cotes de Geneve” metallic iridescent blue with racing stripe dial.

    Also needs to mention the JDM 23 jewel Jumbo, more coverage on the high valued baby pandas 6138-8000 and no lume -8001s.

  9. Kral

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    Kral saat / King Watch

  10. Tom

    I’ve got a 6138-0020 Tokai Zara in beautiful condition. I am looking for an original bracelet for this model, and would appreciate any information on fitment and what the original bracelet looked like, or if there are any close 2nd’s that would work well for this case?

  11. Harlan Brown

    My Seiko was totally restores and appraised a few years back. However its number is 6138-0017. Can you tell me something about it?


  12. Joseph Mollica II

    I have inherited a Seiko 6138-7000T. A friend of my father’s has done a great deal of business in Japan since the mid 60’s. He purchased this watch in Japan around 1969/1970 time frame. It does not have the bubble crystal nor the slide rule dials. I had the watch cleaned up and a light restoration. The problem is that the watchmaker was unable to make the watch water resistant any longer. Do you know of someone who can service that and make it like new again? I can send a photo if you like. The day date is in English and Japanese. It keeps great time and it is a piece my father wore for near 35 years.

    thank you


      Hi Joseph, I have a 6138-8020 Panda and bought it new in 1974 when I was stationed in Thailand. Last year (2023) I sent it to the Seiko servicing center in New Jersey. They restored it to running condition, however, they don’t have any gaskets/seals or crystals (and very few other replacement parts for 6138’s) and told me it couldn’t be restored to the original water resistance rating. They recommend I don’t even wash my hands while wearing it. I then contacted a very good watchmaker (Rolex certified) in my area and he replaced the cracked crystal. Despite his large supply of watch parts, he didn’t have any gaskets/seals that fit my watch, either. He also recommends that I don’t splash water on it. With that, I am just grateful that I can again wear my old vintage watch. It certainly is an eye-catcher.

      Sadly, we may never be able to find that rare watchmaker out there who has the necessary parts to make our watches water resistant to the original 70 meter rating.

      I hope you continue to wear your fine watch. There are a few of us watch aficionados that appreciate and want to see them.

      1. Jake Lewis

        I’ve heard nothing but problems with the official Seiko service center in New Jersey and vintage watches – and sending a serviced watch out with the original rock-hard gaskets still in place is, in my opinion, professionally negligent.
        Just have your local watchmaker search ebay for “Seiko 6138 gasket kit” and buy the appropriate one for your model. These aftermarket kits consist of a case-back gasket, a crown, and 2 pusher gaskets – I’d recommend the bright blue sets from VTA. The crystal gasket can also be replaced on some models, but often the original is still pliable and effective. A watchmaker, even a non-seiko specialist, will have no problems installing these, and can test then to 70m if requested.

        However, I’ve seen many of these vintage Seikos with some degree of pitting upon the surface of the case-back gasket tracks, so full 70m waterproofness may never be attained, but should be fine for handwashing etc.

  13. NetNajem

    wow, I had no idea there was so many cool mechanical Seiko chronographs in the 1970’s. I think the SEIKO 6138 “CALCULATOR” is my favourite. Awesome photography btw.

  14. John Hedge

    Have a Pogue and a Jumbo, both in good condition, purchased by my mother on trips to Fiji from New Zealand in the late 60s early 70s. Buying good quality watches in NZ back then was expensive, and supply spasmodic and scarce. So I am very grateful to my mother to start my interest in watches way back then. If I remember correctly the Pogue was $48NZ in Fiji. As a guide that was about the average weekly wage back then, and milk was 3 cents a pint!
    I wear the Jumbo occasionally, and keeps far better time than my daily Omega Speedmaster. The Jumbo never been serviced in nearly 50 years, and still nearly 100% accurate. I’m a long time Seiko fan, always have been, always will be. Maybe I should be collecting more.

  15. robert m brady

    I have a 6138B ,From when we stopped in Japan,on the way back from Vietnam 6/12/72 . I just had my watchmaker do a total overhaul after 48 years, searching for original parts took a year. he found a perfect bezel and crystal and the parts. never seen any 23 jewels version. A very comfortable leather band. It’s worth everything to me. Curious what YOU think money?

  16. JohnnyM

    Great article. Left out the 6138-8030/8039 “John Player Special” and the 6138-8010 “Grail” but otherwise spot on. If the 6138 was a Swiss watch, they would be way more pricy than they are now. Great, great value. Mildly difficult to find a qualified watchmaker willing to work on and service them.

  17. Alex

    Hi there,
    I have my father’s watch watch which is a golden bracelet and bezel “Black Panda” 6138 8020. It is a lovely watch and we have no plans to sell it, but I can’t seem to find much regarding whether it is more or less common than the regular panda?

  18. Thomas Kumar

    hi, have a seiko chronograph tachymeyer 70 meter blue inside 6138-8030 automatic watch bought brand new in around 1969-70-in fiji islands–looking around $1600 ono australian dollars,02/05/2024–thomas–.watch still works

  19. Jake Lewis

    I believe the Bullhead design was a feature that allowed the chrono to be used one handed. You loosen the watch strap and slide it down from your wrist to the palm of your hand, gripping it with your fingers, and use your thumb to operate the buttons at the top – just like a real stopwatch. This frees your other hand to write down the readings from the racetrack on your clipboard!

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