Awww geeze, not another blog!

Welcome to A Fine Blade!

This blog will focus one of my lifelong passions and one of man's most basic tools - the knife!

As time and events permit we'll tiptoe into other territory where we can use the knife as a metaphor in discussions about current events and have a little politically incorrect fun.

Because you see, knives rank just below guns as the most politically incorrect subject on the web today.

Guns & Knives = Bad. Gay Marriage & Recreational Drug Use = Good

We'll see if we can't have some fun with that.

So stay tuned, and welcome aboard!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Keeping Time

Let's wander off the reservation a bit and talk about watches.

I'm a traditionalist. I like my guns to have cylinders that rotate. I like my knives to be made of steel and leather. And I like my time pieces to be all mechanical.

Now, I'm no Luddite. The folding knife in my pocket has synthetic handle scales, I own a lot of Glocks (the original 'Tactical Tupperware'), and the watch I wear most often has a quartz movement.

But show me a traditional Colt Single Action Army, or a Randall Model 1 with a stacked leather handle or an Omega Speedmaster and my heart will skip a beat or two. But alas, I can't afford a Colt Single Action, the wait time for a Randall likely exceeds the time I have left on this earth and my wife would kill me if she spotted a Speedmaster on my wrist. So I make do the best I can. Ruger Blackhawks, some nice Ka-Bars, and for wrist watches a Seiko diver or two.

Today we'll talk about Seiko Divers, and in particular the rugged, almost bomb-proof Model SKX009.

Seiko SKX009

I've owned several Seiko dive watches down through the years. The first one, a gift from my wife back around 1985, was Seiko's earlier 6309 model. She bought it for me from the Post Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany when I was assigned to the US V Corps HQ. I was thrilled. I had my 'high end' diver. At a time when you could pick up a plain-jane Rolex Oyster through the PX system for about $700 this Seiko was a bit pricey at something like $200. Two hundred bucks was a lot of money to us in those days (particularly with a new baby) and I really appreciated her gift.

Seiko 6309 circa 1980

The 6309 became my daily wear piece. I doubt I took it off even to shower. It got banged up in the normal course of my military duties, the original band ended up being replaced several times over and then one day about five years after Roberta gave it to me it just stopped running. I had a local watch repair shop take a look at it and they reported the bad news - one of the seals had failed, water had leaked into the movement and rusted everything up. The cost of repair exceeded the value of the watch so I just tossed it and moved on.

For a few years I got pulled over to the dark side, aka, Casio G-Shocks. The G-Shock line came out at about the same time my Seiko died. The military fell in love with the G-Shocks. They were inexpensive, rugged and as accurate as a Swiss chronometer. In fact, I've been told that the Air Force began issuing them to their flight crews and para-rescue personnel. The best part was (from a budget perspective) that they were so cheap they were considered expendable. When they stopped working (usually because the battery died) you just threw them away and issued a replacement.

I own a number of Casio G-Shocks. They are all wonderfully accurate (particularly the ones that sync with the atomic time signal from Fort Collins, Colorado). But they are machines without a soul - overly complex, often difficult to read, gimmicky and difficult to use. When the manufacturer has to provide a 20 page instruction manual that's your clue that the gimmicks have overwhelmed the basic functionality.

I need a watch to do two things - display accurate time in a format that is intuitive and easy to read under all conditions and provide a tool for simple timing tasks, like tracking how long the steaks have been on the grill. With its rotating timing bezel the Seiko diver watch accomplishes these tasks with a healthy dose of manly panache.

Let's keep it simple. I like guns with cylinders that rotate, knives with wooden handles and watches
with mechanical guts

But I'm under no allusions; the Seiko SKX009 is no Swiss chronometer, or even close to it. While the quality of materials and construction is very high the movement that Seiko puts into these watches offers only middling accuracy and limited features. The Seiko 7s26 movement is a watch movement born of compromise, designed for ease of automated production, ease of service and ruggedness. These movements can be accurate, and I've got watches that use this movement that can hold to less than 20 seconds/day, but I've got other watches using the same movement that struggle to hold to a minute a day. By comparison I have a watch that sells in the same price range as the Seiko SBX009 that uses an analogue quartz movement and it holds to 15 seconds per month.

The 7s26 movement with the winding rotor removed.
Seiko manufactures these by the tens of thousands each year,
Keep in mind that the movement is less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
and most of the production is done by robots!

The 7s26 is a 21-jewel automatic movement, meaning it is self winding, but it lacks the ability to hand wind the mainspring and it lacks a hacking feature. Hacking is when you pull out the main (winding) stem and the second hand stops. This feature is extremely useful when you want to synchronize your watch with another time piece to gauge its accuracy.

So, it's a 'good enough' movement. How about the rest of the watch? Well this is really where Seiko shines. Seiko is rightfully proud of its SKX-series of watches and that shows in the overall quality of construction of these time pieces. Polished stainless steel cases, screw-down case backs and crowns with waterproof seals, extremely bright luminescent paint on the watch dial, high quality stainless steel or rubber watch bands and ISO certified water resistance down to 200 feet. These watches are rugged and slick looking little beasts.

It's been beaten up, beaten on and neglected. And it's still ready to go!

Seiko knows it has a winner on its hands and dresses its Diver line up in a wide variety of dial, hand, bezel and strap combinations. This drives collectors mad, but that's the whole idea. There is an incredibly strong collector market for modern and vintage Seiko diver models that spans the globe, fueled by folks who are captivated by the concept of a relatively inexpensive, rugged and good looking diving watch that offers outstanding service and value.

I think that describes me...

Stay sharp!

- Brian

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