Hands-On Review – Swapping a 1972 Rolex Datejust 1603 for a 1976 Seiko 6139-6002 Pogue

Here at Beyond The Dial, we give each other a fair amount of shit for our respective favorite watches. Allen goes on and on about his 1972 Rolex Datejust 1603 as if this fairly common watch were special to anyone but himself, and David has become something of a Seiko Pogue pusher-man here in the Hudson Valley. But Allen and David are co-curious about the Datejust and the Pogue, so they swapped for a week.

The Skinny

1972 Rolex Datejust 1603

  • No longer in production: $3100 US in Nashville in 2018
  • 36mm wide
  • Cal 1560 (autowinding, no quickset date)

1976 Seiko 6139-6005 ‘Pogue’

  • No longer in production: ~$1000 US for a good example
  • 41mm
  • Cal 6139B (autowinding chronograph, 30 minute register, quick set day and date)

Day 1

David

Allen dropped off his vintage Datejust in the morning but much of the first day was curtailed by a cub scout camp. I did not feel comfortable wearing someone else’s vintage watch in an outdoor situation although I know Allen would have been fine with me using my judgement. I erred on the side of caution and left it at home, but in the end, it was the first glorious spring day we had in the Hudson Valley, and I would have been just fine wearing the Datejust.

In the evening I wore the Datejust for dinner and post-prandial drinks on our deck as the sun went down behind the Ramapo Mountains. The Datejust felt perfect in that situation with the golden sunlight catching the engine-turned bezel and making the aged dial glow. I suspect the vintage Datejust fits in just about anywhere at anytime. At 36 mm it hits my personal sweet spot, although with a thicker bezel than I am used to, it wears a little smaller than the 36mm vintage Seikos I am used to.

Allen’s vintage Datejust at sundown

Allen

Picked up the Pogue at David’s house and was immediately intrigued by the dial layout. As chronographs go, this is stripped back. Like my newly acquired Aquastar Deepstar, there is just one subdial (the 30-minute totalizer at 6-o’clock) making for a clear and simple chronograph. I had no idea that the crown turns the inner 60-minute timing ring when in the closed position. In other words, you can’t hand crank the Seiko Pogue, but you gain the ability to instantly measure elapsed time of either the minute or hour hand.

Day 2

David

Sunday’s schedule called for a little light baseball practice in the morning with the family – a task the Datejust was easily up to. I changed out the strap in the afternoon for a socially distanced picnic on the first day of spring. I can confirm this watch fits in just about any situation I am likely to find myself in. It transcends defined styles and I can see why they are popular – they typically fly under the radar due to their vintage size. 

That evening I started to connect with the watch. Unlike vintages watches that I have bought from dealers, I knew some of the history of this watch so when I contemplated it, I was aware of the other places this watch had been, where it was bought, how much it cost and the road trip it had taken across the US after its purchase.  Those experiences seemed embodied with the watch in some metaphysical sense. I imagined that this watch would be able to tell me some crazy stories of its former life. I don’t get that from my vintage Seiko pieces bought from auction sites or dealers.

Allen

Easy watch to wear. Had it out on the new Moto Guzzi, and it happened to peak out from between my glove and jacket, looking very sporty. At my desk it’s comfortable and slides under my shirt cuffs easily. Uncle Seiko bracelet is impressive.

Day 3

David

The DJ came off the wrist today as I received one new watch for my collection which needed to be worn for a bit to assess and I also have watches in for review that need some wrist time. I took the opportunity of leaving the DJ on the timegrapher and the results were impressive. The watch is no longer keeping chronometer time as professed on the dial but does have a very stable trace and no beat error or much positional variance so as far as vintage watches go, its results are rock solid.

Allen

I’m still not bored, and am actually pretty delighted by the Pogue. I can see how this was a serious tool watch back in the day, with chronometer-grade precision, multiple functions, and sporty colors. Did people wear these all day in the late 1960s, or were these Pogues just for specific tasks? I get the sense that it was sold as a pretty serious tool, not as a fashion item, but the choice of the funky gold dial (and other shimmering colorways) suggests that tool watches were becoming fashionable.

Day 4

David

After a day on the timegrapher the Datejust is back on my wrist. I confess I had missed it a little; not massively but enough to be significant, given that I had possessed the watch for merely 3 days at this point. Putting the Datejust back on got me thinking of how we imprint memories onto objects and how it is not an arbitrary process. As Aynsley and Breward state in “Design and Evocation” the capacity for an object to be associated with memories is not just defined by the owner and the situation at hand but also by more ‘materialistic’ quantities of the object itself. For example, by the materials they’re made from, the historical importance of the object before the meeting of object and memory, and even, the societal value of the object. I feel that the Rolex Datejust has more significance than many other vintage watches, so I think it lends itself inherently to memory imprinting. 

Allen

Why doesn’t Seiko reissue the Pogue? Done with exactitude and none of that distracting “Prospex” branding, I’d think a reissue would be an instant sell-out, even at high numbers. Make 5000 of them – woosh, gone, I’m sure of it. Enough with the almost-accurate divers, Seiko. Give us the Pogue reborn! 

Side note: I’m realizing I don’t miss my watches if other people are enjoying them; what pains me is watches I adore living in a box. Glad David has my Datejust.

Day 5

David

I hate the cyclops. I really do. I know they are synonymous with Rolex in general and DJs in particular but I fundamentally disagree with their presence. The date window on this watch is not so small that it even needs a cyclops in my opinion. Furthermore, the cyclops is a terrible engineering solution to the problem by enhancing the display when seen from one angle only to the detriment of almost all other viewing angles. As I sit and type this, and I roll my wrist, I cannot see the date, just the highly distorted, corner of the date window. However, this is an old argument so let’s not dwell on it. 

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!

Allen

I really don’t understand why a watch with a soft-boiled egg yoke for a dial and a Pepsi bezel feels so versatile witj an abundance of outfits, but it does. Maybe the Pogue is just so non-matching that it just works, like a red cardinal in a pine forest, or a simple gold broach on an all black dress. I also think that older watches with scratches and so on kind of blend in better: perhaps a visual softening, as unpolished older watches are not quite as shiny as a brand new watch. But I’m also guessing (based on the watch’s age) that this dial was varnished with nitrocellulose clear coat, which would have yellowed by now. This yellowed varnish seems to add a luster and depth to the egg-yoke dial, which stands in mild-but-visible contrast to the rotating 60-minute inner timing bezel, which appears to be plastic.

Day 6

David

Aesthetically, what sets this Datejust apart for me are the many subtle hues on display. The engine-turned bezel is the main player here, framing the dial in alternating highlight and shadow. However, the case patina also ensures that no two steel surfaces on the case are exactly the same color. This subtle color variation is also played out on the dial which has lost some of its clarity and taken on a subtle golden hue. When I look at this Datejust I see a hundred different shades of grey and I love that. It has real visual depth that I am not sure a new example would possess.

Allen

Well, the auto-winding rotor in this example sometimes doesn’t spin, and with the lack of a hand-cranking feature at the crown, the sedentary nature of my existence has been made clear as the watch continually stops running (David: I know, I know… it needs a service). This is an interesting concept, when I think about it, because if one had a mechanical watch that stopped after the allotted stationary period before getting up and moving (as one should, and as I don’t), perhaps there’s a mechanical health reminder mechanism to be built.  An alarm watch would do the trick better, I suppose, but where’s the fun in that? 

Either way, I’m playing it Warhol-Tank style and am no longer wearing the Pogue for the time of day, but purely as a fashion item.

Day 7

David

My feelings have crystallized. I love these light and dark textures and the monochromatic appearance. I find the dial a tad small even for a 36mm watch but that is partly the pie-pan dial and partly just a corollary of the gorgeous and archetypal bezel. I have not yet monetioned how comfortable the Datejust is. It is no real surprise, given that the watch is 36mm across and only 12 mm thick, even with its chunky vintage crystal. It’s a watch that I forget I am wearing most of the time… until it catches my gaze of course. 

Allen

Oddly, I think more about this watch having gone to space than I did with Greg’s Omega Speedmaster during our previous swap. Perhaps it’s because Commander Pogue just kind of brought it along for the ride, which is something I would have done, I think, even in a strict military-grade setting like a NASA mission. I’d probably try to bring a lot of stuff to space that I shouldn’t. Anyways, I like this Pogue guy if only for his slightly deviant act of bringing an unofficial Japanese chronograph into space with him. It’s amazing to me that Seiko hasn’t glommed onto that story and built it up and issued new Pogues. That story makes the vintage Pogues that much cooler.

Conclusions

David

The design definitely works better for me as a whole rather than in the individual details. Looking at the case shape it’s a bit amorphous and there is no real finesse there… just simple functional curved lugs and a polished case side. The engine turned bezel and the sunburst dial however are highlights for me that raise the visual appeal of the watch on the wrist to the next level. There is just such depth there. The proportions are excellent. The watch could even be called svelte if it was not for chunky raised vintage style crystal and its cyclops. Ahhh… the cyclops. I have never been a fan of them and the Datejust has not changed my mind, iconic though it is. In closing, I suspect for most people, including myself, a vintage Datejust might just be the perfect vintage watch for almost every situation.

Allen

I’ve learned that I prefer single-register chronographs like the Pogue and my new Aquastar Deepstar. My complaints about chronographs seem to go up with the number of subdials present, because I personally have a hard time knowing where to put my eye when using the stopwatch feature on most chronographs. I’ve also learned that I don’t care if a watch model went to space or not, or whether it was used to do X, Y or Z here on Earth. Apparently I don’t even care if the watch runs. What I care about is how a watch makes me feel.

The Pogue made me feel like an insider. I knew that if I had to tell someone about this watch, I’d have quite a bit to say about Seiko, about the Pogue connection with space, about the particularly cool feature set on this model, and so on. I think I feel cool partly because there hasn’t been a modern recreation of the Seiko Pogue, because this watch isn’t skyrocketing in value like a Rolex, and because just about no one other than watch nerds knows or cares about this watch. That’s in stark contrast to the Omega Speedmaster, which has been recreated to such an extent that the NASA connection feels a bit played out, because lots of people will recognize the Omega logo – and perhaps the Speedy itself – and because there’s less insider knowledge required to understand the heavily marketed Speedy.

I’m also quite floored that this is an auto-winding chronograph with an internal 60-minute timing bezel and a day-date function, and – with all that complexity – Pogues (as of this writing) are still well under $2000. It’s a hell of a lot of watch, and if the style and size work for you, I’d highly recommend the Seiko Pogue as a possible first vintage timepiece.