Seiko Baselworld 2019 Predictions

With about six months to go before Baselworld 2019 I thought that I would note down my predictions for what Seiko will release at the show. I expect that 2019 will be a very exciting year for Seiko with a wide range of models likely to be released. The trend of releasing vintage reissues will undoubtedly continue so by examining the history of the company it will give some indications of the models that may be released.

Looking back through the company history there is a few obvious models that are likely to have reissues in 2019. The first model that would be impossible to overlook is the original Astron the 35SQ (35-9000). This was the first commercially available quartz watch that was released to the public 50 years ago on 25th December 1969.

As the Astron was one of the industry’s most influential models ever released and this is the 50th Anniversary it would be an almost certainty that this model is reissued. Previously there was a reissue of the Astron that was part of the 2000 Historical Collection. This model (SCQZ002) was a limited edition of 500 pieces and came with an 18K gold case and 9F61 quartz movement rated at ±5 seconds per year.

There was also a 40th reissue model that was released in 2009, this Commemorative Edition was a limited edition of 200 units. The model (S23617J1) was fitted with a 9F62 movement and had a titanium and ceramic case modelled on the original case design. The movement was fitted with a date complication, hopefully any reissue will not have any complications as the 35SQC (calendar/date) was released in 1970.

I would expect a 2019 reissue to be configured with a solid 18K gold case and 9F movement. Hopefully the case finish will be the same as the original model as the 2000 reissue had a different texture. The 9F movement should hopefully just be a simple three handed movement with no additional complications and I would expect this to be rated at ±5 seconds per year.

While highly unlikely it would be fantastic if Seiko use this opportunity to release an updated 9F movement with increased accuracy and functionality. Seiko first issued a movement rated at ±5 seconds per year in 1978 with the release of the caliber 9983A in the QGA010. The Citizen A660 movement used in some of their Chronomaster models is rated at an annual ±5 seconds, has an independently adjustable hour hand so you do not have to reset the watch when adjusting for travel or DST, and a perpetual calendar. I have a Chronomater A660 based watch and find it to have excellent performance. After more than five years, and erratic wear patterns, the watch was running fast by just 18 seconds. This year Citizen announced the prototype caliber 0100 to commemorate the companies 100th Anniversary that was rated at ±1 second per year.

Citizen has publicly stated that this technology will find its way into production models in 2019, so I would expect announcements at Baselworld from them.

I would love to see Seiko release an updated movement with increased accuracy and functionality as a real statement of their leadership in quartz technology. A new accurate non-date version with independent hour hand for the 35SQ reissue and and range of other new models with ±5 seconds, independent hour hand and a perpetual calendar function.

The recently released 9F86 GMT movement provides the ability to independently adjust the hour hand and can be regulated to ±5 seconds per year so this movement design may form the basis of any new 9F caliber.

In addition to a 35SQ re-release I would expect related Grand Seiko 9F models with a similar case design but made from different materials and new dial designs with Grand Seiko branding to be announced. Even if there is not a new 9F caliber I would expect to also see announcements of new models based on the 9F86 caliber to be part of the general releases from Grand Seiko next year. I would obviously also expect at least a couple of new Hi-Beat and Spring Drive models from the brand.

Another movement type that is experiencing an Anniversary in 2019 is the Spring Drive. This technology was first released to the public, twenty years ago in 1999, a year after a prototype movement was shown at Baselworld.

At launch there were three models of Spring Dive released. These were the Credor GBLG999 (7R78-0A10) with a platinum case in a Limited Edition of 100 units, the Seiko SBWA002 (7R68-0A20) with a solid 18K case in a Limited Edition of 300 units and finally the SBWA001 (7R68-0A10) with a distinctive stainless steel case in a Limited Edition of 500 pieces. It is the SBWA001 model that is typically used as the reference model when you see advertising and publicity materials for the Spring Drive launch.

The two movements (7R68 and 7R78) were mechanically the same but the 7R78 had a gold plated finish and was marked Credor instead of Seiko to differentiate it. Both movements were a thirty jewel, hand wind movement with a 48 hour power reserve, date complication and power reserve indicator.

I would expect that if being reissued the SBWA002 model would be selected due to the more classic case design that is more appealing to buyers today. Unfortunately this would mean that the stunning black dial of the SBWA001 will not be used and that is a shame as this has the richest and deepest black finishes I have seen on any model.

I would also expect that there will also be a series of commemorative Spring Drive models released with new case designs and dials. This might include a new caliber and hopefully one that forgoes the dial side power reserve complication as a cleaner more simple dial layout has long been requested for Spring Drive models. I would place a probability of a commemorative Spring Drive model at 95% likelihood but a new SD caliber with no power reserve indicator on the dial at only 20%.

The other major historically significant caliber that is celebrating an anniversary in 2019 would be the 6139. This was the first automatic chronograph that was released to the public fifty years ago in 1969. There are examples of the initial models that have markings showing production began as early as January 1969 but the watches went on sale in May of that year. This comes after the January announcement by Zenith of the El Primero but before the market release in August of the Heuer Caliber 11 and the eventual market release of the El Primero in October.

In addition to being the first publicly available automatic chronograph the 6139 is also notable for being the first automatic chronograph in space when Colonel William Reid Pogue took his 6139-6005 on the Skylab 4 mission on November 16, 1973.

Understandably the 6139 chronograph models have a strong following from Seiko fans and this being the 50th Anniversary many people are expecting a reissue of the watch.

Unlike previous reissues such as the SLA017 and SLA025 it is not possible to utilise an existing movement in this watch. Currently Seiko do not produce a mechanical chronograph with a day/date complication and a minutes sub register at 6. If you look at the Seiko 8R or NE88 and newer NE86 mechanical movements from TMI you can see that neither configuration has the sub register in the correct position or can easily have a day complication added. If they were to produce a mechanical movements for a 6139 reissue it would have to be a new unique movement. They could possibly do this by taking the new 6L35 calibre and adding a day and chronograph module onto it. This would not be as neat as an integrated chrono mechanism but may reduce development costs. If they did proceed down this track I am sure there will be complaints from users that this is not a truly integrated chrono movement and was not true to the original.

They could design a completely new movement from the ground up but this would take a reasonable amount of work and I am not sure if a single register mechanical chronograph with no independent seconds would be widely appealing outside of a reissued model.

I have heard speculation from others that Seiko could somehow just revive the production of the original movement design for the reissue. I personally find this extremely unlikely to believe as the original movement was designed by Suwa-Seikosha (now Epson) and today the mechanical movements come from SII (formally Daini-Seikosha).

There is always the possibility that Seiko has a very small number of original movements and they could re-release a very small batch of examples, similar to what Omega did with the ‘First Omega Wrist-Chronograph Limited Edition’, but this does not seem like a real possibility and does not feel very ‘Seiko’.

An alternate possibility would to produce a couple of limited edition chronograph models to commemorate the Anniversary. These would not be reissues but instead just a new model commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Seiko's chronograph production. These new models could be based around the 6S caliber previously used in Credor models and these could be the first mechanical Grand Seiko chronographs released. As Grand Seiko does not have any obvious reissues for this year it may be a good time to launch the first GS mechanical chrono with an updated 6S movement.

If there is not a reissue of the 6139 with a mechanical movement there is a possibility that a low cost reissue could be created with a mecha-quartz movement.

The current mecha-quartz movements from TMI also do not feature a variant with day/date and a minute sub register at six but it may be more cost-effective to create this than a new mechanical chronograph caliber. This strategy would also allow the model to be released at a lower price point and at higher volumes. It would be possible to have a limited edition model that is directly styled after the 6139-6000 (possibly the yellow dial version) and a more widely available blue dialed version. This movement could be used for the release of other 6139 based models that could form a series of relatively low cost historical models that would help to counteract the opinion that Seiko just releases high end limited editions at Baselworld.

If a new movement was designed to also have a hour subdial at 12 then it could be utilized for 6138 homage models next year. A constantly running seconds subdial at 9 would also be a nice general addition to a new movement to make it more appealing if used in new original designs. By starting with a movement that was developed to have a minute counter at 6, hour counter at 12 seconds at running seconds at 9, along with a day/date mechanism, it would be possible to use this movement in many models by simply removing the functions as required.

In 1959 Seiko released the Suwa designed caliber 290 that was the first self-winding watch equipped with Seiko's proprietary “magic lever" system. This simple, highly efficient and cost effective mechanism is still in use today and was instrumental to bringing reliable and affordable automatic watches to the market. As 2019 is the 60th Anniversary of this technology I would think an Anniversary model for this would be likely. I would position this Anniversary watch as a Limited Edition model in the Presage range with classic styling and a quantity of 1959 units.

There are a few other Anniversary releases that are possible but less likely.

If Seiko want to emphasise the breadth of their movement technologies they could release an Anniversary model of a kinetic watch in addition to mechanical, quartz and Spring Drive models. Arguably the most complex Kinetic movement ever made was the 9T82 and this was released 20 years ago in 1999. This movement was a hand assembled mecha-quartz consisting of 350 components and fitted with 38 jewels and an anti-backlash mechanism. Watches based on this caliber are still highly sought after by collectors today. I think that the likelihood of a reissue of this movement or an Anniversary Kinetic model is very low and would only occur if Seiko wanted to highlight the breadth of their caliber types.

The first modern Hi-Beat movement from Seiko, the 9S85, was released in Grand Seiko models a decade ago in 2009. It is highly unlikely that Grand Seiko will release an Anniversary model for this considering the multiple models that were released this year to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 9S caliber series including the very limited edition SBGH265J VFA model.

Seiko has a strong and extensive history with Railway watches and in April 1929, 90 years ago Seiko released the Type 19 pocket watch and in November of the same year this was adopted by the Japanese Ministry of Railways as the first domestic watch to be recognized as an official railway timepiece. The type 19 pocket watch movement underwent a number of upgrades over the years to add shock protection and hacking but continued production all the way until November 1971. Seiko pocket watches are still commonly seen in use on Japanese railways today and the Japanese public has a very strong connection to the rail network. I think it is highly possible that an Anniversary model of the pocket watch will be released in 2019 but due to the domestic focused nature of the model this is more likely to be a JDM release only and not a Baselworld announcement.

2019 is the 55th Anniversary of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. An extremely unlikely possibility would be a release from Seiko to commemorate this in some way. As Seiko is one of only a tiny number of companies to be recognized as an official timekeeper for the Olympics (Heuer and of course Omega being the others) it would be fantastic to commemorate the anniversary of the Tokyo games in some way. With the official Olympic timekeeper sponsorship with Omega until at least 2032 the chances of Seiko being able to have any official recognition of the 1964 games is almost impossible despite the games heading back to Tokyo in 2020. What Seiko may be able to do is instead release an anniversary model of an iconic related model to the Games. I personally would love to see the reissue of the 5718 Crown Chronograph as it was only sold to the public in the Olympic village. This is a very distinctive model with chronograph and a large counter window at the top of the dial. If this model was not selected then a reissue of Seiko and Japan’s first chronograph wristwatch the 5719 from the same period would be the next obvious choice to retain that sporting connection. I think the chance of this occurring is extremely low but would be a fantastic subtle piece of guerrilla marketing if released as a 55th Anniversary edition without mention of the Olympics.

This year Seiko released a large number of high profile Prospex models at Baselworld including the SLA025/SBEX007 reissue of the 6159 Hi-Beat diver and the S23626/SBBN040 reissue of the quartz golden tuna. I would expect that this year will be less focused on Prospex with no Anniversary models being released but there will likely still be a number of new models announced as the Prospex brand continues to grow in the international market. It is possible that a new non-limited edition model to replace the MM300 will be announced. I would expect this to have the same style sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel insert and Prospex logo branding as the SLA019/SBDX021 green LE model released this year. To keep with the traditional Baselworld theme of limited editions they might also announce another colorway of this model such as an orange LE version. I would love to also see some other new Prospex models announced but I cannot guess as to what these may be.

In summary I think next year will be a very exciting one for Seiko and I do expect that Baselworld will have a significant number of milestones for both the company and the industry recognized.

Below is a table summarizing my predictions of some of the special releases from Seiko to be announced in 2019. There are some, like a mechanical reissue of the 6139 chronograph that I hope I have massively underestimated, and I would be extremely happy to be proven wrong on this.

Prediction Probability %
35SQ Astron reissue 99
New 9F Caliber 40
Anniversary Quartz models 100
Spring Drive reissue 90
Anniversary Spring Drive models 95
Mechanical 6139 reissue 20
Anniversary Chronograph models 90
Mecha-Quartz 6139 reissue 40
Quartz 6139 reissue 50
Anniversary Gyro Marvel reissue 70
Kinetic 9T82 reissue 5
Anniversary 9S85 Hi-Beat model 15
Anniversary Type 19 Pocket watch (Baselworld Announcement) 10
Anniversary Type 19 Pocket watch (JDM Announcement) 85
Anniversary 5718 Crown Chronograph reissue 1