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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
When Tokyo was preparing to host the 1964 Olympics, Seiko took advantage of the marketing opportunity that this offered. The official timers for the events were of course all famously supplied by Seiko.



In addition Seiko marketed commemorative chronographs, chronometers and world timers to the affluent world travelers who came to Japan for the games. All these pieces bore the commemorative caseback of the 1964 Olympics.



But Seiko didn’t stop there. Beginning a year before the Games, Seiko launched the Sportsmatic 5. This was clearly the Iphone C of its day, or as Seiko put it it was “accessibly priced”.



On its 50th anniversary page, Seiko states that, [the] Seiko 5 was created to be a watch whose performance would serve the demanding needs of the new 1960’s generation, who cared less for tradition and more about life.”



According to the Seiko Museum website, in 1964 the company launched its “Start with Seiko” Campaign, for which, “Seiko received many prizes in marketing.” Although I can find no trace of this marketing campaign or the “Start with Seiko” mentioned anywhere else on line. Perhaps it is a translation from Japanese of a campaign the only took place in Japan?



I’ve seen various explanations for what exactly the “5” represents, but according to the same 50th anniversary page Seiko says that the five key attributes were originally:

1. Automatic winding
2. Day/date displayed in a single window
3. Water resistance
4. Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position
5. Durable case and bracelet



By what came later, the original Seiko 5 appears little more than an ordinary dress watch from the 60s, but within the context of the time, with its waterproof case and heavy steel bracelet, it was indeed “sporty”.

As the Seiko museum site says:

“Seiko’s role as the Official Timer of the Tokyo Olympic Games a year later, in 1964, boosted awareness of the company throughout the world. Sales of the Sportsmatic 5 increased remarkably overseas. . . Exports of the “Five” skyrocketed in the following year. (The number of Seiko “Fives” exported from Japan in 1966 reportedly exceeded the total number of self-winding watches in all of Switzerland.)”



Seiko concludes with, “The worldwide success of the “Five” popularized self-winding watches everywhere. The “Five” style has set the standard for practical functional watches ever since.”



The Sportsmatic 5 morphed into the Seiko 5. While today the Seiko 5 is largely seen as a low-end mechanical watch, in the 1960s the 5 was a high-end watch, costing ¥8,000 (the equivalent of a salary man’s weekly income).



By 1965 the Sportsmatic 5 line began to diversify. The first spin offs were the Sportsmatic 5 Deluxe which was pretty much the same design, but with an improved movement and a pusher at two o’clock to rotate the day wheel.



Some of the 5s dropped shield on the dial, and instead only had it engraved on the caseback.



Through 1966 and 68, the Sportsmatic 5 line continued to expand, offering variations on case, bracelet and dial styles, but without straying too far from traditional ideas.







But by 1968 things started getting really colorful for the Seiko 5 line. The Sportsmatic line dropped the 5 shield, and the Seiko 5 line began to develop a stylistic edge, as Seiko seemed to follow the rest of the fashion world from Madmen to Strawberry Fields.






The focus of much of the vintage community has been on the Sports Divers and Chronographs that emerged around this time.



While these are indeed noteworthy, what are often overlooked are the “regular” Seiko 5s that started (about the same time the Beatles did) to experience a kind of Peacock Revolution.









Many of the Seiko designs of the late 60s also seem to have borrowed from racing culture of the time, notably the off-center racing stripe and the checkered flag.







Since there is nothing as fickle as fashion, the sporty aesthetic of the late 60s and early 70s faded. The fancy color-changing dials were replaced by early digital wizardry. Lucky for us collectors however, many of these treasures languished in innumerable junk drawers and storage boxes, protected from overuse and damage by benign neglect.

Post your Sporty Seikos below
 

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Nice write up. But i wouldnt say the Seiko 5's were a high end watch in the 60's. They were more of a mid range watch for every day use. This was my oldest Seiko, from 1964.

 

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Discussion Starter #8
Nice write up. But i wouldnt say the Seiko 5's were a high end watch in the 60's. They were more of a mid range watch for every day use. This was my oldest Seiko, from 1964.

Hey, you have my birth year watch!

I too struggle with this, but a weeks salary for a white-collar worker does seem rather high-end to me. It was however, a very different economy then. Housing cost less in both Japan and the West. And we must not forget that Japan was still recovering from the war.

Also, the things we buy with our disposable income have shifted. Today it isn't unusual for someone to pay (or finance over time) an $800 smartphone, I believe that that niche would have been filled with a watch at that time.

If we look at catalogs from that era, we see that the relative prices between a chronograph and a standard automatic were marginal compared to the price spread we might expect today.





 

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Hey, you have my birth year watch!

I too struggle with this, but a weeks salary for a white-collar worker does seem rather high-end to me. It was however, a very different economy then. Housing cost less in both Japan and the West. And we must not forget that Japan was still recovering from the war.

Also, the things we buy with our disposable income have shifted. Today it isn't unusual for someone to pay (or finance over time) an $800 smartphone, I believe that that niche would have been filled with a watch at that time.

If we look at catalogs from that era, we see that the relative prices between a chronograph and a standard automatic were marginal compared to the price spread we might expect today.
Vintage watch prices is something that really fascinates me. But for example take someone who makes 2000$ a month. A weekly salary would be roughly 500$. About the same as a mid range Seiko watch like a SARB or Sumo costs these days :D

Prices used to make a lot more sense back then, a watch was a tool. Not the luxury object it is today. If someone made a better watch for the price you would just buy that watch so prices for luxury watches were a lot less inflated.

A Seiko 5 like that cost 8-10.000 yen. I think a Grand Seiko from that era cost around 50.000 yen. That is 5 times more than the Seiko 5. But if you these days, a Seiko 5 can be found for 50$ and a Grand Seiko will easily set you back 5.000$, almost 100 times more :eek:hmy:
 

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The analogy to the iPhone is spot on. And Seiko's spin was marketing genius.

No wonder some of the best collectible Seikos are from this point in its history.

By the way, "best" is subjective. Others may of course have a different favorite era. But this (the mid 60s to early 70s) is my favorite Seiko moment in time.
 

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The analogy to the iPhone is spot on. And Seiko's spin was marketing genius.

No wonder some of the best collectible Seikos are from this point in its history.

By the way, "best" is subjective. Others may of course have a different favorite era. But this (the mid 60s to early 70s) is my favorite Seiko moment in time.
I think the 1965-1975 era is the favorite era of most vintage Seiko collectors.
 
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