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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The ‘Bruce Lee’ Seiko 6139-6010




If you google “Bruce Lee’s watch”, two main hits pop up. First are reviews and ads for a limited edition G-Shock MR-G which uses Bruce Lee’s name and image in the marketing. It sells in the neighborhood of $6000!

New Bruce Lee inspired MR-G!


The Second most popular return is a gold-plated Polerouter that Bruce Lee gifted to Herb Jackson (a martial arts student of his) in 1969. It sold at auction recently for $28,700.

Bruce Lee's Old Watch He Gave to Student Sells at Auction for $28,700


But what watch did Bruce Lee wear during the last, and most productive years?

After he gave away his old watch to Herb Jackson in 1969, all indications are that until his tragic death in 1973, Bruce Lee became a Seiko fan. The only watch that I can find evidence of him wearing in his final years was a Seiko 6139-6010.

His choice of the 6139 makes a lot of sense. Seiko made quite a splash at the time with its stylish automatic chronograph. Working in the film industry, choreographing the action, it would make practical sense that Lee would choose a chronograph for timing scenes.



THE 'REAL' BRUCE LEE
Now here is where things begin to get a bit murky. We know that Bruce Lee wore a 6139-6010, not by any written evidence, but strictly by photographic evidence.

Let's look at the contemporary photographs of Lee’s actual watch.



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Seiko produced a few different renditions of the 6139-6010, but since about 2015 the general opinion on the internet has been that Lee wore the JDM version of the 6139-6010 with the large blue '5 SPORTS' on the dial at the 9 o'clock. But this opinion has not been universally accepted.







Recently actors Daniel Dae Kim (Lost and Hawaii Five-O) Yun Lee (Altered Carbon) both acquired quite different 6139-6010s from DC Vintage Watches, both identified as being a ‘Bruce Lee’. While they are both super clean specimens (Daniel Dae Kim even has it on a bracelet identical to what Bruce Lee wore on his) are they really the same model that was owned by Bruce Lee?






According to research by Homeless Traveller, the first photographic evidence of Bruce Lee wearing the watch in question is dated on or about about June '69 at his Bel Air home in Los Angeles. The dial in these pictures does not have '5 SPORTS' printed in blue at the 9 o'clock position, but instead a line of white text.






After this, until his death in 1973, in picture after picture, Lee is shown wearing the same Seiko 6139-6010, none of the pictures show the JDM dial with ‘SPORTS 5’ in blue.

The clearest photos we have of Lee’s watch were uncovered by Casedhongkong and are dated February 1972, and again the ‘SPORTS 5’ is absent, but the white lettering of ‘WATER70PROOF’ is clearly there at 9 o’clock. This again proves that Bruce Lee did not own the Japanese Domestic Version.







So if it was not a JDM 6139-6010, which version was it? According to Homeless Traveller advertisements for the Hong Kong version of the Seiko 6139-6010 appeared around the time Lee was first photographed wearing the watch after arriving in Los Angeles in June 1969. So it is highly probable that the watch that Bruce Lee actually wore was a Hong Kong model Seiko 6139-6010 like the one below, with a Chinese/English date wheel.







So of the two watches owned by Daniel Dae Kim and Yun Lee, which one is the closest to what Bruce Lee wore?

Let’s take close a look.





It appears that Daniel Dae Kim’s watch is the closest, but neither has the ‘WATER70PROOF lettering at 9 o’clock as is on the Hong Kong dial. So neither exactly matches the known watch worn by Bruce Lee.


THE BRACELET
The only bracelet that catalogs showed the 6139-6010 on was a stainless-steel triple "railroad" bracelet.


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Each of the planks of the bracelet are linked together by three connectors. It’s one of Seiko’s most comfortable bracelet designs of the era: light, strong, and comfortable.






Bruce Lee didn’t keep his 6139-6010's bracelet stock however. Multiple photos taken over his last years show that Lee modded the watch to his style, choosing what was either a Stelux or Kreisler rally style bracelet.











It was an unusual bracelet, with elongated oval-shaped vent holes, as opposed to circular shaped holes more common in this style of bracelet. It has been speculated that the choice of this bracelet may have had to do with the elongated holes resembling the number 8, which Lee may have considered auspicious.




Homeless Traveller has found that by February 1972 Lee had replaced the previous Kreisler/Stelux bracelet, and mounted his 6139-6010 on a Seiko bracelet meant for a 6139-8020. It's clearly too wide for the 19mm lugs. He is seen in photographs wearing this bracelet through casting and on location for Way of the Dragon from April through June 1972. There is also a picture of Lee with the 6139-8020 bracelet on his wrist on the set of Enter the Dragon a few months before his July '73 death.

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So which 6139-6010 is the authentic Bruce Lee?


If you are like me, and the 6139-6010 that you own isn’t the waterproof, Hong Kong model from 1969, can you still call it a Bruce Lee?

I know I will.

In spite of the overwhelming photographic evidence that pretty much proves that I’m delusional in my claim, the fact that Lee’s watch was never mentioned in his journals or come up for auction, means that there will always be a modicum of doubt about what a 'True Seiko Bruce Lee' really is, and that’s the straw I’m grasping.
 

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Another model that I’m sure will grow in popularity, worn by a cool guy. The one you’ve picked up looks like a good honest candidate for restoration. Why is it that the lume on the frosted handset on these seems to go black more frequently than others? Maybe I’ve just seen a skewed sample.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
One in really good condition sold for $848 on Yahoo Japan this morning.

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Very informative. Thank you for writing this.


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I would have thought he would have a Chinese/English day wheel for the Hong Kong market.
 

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Thanks for sharing. Good write up, I’ve been aware of this one through chats with a fellow member here in the past.
While I admit that DC Vintage is resourceful in finding you sought after variants, I can’t first hand vouch for their watchmaking skills or quality of in-house work tho.


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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for sharing. Good write up, I’ve been aware of this one through chats with a fellow member here in the past.
While I admit that DC Vintage is resourceful in finding you sought after variants, I can’t first hand vouch for their watchmaking skills or quality of in-house work tho.


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They are expensive compared to what I'd pay at an auction, but the restoration is already done. At any rate, I admire how they photograph their pieces.

Very creative.
 

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That was an extremely informative post. I was a big Bruce Lee fan when I was much younger, and knowing that he was a 6139 fan really has made my day. UG polerouter is a grail of mine too, and knowing he had that before his seiko was very interesting to me personally. Thank you very much for posting.
 

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I have been lurking about reading about the many informative posts about the 6139-6010 (or 61SP 022 in the Seiko cataolgues) because I am looking to add a watch like this. My usual Seiko is a Bellmatic 4006-7000, which hasn't been serviced in thirty-years, but everything still works including the alarm. It has been in the family since it was purchased new.

About the Bruce Lee 6139-6010, was his watch the JDM 5Sports SpeedTimer model? I have seen several pictures of him wearing it, but cannot see the 5Sports clearly. I recall reading that the family pictures in Seiko Hoarder's original post were taken circa 1970, whilst he still lived in Los Angeles. Not sure he had even visited Hong Kong yet when the picture was taken, so might it have been a North American model?

I saw a picture many years ago that showed his watch up close. Cannot find it at this moment, but will keep looking for it. I believe he replaced his Stelux/Kreisler bracelet with a Seiko rally bracelet (smaller, circular holes) after he relocated permanently to Hong Kong (in 1970?).
 

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I would have thought he would have a Chinese/English day wheel for the Hong Kong market.
I was wondering about the same thing too and wanted to see if it’s actually been confirmed that Bruce Lee’s watch is the JDM version. It makes more sense to me that his has the Chinese/English day wheel.



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I was wondering about the same thing too and wanted to see if it’s actually been confirmed that Bruce Lee’s watch is the JDM version. It makes more sense to me that his has the Chinese/English day wheel.

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So do you think Bruce Lee's watch was a Hong Kong market model?

He seemed to be wearing that watch by mid-'69, so how could he have got a JDM model so soon after it was released? The general opinion is it was JDM though 🤔
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I was wondering about the same thing too and wanted to see if it’s actually been confirmed that Bruce Lee’s watch is the JDM version. It makes more sense to me that his has the Chinese/English day wheel.



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He possessed the watch in 1969 when only the JDM Speed-timer model was out. Moreover, in some of the photographs you see blue lettering around 9 o'clock., indicating the word "Sports", which only was on the JDM model.
 

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The picture of Bruce Lee (wearing that blue, purple, red top) holding his daughter was from Sept 1971. He is wearing the same top and watch in Hong Kong airport few days later.

Seiko Hoarder, do you know when the 6139-6012 was first marketed internationally? I encountered one years ago and the owner said it was originally bought new in Canada.
 

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He possessed the watch in 1969 when only the JDM Speed-timer model was out. Moreover, in some of the photographs you see blue lettering around 9 o'clock., indicating the word "Sports", which only was on the JDM model.
The 6139-6010 proof/proof with Chinese day wheels in the photo I posted was manufactured in July 69’. So non-JDM version is definitely sold in 1969 as well. I can’t say for sure that his is the Chinese day wheel version or the JDM version, to me there’s a 50/50 chance on either possibility. The photos of him wearing the watch are too blurry to say for sure IMO and him having a model that’s sold in the Hong Kong market just makes more logical sense to me.


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