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I actually just picked up "Lee Siu Loong Memories of the Dragon Bruce Lee" by all four Bruce Lee siblings, which features hundreds seldom seen pictures of the legend. I was hoping for a picture of the Seiko 6139, but have not been rewarded with one yet! It starts in the late 1950s and I'm only up to the 1960s so far.

Will add anything I find here - I do love a great mystery :)
 

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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'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.


View attachment 451501


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.
Thank you for such an amazing post. I have learnt so much more just from this.

Sent from my Pixel 4a using Tapatalk
 

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Thank you. I learned a lot as well.

Much of what I thought I knew at first turned out to be incorrect. I was just repeating old posts.

I'm greatful to the other enthusiasts here who were not as quick as I had been to accept what was previously taken to be true. They are the ones who conducted the real research..

Sent from my LG-US998 using Tapatalk
 

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After researching this for some time – to include reaching out to Sharon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter (as noted above) - I have taken all the amazingly well-researched information posted previously in this thread, added some of my own assessment and interweb findings, and I assess there is strong evidence to name the Seiko 6139-6010 “True Bruce Lee” variant as a 1969 Seiko 6139-6010 Proof/Proof variant, and I assess with slightly less confidence it had a Hong Kong day wheel. Why? Read below (note: updated findings!) 😊

First Observation:
Based on below attached photographs, as well as some in the excellent thread on this topic over on The Watch Site, it becomes quickly evident Bruce’s 6139 was not the commonly assumed SpeedTimer dial variant (see side by side comparison between this one and the Proof Hong Kong dial variant below). Despite the lack of clarity in photographs from the era (when compared to modern-day photography), it’s a safe assessment there is no “5 SpeedTimer” lettering on the dial at the nine o’clock position (ruling out the Japanese Domestic Market SpeedTimer dial variant as the Truce Bruce Lee dial), nor is there a lume plot (ruling out the later, post-1972 dial variants (the 6139 appeared on multiple occasions on Bruce’s wrists well before 1972). This said, a photo from February 1972 below stands out for its quality and allows us to see – albeit not well enough to differentiate between proof and resist nomenclature – the presence of white font at the 9 o'clock dial position and nothing else, ie: no “5” or blue SPORTS branding we would see were this a JDM SpeedTimer dial variant.

Second Observation: Bruce’s mother (likely based in Hong Kong) per the excellent https://bruceleewashere.com/timeline, visited Bruce in Los Angeles in 1969, arriving on May 30th (as seen in the picture below). Subsequently, and nearly a year later - as recounted in the excellent 2016 book, “Bruce Lee, Letters of the Dragon: The Original 1958-1973 Correspondence” - in a letter to his wife in April 1970, Bruce notes his presence with his son in Hong Kong, while his wife and daughter remained in Los Angeles. In the same letter he offhandedly notes his mother had purchased for him numerous items from Hong Kong, so much he is uncertain he can transport everything back to the United States. That said, there was no mention of a watch among the gifts from his mother – and pictures exist, preceding this letter, of Bruce wearing the watch before his 1970 trip to Hong Kong. This leads to the logical assessment Bruce already possessed the 6139 before this 1970 trip, with his mother possibly gifting the 6139 to him upon her previous late May/early June 1969 visit to Los Angeles (from Hong Kong), additional evidence in favor of 1969 date and the Chinese day wheel variant. Per “Manufacturing Time: Global Competition in the Watch Industry, 1795-2000, “Hong Kong was an important market during this time period, and already a major player in terms of watch assembly [in particular, eventually, for Seiko]," making it logical to assess Hong Kong as a prime destination for the earliest non-JDM 6139s. That Bruce's 6139 had a Hong Kong day wheel is more of an assessment made from logical conclusions, vice solid proof seen above in our first observation regarding the True Bruce Lee dial variant.

Third Observation: Through a combination of internet research and aforementioned Bruce Lee timeline, the earliest dated picture of Bruce wearing his 6139 we could find was 10 May 1969, attending the National Karate Championships (NKC) in Washington DC. Cross-referencing the source of the NKC picture below ("The Greats of Tae Kwon Do, JOSEPH HAYES," BRUCE LEE AND JOSEPH HAYES - Historic Tae Kwon Do Moments In the USA - LEGENDS JOSEPH HAYES AND BRUCE LEE - TAEKWONDO HALL OF FAME - TAEKWONDOHALLOFFAME.COM) with the aforementioned timeline at https://bruceleewashere.com/timeline, and it notes Bruce was only in Washington, DC, once in 1969 - on 10 May. The timeline also noted his attendance at the same DC-based NKC event in 1967 and 1968 (which appeared to be held during the same May/June time frame annually), but this is well before the 1969 debut of the 6139. Seiko 6139 case backs have surfaced dating the watch's first production to January 1969, but some of these may have been prototypes. While some assert it wasn't possible to purchase the 6139 before it was sold internationally in June 1969, we assess there enough evidence - and Lee's connections to Asia that strong - that play of a month or two before this June date is well within feasibility.

Importantly, Bruce wasn't known for possessing more than a handful of watches, and the stainless-steel rally bracelet can be easily discerned in both 1969 pictures, as well as a quite similar hour indice lume pattern; its quite unlikely he had more than one watch - his black-dialed 6139 - with the same bracelet. We identified no other photograph of Bruce with the rally bracelet on a different watch. Related, the earliest known date for the 6139 non-JDM variant and 6139-6010 HK day wheel variant is at least March and July 1969, respectively, per The Watch Site discussion above. These early dates safely rule out the “Water 70 Resist” dial variant, which did not appear until after Bruce was first seen wearing his 6139. Finally, of important note, per excellent previous research, advertisements for the Hong Kong version of the Seiko 6139-6010 appeared around the time Lee was first photographed wearing the watch, namely, mid-1969.

A Closing Note: Watch scholarship, like all scholarship, is an inexact science - watch aficionados do the best they can with spotty records, advertisements (such as with the recent excellent finds regarding the "Aussie Pogue"), and blurry photographs from an era before the internet. Should the seemingly in-depth timeline on the Lee's appearance at the Washington, DC-based NKC tournament be off (keeping in mind, the timeline had no other subsequent attendance at this high-profile event for Lee), the worst-case scenario is this a 1970 vice a 1969 vintage - the "TBL" watch would almost certainly feature the same dial layout and color, two-piece handset, and proof/proof model nomenclature. Somewhat related, the Bruce Lee is like the Pogue, in that there were multiple variations of the dial, but with one "true" variant. While some insist there to be only one "Pogue" - namely the "True Pogue" – it’s not misleading to call all gold 6139-600x's "Pogue." Same for the black dial 6139 Bruce Lee in discussion here. Some may disagree, but this is the approach we take when referencing this watch.
 

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As I understand it, it's down the the Proof dial (6010) vs later version (6012 - Resist/no markings on the dial; water Resistant on the case back). Some of the photos with the watch were taken in '69, so it really has to be a 6010. It's also pretty clear from the photos that Bruce's Lee watch was a 6010 Proof dial (not JDM Speed Timer) - and probably a HK one at that (but I don't thank that can ever be certain, short of seeing the very watch itself, but it is most likely).

So it's probably like the Pogue. As most people know better than me (and I'm sure you do), the "True Pogue" is a 6005 - and a '71 (edited thanks to Grammarofdesign) at that (from the serial number of his watch), but most yellow dial 600X are described as Pogue - even some with other colours.

Maybe we should call the 1969 non-JDM 6010 with black dial the "True Bruce Lee"? And the earlier in '69 the better.

Hope I don't have to put on a flame suit...
 

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As I understand it, it's down the the Proof dial (6010) vs later version (6012 - Resist/no markings on the dial; water Resistant on the case back). Some of the photos with the watch were taken in '69, so it really has to be a 6010. It's also pretty clear from the photos that Bruce's Lee watch was a 6010 Proof dial (not JDM Speed Timer) - and probably a HK one at that (but I don't thank that can ever be certain, short of seeing the very watch itself, but it is most likely).

So it's probably like the Pogue. As most people know better than me (and I'm sure you do), the "True Pogue" is a 6005 - and a '72 at that (from the serial number of his watch), but most yellow dial 600X are described as Pogue - even some with other colours.

Maybe we should call the 1969 non-JDM 6010 with black dial the "True Bruce Lee"? And the earlier in '69 the better.

Hope I don't have to put on a flame suit...
I responded a couple of hours ago in-depth with all my research findings, supported by pictures, etc - I also cited your March 1969 6139, with HK date wheel...just awaiting approval from moderators!
 

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I responded a couple of hours ago in-depth with all my research findings, supported by pictures, etc - I also cited your March 1969 6139, with HK date wheel...just awaiting approval from moderators!
Great - looking forward to that! Of course, I don't consider my March '69 6010 to be a Bruce Lee as it has a blue dial, but it is a useful reference point, I hope
 

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That 10 May '69 photo is intriguing. Received wisdom is that the 6139 was launched for the Japanese markey only in May '69. I'm not sure what that means!
Agree! I found the DC photo here: BRUCE LEE AND JOSEPH HAYES - Historic Tae Kwon Do Moments In the USA - LEGENDS JOSEPH HAYES AND BRUCE LEE - TAEKWONDO HALL OF FAME - TAEKWONDOHALLOFFAME.COM

And then I cross-referenced this with the timeline at the aforementioned https://bruceleewashere.com/timeline, which asserts Bruce was only in DC once in 1969, on 10 May. It also noted his attendance at the same DC-based NKC event in 1967 and 1968 (which appeared to be held during the same May/June time frame annually), but of course this is well before the debut of the 6139.
 

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Not the correct colour for a Bruce Lee (and I'm probably the only person to like the brown colour) but still pretty cool for October 1969.
TBH, I think before the Bruce Lee connection, these black dial -6010's were pretty unpopular. The blue dialed ones were the only variant that got any attention. If you don't care about the celebrity connection, the brown is way more rare and very unique for a vintage Seiko. I like it (y)
 

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,........So it's probably like the Pogue. As most people know better than me (and I'm sure you do), the "True Pogue" is a 6005 - and a '72 at that (from the serial number of his watch), but most yellow dial 600X are described as Pogue - even some with other colours.

Maybe we should call the 1969 non-JDM 6010 with black dial the "True Bruce Lee"? And the earlier in '69 the better.

Hope I don't have to put on a flame suit...
No sir. Col. Pogue's 6139-6005 case back serial number was 190945 - September 1971.
 
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