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Hamish Robertson, Feb 18 2022

How to Research a Vintage Watch

How to Research a Vintage Watch

At our Meetup last week a new member came along for the first time. We were delighted to welcome her, and we joined her in being excited about her first watch purchase. She bought it recently from an antique dealer at the famous Portobello Road market here in London. It is an automatic, or self-winding, Seiko. It looks like it dates from the 1970s, and that's what the dealer thought. It works well, but the automatic rotor rattles a bit, and there is a question mark about the crown.

After making the purchase, the owner is understandably keen to learn more about it but is so early on her collecting journey she had no idea what to do next. Fortunately, she has come to the right place. The Watch Collectors' Club is here to help people learn about watches, whatever their starting point. This Blog Post will outline how to start a watch research project.

Portobello Road Market in London on a Summer's Day

Portobello Road Market in London on a Summer's Day

The new Member's Vintage Seiko

The new Member's Vintage Seiko

How To Research a Vintage Watch

There are a number of straightforward steps to follow, and then the rest of it is simply reading the information you uncover, checking the details as closely as possible.

Table of Contents:

  1. Gather all of the information you have about the watch into one place
  2. Start with Google
  3. Collect then search again
  4. How to search for the year of manufacture
  5. Cross-referencing your information
  6. Possible Next Steps

What I did to Research this Watch:

First, I collected the information I had, from the photos I took at our Meetup Event. I have the following from the front:

  • Seiko Automatic, with Date Function (in the little window at the 3 o'clock position).
  • The style looks to be 1970s or 1980s

I have the following information from the case back:

  • Seiko - the Brand and Manufacturer.
  • The number 342433 which is printed in such a way I think it may be the serial number of this particular watch. Before the 1990s serial numbers were usually just a long number with no letters or other symbols.
  • SGP Back St Steel - this is telling me that the caseback is Stainless Steel.
  • 7005-2000. This is printed in such a way I think it might be the Model Reference number. How do I know? Model Reference numbers often have a - or a / in them. Serial numbers before the 1990s mostly do not.
  • Japan-A - this probably means it was made and cased in Japan.
Front, Dial-side view of the Vintage Seiko from the 1970s or 1980s

Front, Dial-side view of the Vintage Seiko from the 1970s or 1980s

Caseback of the Vintage Seiko showing the Manufacturer's Details

Caseback of the Vintage Seiko showing the Manufacturer's Details

Now I turn to Google. Here is my first search term:

  • Seiko 7005-2000
Google Search for Seiko 7005-2000

Google Search for Seiko 7005-2000

Here are some of the links it suggests. How to know which ones to open? Well if you are a beginner, I suggest simply opening the first 5 that are not ads or from famous retail platforms such as Ebay.

Google Search Results

Google Search Results

Read the links to see if they are talking about a watch like this one. On this occasion, they are! This is a great result.

Now I can reconfirm my information:

  • I was correct that 7005-2000 was the model number, so the other number is probably a serial number.
  • These watches appear pretty common if there are plenty of articles and pictures of them.
  • This is great, as I can now try to find one that matches mine exactly, so I can check if all the parts are correct.

Of the articles, these two are the most valuable:

We are narrowing down our watch! We have two independent sources of information for this watch family. That is enough at this stage.

Now we go back to Google. We Google the full name of the watch again and click the Images tab. This shows us many watches from the 7005-2000 family. We quickly see many that look like ours. Google will now always serve commercial links first, as that's how it makes money. Look below that for more informative links, even in Google Images.

Screenshot of Google Images Search Result

Screenshot of Google Images Search Result

Search for Reference and Serial Numbers

We then want to see if we can narrow down the date further. Since we have confirmed this is a real Seiko and we think we have a serial number, we can google again.

This time we Google "Vintage Seiko reference numbers".

Google Search for Reference Numbers

Google Search for Reference Numbers

This site is one of the answers, so I click on it and it looks legitimate. How do I know? Well most reference number searches reveal amateur run sites, as the watch brands NEVER ever give them out. Collectors have to build these resources themselves. For many brands you just get a table of a link to a PDF, but this looks more helpful. To be absolutely sure we could search multiple answers to this and check in each. For now, let's put our number 342433 in and see what happens.

Screenshot of Seiko Reference Numbers website showing search tool at the bottom.

Screenshot of Seiko Reference Numbers website showing search tool at the bottom.

Results from the Reference and Serial Number Search

Results from the Reference and Serial Number Search

Result!

We have a suggestion of a year. We could now cross reference this on another website, but I'm pretty happy with this. We have a watch from April 1973.

We note this down wherever we are noting it, probably just our heads for most of us. Some collectors are organised and have a digital or physical notebook with all their watch info in. It's a wonderfully personal aspect to the hobby.

Now I go back to my images tab. I want to add 1973 there to see if it brings up a narrower selection. It does!

More detailed Google Image Search reveals many examples of this watch.

More detailed Google Image Search reveals many examples of this watch.

The owner of this watch had one outstanding question; whether the crown, which is used to wind it and set the hands, is original or a replacement? To work this out we need to examine pictures very carefully. Fortunately, there are more sources of pictures than just google images.

To gather more images to compare your watch to, search for "Seiko 7005-2000" on these three websites:

You can then filter for the year if you like, but there should be enough to give you an idea. If you have a really rare watch there may not be any additional images, and you have to take other steps, but for this search we have plenty of results.

Now we can go through listings that look similar to our watch and zoom in on the crown. By comparing a few we can probably judge which one is the original one. It should fit the case and maybe have an engraving on it. In this example, it looks pretty straightforward. It is the right size but is not a matching metal to the gold of the case. Therefore it is probably a replacement.

Super close up of the Crown. It appears to be a different shade of Gold to the case.

Super close up of the Crown. It appears to be a different shade of Gold to the case.

Composite image of three different Seiko 7005-2000 models with close up of the crown.

Composite image of three different Seiko 7005-2000 models with close up of the crown.

More can be learned about these watches in general, but only by broader research. What do I mean by this? Here are the following things the owner could do to learn more:

  • Google more articles about servicing and repairing this model of watch, to find more like the one above detailing the insides, components, and giving commentary on quality/replacements/problems.
  • Take the watch to a watchmaker for a service, ask for a full condition report, then ask for it to be made good.
  • Search for a replacement crown, either on its own or in a similar model that is being sold for parts (maybe the cheapest and quickest option for a watch like this).
  • Search Seiko forums for owners of the same model and read about their experience owning, repairing and servicing them, or make a post asking for their comments.
  • Create price alerts on WatchPatrol and eBay to alert them whenever a new model of this kind comes up for sale at or under a certain price. This would lead to a good knowledge over time of the market price for watches of differing quality.

Conclusion:

This is a straightforward example of how to research a watch, and this is a fairly common model with only one unusual part, the crown. For some watches, a lot more digging is required, but the principles are the same:

  • Search smartly, find facts, search again, inspect images, search again.

If you get stuck or need help with anything, do reach out to us here at The Watch Collectors' Club as we can probably point you to some interesting resources you may not have found.

We exist to help people learn and share, and hearing from people how they do their research, what methods and resources they've found, is always helpful. If you come to our meetups, either in-person on online, this is the kind of thing that comes up, and you never know how someone else's search might inspire yours! That's the fun of learning with a community, and we hope that The Watch Collectors' Club can power this interactive learning as well as providing straightforward guidance. We'd be delighted to hear all about your research process at one of our next meetups, which will be in-person in London on Tuesday March 8th, or online via Zoom on Monday March 21st.

If you have anything you need help with, let us know directly, we are happy to try and answer any questions. If you know anyone who might be interested in The Watch Collectors' Club, please send them our emails, and tell them to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Watch pile on the table at our recent in-person Meetup.

Watch pile on the table at our recent in-person Meetup.

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Make the watch world simple

Make the watch world simple