How the Seiko 6105 Earned its Place in the Pantheon of Vintage Dive Watches
Exploring this trajectory through the lens of historical photo archives
The Seiko 6105, in particular reference 8110, was my first foray into vintage timepieces. In fact, it was one of my first Seikos, and even as a fledgling enthusiast, I knew it was something special. The broad, flat, asymmetrical case shape is instantly recognizable (as we will see further into this article). Although this design translates to phenomenal wrist-presence, a relatively short (47mm) lug-to-lug measurement makes it wrist-friendly for folks of all shapes and sizes. Much has been written about the 6105 – and for that reason I will bypass the in-depth history of this particular model.
Since you now find yourself here on my site, browsing this article, I trust you’re a fellow Seiko fan or dive watch enthusiast. If not, I recommend taking a quick detour. This article from the folks at Fratello provides a fantastic rundown of the Seiko 6105-8110, and is a perfect way to “prime the pump” before we continue on. For even more context, check out this Hodinkee piece written by fellow #seikoboi and friend of The Wristorian, Cole Pennington. Although the focus is on the spiritual descendent of the 6105-8110, Cole highlights how the original model earned the nickname “Willard”, and why this can be (and frankly, should be) regarded as merely a small blip on the relative 6105 radar . Looking at a handful of photos from different archives, we can take a chronological peek at how exactly the 6105-8110 has earned its place near the apex of the vintage tool watch hierarchy. I encourage you to utilize the provided links with each photo, as the images in their native archives often allow for much better zoom/quality.
Harvard University – Jaffa Port, Israel 1970
In this image we see a group of civil divers in Jaffa Port on the Meditteranean Sea. The diver in the front prominently displays a 6105-8000 on his wrist. Jaffa port is considered to be the oldest known port in existence and is located in Tel Aviv, Israel. Documents date it to approximately 4,000 years old. Although the years from these archives are sometimes slightly inaccurate, I have no reason to believe it to be the case with this particular photo. Assuming this was taken in 1970, the presence of the more unusual, tonneau-cased 6105-8000 lines up as we would expect. Though this is not the iconic -8110 reference, it is the predecessor and certainly worth pointing out.
Woods Hole Oceanographic – GEOSECS Open House 1972
This image from Woods Hole Oceanographic archives shows an employee at the GEOSECS open house in 1972. Though our focus, in general, is on hardcore science and adventure – this image shows the 6105-8110 in a much more casual environment. It’s the perfect tool for diving and pouring beer from a keg at a work event. The Geochemical Ocean Section Study (GEOSECS) – was a scientific global endeavor that took place from 1972-78 with the purpose of using chemical tracers to study large-scale ocean circulation. Needless to say, there is a high probability this 6105 saw more adventure than we could imagine given this casual context of the photo – though the pipe is a hemingway-esque indicator that there is more to the story.
US Naval Undersea Museum – 1975
From the archives of the US Naval Undersea Museum, located in Keyport, WA, is this image of the second female to take the Second Class Dive Test. The gentleman kneeling on the bottom-right of the image is sporting a 6105-8110. Worth noting, is that his watch, as well as the timepiece just behind him, are both being worn on Olongapo bracelets. Named for the city in the Philippines where the majority were made, these were quite popular among the US military at the time. Often they were decorated with meaningful insignia such as military branch and role. This crew is posed aboard the USS Simon Lake, a ship largely responsible for the repair of fellow vessels and submarines.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography – D/V Glomar Challenger 1972
Scripps Oceanography archives serve as a veritable cornucopia of vintage dive watch spotting – many of the best shots are seen onboard the Glomar Challenger. This deep sea research and drilling vessel was staffed with a diverse crew of individuals from deckhands to leading scientists. In the case of this photo, a Japanese paleo-magnetism scientist is seen calculating sonic velocity data. You may be thinking, “sounds scientific. What does that mean”? To which I respond – I have no clue. What I can say, is that his Seiko 6105-8000, on an aftermarket bracelet, seems up to the task, whatever that may be.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration - 1978
Behind the shirt cuff of this NOAA scientist lurks another 6105-8110. This image was spotted by The Wristorian's resident Chief Science Officer - Shoutout to @foglark on Instagram for the assist. Laboratory biologist Dr. Andrew Draxler is seen here performing nutrient analysis on samples that were obtained over the course of a research cruise. The Seiko, with its telltale pancake case, is unmistakable on his wrist. Given the amount of time he likely spent at sea as a Master Diver, he chose the right tool for the job.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography – Deep Sea Drilling Project 1983
Harvard University – Weizman Institute of Science 1985
Heading back to Harvard’s archives for the final photo, we see a scientist at work in the Weizman Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. This public research university focuses on natural and exact sciences. Thought I cannot say what the scientist in the image is doing exactly – I am willing to guess that it is highly technical and cutting-edge for 1985. If anyone out there knows what the heck this contraption is, send me a message. What I do know, is that this individual is also wearing a 6105-8110, and on a razor bracelet nonetheless. It is interesting to note, that out of these six photos, only one or two individuals seem to wearing the watch on the original strap.
So, does the 6105 deserve some recognition as an iconic dive watch? The fact that it is present in these six different photos spanning more than a decade provides a glimpse into the ubiquity of the model in certain lines of work. Having spent (arguably) too much time perusing different archival photos, I can say that the 6105 pops up ALL THE TIME. Seriously, from Antarctica to Hydrolab, research labs to mountaineering, and deep sea diving to advancing science through research. This is sort of the Forrest Gump of dive watches – it seems to be present at every form of historical event.
Sure, I am biased. I have a 6105, and I love it. Despite my admitted affinity for the watch, these photos support that I am just one of many who appreciate what the watch has to offer. I am not discrediting factors such as production numbers, affordability, and just general market saturation. Those had to have played a part, but now that original models are becoming scarcer (and thus more sought after) it seems to be the perfect time to highlight the history that transcends inclusion in a Vietnam-war film.
What do you think of the 6105-8110, is it a dive watch icon or just an accessible tool of the times? Can it be both? As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out any time.