The Seiko 6105-8110 and Marty Robbins
Heavy Artillery from the Seiko Backlog
In the world of vintage Seiko, the 6105 has become an almost legendary icon. Specifically, the 6105-8110 model garners significant attention. There are a number of factors at play that combine to form the perfect storm of popularity. From the unique case design and sheer prevalence of the model to the use of the watch in the 1979 Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now”, this Seiko in particular is intertwined in both the real and imaginary tapestry of history. The asymmetrical case is reminiscent of pancake dough dropped freshly on the cast-iron griddle. It is organic and blob-like in the best of ways, and the bulbous case extension surrounding the 4 o’clock crown serves as capable shield against the onslaught of unavoidable dents and dings that accompany everyday life.
With the inception of the original tonneau (or barrel-shaped) 6105-8000 in 1968, and the subsequent creation of the more curvaceous aforementioned 6105-8110, this design language has existed within the toolkit of Seiko for more than fifty years. Within the past decade there have been a number of reissues from Seiko themselves, as well as homages from smaller entities looking to capitalize on the uniqueness of the watch. Although the initial iteration of the 6105 is now considered to be highly collectible, it was originally no more than a common Japanese tool watch. Favored by military personnel, recreational divers, and even Antarctic scientists, this watch was appealing for its utilitarian design as well as durability and affordability. Only in the past decade or so has it exploded in value and become much more challenging to find in original condition.
Pairing the correct song with the watch is a challenge, even when there is no “right” or “wrong”. The most obvious choice (and easiest route), in my opinion, would be to pull a track from virtually any Credence Clearwater Revival or Bob Dylan album of the late 1960’s. Truly the majority of those tracks would be apropos, if not a little too “on the nose.” Rather than go for the obvious, I decided on a pre-war tune that I was introduced to early in life by my late grandfather, a Vietnam veteran and lover of eclectic music. Though a decidedly American song, I think the spirit of the ballad lines up perfectly with the aura of the 6105.
Verdict: Marty Robbin’s “Big Iron”
In 1959, the album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” by Marty Robbins was released. At the time of release, Robbins was already known for his catchy cowboy-centric campfire music, but this mustachioed persona was further cemented by the success of the album. Each track is chock full of mustang wrangling and testosterone, leaving the listener with a newly acquired southern drawl and false sense of bravado. Every song is as much a master class in storytelling as it is music. This album is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest contributions to country music, having won a Grammy for best Country Western Recording in 1961. Though “El Paso” would go on to be the most famous track of Marty Robbin’s career (and enjoy a brief mid-1990’s stint as the El Paso salsa theme song), “Big Iron” maintains an almost cult-like following for its timeless plot and depiction of daring heroism.
The track “Big Iron” tells the story of a mysterious cowboy riding into the town of Agua Fria (Spanish for “cold water”) to hunt down a murderous gunslinger by the name of “Texas Red”. The townsfolk are terrified for the heroic (albeit cliché) strong and silent Arizona Ranger, despite the significant sidearm at his side. The tale of the clash between this classic hero and villain duo plays out over the course of eight expertly written verses only to end in the most predictable but satisfying resolution possible. I would encourage you to listen to the song (and wear your 6105 while doing so) if you find the time. Don’t you want to hear how this epic showdown plays out?
The most obvious similarity between “Big Iron” and the Seiko 6105, is the aesthetic of the Arizona Ranger’s firearm. As an interesting aside, Robbin’s wrote this song after seeing a rather intimidating gentleman purchase a large custom revolver at a local fast-draw holster shop. This is what inspired him to write the timeless ballad. Clearly the Seiko 6105 is a significant tool as well. Though stainless steel, rather than iron, there is a certain sense of imbued confidence that comes with a substantial dive watch. The Seiko 6105 is hefty even by modern standards, and although not Seiko’s largest watch, even at the time, it was probably their most common dive watch.
The 6105 is a timepiece that perfectly encapsulates the concept of “quiet confidence”, and that is a central theme conveyed by the reticent ranger throughout the chosen track. Though the military connection is often the most acknowledged history of this specific model, the fact of the matter is that it was popular among all walks of life. It was regarded as a robust and capable diver’s watch that could take a beating. Much like the Arizona Ranger, many of these watches were worn by individuals who simply got the job done. So grab your Stetson hat, your Pendleton blanket, and your Seiko 6105, stoke up the coals of your campfire and enjoy the summer knowing that you’ve got everything you need to be the hero of your story.
What do you think of this music/watch duo? What artist and song would you choose for the Seiko 6105-8110? Let me know below in the comments!