Seiko Bell-Matic Gunmetal Metallic Dial Watch
An automatic stainless steel Seiko Bellmatic gunmetal metallic dial watch. Hot on the heels of both the Vulcain Cricket and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox, the Japanese watch maker, Seiko, launched their wrist alarm watch, the Bell-Matic in 1966. Including an alarm mechanism inside a mechanical wristwatch proved very difficult to accomplish early on during the development of the wrist alarm. Creating the sound was not so much of an issue. The disruption this would cause on the mechanism and accurate timekeeping, on the other hand, was problematic. The ‘bell’ in the Bell-Matic is actually a curved metal sounding spring that is repeatedly struck by a small hammer powered by a spring unwinding. That spring is released by a lever moved by a wheel sitting on top of the hour wheel on the dial side. As with the Vulcain, the Jaeger-LeCoultre and the Tudor, the Seiko utilizes two separate barrels for storing power. This ensures that the power required to ring the bell does not detract from the power reserve for time-keeping. A watch that powered its alarm via the regular mainspring would stop after the alarm sounded and not be particularly useful. Unlike some designs, like the Memovox, the Seiko has one crown, and a button at the 2 o'clock position. With the alarm button pressed in, turning the Bell-Matic’s crown winds the alarm’s spring and feels just like winding a manual watch. With just 6 revolutions to full wind, the alarm spring has enough power to ring its tiny bell for around 11 seconds. Pulling out the button at 2 o’clock arms the alarm, pushing it back in again disables the alarm. Pulling the crown out to its first position engages the indicator ring, allowing it to be turned. A marker on the ring indicates when, during the next 12 hours, the alarm will sound. Pulling the crown out to its second position allows the time to be set as with a regular watch. The multi-function Bell-Matic has another two tricks up its sleeve. Pushing the alarm button in to its second position and releasing allows the date to be quickset just like pushing the crown of a 6xxx series movement. Finally, the day can be quickset by repeatedly flicking the hour hand backwards and forwards between 2 and 10. During its lifetime, the Bell-Matic came in 27, 21 and 17 jewel variants. The early watches all have 27 jewels with most of the extra jewels employed in the gear train where all the gears are jeweled top and bottom. Both barrel arbors are also fully jeweled top and bottom in this version. In 1968, Seiko reduced the jewel count to 21 for the US market, supposedly to avoid the import tax applied to luxury watches with high jewel counts. Within two years, Bell-Matics for all markets had been reduced to 17 jewels. The only exception were the 4006-701x models that kept their full count of 27 jewels and continued to be sold in Japan into the mid-70s. This example is a later 17 jewel version. The Bell-Matic remained in the line until 1978 when it was phased out by the onslaught of the digital watch revolution. These watches are fabulous in design, a very wearable size, and great to look at. They are quickly being sought after. This example with its bright blue glossy dial and matching outer ring is a very handsome version. The case has light wear to it, but remains unpolished showing strong original lines and chambers. The condition of the dial is excellent with all the luminous material showing well under UV light.
Automatic, stainless steel watch circa 1973.