Archive for 2009

Case closed: the Moonraker SEIKO A158 (not A159)

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Immediately following my previous post concerning the lack of proof tying the SEIKO A159 to the James Bond movie franchise, I received what appears to be the final word on the matter.

For the last week, I have been in close contact with Dell Deaton, owner and author of Jamesbondwatches.com, to verify my assertion that the A159 was never associated with 007 in either movie or promotional form. Mr. Deaton was kind enough to scan and share what he believes to be the root source of the confusion – a Moonraker promotional advertisement featuring two SEIKO watches in conjunction with the 1979 film, starring Roger Moore.

The SEIKO A158 Moonraker promotional advertisement

In the image above, what you see are portions of the original advertisement, which clearly show the SEIKO A158-5030 T on the left (not the A159) and distant cousin A259-5010 T on the right. Obviously, the two watches are very, very similar in appearance and function to the A159. In particular, the A158 is a near match.

I would consider the A158 a blood relative of the A159 – nearly an identical twin – which is obviously the basis for so much confusion and, frankly, misinformation. The differences are subtle, yet they are there for all to see. Check out my earlier posts (1, 2) of the A159 to inspect the physical differences for yourself.

SEIKO A158 smoking gun

Let the record show that the A158 is indeed a “Bond watch,” albeit in a very tenuous fashion, and really only as directed from the SEIKO marketing department. Neither the A158 nor A259 ever made it into the Moonraker movie, yet were in one single marketing promotion prior to the film’s release. The similarly designed A159 was never in anything 007 related.

Case closed.

Oh, and if you get the chance, you might check out Mr. Deaton’s “Bond Watches, James Bond Watches” exhibit running from June 2010 through May 2011 at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania, or his well-researched site.

Update: Seiko A159 not a James Bond watch, ever

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I recently blogged about the Seiko A159 digital watch and its dubious ties to the James Bond movie franchise.

As I previously pointed out,

“According to one source, the watch was used in some promotional marketing materials to introduce the new relationship between Seiko and the 007 brand prior to the 1977 release of “The Spy Who Loved Me.”  I have not been able to verify this, but it is an interesting anecdote, if true.  If anyone has any of these materials, I would love to see them.  Nevertheless, it was never in the movie, nor any other Bond film.”

After much digging and a little luck, I’ve been able to locate what appears to be the shred of “proof” some use to link the watch to 007.

The marketing material in question is a movie poster which shows two Seiko watches in conjunction with Bob Peak’s iconic 007 painting (incidentally, Peak’s original artwork is available to anyone with an extra $130,000 to spare).

spy-who-loved-me-quad-blog

I have obtained a high-res version of the promo poster, and can report that the watch on the left is labeled in tiny text, “FB001 (£145)” and the watch on the right is labeled “DW001 (£128),” which I have called out in the image above. From what I can tell, the watch on the right is similar to the 2-button Seiko 0674, but it isn’t an exact match (the 0674 did make it into the movie). The watch on the left is similar to the A159, but it isn’t an exact match, either.

watch-differences
In the image above, I’ve placed my own A159 next to the rendering of the watch on the left in the poster to demonstrate, I think once and for all, that these are not the same watches.

My theory: the Seiko watches seen in the 007 promotional poster were renderings of future watches, possibly the A159 and 0674, which changed design treatments prior to production. The model numbers do not match, and the design details are obviously different. There are broad similarities, but that is it.

If anyone has evidence to refute or corroborate my evidence, I would welcome it. Until then, I believe I have proven with near certainty that the Seiko A159 is not, and never has been, related to James Bond in any way.

James Bond watches, and the mysterious Seiko outcast

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

Seiko A159 acquisition <br /><em>click for larger view</em>

Virgin Seiko A159 // click image to enlarge

I have a strange obsession (fetish?) with incredibly vintage and/or nerdy watches.  Watches so geek-laden, I might only wear them in public while wearing a long-sleeved shirt.  I focus mostly on watch designs from the 1970s and early 80s, which I appreciate for their clean lines and understated modernism.  I must admit a strong nostalgic attraction as well.

My most recent acquisition is a New Old Stock (NOS) Seiko A159 (to be precise, an A159-4029 T) digital Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) men’s wristwatch.

Somehow, this museum-worthy relic sat in a display case or box or coffin completely untouched for the past 32 years, never to be worn, or scratched, or nicked, or anything – until now.  It’s almost like a rare fruit fly that was thought to have been extinct decades ago thanks to man-made global warming is suddenly rediscovered.  Hovering lazily over my banana.  Incredible!  (Slap!)

In any case, for those out there interested in this type of timepiece and its origins, I thought I would share some of my research findings in addition to the photos I’ve taken (if you wish to reuse my photos for personal use, please ask permission first).

Ohhhh, James …

Why an impact printer?  Why?

Seiko 0674 fortune cookie // photo © MGM

First off, the Seiko A159 has mistakenly been reported by some as a “James Bond Movie Watch.”  From what I can tell, this is technically not true.

According to one source, the watch was used in some promotional marketing materials to introduce the new relationship between Seiko and the 007 brand prior to the 1977 release of “The Spy Who Loved Me.”  I have not been able to verify this, but it is an interesting anecdote, if true.  If anyone has any of these materials, I would love to see them.  Nevertheless, it was never in the movie, or any other Bond film.

The watch made famous in the campy spy classic is in fact the unforgettable Seiko 0674 5009.  You remember, it’s the watch that ironically stamped out a secret message from HQ on narrow fortune cookie paper rather than alerting 007 on the digital screen of the watch.  Can you imagine trying to load the paper into the back of that thing?

The 0674 is quite rare these days and hard to find in excellent condition for less than $300.

Regardless of the A159’s suspect linkages to 007, it is still considered by some to be part of Seiko’s 1st-generation of LCD digital watches, which first hit the market in 1973.

The History

Seiko A159  starboard view <br /><em>click for larger view</em>

Seiko A159 starboard view // click image to enlarge

Prior to Seiko’s partnership with the Bond franchise in the late 70s, the movies had primarily been dominated by Rolex, although the it was by no means a monogamous relationship.

“By 1977 quartz prices had fallen to the point where they were accessible to anyone, and Hattori [Seiko] initiated one of the earliest examples of high-profile product placement via the popular (and evidently endless) James Bond film series … Roger Moore’s iteration of the character wore six [emphasis mine] different Seiko timepieces [if the A159 was included, it would be seven], appearances that were paralleled by extensive print ads featuring James Bond and his Seiko. Most of the Seikos James Bond wore were the flagship LCD watches of the period, and their latest development were quickly shifted to film.”

Having been born in ’77, the A159 was likely the end of that 1st-generation, right before the 1980s pummeled Seiko and its stock share price, as well as any remaining significant monetary value of stand-alone LCD digital watches from a public perception standpoint.

LCDs were, and still are, deemed fashionably acceptable when part of an analog/digital combo, or in pure sport or exercise related watches, but rarely as elegant fashion pieces particularly at the mid-level price range.  Due to their ease of manufacture, LCDs became “cheap” and easy to obtain.  With the LCD watch approaching four decades, the once cutting edge technology lost its ability to capture or impress the world’s imagination long ago.  Pan left, enter nostalgia!

Seiko A159 LCD closeup

Seiko A159 LCD closeup // click image to enlarge

There have been a multitude of  James Bond watches spotted over the decades (around 50), including Seikos.  With the exception of the occasional laser beam equipped watch, humorous 007 gadget watches appear to have taken a bit of a hiatus for several years.

As you can see, the Bond franchise has been dominated by the highly respectable Omega brand since 1995 (owned by the Swatch Group, which have also taken the Olympics away from Seiko under the Omega flag) .

The Seiko 007 list:

  • 1973, Live and Let Die, Hamilton Pulsar ‘P2 2900’ LED.  Not a Seiko at the time, but an interesting LED history, nevertheless.  Hamilton, a once innovative US-based watch manufacturer from the 1890s-1970s, has been a subsidiary of The Swatch Group since 1984.  The Pulsar brand is now owned by Seiko, however, “positioned below Seiko, but above Lorus.”  These days, Pulsar watches are mainly analog.
  • 1977 ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ Seiko 0674 ‘Ticker Tape’ wristwatch, mentioned above
  • 1979 ‘Moonraker’ Seiko m354 Memory Bank ‘Plastique Explosive’ Wristwatch
  • 1981 ‘For Your Eyes Only’ Seiko H357 Analog Digital Display with scrolling LED message bar (now they get it!) and two-way radio
  • 1983 ‘Octopussy’ Seiko Liquid Crystal TV Watch
  • 1983 ‘Octopussy’ Seiko G757 Sports 100 (the ultimate collectible) Homing Device/Hidden Microphone Monitor
Seiko A159 PDF Manual

Seiko A159 PDF Manual // click image to download

The Manual

Back to my A159.  The watch arrived to my San Francisco Bay Area abode  after a long journey all the way from Budapest, Hungary – by blimp, no doubt.  It did not come in an original Seiko box, nor did it come with the instruction manual.  There are only 4 buttons, yet the usability of the buttons and the watch face labels is nonexistent, except perhaps for the quaint bulb-driven light (which works).

I contacted Seiko customer service to see if they had any of the manuals in their archive, and they politely sent me a full-color scan in PDF format, which you may also download from me if you’re so inclined (you won’t find it on their website).  The manual says it is for the A159 and its 1st cousin the A158.

Help yourself.

I’ve currently got my radar up for this jaw dropper, circa 1971.  But for now, I think I’ll close the blinds and put on my virgin Seiko A159.

Tripping on an (artistic) advertisement

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Mike sent me a link to a short post at Videogum that, frankly, is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a very long time  (not the post, but the video).  Directed by Adam Berg of Stink Digital, the short spot is heavily influenced by The Dark Knight to say the least.  Via Videogum:

This is a short film created to promote a new Philips TV that has the aspect ratio of an actual movie screen (21:9).

Note the actual duration of the perfectly looping video – it is the only tenuous link to the product I could find beyond the URL to the Philips website.

Bravo to Philips for being so bold and avant garde!  The meticulous planning and flawless execution, not to mention the completely understated marketing direction, should make the industry take notice and learn something.  Will they?

The inauguration’s paper of record

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I got up at 5am this morning to get a New York Times to commemorate the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. I filled my pockets with quarters, threw on my coat, and stumbled into my car.

First, I went to my local newspaper machines about 2 blocks away outside Fat Apples restaurant.  There is a row of about 8 newspaper machines there.  Empty!  Only the SF Chronicle and USA Today machines were full (I got one of each).  I knew that couldn’t be right, though.  Why would all of the New York Times machines be empty?

I flew to the BART train station about 3 more blocks away feeling confused and a little nervous.  The newspaper stand at the station wasn’t even open yet.  His windows were shuttered and quiet.  No papers bound in twine were waiting for the clerk’s arrival.  And, all of the rows of newspaper machines around the corner were empty again, too (except for the Chronicle, which I already had).  Incredulous, I started to curse the guy who came before me and stole my right to history!

Next, Starbucks across the street.  Thankfully, I found puffy faced and bleary eyed human beings there where I learned that the New York Times had NEVER been delivered that morning.  “When do they usually get here?”  “About an hour ago,” the barista said. “They never showed up.”

!!

There must have been an issue with the entire south El Cerrito delivery, I thought.  I bought a cup of coffee to help sharpen my focus.  After pacing around the parking lot, I got in my car.  After making sure the Lucky’s grocery store across the parking lot was also bare, I drove a couple of miles to nearby Berkeley and spotted a 7-Eleven.   The store emitted a warm, comforting glow.

There, in stacks as high as you might imagine stacks of money in a bank vault, sat fresh copies of the NY Times in all of their glory.

I took a deep breath, and picked up a single copy.   Even though I now knew that there hadn’t been some Ebay jerk vacuuming up all of the papers in my neighborhood, I didn’t want to deny someone else the same feeling I had at that moment.

I restrained myself to one, and went home.