VINTAGE 300T SHARKHUNTER - VINTAGE SEIKO 6309 - 7049
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - March 2005
Everyone knows me as a Doxa watch enthusiast. They have even suggested that I change my nickname from Flying Doctor to Flying Doxa. However long before I discovered Doxa I was a big Seiko fan. I guess it all started in 1977 when my younger brother Michael joined the police. He used his first paycheck to buy a Seiko chronograph 6138-3002. I was really envious at the time because I was a poor student and couldn't afford anything like it. Several years later Mick presented me with the watch, which by this time was pretty trashed, when he bought a new Seiko diver. I felt in love with that watch too. It was a 6309-7049.
As an aside to the review, I have restored the 6138 and will give it back to him. It should be quite a surprise.
Over the past few years I have concentrated on building my Doxa collection but I regularly go hang out in the Seiko and Citizen watch forum and ogle the cool vintage divers that Seiko have made over the years. That forum is THE place to go if you are a Seiko fan. Loads of great people, postings, pictures and info. Not surprisingly it was the 6309-7049 that always caught my attention. What I like most about it is the shape of the case. It is a nice big round cushion. I was calling it a pie pan case for years but I believe the correct term is cushion. In a way it reminds me of the Tonneau case on the vintage Doxa SUB 300Ts. These case designs make both the Doxa and the Seiko very comfortable to wear.
It's not really a stretch to say that the Seiko 6309 and the Doxa SUB 300T Sharkhunter are contemporaries. The 6309-was produced from 1976-88. In that time, probably 1986, Seiko changed the case shape for the newer 6309-729A. The shape is similar looking except it is a bit thinner both in thickness and in width.
Seiko have stuck with this thinner case right up to the present day and even though the cushion case is a favourite with collectors, they have never used it again in any present day watches except for the 7006-8030 where they used a smaller modified version. (NOTE, I do not believe that the bezel on the silver 7006 above is original - it didn't stop my wife from trying to commandeer the watch, though. Actually the 7006 is a beautiful watch in its own right. The bezel is reminiscent of the Certina DS-3). One reason for not using the old 6309 case design is that even though the new movements; eg. 7S26 are similar to the 6309, the crown positions are slightly different. The crown on the 6309 sits at exactly 20 minutes past the hour. The modern movements sit at 18 minutes. This means it is not possible to use a modern movement in one of the old cases.
The Sharkhunter in this review is from the early 70s before Doxa was owned by Synchron, as can be seen from the Doxa sailboat logo on the caseback. Actually the casebacks are a good place to start the review. As mentioned the Doxa has the sailboat logo, while the Seiko has the traditional Tsunami wave.
The picture above is believed to be around 400 years old and is a very popular image in japan. It can be seen everywhere; in advertisements, postcards and T-Shirts and is considered to be the inspiration for the Seiko diver casebacks. There is certainly an uncanny similarity and I would bet that it is where Seiko got the caseback logo.
The Sharkhunter is basically a continuation of 300T line which started with the orange dial SUB in 1967. The case is a classic Tonneau design with crown at 3 o'clock and 20mm lugs. What sets the Doxa apart is the bezel. Doxa collaborated with US Divers to incorporate a Non Decompression Dive Table into the bezel. It is unidirectional and takes 60 clicks to rotate fully. The bezel on the Seiko also takes 60 clicks to rotate but it is bidirectional. The bezel insert is a simple affair with just minute markers. The fact that the Seiko bezel is able to be turned both clockwise and anti clockwise puts it at a disadvantage with regard to diving. Even though the bezel is quite tight, it is possible to knock it and turn it backwards. This obviously compromises its use to time a dive. The crown on the Doxa is located at 3 o'clock and screwed. Doxa were inconsistent with regard to crowns. Some models in the 300T range had signed and screwed crowns while some had neither. The Seiko crown is at 4 o'clock, unsigned and screwed. The cushion case has a recess which acts as a very effective crown guard.
The Doxa and Seiko are fairly close with regard to size. The Doxa case size = 45mm lugs to lugs, 45mm wide (including the crown) and 13mm high. Crystal is flat. The Seiko case is 45mm lugs to lugs, 45mm wide (crown protrudes another 1mm at 4 o'clock) and 12mm high. Crystal is flat. The major difference is the lug width. The Doxa is 20mm where as Seiko is 22mm. Notice also in the above shot how the Seiko case curves at the sides, whereas the Doxa is a more traditional square side. Interesting enough, in the mid to late 60s, 19mm lug width was fairly common, but 20mm was becoming the standard. 22mm was considered huge and posed a problem if you wanted to swap out the strap. For both the Doxa and the Seiko the case between the luqs is curved. This is good and bad. Good in that it is aesthetically pleasing but bad in that it can leave an unsightly gap depending on the strap or bracelet used with the watch.
The Sharkhunter was originally released with a ricebead bracelet. This design is almost universally liked even though the innovative diver's extension was somewhat flimsy and caused premature failure of the bracelet. However, the "standard" 20mm lug width and "normal" curve between the lugs meant that it was very easy to use any number of aftermarket bracelets with the Sharkhunter. That wasn't the case with the 6309. The watch was originally supplied with the vented rubber strap. No steel bracelet was ever produced for the watch. It is possible to make several bracelets fit but even the Seiko ones require that the end pieces be filed to the correct profile. Not an easy task.
Both the Doxa and the Seiko are approaching 30 years old and both are keeping remarkably good time. I have no idea of the service history of either watch and it is possible that neither have ever been serviced. Both are exceptionally clean and it is unlikely that water has ever entered the cases. The Doxa and Seiko use automatic 17 jewel movements. The Doxa is the Swiss ETA 2852 and the Seiko is it's own inhouse 6309. The major differences are that the ETA is date only whereas the Seiko is day and date. Neither movement is hacking and only the ETA is manually windable. It is almost a trademark that the Seiko movements are non windable. A quick shake is all that is needed to start the second hand moving.
There are several things I must point out about the Seiko 6309-7049 that I own. The original finish on the case is similar to modern Seiko dive watches; brushed. I polished the case on mine. I think it looks much better. The original crystal was a flat mineral crystal. I replaced the crystal on mine with a domed glass crystal, again I think it looks better, but it makes it really difficult to photograph straight on. The bezel insert on my watch is an after market one. They are pretty close to the original. The 6309 was manufactured from 1976 - 1988. It is believed that the cushion case versions 7040 and 7049 were available from 1976 - 1985, when the 729A cases took over. Both 7040 and 7049 are identical, the 9 represent North American production and the 0 is rest of the world.
This review was not designed as a "my watch is better than your watch" exercise. I did it because I wanted to show people what options were available around 25 years ago to people who wanted a quality dive watch and couldn't afford the big expensive brands. To me both the Doxa SUB 300T and the Seiko 6309-7049 represent the best of the Swiss and Japanese divers available from the mid to late 70s. It is testament to their design and construction that there are still so many around and that they are well sought after by collectors.