A Touch of Red

52309602152_b90eb2b2e0_oI bought this Seiko wristwatch at the Vance AFB exchange in 1978. It was popular with military pilots of the era, even astronauts — NASA’s Bill Pogue had worn one aboard Skylab a few years earlier. Today they’re collectors’ items, and are known as Pogues.

I wore it daily for close to 25 years, in the air and on the ground. Then one day I forgot to take if off before jumping in the pool. Water got in the works and it stopped running. The guy at the watch repair shop in the mall told me it wasn’t worth fixing. I put it in a dresser drawer and tried to forget about it.

Two years ago, Seiko put out a special-edition tribute watch with a similar gold dial. If I can’t fix my old Pogue, I thought, maybe I can get a neo-Pogue. The run was limited to a couple of thousand watches and mostly sold out by the time I learned of it, but I managed to score one with the help of a local jeweler. The day it came and I saw it in the flesh, I was … underwhelmed. Seiko missed the boat somehow. It was a pretty watch, but didn’t draw the eye like the original. Well, it was my mail-order bride now, to keep and to care for.

About a year later, I saw a photo of one almost exactly like it on an online watch forum, but this one had a bright red second hand. The red second hand, like the one on the original Pogue, tied it all together. That’s what was missing with mine. The watch in the photo had been made for the German market, and in very small numbers. Why Seiko didn’t use the red second hand on my version I’ll never know.

I have a friend, Chris, who’s also into Seikos. A few months ago he told me he was learning to modify them. Turns out modifying stock wristwatches is a popular hobby, and pretty soon I was surfing Seiko mod forums, working up the courage to ask Chris if he’d replace the second hand on my watch with a red one. Last month I finally did ask and he said sure, pack it up and send it to me, and I did, and he did, and now my tribute Pogue is perfect!

Here’s the before and after:

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That red second hand IMO makes all the difference. What was plain now pops. Now it’s a proper tribute to the Pogue. It’s like having a new watch in the collection — I’m wearing it everywhere (note to self: not in the pool).

Gotta admit, I’m tempted to try my hand at modding. Not little stuff like swapping straps and bands or removing extra links from metal bracelets, which I’ve been doing, but teaching myself to replace hands, dials, crystals, and bezels, making custom watches you can’t buy anywhere. But that would be taking my obsession to an even more obsessive level, so for now I’ll try to banish such thoughts.

Oh, the old water-damaged Pogue? I finally broke down and sent it off to a watch repair place in Los Angeles. Having it rebuilt, as they warned me, wasn’t cheap, but it’s as good as new again and I wear it often.

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