Looking for history: Finding Dad's watch from 1972

WatchCrunch Team, I'm hoping a few of you can help me on a scavenger hunt that I don't think I've been able to get a clear answer on in my searches. In 1972 my Dad was one of the original U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crewman/mechanics picked to be a part of the inaugural helicopter search and rescue swimmers at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. They were flying UH-1Ks that had the specialized engines for heavy loads and higher altitude flight. In fact, due to insufficient crews, often the rescue crewman would sit up front with the lone pilot, support the flight, and rush back in the cabin to conduct the rescue. The older method of rescue was to come into a low hover or place a skid in the water and pull the downed aircrewman into the cabin. After several dangerous rescues and near water swamping of the the aircraft, the base commander decided to end that method and establish a dive/swim rescue capability. My Pop was voluntold onto the team with three others. The rest really is history in terms of that form of rescue since that group effectively pioneered many of the techniques and standards used today in helicopter-based water rescues. 

I tell you all that to tell you this:  In 1985 my Dad gifted me his original Seiko team watch from that era. My vague memory was that he put it on a bundt strap and that it was a manual wind. I cannot recall if it had the 62MAS style case or the 1970 Capt Willard SPB237-style. I don't recall a 4 o'clock crown. I've looked through family photos of me in that era and can't find me wearing that watch. I had no true appreciation for that watch or the actual history of the team at the time (who thinks their Dad is that awesome at age 14, right?) and I promptly lost the watch within a few months. Since then, I purchased the SPB239 pictured above hoping to capture the spirit of the watch from that era. Thankfully, my Dad is still alive and I'd love to find the original watch from that era to gift back to him. It's probably a lost cause, but if anyone on the WatchCrunch team may have an idea where to start, I'd happily take a look.  In the off chance my memory (and his) is a bit skewed and the Citizen Challenge is the more likely watch (since I remember a black dial clearly) then that may be the style to look for.

Anyway, please, no one burn too many charm cells on this. However, I thought the historians among us may be able to educate us all.

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Wow, what a story! I'm not a great watch historian, but I wish you all the best of luck on your venture 👍

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Amazing story. Photographs are going to be vital in identifying the watch. Looking online for archival photos of that era is a good start. Hopefully, there are clear enough photos to identify a model. Another way is to reach out to his buddies to see if they recall the watch they bought/were issued. I know that some crews got given watches, and some went out and bought their own at the PX. I'll pry around and see what I can find. This will be a good hunt, as it was right after the Vietnam War, so there will undoubtedly be an overlap there. Best of luck! I'll help where I can.

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santiago

Amazing story. Photographs are going to be vital in identifying the watch. Looking online for archival photos of that era is a good start. Hopefully, there are clear enough photos to identify a model. Another way is to reach out to his buddies to see if they recall the watch they bought/were issued. I know that some crews got given watches, and some went out and bought their own at the PX. I'll pry around and see what I can find. This will be a good hunt, as it was right after the Vietnam War, so there will undoubtedly be an overlap there. Best of luck! I'll help where I can.

That is incredible support. I haven't checked with the Pop A Smoke types, but that may be worth the shot too.

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CTReese

That is incredible support. I haven't checked with the Pop A Smoke types, but that may be worth the shot too.

Anytime. And yes, asking vets from that time is an excellent source of info. Not only will you get great stories, but valuable insight into field/tool watches of the time. 

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Brother,

it is an incredible story and while your Pop is still going strong, I think you should do an oral history.   i was too young when my dad (USN tin can sailor from WWII) died to ask the right questions and I regret it to this day.  Any/all details are well worth capturing and, assuming your dad agrees, sharing with vets either in a formal publication or something like medium.com.

When you do ask about his service, you can drill down on whether it was a PX watch or some sort of issued watch.  If the former, then you can do plenty of searches on PX Seikos of the time.   It could be either of the watches you mentioned or something entirely different! 

If an issued watch, then as mentioned by a previous writer, his teammates should be helpful.   I would be surprised if it was an “issued” Seiko.  At the time, issued watches were Benrus, Waltham and Bulova.  MKII watches make a terrific Benrus homage (though you have to be lucky to be ready when their small batches are for sale - so far, no luck at this end).

anyhow, it is a great project and I wish you good hunting and good fortune!

JR

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Mike4_author

Brother,

it is an incredible story and while your Pop is still going strong, I think you should do an oral history.   i was too young when my dad (USN tin can sailor from WWII) died to ask the right questions and I regret it to this day.  Any/all details are well worth capturing and, assuming your dad agrees, sharing with vets either in a formal publication or something like medium.com.

When you do ask about his service, you can drill down on whether it was a PX watch or some sort of issued watch.  If the former, then you can do plenty of searches on PX Seikos of the time.   It could be either of the watches you mentioned or something entirely different! 

If an issued watch, then as mentioned by a previous writer, his teammates should be helpful.   I would be surprised if it was an “issued” Seiko.  At the time, issued watches were Benrus, Waltham and Bulova.  MKII watches make a terrific Benrus homage (though you have to be lucky to be ready when their small batches are for sale - so far, no luck at this end).

anyhow, it is a great project and I wish you good hunting and good fortune!

JR

Great point on the history. We live near both the official USMC museum and the USMC history and research center. We've been planning on dragging him down for years to some friends of mine there to do an oral history project both on Vietnam UH-1 gunship aircrews and the origins of the USMC SAR program. 

On a related note, they were deemed an experimental unit so they had everything from the first organizational equipment neoprene wetsuits to watches as unit purchase and issue. They are a bit of an exception in terms of standard supply system issue. Although, it's probably not too far off the mark to have done what's called an "open purchase" at the PX. 

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CTReese

Great point on the history. We live near both the official USMC museum and the USMC history and research center. We've been planning on dragging him down for years to some friends of mine there to do an oral history project both on Vietnam UH-1 gunship aircrews and the origins of the USMC SAR program. 

On a related note, they were deemed an experimental unit so they had everything from the first organizational equipment neoprene wetsuits to watches as unit purchase and issue. They are a bit of an exception in terms of standard supply system issue. Although, it's probably not too far off the mark to have done what's called an "open purchase" at the PX. 

Slowly but surely you will close the loop.  In the meantime, consider a Marathon MSAR or GSAR with the Globe and Anchor on the dial For your dad.

 Marathon is a no foolin’ provider to the US military and USG, the “SAR” in the title stands for search and rescue.  Better still, the quartz models won’t break your bank account and are available now.  I have the Arctic MSAR quartz and a “sterile” Marathon GP (general purpose).  Both great watches with fantastic tritium lume.

Don't give up the chase for that 1970 classic, but in the meantime, you could honour your dad with the current generation of CSAR watches.  
 

my two cents.

JR

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Mike4_author

Slowly but surely you will close the loop.  In the meantime, consider a Marathon MSAR or GSAR with the Globe and Anchor on the dial For your dad.

 Marathon is a no foolin’ provider to the US military and USG, the “SAR” in the title stands for search and rescue.  Better still, the quartz models won’t break your bank account and are available now.  I have the Arctic MSAR quartz and a “sterile” Marathon GP (general purpose).  Both great watches with fantastic tritium lume.

Don't give up the chase for that 1970 classic, but in the meantime, you could honour your dad with the current generation of CSAR watches.  
 

my two cents.

JR

That is a GREAT suggestion. My Dad and I are both USMC veterans. My Dad Vietnam and retired just before Desert Storm. I was OEF/OIF. Both of us had 21 yrs each of service (collective 42 yrs) and multiple combat tours. This would be good fun. On a side note, my Dad had multiple SAR tours and was kind of the grand old man of the West Coast community. When I was a kid, he'd get the crews to fly over the house, hover, then he'd wave. We were the only kids in the neighborhood who had that.

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CTReese

That is a GREAT suggestion. My Dad and I are both USMC veterans. My Dad Vietnam and retired just before Desert Storm. I was OEF/OIF. Both of us had 21 yrs each of service (collective 42 yrs) and multiple combat tours. This would be good fun. On a side note, my Dad had multiple SAR tours and was kind of the grand old man of the West Coast community. When I was a kid, he'd get the crews to fly over the house, hover, then he'd wave. We were the only kids in the neighborhood who had that.

Fantastic!  
The search is going to be well worth the effort no matter what you decide to buy.

Have fun, Marine!

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Check out the Seiko catalog archive on Plus9Time https://www.plus9time.com/seiko-catalogs 

There are JDM catalogs for the early 70's. 

Good Luck

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middlesixfeet

Check out the Seiko catalog archive on Plus9Time https://www.plus9time.com/seiko-catalogs 

There are JDM catalogs for the early 70's. 

Good Luck

That is an excellent resource! Thanks!