Seiko 'Gen 2' RAF Chronograph Review

So what is this watch and how did it come to be?

Well, the UK Ministry of Defence or MoD commissioned Seiko in the 80's to provide the standard issue watches for their Jet/Helicopter pilots in the Royal Air Force and later Royal Navy. These versatile watches were also later produced without their radioactive lume (so as to not interfere with the sensitive equipment) and were then supplied in extremely limited numbers to the crews of nuclear submarines.

The first watch Seiko supplied was the 'Gen 1' which was issued from 1984-1990.

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It comprised of a 38mm sand blasted stainless steel case with fixed 20mm strap bars housing the reliable 15 jewel 7A28 movement. It's believed only around eleven thousand of these watches were made and due to the nature of their work, their short issue period (which coincided with active service in the Gulf) they are consequently more rare than the Gen 2's.

The second generation watches were issued from 1990 onwards.

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Generation 2 watches differ from the first in a variety of ways, the lug to lug length is slightly larger, the movement is changed to a jewel-less quartz 7T27 with the subdial placement changed from the original 3,6 and 9 to 6,9 and unusually, 12 o'clock. The pusher at 4 o'clock from the Gen 1 is removed entirely and the crown is relocated to the more common 3 o'clock position.

In the 00's Seiko then switched production of their MoD watches to their Pulsar brand. Similar chronograph watches can still be found, although they are predominantly civilian versions and not military issue.

Now, down to the business of my watch...

As stated, it is an early 2nd Gen watch issued in early 1993 and considering it was issued around an active time for the RAF, it seems to be in very good condition, it is likely that it was only lightly worn. Before purchasing it the seller installed a new crystal, new gaskets and a new battery, which helps make this watch look more fresh.

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In the hand this watch is dainty, almost delicate - not what you expect from a military watch, and when combined with a thin NATO strap it is almost unnoticeable on the wrist. The matte sand blasted case wears very flat and thin and although I only have a slim wrist, the 38mm case is about as small as I would like before legibility becomes an issue. If you've got bad eyes, this might not be for you!

The face is plain matte black, with 'Seiko' the letter 'P' and all the relevant timing indices in crisp white. Apart from the dial indicators and the tiny text for the movement code at the bottom of the dial there is absolutely no unnecessary text whatsoever.

The three subdials are for subsidiary seconds, a 30 minute timer and a 24 hour clock, to allow pilots to plan missions in multiple timezones.

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On the back is the ubiquitous arrow stamp which indicates military issue, along with the serial numbers dictating when it was issued and to which country.

Also on the back are the words, 'water resistant' Nowhere else on the watch does it declare any official depth or rating, so one assumes that just means 'some'.

Therefore with this being a vintage piece I will be reserving it for light duties as a precaution.

However in Seiko's defence I suppose if a pilot finds himself needing a 200m diving watch then something has gone badly wrong somewhere!

For those of you wondering what the 'P' on the dial stands for, it stands for 'Promethium 147' which is the lume that Seiko used on these watches.

The lume on this particular watch is fantastic.... for about a minute. The nature of Promethium being a mildly radioactive substance like Tritium means inevitably it wears away and dulls over time. Thererfore the lume on this watch is like a firework, all 'oohs and ahhs' when first exposed to darkness and then followed by a 'was that it?' comment afterwards!

The crown is not screw down and is tiny, requiring decent skilful fingers or nails to pinch and pull it out, but rewards you with a satisfying click, and the movement inside feels tight and solid when adjusting.

The pushers also have a decent press to them, with the main timer hand sweeping nicely and returning back perfectly to its original start position.

If this is the kind of watch that interests you then you need to be aware of the realities; like many historic military watches, you are paying a decent amount for a very basic watch that was issued in the hundreds or thousands. If you're prepared to pay for it you can find ones in good condition, but there are others in more 'working clothes' condition for a cheaper price.

The materials and build quality are nothing extraordinary, as is normal for anything government issued! The majority of the value in these watches is the novelty, mystery and character they provide, so don't expect to get one and give it a thrashing in normal life, because it probably won't hold up. If that's what you're after then a CWC G10 is more worth your time, they are plentiful, durable, relatively cheap and CWC still makes them!

At the end of the day I bought this watch because it's story and design interested me, along with the novelty of an actual issued item with lots of 'mojo', and like many tool/military watch enthusiasts it's as close to military service that I'm expecting to get!

If I've got something wrong, be gentle! Any questions, I'll endeavour to answer them to the best of my knowledge!

Thanks for reading my first review 馃檪

Seiko 'Gen 2' RAF Chronograph Review

3.6
Yes No
3/5
4/5
4/5
4/5
3/5
  • Light weight
  • Tons of mojo
  • Chronograph works well
  • Proper tool watch aesthetic
  • Small size even on smaller wrists
  • Lume is pretty much useless
  • Fixed strap bars can be limiting with strap options

Very interesting review many thanks.

I had no idea Seiko had any supply deal going on with the UK MOD so a lesson for me.

I like the look of the watch as well!

Thank you for an interesting read. I knew that Seiko supplied chronographs to the RAF in the 80's but that was about the extent of my knowledge until I read this review.

Sweet watch, and interesting review. Thanks for posting!