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What's the deal with my 7005-8030?

  1. lightweight Oct 23, 2022

    Hey Seiko fans of the Omega Forums. I have a watch with me that represents a bit of a hitch in the narrative surrounding the Seiko 7005-8030 "MACV-SOG". This watch in a black dial is well documented as a piece of kit that was issued to American special forces during the conflict in Vietnam. The story is long and has a couple of twists or turns depending on who tells the tale but almost always goes something like this. American special forces operators in Vietnam often had to cross borders into other nearby bordering countries or spend time embedded behind enemy lines. As such it was not seen as good practice for them to be wearing the Benrus or Hamilton watches that were normally issued to American GI's early in the conflict many of these operatives chose to purchase watches for themselves in country and gravitated to the Seiko reference 6619-8060. Starting in about ~1968 a US Army offical named Ben Baker began ordering watches directly from Seiko for the purpose to issuing them to MACV-SOG operatives. The first reference that is its generally agreed upon that was issued was the Seiko 6119-8100. This watch is visually very similar to the 6619-8060 both are black dial Seiko 5 models with luminous arabic numerals and a day-date complication. The dial on the later 6619-8100 models are just a bit simpler losing he "Sportsmatic" text near 12 and the "waterproof diasock" text near 6 o'clock. Later in the conflict (most accounts say that the watches stated being issued in 1970) Baker began distributing 7005-8030 models these watches stuck to the formula of a black dial with luminous arabic numerals around the perimeter however the case shape is drastically different and the dials no longer reference the Seiko 5 collection saying only "Seiko, Automatic, and 17 jewels".
    The 7005-8030 receives a solid amount of attention from collectors because of its relative rarity in the already rare and obscure world of MACV-SOG issued Seiko time pieces. The watch also receives a lot of attention in the book "Running Recon: A Photo Journey with SOG Special Ops Along the Ho Chi Minh Trail" (note: I have not read the book so I can't verify how often the watch is pictured or talked about.) The watch that I have in my possession is identical to the issued pieces in every-way I can see. The dial layout, wording, functionality, fonts, caseback, serial number range all match except one crucial feature. My watch has a white dial. Now this is not unique. These watches circulate and you can find ebay listings, reddit threads, watch collecting sites, mentions in podcasts, ect. Whenever I see this watch listed for sale its listed as a "SOG" watch and the collectors that post about them seem the link them to same batch of black dial 8060's. To me this isn't a huge problem Seiko collectors with backgrounds that allow them to comment on things like this say that Seiko did not produce dials with luminous numbers in its general production catalogue at this time and that the models who share this feature all tend to be military issued. In addition to this there exist dial configurations of the 7005-8030 which we know sold to the public. These watches in keeping with the standard narrative tend to have applied indices lacking the luminescent paint that is so valuable for night time or low light operations. Seems like a slam dunk right? These white dial watches are just a variant of the black dial watches. I could accept this conclusion but a few things bother me. 1. The back dial seems like its a feature of all the other watches, 2. These white dial watches seem to be almost universally awesome condition, and 3. None of these watches have anything to establish provenance.
    As far as point 1 goes I must concede I am not a special forces operator. I also don't really want to go into the effectiveness of using all back as night time camo. Collectors of these watches have connected with veterans of this unit and there are stories of people sewing sacks to over the watches or using to duct tape to obscure the dials because of the lume and reflective hands. What I will say is that the first watches that inspired the requisition from Seiko in the first place had back dials, the first batch of watches purchased from Seiko all feature back dials and we know that at least a majority of the 7005-8060's that are attributed the SOG have black dials including all the photographed 7005-8060's that we can place with or on the wrist of actual soldiers. I also dont think it is a major stretch to imagine that imbedded operatives working on clandestine missions might prefer a less reflective "stealthier" dial. Was the black dial part of the "spec" sent to seiko? We dont know but I think it makes sense to issue black dial watches.

    The condition of these watches is something that deserves a critical examination. As far as we know these watches were only issued to the MACV-SOG an elite of the elite unit. Drawn from the green berets, the seals, CIA, ect. these dudes were recruited for sabotage, strategic reconnaissance, personnel recovery, counterintelligence, and psychological operations behind enemy lines. The unit had a casualty rate of greater than 100% meaning that more operatives were wounded or killed than were sent into the field. None of these guys saw 'easy' tours as a unit in 1970 when this reference was thought to be first issued they boasted the highest ever kill ratio in the history of the US armed forces murdering 158 for every one of their own which was murdered. Examples of watches that we see posted in the field tend to show the watch dirty and hanging from tattered nylon straps. If I was purchasing one of these watches based on the lore attached to them as an item special forces kit I would expect to see marks commiserate with the kind of hard service that the soldiers where doing. Now the watches are steel and solidly built I would also expect that the ones that received the harshest punishment now reside deep in the jungle, having never had the chance to return to camp or home. That being said I am suspect of a NOS looking watch having any real military heritage except by association.

    The most critical thing to me is the the third issue that I have raised. None of these watches appear in photographs, descriptions from the time period, nor as far as I am aware do any of them come with a story conclusevly linking them to Vietnam in the early 70's. If someone could provide me with a photograph or a story about the white dial variant in Vietnam I would gladly set aside my two earlier suspicions. They really are just that "suspicions" something doesn't seem to add up in light of what I know. Of all the white dial versions of this watch that I have seen on the internet they always seem to appear in bulk lots of broken seikos or have no provenance. I think my watch might be the only one on the planet with a documented story. The watch comes to me from my grandfather who was a bus driver in my medium sized Canadian hometown. The watch was purchased by him or my grandmother according to my mom but he rarely wore it preferring his Eaton's Solar Aqua that I have posted on the boards about before. I really struggle to match the mythos surrounding this model of watch with the facts of what I know that lead to it being in my hands. It seems quite likely to me that at least some version of the 7005-8030 was available for purchase by the general public if that isn't the case I would like to hear anyone's explanation for how the watch ended up in my grandpa's possession and then in mine.
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    JayBe, YYTIN, Dan S and 1 other person like this.
  2. JimInOz Melbourne Australia Oct 23, 2022

    I can't add anything more than to say, thanks for an interesting read.

    I like the Seiko "military" style black dial/lume combo and wore one regularly in the 1990s, can't remember what model it was.
    Ended up giving it to a mate who commented on it and wished he owned one.
  3. Dan S Oct 23, 2022

    Thanks for that great writeup, and I really like your grandfather's watch. I don't have any real information about the military provenance, but I think your analysis is very reasonable.
  4. Barking mad Prolific Speedmaster Hoarder Oct 23, 2022