I had a dream – a dream about watches, adventures and open waters. I had a dream about freedom, and friendship, about trust, duty and honor.
It was the late ‘60s – a time of change. We had the moon landing, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. We had the Beatles and Bob Dylan. We experienced Woodstock, raced cars with naturally aspirated roaring engines, smelled the burning rubber and the exhaust gas. We watched Paul Newman films, surfed under the So Cal sun or enjoyed a glass of vino rosso somewhere on a hill in Tuscany.
Freedom, adrenaline, sex, innovation.
I had a dream about the time when a watch was so much more than jewelry, when its purpose was to indicate time and it was used in the way it was always meant to be: racing, diving, flying or timing important events, even in space or on the Moon.
Yes, I’m talking about tool watches!
In the picture above is me, diving, and Seppo wearing a shirt with the logo he designed. In the background we can see the watch.
It was the late ‘60s and the world was experiencing major changes. Somewhere in Mariehamn (read about this place HERE), Seppo Prepula was also about to have a change in his life. He found himself in sudden need of a new watch.
As he was walking home from work on a cold day, he noticed heavy rain clouds forming overhead. He picked up the pace but it was already too late. The notorious Finnish weather caught up with him, setting in motion the events of our story.
He got home soaking wet, down to his Omega watch. He was not happy.
Two years ago he’d started taking diving classes at the local fire department in Hanko. He’d been bitten by the diving bug and decided that the obvious, natural thing to do was buy a diving watch. His old watch was now ruined, which only motivated him to follow this path and make no compromises in his choice.
He’d heard about a Japanese company called Citizen, that offered high quality diving watches. So he entered a store in downtown Mariehamn, had a brief talk with the seller – who proceeded to throw the disaffected Omega in the trash – and decided on a new Citizen diving watch, the 150m B52806.
That very watch is on my wrist as I write this article.
Here is the watch, the way I received it, caseback and movement too, before cleaning.
Before sending me the watch, Seppo described it “practically new”, and he was so right! The beauty behind this statement is amazing. Even though time took its toll on the crystal, even though the lume is yellow and some of it is gone, even though the case is showing so many deep memories and the crown no longer screws back in… Seppo is seeing it through the same lens he did the first time he laid eyes on it. What Seppo sees when he looks at the watch is his reliable diving buddy.
Yes, Seppo, I can confirm… the watch is indeed “practically new”. Thank you so much for allowing me to wear it with pride, to keep it and enjoy it as you did.
Now back to Seppo and his story. A few weeks ago, his son, Conny, wrote a comment on my site www.vintagecitizenwatches.com telling me that his father has an old diving watch and inquiring about its value.
Well… the rest is history and here I am wearing it today as I tell its story. Between the years 1960 and 1990 Seppo did a lot of diving. Today he is 76 years old and his son Conny is 46 (younger than the watch). In fact, it seems highly probable for this watch to have been at his father’s wrist when Conny was born. Seppo wore it almost all the time, rain or no rain, and, of course, when he was diving. That was, after all, its main purpose. And he dove all around the north European seas. All his life revolved around this passion. He used to wear his special knife, looking – as Conny recalls – just like a Jedi master.
Some personal pictures of Seppo, diving and wearing the watch, the club logo and the watch on the strap he used for diving. This is how I received it.
He started diving in 1967 in Hanko, near Mariehamn before he moved to Uusikaupunki where, with the support of his diving buddies, he founded a diving club. That happened in 1978, the year I was born. He also designed the club’s logo, which is still in use today. Visit the website HERE.
He remembers one of his first dives in 1968 at the Plussa wreck, where he uncovered a sextant and a helm. These artefacts are now proudly displayed at the Mariehamn Maritime Museum. Read more about it HERE.
In Bomarsund, he dug up cannons and a lot of brass/copper ammo core as well as plenty of old cannon powder, stored in tubes (“I enjoyed these in the late ‘80s and almost lost my eyebrows a couple of times because of that, says Conny”) Read about it HERE. Ten kilometers north of Bomarsund, in the early Swedish times, dives were organized to mine for silver and rock crystals in the remnants of the old mine.
The watch reportedly reached a maximum depth of 70 meters (WOW!) in front of Eckerö Post & Tullhus of Åland. Eckerö’s post operated in the time of autonomy as Russia’s westernmost border station for Sweden over a hundred years, which is what made it such an interesting place for diving. The wreckage remains hidden somewhere in the deep waters and will one day for sure be discovered. Read more about Aland HERE.
At Herrö, many dives were made to the wreck of Skiftet. They were sludge cleaning the wreck and lifting up items from it. In one of those dives, Seppo’s regulator got stuck somewhere in the engine room and he had to take his tube and gears off at a depth of 25 meters. “Small close call issue”. Read more about it HERE.
A lot of grenades and ammunition were saved in the seas in front of Hanko – read about it HERE. Read more about the old Mannerheim coffee house HERE.
In the late ‘70s, Seppo was part of a group of divers searching for bombs off the Hango coast. Seppo dived, located grenades and marked them for explosion. They were old Soviet grenades left there after Soviet occupation in WW2. Seppo and his family also lived in the region for a couple of years.
In the early ‘80s at Uusikaupunki, a 300 kg anchor was raised up in front of Lyökki. It now belongs to the Uusikaupunki Museum. “I remember that trip when I was a young boy, my father was with a 6-member diving team that made this job at a depth of 40m”, Conny recalls.
The watch made its last dive in the early ‘90s, when Seppo was tube-diving in the factory of Uusikaupunki.
Diving locations and expeditions, the anchor he saved (wearing the watch) and other items, the medusas rising, the blue seas…
Well guys, if this is not a real tool diving watch, show me a better one! I almost ran out of words working on this article. There is a huge amount of pressure on me as I try to do justice to this special timepiece and its fascinating story.
Seppo recalls that the movement of the watch was only serviced once, in 1975 when the bezel insert was changed because the old one was so deteriorated it was difficult to read. This could have been a safety hazard when diving so a new one was installed. Back then, the watches were not looked upon as collectable jewelry and were not pampered. It was a diving instrument that needed to be up to the task so the original bezel was thrown away and a similar one (Citizen made, of course, but from the next 150m variant) was installed, having the exact same specifications. After this, the watch was never opened nor cleaned until the day I received it. Hundreds of dives in the cold, deep, salty sea waters, and never ever failing once.
Cleaning the watch.
Seppo always trusted his watch to perform and the watch never disappointed him. It was always there for Seppo, keeping him safe.
A few questions for Seppo and his answers:
– what watch are you wearing now? – A “normal” Citizen.
– why did you sell it? And why did you sell it to me? – I am not using it for the purpose it was meant to be used. I don’t dive anymore. I consider that you appreciate the history of the watch and the watch itself, so it felt absolutely right for you to have it.
– how did it feel to let the watch go? – The watch did not have huge emotional ties, but it has been many times involved, most of all it has been a tool for me, which has worked just like a train, always flawless, just like it should.
– do you miss diving? – yes a little bit, I miss this adventure and finding new things, it is difficult to find that view and feel in land, you can try, but you probably need illegal drugs for that. 🙂
– if starting life again, would you do it the same way? Diving, watches… any regrets? – I would not change a day, everything or object leads to something and every item is correct in time, it does not change anything by switching. I could live my life 100% same way.
-any advice for someone who is looking for his first watch, that is just starting his life? – I myself know that a mechanical watch is the best and safest solution for underwater use. Water and electricity do not belong together!
– what is the best memory you have (when wearing the watch)? – Underwater “adventures”, the watch told me that this does not have to be left up yet. Also friends, we were a close community and we always take care of each other’s safety in diving on our trips. Great memories are those summer dives when the medusas rise abundantly in the upper layers. The sight is beautiful and it is worth experiencing at least once.
-what other watches did you have at the same time with this Citizen? – Omega and Leijona, only needed one dive watch and it was this one.
-how did you get this strap for the watch? Did you wear the watch with this strap when diving, or other similar ones? – It is a compass strap (Suunto, from 80 “s). Originally bought a stretch of metal bracelet, it quickly began to resound, obviously salt water did their job to it.
– what would he like for me to do with the watch? Wear it? Take it diving again? Keep it in the safe with my collection? – Please keep maintaining the watch and its history, I greatly appreciate it is in the hands that know something about it and know that it’s real tool not just a cosmetic jewel. Enjoy it!
Thank you Seppo! I can’t thank you enough! I am humbled to and grateful at the same time for the honor to write about you and about your watch, well… my watch, OUR watch! Somehow I feel I am a part of your adventures and hopefully the readers will appreciate it as much as I do. Thank you!
Seppo’s watch and a NOS one I had in my collection that was lent to me by his present owner for this photo shoot.
All things considered… This was no dream; this was the reality even though this is the dream watch we all hope to find one day. If you have a similar story to tell about your beloved Citizen watch, please let me know, or if you know someone willing to share his story, please write me, I would love to write about it. I hope you like it!
Thank you Seppo and thank you Conny!
Special thanks to my friend Andrei Cherascu, a famous SF author, for helping me with the article. By the way, check out his award-winning novel Mindguard and his other novels HERE.
Bogdan – www.vintagecitizenwatches.com