The fabulous story of Seppo and his B52806 150m Citizen


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.

Citizen Guy- www.vintagecitizenwatches.com

Advertisements

An inside view of Citizen Watch co, seen by VCW


For years, I’ve been collecting vintage Citizen watches. I spend a considerable amount of time researching, collecting, buying, selling as well as restoring and servicing these wonderful timepieces. Sooner or later, it was bound to happen.

Yes, I had the chance to travel to Tokyo, Japan and be a guest at Citizen Watch co. Earlier this year, the company introduced a fascinating new facility – the Citizen Museum. I had the honor of being invited to visit this institution and admire the impressive collection from the company’s watchmaking history.

Let me start by saying that we cannot talk about Citizen without taking into consideration that this is a quintessentially Japanese brand, with the nation’s philosophy and lifestyle encoded in its DNA. Japan is definitely a must-see country. We’re all familiar with martial arts, Buddhism and Shinto. We love bonsai, ikebana, origami and, of course, Japan also means Samurais and Geisha, doesn’t it? It’s all of those things and so much more: respect, simplicity, tradition, work ethics and pride, innovation, art, philosophy… you can find it all in Japan and, indeed, in the wonderful world of Vintage Citizen Watches.

One hundred years ago, the Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. was born under the name Shokosha Watch Research Institute. Mr Shimpei Goto, the mayor of Tokyo, named the first watch “CITIZEN” with the hope that the watch, a luxury item in those times, would become widely available to ordinary citizens and be sold throughout the world.

His ambition materialized. “People appreciated and benefited from the institute’s results”. Prophetic words, indeed. With this statement, the seeds were planted for what would become the world’s largest watch manufacturer. In 1924, the first pocket watch bearing the Citizen moniker was produced. One of the first pieces produced by the company was purchased by Emperor Showa, Prince Regent at the time (Emperor Taisho era). In 1930, Yosaburo Nakajima laid the foundations for the Citizen watch empire. In 1936 the company expanded beyond the boundaries of Japan, exporting watches to many parts of Southeast Asia. This was the starting point of going global and the reason we can all enjy these watches no matter where we are.

Two years ago, I started talking to Mr. Hiroyuki Ota (Otha), Deputy General Manager of Citizen Watch Europe GmbH, about a certain watch model featured in a commercial. Little by little, our conversation developed and we planned this visit to Tokyo headquarters. Once I arrived in the capital, I visited the flagship store to prepare for the following day. Of course I had a beautiful watch ready for the occasion. 😉 (Thank you Eric for sourcing and keeping the watch for me and for the great time we had in Tokyo!)

This is the watch I strapped to my wrist on Monday morning. It is the stainless steel Chronometer and you can read about it HERE. I like to believe it was a great choice, since our host seemed impressed. This model was also on display at the museum, not once, but twice – as a whole watch and in a section discussing its movement.

At 9:00 we were at the Citizen headquarters and we had no problems getting there. Once we got out of the train at the Tanashi station, the Citizen logo on their building was easy to spot. We took a short walk and reached the gate. Because the trains work really well in Japan, we were able to schedule out trip with such precision that we arrived at 8:57, since our meeting was at 9:00.

The doorman was aware of our visit and someone walked us into the waiting room. Two minutes later, at 9:00 sharp, we were met by Ms. Wakaba Kuroshima (Product Management Section & Product Marketing Department) with whom I had communicated prior to my arrival. She was very helpful in providing all the information needed in order to get there in time and also a few welcomed pieces of advice about what to do in Tokyo. She took us into the museum.

Mr. Yasuyuki Sakamaki (Citizen Museum Director & Citizen Archives General Manager) along with Mr. Takeo Ishino (Manager Product Management Section & Product Marketing Department) and Mr. Shoiji Misono (Manager Product Planning Section & Product Marketing Department) welcomed us. They were all extremely gracious and evidently proud of their work and their company. Everything was clean, neatly arranged, well-planned and executed. Our hosts kindly showed us around and answered all our questions.

Our tour started with a short film that rendered some of the most important events in the history of Citizen and a few of the innovations made by them throughout the years, and there are a lot of them. After this, we were invited to see some watches, important pieces, hand-picked by our host and guide, the museum director. There are 130 watches on a 24-meter-long display. The 24 m represent the hours of a day. So we can witness 100 years of development in one single day.

We learned so many things about Citizen: the first titanium watch, the first Japanese water proof watch, the thinnest movement at a certain time, Guinness World Record for smallest watch movement, Eco-drive technology, radio wave…. and so many more world or Japanese premiers. The tour also introduced us to some machinery and because Citizen is a truly in-house made watch, the company manufactures the machines that make the machines that make the watches! How cool is that?! And Citizen is not only watches; they also produce car parts, led lights and a lot of other non-watch-related things, all with the greatest dedication. Inspiring!

 

After the tour, we sat down for coffee and I had the chance to ask a few questions.

  • Next year Citizen will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary. How does it feel to be reaching such a milestone?
  • We are proud of these one hundred years, but it is not the end. We don’t see it this way. It is only the beginning of the next 100.

 

  • How do you imagine the next centenary?
  • We focus a lot on the future and at the same time we treasure and cherish out past, the tradition. What we are aiming for is to look ahead and continue on our path the same way. Trying to improve, to be better.

 

  • Will Citizen go mechanical high end?
  • We do not, in fact, have this plan at the moment. The technology is there, but this is not our main focus. We have the Campanola…
  • I know Citizen has made a tourbillon, the Y01.
  • Yes, but it was a one-time thing and we have no plans of pursuing this path in the near future. In fact, there were only two pieces made.

 

  • How do you view the past? Citizen made awesome watches and we love them so much!
  • We are very proud of our past and we have a few watches on display that we treasure. Citizen had the same philosophy for a long time and the past watches, the present ones and future ones will show it too. Citizen had a lot of global and Japan “firsts” and we were always looking to improve, to offer a better product.

 

  • Do you have an archive for vintage? Do you service them, offer parts for restoration?
  • Citizen doesn’t keep an archive and doesn’t offer service and parts for watches unless they are in the warranty period.

 

  • Do you encourage the vintage market for VCW?
  • At the moment we don’t have a plan in this direction. We appreciate collectors such as yourself and are amazed by your watches and your passion. Why do you collect VCW and where do you find them?
  • For me, as a collector, I find a lot of diversity and quality still at a very reasonable price. My father had a Citizen, a blue-dial, that he bought when I was born. It was quartz but still made me love the brand. Finding them is not easy… I’ve spent hours every day for years, looking for the best pieces.
  • Thank you for everything!
  • Thank you, we are humbled and honored by the passion collectors invest in our brand.

 

  • Will Citizen recreate some important historical watches? A lot of brands are investing in this direction.
  • Next year is going to be Citizen’s centennial so… (spoiler alert – you heard it here first, on VCW) we are going to present a homage watch. But because Better starts now… we don’t search into the past, we are proud of it but we go forward and in fact we have several directions to follow.
  • Wow! What model will it be? That is such a great surprise. I’m sure the readers will be thrilled.
  • We can’t say right now but we will introduce it to Baselworld next year. You are invited to see it there and hopefully we will meet again. What I can say is that it is in the final stages of development.

 

  • Thank you so much! I will wait for it and will probably meet you again there. Do you have a message you would like to share with the fans of your brand?
  • Next year is an important passing point, (100 years) we look at our history but this is the beginning of the next 100. We try to send this message at Baselworld.
  • So keep an eye on Citizen! Thank you again! Arigato gozaimas!

Back to my visit, a few images that I hope you will enjoy. In the picture above you can see the Parawater and the Pacific buoy, in the picture below you can see some old machinery, some old tools and the cabinet (all made by the Citizen company).

The past was impressive and this is why we love it so much. They were trying from day one to provide the best watches they can do at affordable prices so everyone could get such a luxury item. Divers, chronographs, complicated watches… elegant ones in stainless steel or gold, platinum, titanium, stone, wood… and everything you can think of. Citizen was always pushing for a better watch and a better one. Their motto is Better Starts Now” and they promise and they deliver.

Present day is only a continuation of yesterday, so it makes sense to go a step further. Yes, they are not high end mechanical watches but they made watches that you can wear and enjoy at a daily basis while having fun. They still make reliable watches and innovation is their game and they are winning it. “We are the citizens, the people who see the world as a work in progress. A place to be improved. A place where time is measured not in seconds, but in steps forward. Some will say we are obsessive, but if you love something, why would you not strive to make it better? We don’t live in the glories of our past, our sights are firmly set forward. Are we aiming for perfection? No, for us, to admit perfection is to admit defeat. To stop. And if time never stops, why should we? We’re heading for better.”

Tomorrow will bring us an even better watch and I can’t wait to be there to witness it. In the picture above you can see the Citizen logo machined into a natural hair. Just imagine the level of precision of tomorrow! And based on the amount of innovation they accomplished on these 100 years, I can’t wait to see what the next 100 will bring. All we have to do is eat healthy, exercise, rest, love, collect VCW, be calm and stress free and we will meet here again in one hundred years. 🙂

 

As a conclusion: awesome people, awesome company and awesome watches! If I was a big Vintage Citizen Watches fan before the visit, now I am twice as much. I was so impressed by the modesty, respect and the warmth of the people at Citizen…. and a company is only as good as the people that work there. They do it with such love, respect and dedication! Love it!

Thank you Citizen, thank you all and I hope you found useful information here. Also, you can join the Vintage Citizen Watches Facebook group HERE.

Arigato gozaimas!

Citizen Guy – www.vintagecitizenwatches.com