Thursday, March 15, 2012

New old stock Sea-Gull ST5

There seem to be enough of these new old stock (NOS) Sea-Gulls floating around on the world wide garage sale that I figured a review of one couldn't hurt, so here goes. Note-For another review of these ST5 Sea-Gulls, look here.

The watch you see above is a Chinese Sea-Gull model from the 1970s. Despite its age, it arrived in flawless condition (a feat that some new watches I have owned couldn't manage btw). The watch did not ship with a band so a trip to the parts box produced the combination in the photos. These old Sea-Gull models are, ahem, traditionally sized men's watches which is to say, small by today's fashion standard. The watch measures 35mm in width (37mm with the crown), 42mm lug to lug, 10mm thick and uses an unusual 19mm band lug width (You can probably squeeze a 20mm model on though). Despite the smallish measured dimensions however, this model wears a bit bigger than it is thanks to the high crystal and the thick, elongated lug design. As a dress watch, it is really quite good looking.

I was pleasantly surprised at the fine build quality on this model. Unlike many watches from the seventies which still used plated brass watch cases, Sea-Gull was already using a nicely polished stainless steel case on this design. That decision to go with the more durable metal no doubt contributes a lot to this watch's age defying looks. The hands appear to be polished stainless steel as well and the dial features raised metallic markers. The crystal is the only visual clue that this is an old design. It is a raised flat-topped acrylic type unlike the mineral and synthetic sapphire units common today. (For what it's worth, I happen to like acrylic crystals. Minor scratches can be polished away easily with a cotton ball and a little toothpaste. Try that with a scratched mineral glass crystal). The hands and face have no lume which is fine for a dress watch. While the case back screws down against a rubber gasket, I wouldn't trust any older watch near water so assume no waterproofing here.

Internally, this oldster is powered by Sea-Gull's ST5 19 jewel hand wound movement. The movement is a sight to behold. It features hand striped decoration on the bridges and plates. The workmanship of this striping is very well done and not at all the sort of thing I would associate with a socialist economy. A lot of pride clearly went into this little engine. In terms of accuracy, my example is gaining about 15 seconds daily which I can live just fine with. One thing that did surprise me is how stiff the crown is. You really have to grip it tightly to wind it. It's not a bad thing as far as I can tell but it is something to consider. For what it's worth, the mechanism is loosening up a bit as I use it. Could be just some old oil gumming things up. In addition to all the decoration btw, the movement also features what appears to be a polished, internal anti-magnetic shield. Yet another nice and unexpected touch.

All in all, I'm quite satisfied with my journey into Chinese horology so far. On two occasions now I have both been pleasantly surprised and had my prior assumptions challenged. I have a familiar feeling that these two Chinese watches (see the review before this one) will not be my only ones. I think a new watch box may be in order first though...


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