Seiko 7A38 - by the numbers



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Forum Home > Bend it, Mend it - Mods & Wreckers > A very long-term restoration project: 7A38-7000 with 'patina' - or not worth effort ?

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The sub-title of this forum section reads:

Where to post about your modifications; strip-downs and rebuilds; successes and failures Yes, I'll occasionally admit to them. :P

Most of us who've tinkered with 7Axx's will probably have arrived at the conclusion, no matter how abused, mal-treated and neglected they may be, 95% of 'basket cases' are usually recoverable. I mean, you've only got to look at some of the watches the less fussy Filipino watch-botchers nail together.

Now I don't admit defeat easily, but there comes a point where you've got to stop and ask yourself: Is it really worth the effort ? :/

October 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Let me give you some background first. This story goes back a long way to March 2010.

I already had an almost mint stainless 7A38-7000, that I'd bought off eBay in the States 12 months previously ....

Hang on a minute, like many of these old stories, I think I may have told this one before - over on the RLT watch forum.

It took me a while to find it again, but it starts with post #17 on page 2 of A few of my Own 7A38 'Frankens' - Shock, Horror !

I've a perfectly good, almost mint, stainless black-faced 7A38-7000 in my collection. Bought it on eBay in March 2009.

So there's no real reason for me ever to want to buy another one. Right ? 

But I still look at any examples I find in my searches on eBay, just to make sure. 

A real beater came up on eBay in the States in March this year; The listing was titled:


Now, my first thoughts were – Hah – Portuguese Day wheel – SEX on Fridays ! 

But it only took one glance at the seller’s photos to know that it actually had a French day wheel. :roll:


It was fitted with a yellowed and very scratched domed acrylic crystal, but in other respects looked restorable.

As the bidding started at 99 cents, I added it to my eBay watching page – purely out of interest .... as you do.

Unsurprisingly, bidding was fairly slack, so I made a low-ball bid on it, and ended up winning it for a mere $42.05 !


My plan was simple:

Replace the crystal; give the case and bracelet a quick re-brushing, and sell it back on eBay at a small profit.

However, I neglected to absorb a commonly (ab)used 'magic phrase' the seller had included in their description ....

Something like: 'everything works, but needs new battery'. 

Whenever you see that - remember - ask yourself .... so why hasn't the seller fitted one ? 


My post # 18 continues:

It duly arrived. It was absolutely filthy. 

That replacement domed acrylic crystal virtually fell off. It had been glued on, presumably with plastic cement. :roll:

I stripped it right down, and the bracelet spent 24 hours soaking in neat Flash before going in the ultrasonic tank.

I don't think I've ever seen so much crud come out of a bracelet. 


I put all the watch case / bracelet parts to one side, and turned my attention to the movement.

The watch had obviously suffered from moisture ingress, and possibly a leaking battery at some point. :angry:

 I put a new battery in, and it ran, surprsingly, but the chrono (and its reset functions) were erratic. :(

And so I began a strip down and partial re-build of the movement  .... which hadn't been part of my original plan. 

October 18, 2013 at 11:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Now I could waste a lot of time copying and pasting my subsequent posts from that RLT thread (you can read them there if you want),

but to cut a long story short ....

That 7A38-7000 never did get re-built (as such). Instead, the movement, 700L dial and hands ended up in one of my 7A38 Frankens:

When I first built it, it was just a suck-it-and-see, but I did like it, so I kept it that way. It evolved slightly, including a change of bracelet.

There was another reason I didn't put it back into the original 7A38-7000 watch case, which I don't think I actually mentioned on RLT.

The dial and hands were fairly decent, apart from a tiny flake of lume missing from the tip of the hour hand ....

Problem with that 7A38-7000 was whoever had glued that acrylic crystal (into the nylon gasket) had got glue on the Tachymeter ring !

Presumably in their efforts to wipe it off, most of the numbering, between 400 and 200 was missing.

Not visible in the eBay seller's original photos needless to say !  :mad:

So from April 2010, what was left of that 7A38-7000 languished in my stack of unfinished projects, dropping lower down the order:

October 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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A couple of weeks ago, I had to extricate that box from near the bottom of the pile.

I'd bought another 7A38-7000 'restoration project' on eBay in the last week in September, fairly cheaply:

Apart from having to carefully clean up the dial, it turned out to be a relatively easy fix. As I wrote, on page 30 of the WRUW thread:

All I've done with it so far is to fit a crown and stem and add a couple of spare bracelet adjustment links. Still needs the stem trimming exactly to length; a new crystal and a damned good clean (it's filthy). But it's got possibilities. Not bad for 40 Quid + postage, eh ? :D

The crown / stem and couple of bracelet adjustment links that I needed for it came courtesy of the 'unfinished restoration project'. :)

I also swapped their case-backs. That on the most recent was originally a 3Oxxxx serial number, but it was more scratched. After I'd refinished it, I wasn't entirely happy with the result I achieved, so I buffed out the scratch on the the 41xxxx case-back and fitted that.

Which meant all that was then left in the take-away box was this:

October 18, 2013 at 1:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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So now, at least the box was top of the pile and fresh in my mind. :)

Last week, I spotted this while searching eBay on 'Seiko 7A48' - note 7A48:

vintage seiko quartz chronograph watch spares or repair

Vintage seiko quartz chrono 7A48-5000 day - date watch for spares or repair. 

The watch is running and keeping time,the chrono function is lacking its centre chrono hand and is running erratically. 

The watch has a feint inscription on the case back,to rob from mike 20/8/91. 

The watch is sold as spares or repair so bid accordingly. 

The pictures form part of the description any questions please ask.

So pretty obviously a tired 7A38-7000 fitted with the wrong case-back off a 7A48-5000 and some unidentified non-original bracelet.

Seeing as I had the best part of a bracelet; a watch case in reasonable condition, but with a spoiled Tachymeter ring and my recently

re-finished correct 7A38-7000 case-back, sat there doing nothing, I decided to go for it - hoping I might get it for around £25 - £30.

Bidding was at £24.88 with about a minute to go, then it jumped to £26.00. I put in bid of £34.56 - only to find it wasn't enough ! :o

I instantly recognised the other bidder's ID of 1***b as belonging to Bob Barkell - so I decided to have another last second bid:

Nailed it, by 17 pence !  But once the adrenalin rush had passed, it began to dawn on me I'd paid well over the odds for it.

October 18, 2013 at 2:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Anyway, being a good eBay citizen, I paid up immediately, by Paypal. About 5 minutes later a message from the seller arrived:

Hi Paul. Many thanks for your purchase. I will post the watch tomorrow morning; any problems don't hesitate to contact me. Regards Mark.

I was out on Thursday morning, but I have an arrangement with my super local regular postman who re-delivers packages to my work.

So I finally got around to unwrapping it around 4:30pm. When I did, I realized why the seller might be expecting me to have a problem.

What I had wrongly presumed were reflections in the crystal were marks on the dial - lots of them. Not only that, but someone had held the watch in a vice at some point. Not a jeweller's vice either - but a heavy duty vice with serrated jaws ! This thing was a real mess. :o

I didn't even bother to wait till I got home to have a better look under my illuminated magnifier. I messaged the seller (replying to his previous unsolicited message), saying that I was unhappy with the received condition and I wanted to return it for a full refund. I was firm but polite. He replied saying that he was surprised it had sold for what it did - he'd expected it to make £30 max. He offered a me a reduction - asking if I wanted to keep it for spares. I said No Thank You - I wanted to return it for a full refund - and that I planned to post it straight back to him on Friday morning (I'd already printed the address label). After exchanging a couple more messages, he asked me to open a case in the Resolution Centre - which I did. He then refunded my payment immediately and told me to keep it !

Cheers, Mark ! 

October 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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So you'd think that having got myself a freebee, I'd be grinning from ear to ear, right ? Erm No. 

I really would rather have sent it back - which would have meant I'd have had to keep an eye open for another 7A38-7000 parts watch.

I took a few photos of it this morning:

Although his photos may have been less than revealing, his description was spot on.

It does (or did) keep reasonably good time, but the chrono' hands are certainly erratic. The sweep hand is broken off leaving its boss. There is no feel to the pushers and the chrono' appears to be running - some of the time, with no way of stopping it. Occasionally, the 1/10s sub-dial hand will make the odd stuttering revolution - and you can see the 30 minute sub-dial counter advance once a minute.  

Apart from the butchery to the sides of the case, note also the bezel isn't pressed fully home due to the gasket being trapped.

I wonder what happened to Mike and Rob's original 7A48-5000 ? :/ Anybody want their commemorative case-back back ? :|

The movement back-plate is best described as very grubby. Although the movement has obviously suffered from moisture ingress (rather than battery acid damage), there's little sign of any actual rust - but lots of dirt on the inside of the watch case.

Deflected centre seconds finger tension spring - just for good measure. :roll:

The minute hand was bent down and dragging across the batons, so I gently eased that up a bit. I freed off the finger tension spring - although it was still so bent it didn't actually rest on the end of the axle. I popped out that undersized Rayovac # 371 battery (it was clean and dry underneath) and replaced it with a Renata #394. All this TLC must have been too much of a shock to the system .... because when I replaced the movement in the case - it died. Not so much as a flicker of life from the seconds hand any more. :(

I'm going to leave it there, for now .... possibly to be continued. :/

In the meantime, think on this: an old English saying goes: You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. 

Perhaps an alternative title for this topic might have been: You can't make a silk purse out of two sow's ears.

October 18, 2013 at 5:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Paul: in your opinion, what could have caused those whiteish marks on the dial?


My personal Blog:

October 19, 2013 at 4:24 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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I don't know yet, George. :/

But you're right - they are on the dial - as opposed to being scratches through the dial paint surface. :)

At first I thought they might be shrinkage cracks. But when I examined them with a 20X loupe, they're a deposit on top of the paint.

There are also similar marks on the Tachymeter scale too !! :mad:

I suspect (although it's well scratched now) that this watch had a new crystal put in it at some point - hence the badly fitted bezel. :roll:

But what I reckon happened, is that for some time before then, the owner carried on wearing it (running) with a badly chipped crystal.

I believe these are deposits left by fragments of powdered glass, which were dragged around the dial by the hands. I may be wrong ....

October 19, 2013 at 8:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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But I'm pleased to say I'm not. :D

I've just spent half an hour very gingerly dabbing away at that bottom corner of the dial between the 7 o'clock and 8 o'clock batons.

While I was holding the movement between my fingers, I noticed that the 1/10s sub-dial hand had started making sporadic revolutions again. The 30 minute counter was also advancing - even though the crown stem is removed. Anyway, as I've got other things I should be working on (read other peoples' watches), I've put the movement back in its case, for now, and the time is working again too ! :)

PS - When I say 'its watch case', I don't mean the one it came out of (with the vice jaw marks on the sides), but the one where it will ultimately be re-housed - my previous (March 2010 eBay $42) beater currently with the glue-smeared / smudged Tachymeter ring. ;)

October 19, 2013 at 9:08 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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This morning, having to my dismay found out that a certain Seiko spare part which is often needed in such situations was obsolete ....

At lunchtime, I decided to do an impromptu 'in casa' strip-down on my beater 7A38-7000 'ongoing project' to see what it might need:

No surprises (at all really). The PCB was remarkably clean, but underneath the '710', I found the usual rusted switch actuator levers.

The reason for the sporadic activity from the chrono' (which appeared to be running all the time) is immediately obvious in this photo.

Top R.H. - the switch lever at 2 o'clock (Chrono' Stop / Start) is rusted - seized in a position where it was making continuous contact.

October 21, 2013 at 8:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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So having got Dave's 7A38-7270 finished yesterday morning, I was itching to have another go at this 7A38-7000 restoration project.

The rusted switch lever actuators weren't particulary bad (even the one that was seized in the 'on' position), and came off relatively easily with a little persuasion from a Swann Morton craft knife blade and the odd tiny drop of WD40, and a bit of wiggling. All three are probably re-usable (if I ever get really desperate for spares) and have since been left to soak in WD40. They'll likely be there a while.

However, because it was never going to be any oil painting, I was determined to spend the absolute minimum on getting it going again.

That meant NO WAY was I going to consider using my newly arrived 4450.727 switch lever - the last one that Cousins had in stock. 

Instead, I'd already planned to use some replacements I'd prepared much earlier - which had been soaking in WD40 for 2 years !! 

Yup. The B.A.D. Orient J3920 (7A38) movement was about to to come into its own - as a spares donor:

As I did with Dave's 7A38-7270, I gave the rusted areas of the base-plate a light rotary wire-brushing with my Dremel. I should say now, that when I do this, I first mask off the other parts of the movement - bridges, cut-outs, etc. Three secondhand switch levers then fitted:

Returned to the watch case for final re-assembly. In the meantime I'd fitted that with new Labanda O-ring seals to crown and pushers - and as you can see from my subsequent photo, I'd also swapped the old glue-smeared Tachymeter ring for the slightly scratched one.

Such was my haste to get it re-assembled - to see if it would all work, I only took one more photo ..... after I'd completely finished.  

Tried the chronograph. Yes - that lovely clicky feel you get from a 7A38-7000's pusher buttons was back. :) I still hadn't fitted a sweep second hand at this stage, but I could see what was left of its boss rotating. Tried the 4 o'clock pusher self test. Yup - that worked too.

Then I tried to re-set the 30 minute and 1/10 second sub-dials. You could click away at the pushers till the cows came home. Nada. :(

October 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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I knew what the problem was straight away - and the answer. 

Oddly enough, a relatively new forum member had asked the very question in the Tech Tips section, only a matter of two weeks ago:

Of course, my classic quote there was: I can't say I've ever personally encountered this problem .... Famous Last Words ! :roll:

Had I not been in such a hurry to nail it back together, to see if it all worked - and had stopped to take an intermediate photo, like this:

Or better still, actually bothered looking closer, like this:

I would have seen that the setting lever's switch contact (to the PCB) was well below the surface of the '710' insulator spacer. 

Now I'm generally pretty careful when handling movements out of the watch case. I always set the main hands to 12 before removing it - for one thing there's strength in numbers, should you fumble it - plus you know where they all are when looking at the reverse side.

Then I only handle them carefully by their edges. So I suspect the setting lever was bent down already - and may indeed have been contributing to that previous erratic spontaneous chrono' activity (besides the shorted 2 o'clock switch lever actuator).

October 27, 2013 at 1:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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So once I'd sorted that out, I removed what was left of the original sweep second hand (its boss) and fitted a secondhand replacement (off a scrapped 7A38-7029). I also levered off the 1/10s sub-dial hand, which was bent down in the middle, straightened and refitted it.

Then re-fitted the original bracelet for a Q&D wrist shot:

So whither next ? Well I deliberately wasn't too picky about re-fitting those two chrono' hands back on perfectly - the 1/10s is slightly off its marks. I MAY yet pull all the hands and have a go at restoring the dial. Some of the small scratches at the top did unfortunately go right through the paint to the metal underneath. Right now, I'm thinking about dabbing at a couple of them with an ultra-fine Sharpie black permanent marker - see if it works. Then there's the grotty lume - hands and dial. Hmm. Another 'black art' to be learned. 

October 27, 2013 at 2:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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