Seiko 7A28-7120 RAF Chronograph
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Seiko 7A28-7120 RAF Chronograph

For decades, the world's militaries relied on manually-wound, Valjoux or Lemania-powered chronographs to keep their maneuvers on time. By the 1980s, the British Ministry of Defense looked to phase out these redoubtable chronos in favor of something... well, newer. Enter a somewhat unlikely party from the Land of the Rising Sun: Seiko.

In the 1980s, Seiko had already been around for a century. For every advance that a Swiss manufacture made (a dive watch or an automatic chronograph), Seiko released one as well. Its participation as Official Timer for the 1964 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo, brought the brand to the world's attention, and at the close of the decade would release a watch that would engulf the watch world like a tsunami.

That was the Seiko Astron--the world's first commercially-available quartz wristwatch. 

The Swiss and Americans had been experimenting with quartz technology since at least the Second World War, making quartz clocks, and in 1967 actually developed a quartz wristwatch--the Beta I--but it was never sold commercially. But Seiko's success with the Astron mobilized the Swiss industry to release quartz wristwatches of their own. While these watches (like the Beta 21 produced by Omega and Patek Philippe) were expensive, their movements finicky, the Astron was such a game-changer that it shook the Swiss to the core. 

And by the 1980s, quartz watches were only getting better. So when the RAF decided to outfit their pilots and personnel with a new chronograph, they turned to Seiko. This watch, powered by the Seiko 7A28 quartz movement, was first issued to pilots in the RAF in 1984. 

Over 11,000 of these were issued throughout its six-year run, making surviving examples sublime and plentiful. In looks it has the feel of the classic military chronographs, with its matte black dial (featuring a P enclosed in a circle to designate that the luminescent elements are Promethium) and sturdy steel case with "broad arrow" and NATO stock numbers engraved on the case back. But the real star is of course the 7A28 movement, which has three counters: one, at 3 o'clock, which measures 1/10s of a second; another, at 9, which records up to 30 minutes; and at 6 the seconds tick sedately away. 

The chronograph is triggered by the button at 2 o'clock. When pressed, the hand in the register at 3 o'clock whizzes around while the center chronograph hand makes its dignified circuit. But if you hit the button at 10 o'clock, the hands stop but the chronograph keeps running, making it a split timer.

Though Seiko used the 7A28 movement in many different watches (from the "Ripley" featured in Aliens to ones used by fisherman, of all people), those used by the RAF are without a doubt our favorite--attractive, reliable, and above all cool as hell.

Details

SKU: TT01193

Matte steel case is 36mm (excluding crown and pushers). Seiko 7A28. Seiko Calibre 7A28 Quartz Movement. Circa 1984.

Overall Condition: Matte steel case is in good condition with sharp lugs, showing some signs of wear, including some dings and scratches on the sides of the case and on the bezel. Black matte dial is in likewise very good condition showing fine even patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Unsigned crown. Seiko case back is in very good condition, showing military engravings.

Includes one 18mm brown military (possibly original) nylon strap and leather cuff.

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