I have a liking for the Master series of watches. From the older Scubamasters and Flightmasters, to the Marinemasters and Landmasters.
Over 3 years ago, I stumbled upon a listing for a rare Landmaster South Pole. These were a limited edition watch with some unique features. The movement was, I believe, unique to this production run of 800 watches. The 5M47 had a GMT hand like the 5M45 (on which it was based). Nothing unusual in that. But this one rotates anti-clockwise. I believe this is the only watch ever to have that feature. Additionally, if one notices the bezel, another unique feature will become apparent. The compass markings are reversed. As are the markings on the chapter ring. Pretty odd. Apparently it all makes sense when navigating the South Pole. Obviously it is only a matter of time before such features are crucial when I next undertake such a foray J. I don’t know how I existed without such features. But in truth, they do add to its desirability somewhat (logic has no place here). The watches history lies with a Japanese explorer named Mitsuro Ohba. Having ventured solo from Siberia to Canada via the North Pole in 1997, he then decide to venture to the South Pole in 1998. Seiko originally produced a lovely North pole version of the watch – which Mitsuro Ohba used to navigate (presumably with other instruments).
These are his rather poignant words:
Three times I was defeated by nature trying to reach the Pole. I went feeling too sure of myself, and going to the North Pole with the attitude that “I can take on anything” is dangerous. I was lucky to only lose some fingers and toes. Others have died. When you fail three times, no matter how stupid you are, you realize that fear, humility and gratitude are important. After finally figuring that out, I was able to successfully complete my solo trek on the fourth attempt.
If I were to express in a few words what adventure has given me, it would be the simple realization of how wonderful it is just to be alive. I have learned how precious life is, and how fleeting. On my treks I felt like I was living in the ice age, having arrived from the present. If I had to decide which time is better I would choose this one. There are hot springs, all sorts of delicious foods, my girlfriend, friends, and a warm house. Living with others in harmony and friendship, and at the end, dying at home surrounded by the ones you love - I think that’s a good way to live.
Back to the watch:
The watch was acquired cheap (relatively) – which given its rarity (and collectability) is rather unexpected. But given the state I acquired it, then the price was about right.
The main issue was the threaded stem tube. Basically there wasn’t one. Or, more correctly, the threaded section onto which the crown screws, was gone. Only a slight stub protruded from the case. The tube sat in the case as normal – but the threaded section was gone. This had obviously been the subject of a failed repair job too. Someone had tried to mend this and cracked a decent size chip out of the case. Yup chipped. In order to avoid a conventional metal watch case sticking to the wrist in such chilly temperatures, the designers chose to use ceramic for the case as well as the bezel. Great. Even more of a pain to rectify than if it had a steel or Titanium case. I have a feeling that the poor seller must have sold it in disgust. Either he had tried to repair it or had got someone else to . Either way, they had turned a lovely £1200 - £1500 watch into a pile of scrap.
This watch was acquired over 3 years ago. I have only just completed it. The time in between was spent trying to figure out just what to do with it. I looked at replacement stems, aftermarket stem and crown sets . Different ways to seal it. My preference was the maintain the original crown and the overall appearance. I looked at tapping the stub tube with different size taps. I looked at putting a sleeve in it. I looked at not having a threaded crown.
I must confess that I was rather nervous , whatever I chose to do, about putting much force into the case. Ceramic is brittle- if I got it wrong, I could easily be left with a handful of sharp and shiny fragments. By this time I had acquired a good selection to oh so small taps, dyes , crowns ,tubes and gaskets. I plucked up the courage and after much deliberation, decided to see if I could get a female thread into the remaining tube. I started well (it would with the taper on the tap). But then I started to get the start of a thread. Could work. Looking good. Until it split. Was going to happen I guess. Then it came out – which was ok in the end. So now I have a ceramic cased watch which needed a stem tube. Mmm. I had found some tubes with the correct thread to match the crown (M3.5 fine btw). But the diameter of the section that sits in the case was too big. And long. And the threaded portion was too long. Obviously I didn’t want to drill the case. So I firstly cut down the length. Then reduced the diameter. Then reduced the threaded length. Not too easy without a lathe. Now I needed to get it into the case. And secure it. So I did research on the best adhesive to use. It had to bond to both metal and ceramic. In the end I went for JB Weld Liquid metal – a 2 part epoxy.
It went well. The liquid metal worked a treat. Admittedly it will never look great from the case -back side – but I was happy. I now had case with a threaded tube secured in it. And secured it was. I knew the thread would suit the crown as I had tried it before securing it into the case. I dropped the movement in and tried in the crown/stem. Looking good. Screw down the crown. Nooooooo. I had cut the threaded part down too far. The crown is not threaded all the way – there is an undercut for the first portion. Its threads would not quite engage with those on the tube. Arrrgggggh. So disappointed. Back in the drawer it went. Few weeks passed and I gave it another go. New tube acquired. Cut down. Diameter reduced. Thread length shortened – but not too much. Old liquid metal filler removed (not easy – its pretty impressive stuff). Cleaned with IPA. Try again. This time it worked. Such relief.
That was my big hurdle overcome. There were others – but I knew I could overcome these. I needed some parts – and knew there would be no spares.
Due to its unusual material, its case design is rather unusual. The designers obviously couldn’t use the same design as for the Ti and steel versions. They had to accommodate the different properties of the ceramic. The movement is exposed from the front (not that rare I agree). But the crystal is secured by a retainer that isn’t actually screwed onto the case conventionally. Instead it uses 4 screws to secure it to the case. Guess what – these screws were missing. And what a pain they proved to be. To clear the bezel they had to have very shallow heads. And the threads weren’t too common. In the end i found some in some sunglasses (don’t need them in the UK anyway (or do you)). But – obviously every dimension apart from the thread itself was wrong. They were too long. Head too deep and too big in diameter . And only 3.
Giving this one life is not proving easy.
In the end the screws got sorted – as did gaskets - and a thin PTFE washer for the bezel (yup – had to make that one too).
Finally, all seemed good to go. Just a simple cap swap and I was ready to reassemble. This one has caused me such heartache over so long, that I was a little apprehensive I confess. But it went together well. Surprisingly so, I was so so chuffed. Admittedly it will never be as new – nor would I put the water resistance to the test. But for a relatively small amount of money, I now had a rare Landmaster. And I loved it.
Til it stopped.
Maybe it was a faulty cap (yeah I was clutching at straws). Did the compass test and there was movement. Tried another cap anyway. No joy. I knew I would never get another movement so started thinking that a 5M65 would be an option. But I didn’t want to give up. Then I noticed the hands. They were touching. An hour later and voila – hands now spaced correctly. Up and running. And has been ever since . Sorted . Relief. And pleased. I like this one.
Now onto the next project – a rare non working Pipin. Why oh why do we do it