Some of my favourite watches are the unbranded, quirky and sometimes pirated models that you don’t see as often as the ‘major’ brands because they were probably consigned to landfill once the battery went flat.
One such watch, and definitely in my top 10, is the Armitron 20,3101 digital-analog alarm chronograph.
If you know vintage LCD watches at all, you’ll know this is a copy (and not even a subtle copy) of the Seiko H127.
While I’ve never read any documentation to support it, you’d have to assume Armitron was making this under license since they were a legitimate company and not one of the random piraters of Seiko’s intellectual property.
They also had their name on the Wrist Comp databank, a Space Attacker game watch clone, and the Saturn I game watch so it’s no surprise they were popular, and sports stars of the day were often seen toting an Armitron around their wrists.
So while this watch appeals to me because of the tiny analog and regular sized LCD (compare this to the Casio ana-digi models where the LCD was reduced dramatically so the analog portion could be the ‘main’ part) I admire the Hong Kong backstreet craftsmen who reverse-engineered the Seiko version, worked out all the parts they’d need, and reproduced an almost exact clone which, by all accounts, may even be more reliable than the genuine Seiko version.
In any analog-digital watch that is partially working, it’s almost always the analog section which has stopped moving. LCDs pretty much just need enough voltage to work and, since they don’t have any moving parts, can survive better than an analog module which can stop working if a few small specks make their way into the mechanism.
This one was sold in LCD-working condition and one of the reasons I wanted it was to see if the vintage Witschi Cyclonic I had just bought could revive the analog portion.
When it arrived it not only wasn’t working at all, the battery had chosen to destroy anything metallic nearby. I didn’t take any photos of the repair since I didn’t think I’d be able to repair it, but sure enough once the battery gunk and the rusted bits were removed, traces redrawn with silver conductive ink and a new battery bay sourced from my junk box, it came back to life.
I’m not sure a Seiko would have been so forgiving but the Armitron was back in business. Better yet, the analog portion was now working too!
A quick spin in the ultrasonic cleaner for the case and bracelet and it’s back to looking, and functioning, great.