Naomi Uemura: The North Pole, Polar Bear Attacks and a Seiko

Naomi Uemura, an adventurer with a innate passion to ignore rules and limitations, famously gaining a reputation for doing alone what others did as a large team. Oh, and he (of course) was a watch geek.

On this day (1st May) in 1978 he was the first man ever to reach the North Pole solo, he was met by his photographer Ira Block (credit for photos below) to document this feat.

Naomi Uemura photo by Ira Block on North Pole Mission

Uemura wore a Seiko 6105-8110 on this expedition, a definitive Seiko watch. This particular Seiko watch is a special watch, often overlooked through instagram photos and owners suggest it needs to be held to understand the the magic of this watch. These watches have incredible build quality with exceptional finishing, easily on par with other hi-end divers of the same period, such as a Rolex Submariner or perhaps a Seamaster 300.


Seiko 6105 and Naomi Uemura


Naomi Uemura, wrote that he almost gave up twice during his 1978 North Pole trip. On the fourth day of his trek, a polar bear invaded his camp, ate his supplies, and poked his nose against the sleeping bag where Uemura lay. When the bear returned the next day, Uemura was ready and shot him dead. 


Naomi Uemura Ira Block gun camp


Seiko make everything in-house. Not only was the movement in-house, Seiko even made their own oils, cases and crystals. Due to this durability not only did Naomi Uemura wear it but also so did US military servicemen during the the Vietnam war era.


Seiko 6106-8100 Dial


On the 35th day of the the North Pole Expedition, Uemura hunkered down on an ice block with his malamutes dogs, there was the roar of breaking ice and the block cracked into several pieces. He and his dogs were stranded on a tossing island of ice. After a night of terror, Uemura found a 3-foot-wide ice bridge and raced to safety, Seiko and all.


Naomi Uemura Dogs Blocks Ice


This Seiko watch was initially intended as a tool watch, and was generally worn as such by Joe-Public not necessarily collectors, as such they were naturally beaten up and used as a general tool watch. The 6105 is powered by the robust Seiko caliber 6105B, a 17 jewel full rotor with an automatic winding mechanism.


Seiko 6105 vintage watch advert

Prices have now skyrocketed for the Seiko 6105-8100 post the initial $95.00 advert price, they can now found online on eBay between £1,500- £2,000.

Sadly Naomi Uemura died on on February 13, 1984, one day after his 43rd birthday, when he was descending Denali, an award named for him was created in Japan after his death.