SEAL Team Six and a U.S. Navy-Issued Seiko Turtle
For this edition of the W.O.E. Dispatch, we spoke with Kyle Defoor, a former Navy SEAL Special Mission Unit combat veteran, about his U.S. Navy-Issued Seiko 6309-7049.
Kyle Defoor’s Seiko on a Prometheus Design Werx Ti-Ring Strap along with his SEAL Trident, Red Squadron and American Flag patches he wore in Afghanistan.
Kyle Defoor has devoted the past 30 years to mastering his craft as a Navy SEAL sniper and decorated combat veteran. He understands the value of practical tools. Clothing, gear, guns and motorcycles are carefully assessed for specific utility and tossed out if they don’t meet the ever-increasing standards. Naturally, Defoor has several watches in his toolkit; but one stands out–a late 1970s U.S. Navy-issued Seiko 6309-7049.
In the world of “Watches of Espionage”, this watch has it all: documented provenance connected to two well-known SEALs, operational use on multiple continents, and a story about passing down a watch from father to son. Originally the Seiko was issued to revered SEAL Rudy Boesch in the late 1970s, and then Defoor acquired it in 1996 when his father purchased the watch at an auction supporting the UDT-SEAL Association and gave it to him. He wore the watch in training and operational deployments, including the early years of the war in Afghanistan. The watch wears the scars collected over 40 years of hard use.
And to this day, Defoor still wears it as he trains the next generation in firearms and tactics as founder of Defoor Proformance Shooting.Defoor’s Seiko 6309-7049
Seiko watches have a long history with the Special Operations community, specifically their dive watches, which were favored by members of Naval Special Warfare units. While Tudor Submariners were common during the Vietnam War and issued by some Teams into the 1980s, Seiko Divers were standard issue for the SEALs from the 1970s until the mid-1990s, when they were replaced by digital G-Shocks.
Nicknamed the “Turtle” due to the recognizable shape of the case, the watch is purely designed with utility in mind. For example, the recessed screw down crown at 4 o’clock works with bulky dive suits and– as Defoor notes– while doing pushups. It’s rated for 150 meters, and that’s good enough for a SEAL, and so is the Caliber 6300 inside. The Turtle was a logical choice for Frogmen in the late 1970s.
Defoor's Seiko 6309-7049
Defoor’s reference has what’s known as a “Suwa dial,” and it’s prized by collectors. Suwa dial Turtles were produced from 1976 until circa 1981, and features an “S” above the 6 o’clock marker and the “Japan 6309-704L T” on the bottom of the dial. At 45mm wide and 13mm thick, it is a large watch but wears comfortably due to the short lugs. The day and date complication along with the bi-directional 60-click bezel makes this a practical tool watch fit for rugged use. An automatic movement negates the risk of battery failure, a constant concern for SpecOps.
Defoor, a sniper and decorated combat veteran, spent 10 years in the Navy SEALs including deployments with SEAL Team 6, 2 and 8. Deciphering the details of Defoor’s career can be difficult because he rarely goes into detail publicly on his service and instead uses vague descriptions of his work like “a trip to Afghanistan” to describe his involvement in some of the most pivotal operations in the early years of that conflict, or “some time in Bosnia” for hunting Balkan war criminals in the 1990s. A self-described “redneck from Alabama,” Defoor has the confidence to be expected of someone with his background, but the rare quality of genuine humility.
Defoor enlisted in the Navy when he was 18 years old and after completing BUD/S and earning his Trident, he was assigned to SEAL Team 8. Defoor’s first exposure to real world operations occurred when he deployed to Bosnia to hunt Persons Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWIC) for their actions during the Yugoslav Wars. In July 1996, Defoor attended the Navy SEAL reunion in Little Creek, Virginia, which included a fundraiser for the UDT-SEAL Association. One of the items auctioned to support the association was former Master Chief Petty Officer’s Rudy Boesch’s issued Seiko Diver, ref. 6309-7049. Kyle’s father, fresh off a successful gambling trip in Tunica, Mississippi, was visiting Defoor and also attended the reunion. Flush with cash from the blackjack table, he was eager to purchase an early birthday gift for his son-turned-Frogman and outbid other former SEALs and UDT for the Seiko.
Defoor estimates his father paid $500 for the watch, which was a sizable amount from Defoor’s perspective at the time. This was a meaningful gift for a host of reasons, but especially because of the value the Special Operations community places on honoring those who came before us.
Tradition and heritage matter.
Defoor noted that many of his BUD/S classmates purchased Rolex Submariners to commemorate their graduation, but his humble background meant that he wasn’t able to purchase such an expensive watch. Receiving the Seiko was a memorable moment for Defoor – not only was it a gift from his father, but it came with important provenance. In the mid-1990s, Boesch was a legendary figure in the Naval Special Warfare community, and years later became well-known to the general public due to his participation in the reality show Survivor.
Defoor and Boesch in 2013. For years, Defoor asked Boesch for a picture with the watch, joking that a documented picture would allow him to sell it for auction down the road. In what became a running joke, for years Boesch would rebuff Defoor’s attempts and offer a beer instead. In 2013, Boesch finally relented and took the picture with Defoor at a Navy SEAL reunion.
Rudy Boesch enlisted in the Navy at 17 years old and had a 45 year career in Naval Special Warfare, making him the longest serving SEAL at the time. He was originally an Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) Frogman prior to joining the newly-formed Navy SEALs in 1962. Boesch earned a Bronze Star for his actions during two combat deployments in Vietnam with SEAL Team 2. After Vietnam, Boesch returned to Little Creek, VA with SEAL Team 2 and it was there that he was issued this Seiko in 1979. Boesch told Defoor that he wore the Seiko until his retirement, but was not a huge fan of the watch as he found it too clunky. After his retirement in 1990, the tool was put unceremoniously in a drawer until the UDT/SEAL Association asked him to donate an item for the 1996 auction.
Rudy Boesch in Vietnam as a member of SEAL Team 2 in 1968
After receiving the Seiko, Defoor serviced it at a local Virginia Beach jeweler and wore the watch during Sniper School, then took it on additional deployments to the Balkans where he conducted recce operations in support of the hunt for PIFWCs. At the time, the Navy had transitioned from automatic Seikos to issuing digital G-Shocks, but Defoor stuck with the Seiko. In 2000, he screened for Navy Special Warfare Development Group (SEAL Team Six), which put him in a unique position as a member of the now-famed Red Squadron. That was in September of 2001. When Defoor deployed to Afghanistan shortly after September 11th as an assaulter and recce sniper, the Seiko came with him. Defoor earned the Bronze Star with Valor for actions in Operation Anaconda, a March 2002 battle in the Shahi-Kot Valley targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.
Defoor conceded that while the watch was a constant companion during training cycles and deployments, there were times that he used a G-Shock when he knew exact timing was mission essential. He knew the Seiko’s bidirectional bezel was a liability when diving as a knock and resulting accidental advancement could cause a SEAL to overestimate the time he had left underwater. Ironically, in the early 2000s, SEALS found themselves spending more time in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan than underwater.
Defoor in Afghanistan in early 2002
While Defoor’s career is notable by any standard, his legacy will likely be in the training realm. After leaving the military, he founded “Defoor Proformance Shooting,” and has devoted his life to preparing the next generation of warriors and developing tools for those on the front lines. Defoor is a leader in the firearms and tactics space and trains thousands of students each year from the U.S. military, law enforcement and government agencies, and is also involved with product development as a consultant for Tenicor, Bravo Company USA, Staccato Firearms and Vortex Optics.
In addition to operational deployments, the watch has been a constant presence in Defoor’s life and a conscious choice for more personal, but no less important, events. It was on his wrist as he rode his motorcycle across the country, walked his daughter down the aisle to hand her off to another SEAL and in the delivery room for the birth of his son. Preparing to one day hand the watch down to his son, Defoor recently purchased a Sangin Neptune.
Kyle, thank you for sharing your story with W.O.E and for everything you have done and continue to do for our community.
Thumbs up/down for Seiko SPB153? Happy with 6R35? If prefer the 8L35 movement, best casing ( SLA 063, SLA 051)?