Vintage Grand Seiko – the boxes

One of the key aims of this site is to be a source of information for those who collect vintage Grand Seiko. We don’t just list the watches that we have for sale in the anticipation that customers will add them to their collections – we also list watches that we have never had in stock, along with as much data about those watches as we can glean. The intent is to be a reliable source of information about exactly which references were created by Grand Seiko, and to provide data on those references.

We are confident that currently this site contains the most complete, accurate and detailed information on the historical Grand Seiko references that you will find anywhere.

Introduction

In this article, we take a look at the different boxes that were used during the vintage Grand Seiko period.

Whilst we cannot guarantee that this article is 100% complete or accurate, it is the result of a significant amount of research and quite a sizable  investment in acquiring boxed examples of the references. If you spot any errors or omissions in the article, we would love to hear from you in order that we can make the necessary corrections.

Later this year, we will add articles that catalogue the different contents (chronometry certificates, manuals, swing tags, cleaning cloths, etc) of the boxes, so that you can know what to expect if you’re looking out for that incredibly illusive “full set”.

Grand Seiko “First”

The “First” first generation box

It isn’t often that one comes across a Grand Seiko “First” complete with its original box. What isn’t commonly known however is that there were actually two different boxes used for this reference.

We have never seen an example of the first box on the market, and as such, the only image we have of one is from the front cover of the March 1961 issue of the Seiko News newsletter that was distributed to dealers.

As will become evident when you read through this article, many of the vintage Grand Seiko references were supplied with both “inner” and “outer” boxes. The inner box is the box that the watch sits in and is typically made from wood with an inner lining, whilst the outer box – sometimes plain, sometimes decorated, is generally made from cardboard.

In this instance, we do not know whether this first box for the Grand Seiko “First” had an outer box, nor do we know for how long this box was used before changing over to the later version – but it is evident that it must have been for a very short time indeed relative to the 3 years or so that the reference was on the market.

If you own an example of this box – regardless of the condition it is in, and whether or not you have any intention of selling it – we would be very grateful if you would get in contact with us to provide some more information on this incredibly rare item so that we can share it with the wider community.

The “First” second generation box

Given the fact that in just three short years, the Grand Seiko “First” went through 9 different dial variations just for the filled gold version (the detail on that is for another article to come later in the year), it probably shouldn’t surprise us too greatly that Seiko decided to change the design of the box as well.

Over past few years we have seen maybe half a dozen or so examples of the Grand Seiko “First” come to the market complete with the later version of the box.

Above is a photo of the outer box. As you can see, Seiko didn’t hold back on the design of this box.

“Grand Seiko – The Wrist Chronometer of Supreme Quality in accordance with The International Standard” is proudly and dramatically proclaimed for all to see. “Grand Seiko” is of course in the gothic text that we also find on the dial of the watch inside, and underneath the the text is the lion symbol that is repeated on the case back medallion.

Removing the lid of the outer box, we are then presented with a view of the inner box, which is protected by a delicate sheet of tracing paper.

It is extremely rare to come across an original box set that still has this protective paper in place. One can easily imagine the proud purchaser of the Grand Seiko First excitedly opening up his new acquisition and simply discarding this item. It is interesting to make the connection to the modern Grand Seikos, which continue to be presented in the same way – you have an outer box, when upon removing the lid, you then find the inner box protected with paper.

This inner box has a leather texture to the top surface, with a gold coloured Grand Seiko logo applied to it.

On opening this inner box, we can see on the inside of the lid – which is lined in red fabric – the Grand Seiko logo with the same text found on the outer box repeated underneath it.

In between the logo and the text is the same “SD Dial” symbol that we see on the most common variants of the Grand Seiko First.

The hinge of the box is covered by yellow fabric, with the same colour used for the thin fabric-covered card on which the watch would be held in place.

Should you wish to purchase an example of the Grand Seiko “First” complete with its box, chronometry certificate, and more, you can find an example of one for sale here.

Grand Seiko 57GS series

Despite being made in vastly larger numbers than the “First” – and over a longer, more recent – time frame, examples of the 57GS series retaining their boxes would appear to be even rarer than those of the “First”. In fact, as far as we are aware, we currently have on offer for sale the only example of a boxed full-set 57GS to come to market in the last 3 years.

With just a cursory glance, one might initially think that this is same outer box as used for the “First” – it certainly has the same overall design.

But a slightly closer look shows that in fact there are a number of differences. Whilst the main body of text is the same, the layout is completely different, and the watch inside is proclaimed as a “Seiko Chronometer”, and not a “Grand Seiko”. Additionally, the lion appears on its own, rather than as a close approximation to the design of the medallion on the case back of the watch.

Removing the lid of the outer box, we once again find an inner box with a leather textured surface, protected by a sheet of tracing paper.

This time though, it is just “Seiko” that is applied to lower right corner of the box. Additionally, this box is a little narrower that the box for the “First”.

On opening the inner box, we can see more differences to the box used for the “First”. Here, the design found on the lid of the outer box is broadly repeated, and the hinge is covered with black fabric, with the tray that the watch would rest on also being finished in black.

Given the rarity of both the “First” and 57GS series boxes and their superficial similarity, we are aware of instances in the past where a “First” has been sold in a 57GS series box, and also where a 57GS series box has been offered for sale on its own, but described as the correct box for the “First”. Hopefully this article will go some way to preventing such confusion in the future.

It is interesting to note that this box wasn’t solely used for the 57GS series Grand Seiko. We know for a fact that it was also used for the Seiko Liner Chronometer; the Seikomatic Chronometers that were the precursors to the 62GS series; and it is quite possible that it was used for other Chronometer references in the general Seiko range as well.

Finally, we do not know whether or not this same box would have been used for the 5722-9991 reference. Those familiar with the 57GS series will know that this was the model that no longer had the word “Chronometer” on the dial. Would it have made sense to sell this watch in a box that still retained the Chronometer reference? We rather suspect not. It is entirely possible that the 5722-9991 would have used the same box that is coming up next, although we have not seen a full set to be able to confirm.

Should you wish to purchase this item, you can find it listed here. The watch that accompanies this box comes complete with chronometry certificate, manuals, and more.

Grand Seiko 44GS and 62GS series

It is commonly believed that both the 44GS and 62GS series (and as mentioned in the previous section, possibly the 5722-9991 as well) used the same box.

All of the references in these two series were introduced to the market after Seiko obliged the Swiss watch industry by ceasing to use the word “Chronometer” to describe their timepieces.

As with the 57GS above, examples of any of these watches becoming available with their boxes would appear to be even rarer than the Grand Seiko “First”.

Unfortunately with the single example of one of these boxes that we currently have, we are missing the outer box, however, given that this article is intended to be of a scholarly nature, we hope the original seller the item pictured below doesn’t mind us using his image.

The above image is taken from an auction listing for a 44GS. Here we can see that the outer box is black, with just the “GS” logo and “Seiko” printed in the middle in gold, and smaller “GS” logos repeating all over. Note that also once again we see that there is that same paper used to protect the inner box (although in this instance it has been folded over a lot – not a good idea as once folded, this paper doesn’t unfold – it is very brittle!).

The inner box – on the outside at least – is identical to that used for the 57GS, with just the “Seiko” logo applied in the corner.

Once opened however…

… we can see that the design is completely different. No proud declaration of the watch’s chronometry (despite the fact that these watches all met the Grand Seiko standard – significantly above that required by the Swiss to “earn” the right to use the word “Chronometer”), with just the simple “GS” logo and “Seiko” stitched into the fabric on the inside of box lid.

The box pictured above was obtained by us accompanying a 62GS series watch and its chronometry certificate. It was the first time we had seen a 62GS accompanied by a box, and the first time that we had seen this specific box design.

Checking with a Japanese dealer who has been buying and selling vintage Seikos for over two decades, he stated that he believed it was the correct box, but was surprised by the colour of the fabric on the inside of the box which he thought should be red. Possibly the box had sat in a shop window for a long time and the fabric colour had faded to the colour seen in the photo.

However, in researching this article we have come to realise that perhaps that is not the correct explanation, and that the boxes for the 44GS and 62GS series were not the same after all.

Compare the above photo with that of the box in the photo taken from the auction of the 44GS series. Yes – we would agree that, at a stretch, possibly the red colour has faded over time. But now look closer at the colour of the fabric that covers the hinge of the box in the two examples.

In that of the 44GS, it’s black. But for “our” 62GS example, it is in fact very similar to the colour of the fabric on the inside of the lid. It also is the same colour as the thin strip of fabric that borders the inside edge of the bottom portion of the box. In the example of the 44GS box, there is no such border.

Additionally, it would seem from the auction photo that the “GS” and “Seiko” text are embroidered in gold thread, whereas on the box that came with our 62GS series, they are embroidered in silver thread.

We therefore are going to use this article to declare publicly our understanding that the boxes for the 44GS and 62GS series, whilst superficially similar, are in fact very different in detail.

It is almost certain that the 62GS would have had an outer box – possibly the same as that for the 44GS, possibly not. If anyone reading this article can provide more information on this subject, once again we would love to hear from you.

This is the only example of what we believe to be the correct box for the 62GS series that we have ever seen.

One final thing to mention regarding the 62GS box pictured above – it is missing its inner tray that would hold the watch in place. We wonder whether it would have been black, or maybe it matched the colour of the inside of the lid?

If you would be interested in purchasing the watch that this box accompanies (it also comes with its matching-numbers original certificate and buckle), you can find more details here. Don’t hang about though. Having discovered what we believe to be the truth about this box whilst researching and writing this article, we’re of the mind to put the price up somewhat!

Grand Seiko 45GS and 61GS series

For the final three series of vintage Grand Seikos – starting here with the 36,000bph 45GS and 61GS – we find that the boxes are a lot more common.

It’s worth reflecting that – going by their appearance in catalogues – whereas the Grand Seiko “First” was only on the market for 3 years; the 57GS for 5 years; the 44GS for possibly as little as 18 months; and the 62GS for as little as a just single year, the final three series were around for a lot longer.

The 45GS series made its first appearance in 1968, and references were still being marketed as late as 1973. But that is nothing compared to the 61GS series, which like the 45GS first appeared in 1968, but remained on sale right up until the end of the vintage Grand Seiko era in 1975.

As such, it is not altogether surprising that – given the longevity on the market, diversity of models, sheer volume of production of these references, not to mention the fact that the later examples of these series were on the market as recent as 1975 – boxes are relatively common to find.

There are enough examples of both 45GS and 61GS references appearing in boxes for us to confidently state that both series used the same design of box. Having said that, it is also important to stress that, in our view, it is also common to find examples from both series being sold with the wrong box. More on that later.

As with the earlier series, we find both inner and outer boxes for the 45GS and 61GS.

Above is pictured the outer box, which is made from one piece of very flimsy white cardboard (notably of much lower quality than that utilised in the “First” and 57GS series) with the “GS” logo and “Seiko” appearing embossed in gold in the lower right corner of the box.

Opening the outer box we are presented with a simple, yet high quality, box constructed from the wood of the Paulownia tree.

Unlike the earlier boxes pictured in this article, there is no applied logo – nor indeed any markings of any kind whatsoever – to be found on the outside of the inner box.

Opening up the box we find that it is fully lined in red fabric, with a red card tray lined in red felt to present the watch.

We mentioned previously that it is common to find both 45GS and 61GS references in – as far as we are concerned – the wrong box.

The correct box for these two series should on the inside of the lid, in addition to the “GS” and “Seiko” logos, also include text “Hi-Beat 36,000”.

If you ever see a vintage Grand Seiko from either the 45GS or 61GS series offered in a box that does not include the “Hi-Beat 36,000” text on the inside of the lid, then the watch has been placed in the only box that is more common than this one…

Grand Seiko 56GS series

The most common box that one comes across from the vintage Grand Seiko era is – unsurprisingly – that for the most recent series, and the series that sold in the greatest numbers. The Grand Seiko 56GS.

The box for the 56GS series is presented in an outer flimsy one-piece cardboard box that is identical to that which we find accompanying the 45GS and 61GS series. As such, it isn’t really worth posting another image of it.

Additionally, the construction of the inner box is identical, and once again made from Paulownia wood.

Where the box for the 56GS series differs – crucially – is in the embroidered text in the lining on the inside of the lid.

Once again, we find the “GS” and “Seiko” logos in gold, but this time there is no accompanying “Hi-Beat – 36,000” text.

And of course, there wouldn’t be, because the references in the 56GS series were based on calibers running at 28,800 bph.

It is very common to find 45GS and 61GS (and even on occasion, earlier series) references being offered in this box, because this box is a lot more common than that shown in the above section for those series. But logically of course it makes absolutely no sense. The more expensive 36,000bph movements found in those series of course were a key part of the marketing message behind them. It simply does not make sense that – given the “Hi-Beat – 36,000” boxes exist, and have been seen accompanying many of the 36,000bph powered referecnes – Seiko would put a 45GS or 61GS reference in the box pictured above.

We have even seen examples of 45GS and 61GS references being sold with the 56GS box, where the references in question hailed from as early as 1968 – almost three years prior to the first 56GS reference coming to the market. Really? We are supposed to believe that is legitimate?

Our view on this matter is very clear – do not accept a 45GS or 61GS reference that is being sold with a 56GS box, if originality is of importance to you.

And there we have it – the article is complete having covered all seven series of the vintage Grand Seiko era.

Or is it?

Ooh no. It most certainly isn’t. Because this is where things get really interesting.

The Grand Seiko VFA’s, and other references

One thing that is common to all the boxes detailed previously in this article is that the watches inside them must be presented with with their straps folded over, or – in the case of watches on bracelets – their bracelets closed and on their side. We can see this in the very first image featured in the article, where the Grand Seiko “First” has the lower strap folded under the watch head and the upper portion of the strap.

None of the boxes are wide enough to present a watch “flat out”, with both upper and lower straps extended, or with the bracelet fully extended (where this is possible of course – all of the steel bracelets are closed anyway).

If you are ever presented with a box that looks like this, then it’s time to get excited. It’s time to get very excited indeed, because something quite wonderful is going to be inside it.

One of the remarkable things about the vintage Grand Seikos is that the more impressive the watch, the more restrained the presentation of the watch. We rather suspect that there is a specific Japanese word for this increased humility in the presentation of something rather awesome – if you know what it is, please let us know!

The author has had the privilege of spending an afternoon in the company of a gentleman who without question has one of the most impressive and diverse watch collections on the planet. Just a very small portion of that collection comprises probably one of the top two or three vintage Grand Seiko collections ever assembled – and your correspondent didn’t even get to see all the vintage Grand Seiko pieces. One after another, boxes like these were brought out of bags and placed on the table for examination. It was a quite remarkable day. But enough reminiscing.

Removing the lid of the outer box, we then are presented with a very unassuming wooden box with just the “Seiko” logo applied in the usual location.

The box combination presented above – a long brown outer box with the wooden inner box – was used for more than one reference.

At the very least, it is absolutely certain that this combination was used for the Grand Seiko 4580-7010 VFA, and the Seiko Astronomical Observatory Chronometer. It is also likely, but not confirmed beyond all doubt, that it was used for the Grand Seiko 5646-7005 on 18K gold bracelet, and the Grand Seiko 5645/6-8000 on 18K gold bracelet.

Additionally, we believe – based on the collection mentioned above – that it was also used for the other “first generation” Grand Seiko VFA’s that utilised the 6185A movement.

The inside of the box is as simple as it could be – all black, with just the “Seiko” logo appearing on the inside of the lid.

Clearly the intention here is to focus the mind on exclusively on the watch itself, rather than draw attention away with bright coloured lining as we see on almost every other box example presented in this article.

Should you wish to acquire this box from us, then you would be delighted to learn that it comes complete with a simply stunning example of the 4580-7010 reference, along with the original price tag, swing tag, and cleaning cloth. You can find more details of that watch here.

The same inner box is also used for the later VFA’s, but with a white outer box as seen below.

The inner box is identical to that pictured earlier, so we won’t repeat the images unnecessarily.

The white outer box has a small sticker on the end face of the box indicating that it contains 6186-Ref010, and you can see that sticker pictured (along with many other images of the box and of course its contents) here, where we offer for sale what is quite possibly the finest example of the reference you will ever come across.

Finally…

Those readers who also read the article the author wrote on the vintage Grand Seiko VFA’s that was published on WatchesBySJX, and who are extremely astute, will have realised that one of the VFA’s – specifically, the 6185-8000 that is presented on a silver/palladium alloy bracelet – would not fit in a long box due to the fact that the bracelet is closed.

That watch has its own box – uniquely used within the Grand Seiko range for this one reference.

Once again, a very modest box made from Paulownia wood, with just the Seiko logo applied in the corner. Unlike all the other boxes, this box is very tall because of the way the watch is presented inside.

Boxes for the “regular” Grand Seikos on closed steel bracelets are designed so that the watch sits on its side in the closed box. Here the watch is presented standing up so that it presents the watch face oriented correctly immediately upon opening the box, with the remainder of the lower part of the box filled with shaped cardboard covered in a black faux-leather fabric.

Needless to say, this box is extremely rare indeed. However, the same design was used for other non-Grand Seikos. The very first Seiko quartz VFA watches based on the 3823 movement for example used the same box. Additionally, the second generation quartz VFA’s – those based on the 3922 and 3923 movements also used the same wooden construction, but with different inserts.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, it’s worth highlighting just how rare it is to come across the early vintage Grand Seiko references still accompanied by their boxes.

We spend literally hours every single day combing through Japanese auctions and dozens of Japanese dealer websites looking for watches to buy, and have done for the last three years or so.

In that time, we have only seen half a dozen examples of the Grand Seiko “First” complete with their original inner and outer boxes. Just one example of a 57GS with its inner and outer boxes; one example of a 62GS – sadly missing both its outer box and inner tray; and one example of a 44GS complete with inner and outer boxes.

As mentioned, coming across the boxes for the later series, the 45GS, 61GS and 56GS is relatively common, although often we see the wrong box used for a watch.

We hope that this article has given you some useful guidance on what to look out for when shopping for the vintage Grand Seiko pieces that come complete with their original box. All we would say is, if you are looking for examples of the earlier series, don’t hold your breath.

But you don’t have to look too far – we do have some cracking examples for sale on this very site!

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