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.
The Seiko Special Luxury Catalogues
In additional to the regular biannual catalogues that were published, from 1969 through to 1975 Seiko issued a “Special Luxury Catalogue” towards the end of each year. This Special Luxury Catalogue featured the very top of the range references that were available that holiday season.
Currently we only have two of these in our reference library – those from 1972 and 1973. We are extremely keen to obtain the Special Luxury Catalogues prior to 1972 (no Grand Seikos featured in the 1974 and 1975 publications) and will happily pay $300 for each issue if in mint condition. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have these available for sale.
Following a recent research visit to the Seiko Museum in Tokyo, we were able to obtain colour photocopies of the pages of interest to us (those featuring Grand Seiko references) from the catalogues missing from our library, and we will be publishing articles on these catalogues over the coming weeks, starting with the one from 1969.
The Seiko 1969 Special Luxury Catalogue
By the end of 1969, Grand Seiko had been on their journey to create the world’s finest watch for close to a decade and it is therefore not surprising to discover many top-of-the-line Grand Seiko featured on the pages of this publication. The period from 1969-1970 truly does represent the absolute pinnacle of the vintage Grand Seiko era.
The introductory text on the inside front cover of the catalogue explains that the purpose of the catalogue is to present a select few “masterpieces” from the Seiko watch collection, describing those watches as embodying the rich tradition of Seiko, along with world beating technology, and in luxurious finishes.
It is interesting to note that, whilst historically Grand Seiko represented the absolute top-of-the-range references in the entire Seiko offering, in this catalogue there are actually two Seiko branded watches presented before the Grand Seikos.
This makes the 1969 issue of the Seiko Luxury Catalogue the first catalogue of the era not to feature Grand Seikos at the very front of the publication. This would become a common feature of all subsequent Special Luxury Catalogues, although in the regular catalogues Grand Seiko continued to take pride of place until finally supplanted by quartz references in 1972.
So before we get onto looking at the Grand Seikos, let’s first take a brief look at what could possibly be promoted above the Grand Seiko line!
Whilst the watch on the right hand page will probably be familiar to most readers, the watch that is featured before all others in this catalogue may not be so well known.
The 6800 movement utilised in the “Ultra-thin Dresswatch”, or “UTD” for short, was just 1.98mm in depth, and remembering that the purpose of this catalogue was to highlight Seiko’s world-beating technology, it is no surprise to find it so prominently featured. At under 2mm, this calibre is one of the thinnest mechanical movements ever made. One only has to look at the retail price of the watch – 300,000 Yen – to get some perspective on just how challenging and expensive it must have been to create this astonishing wristwatch. Yes – it has an 18K gold case, but compare the size of that case to the other 18K gold cased references in this catalogue and you’ll realise that it’s not the precious metal that is responsible for the bulk of the value here!
The watch on the right will be very familiar to anyone who has been following our Instagram account lately as we have just recently acquired an example of this reference for one of our discerning customers. Although not strictly speaking a Grand Seiko, the Seiko Astronomical Observatory Chronometer is about as close to being a Grand Seiko as it is possible to get, without actually being branded as one.
Produced in three batches from 1969 through to 1971, we would strongly encourage our readers to check out Anthony Kable’s seminal article on this watch over at Plus9Time to learn more about it. Anthony’s article is by far the most comprehensive feature on this legendary watch that has been written to-date.
One peculiar detail of the watch pictured in this catalogue is that if you look closely, you will see that it has a Grand Seiko crown (albeit the GS is upside down in the photo). We have never seen an example of this watch with a Grand Seiko crown. The first batch of Astronomical Observatory Chronometers featured specially regulated 4520 movements, and all batches had the same case – one that identical to the Grand Seiko 4520-8010.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that at the time this catalogue was being produced, Seiko simply didn’t have any completed Astronomical Observatory Chronometers to hand for the photo shoot (quite possibly the first batch of movements were still at Neuchatel being certified), and had to mock one up replacing just the dial of a Grand Seiko 4520-8010 with that for the 4520-8020.
Turning the page, we come to the first Grand Seikos to be featured.
The text at the top of the page highlights Grand Seiko’s reputation for stable and accurate timekeeping, and that the watches presented all have 36000 beats per hour movements which have gone through 360 hours of continuous testing. And of course, they are all presented in 18K gold cases.
Five references are presented, ranging in price from 140,000 Yen for the manual wind time only 4520-8010 (catalogue code 45GS-030) up to 195,000 Yen for the automatic day-date 6146-8000 (catalogue code 61GAW-010). At the time of publication we have both the 4520-8010 and 4522-8010 available for purchase, and will be shortly shooting a video showing an unboxing of a NOS full set of the former watch. Please check the links at the top of this article to find out more about the watches currently available.
The final set of Grand Seiko references in the catalogue are a quartet of VFA’s.
Your author has written an extensive article on the Grand Seiko VFA’s that has been published on SJX Watches, and we would refer you to that article for a more detailed insight into these pieces. Suffice to say, the VFA’s (“Very Fine Adjusted”) represent the pinnacle of what Grand Seiko set out to achieve when the brand was launched in 1960.
The description at the top of the page explains that the accuracy of the watches is the highest precision that one could expect from a mechanical watch, and that the watches are guaranteed to be accurate to +/- 1 minute per month for two years, with the movements assembled and adjusted by the most experienced and dedicated watchmakers.
Note that even the most expensive of the VFA’s presented here – the 6185-8000 (catalogue code 6185-014), with its case and astonishing bracelet made from a silver/palladium allow – is still 50,000 Yen cheaper than the 6800 UTD that features of the first page of the catalogue.
All of the VFA’s in this catalogue are extremely rare references, and it is always a thrill when we manage to get any of them into stock. As detailed at the top of this article, currently we have three examples (representing two different references) available at the time of publishing.
In the gallery below we present a scans of selected pages from the Seiko 1969 Special Luxury Catalogue.