As discussed in our article on vintage Grand Seikos that do not appear in the Seiko catalogues, there are two watches in particular which have been surrounded in mystery for a very long time.
The Grand Seiko 6146-8030 (pictured) and 6146-8040 cannot be found in any of the vintage catalogues, nor in any of the Seiko Sales monthly newsletters, and not even in the Seiko export catalogues of the era.
We are aware of examples of these references turning up as far afield as the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, with rare examples retaining their original Stelux bracelets, as shown here.
Today, we are thrilled to be able to share with you details of a 6146-8040 that has surfaced accompanied by all of its original paperwork, which shows the watch was originally retailed in Singapore.
This – to the best of our knowledge – is the first time that there has ever been documentary proof of a vintage Grand Seiko being sold outside of the domestic Japanese market. Despite the recent discovery of a handful of vintage Grand Seikos appearing in the contemporaneous Seiko export catalogues linked to above, the fact that a few references were offered for distribution to overseas markets doesn’t provide any proof that overseas distributors ever actually ordered them.
A Grand Seiko 6146-8030 originally sold in Singapore
Above is pictured an example (not the actual watch detailed in this article) of the reference in question – a Grand Seiko 6146-8040. (Aside – please note that the crystal on this example is incorrect and will be replaced in a pending service.)
The 6146-8040 is a striking watch that has a unique case and dial. The case is cushion shaped, with a circular brushed finish.
Whilst the dial is similar to that found on the 6146-8030 and 6145-8030 (an 18K gold cased watch that sold in the Japanese domestic market), the “Starlight”, or “Kira-zuri” (“sparkling painting”) textured dial is of a different hue, and the GS applied logo along with other dial furniture is in stainless steel, not gold.
All three of the references mentioned, the Japanese market 6145-8030, the 6146-8030 and 6146-8040, are extremely rare watches and highly sought after – even more so since the release of three modern limited edition watches exclusive to the US market in October 2018 that featured dials clearly inspired by these vintage pieces.
Sold in Singapore in 1972, turns up in London in 2019
The current owner of the documented 6146-8040 acquired his watch earlier this year from a dealer in London. The watch was part of a consignment including a number of other watches, believed to be from the original owner.
Incredibly the Seiko was accompanied by its original paperwork – a total of no fewer than three separate booklets, none of which have ever been seen with a vintage Grand Seiko before.
One quick look at the dealer stamp in the guarantee booklet immediately provides some hints as to how a vintage Grand Seiko purchased in 1972 in Singapore could end up being consigned for sale in London almost five decades later –
Pictured above is a scan of one page from the Seiko Certificate of origin and guarantee that accompanies the watch. This is the carbon-copy page that would have been removed from the guarantee booklet and sent off with the watch should it ever have needed servicing. Incredibly, after more than 47 years, it is still with the watch.
Whilst it is interesting to note that the watch was purchased on the leap-day of 1972 – more than two years after the watch was manufactured (we can infer the manufacturing month of October 1969 from the first two characters of the case back serial number, recorded here incorrectly on the guarantee as the “Watch Number”) – the really informative thing to be gleaned is where it was sold. A little bit of digging provides the background to the acronyms in the retailer’s name and address.
“N.A.A.F.I” stands for “Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes”, a company created by the UK government in 1920 with the purpose of providing retail and leisure services to the British Armed Forces. At its peak during World War 2, the company had over 100,000 employees deployed across 10,000 trading outlets around the world, which surely must have made it one of the largest retailers on the planet at the time.
One of those outlets was where the 6146-8040 was sold – the McGregor Club, at the “S.A.F. Base” in Tengah, Singapore.
A Wikipedia article provides the history of the base – which clearly had seen a considerable amount conflict since its opening in 1939. From the Wikipedia article we learn that the British RAF station at Tengah closed down in March 1971 following the 1968 pronouncement of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson that British troops would be withdrawn from South East Asia in 1971 – prior to the sale of the watch – hence presumably why it is referred to on the dealer stamp as “S.A.F. Base”, with “SAF” standing for “Singapore Armed Forces”.
Despite the withdrawal, the base continued to host British and Commonwealth air forces and troops up until 1976.
Whether these elusive references were ever sold in other territories remains a mystery, but it is certainly of interest that following the closing down of direct RAF operations at the base, the “Five Power Defence Arrangement” (“FDPA”) was established between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. It was under the auspices of the FPDA that British and Commonwealth military personnel were hosted at the base.
Those who recall the opening paragraphs of this article will note that examples of 6146-8030’s and 6146-8040’s have surfaced in four of the five territories that comprised the FDPA. We very much doubt this is a mere coincidence.
We believe it is highly probable that the watch that has recently surfaced was sold to a British serviceman in Singapore, who then returned to the UK with his purchase at the end of his tour of duty. Maybe one day we will find out just who the original owner was.
The next question to be addressed is, how did the watch get to the retailer at the base – the McGregor Club?
Seiko Certificate of origin and guarantee
As mentioned earlier, there are no fewer than three booklets accompanying this watch. We will provide full scans of all the booklets at the end of this article.
This booklet – from which the all important guarantee coupon detailing the original retailer of the watch pictured earlier comes – makes no printed reference to any specific details of the watch it accompanies. Clearly it is a booklet that would be intended to accompany any Seiko watch sold outside Japan, as it includes details of Seiko Service Agents and Centers worldwide.
Page three of the booklet provides the details of who that agent was for Singapore.
Local distributor guarantee
Thong Sia have been a distributor of Seiko across South East Asia since 1967, with continuing operations today in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Interestingly, they are now part of the Stelux Group of Companies – the same Stelux that made the original bracelet we find surviving on a very few examples of the 6146-8030 and 6146-8040.
In addition to the generic Seiko Certificate of origin and guarantee, the watch that is the subject of this article was also accompanied by a guarantee from Thong Sia.
As with the Seiko guarantee, the specific details of the watch – including model and case serial numbers – are hand written on this guarantee, this time in their correct corresponding fields.
Whilst the Seiko guarantee provided a warranty of one year, it is clear that Thong Sia had great faith in the Seiko watches that they distributed, since they extended their own guarantee to cover up to three years from purchase.
Here we can see the guarantee provided in Chinese and English. On the next page of the document (viewable in the gallery at the bottom of this article) it is provided in Thai and Malay.
The back cover of the guarantee provides information on just how wide Thong Sia’s distribution was – covering Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The Grand Seiko Certificate
The final document accompanying the watch is what initially would appear to be a standard Grand Seiko Certificate, but there are important differences when we compare this with the Grand Seiko Certificates we are familiar with.
Over the latter part of the 1960’s and into the 1970’s Grand Seiko went through a number of iterations of certificate designs. At some point in the future we do plan an article on this subject, but as of now we haven’t actually had in our possession all of the different certificates so that will have to wait for another day.
For 61GS certificates from 1969 production Japanese domestic market watches, the certificate only provides an entry for the case number. Here we can see that the movement number is also recorded.
The Japanese certificates have more pages than we find on the certificate provided with this export model. In the Japanese certificates, the we discover both Japanese and English text, describing in detail the Grand Seiko standard, and also providing operating instructions for setting the watch in both languages.
In this instance, the text in the certificate is only in English. Also, the number of pages is much reduced, with no operating instructions included at all.
A full scan of all pages from the certificate is provided at the end of this article.
As will be obvious from the content and tone of this article, we believe this discovery to be one of the most exciting to ever be made regarding the history of the vintage Grand Seiko era.
As far as we are aware, this is the first time that incontrovertible evidence has surfaced of a vintage Grand Seiko being sold outside of Japan, and the three booklets that have managed to survive alongside the watch for the last 47 years provide a fascinating and valuable insight into the distribution and sales of Seiko in the early 1970’s.
We are extremely grateful to collector James for providing us with high quality scans of the entirety of the paperwork that accompanies his watch and allowing us to share them with you.
You can follow James on Instagram by clicking on his wrist-shot photo below, and he can be found regularly at the London Time4aPint watch gatherings.