The world’s foremost watch blog needs no introduction. HODINKEE are by far and away the preeminent resource for watch enthusiasts around the globe.
We couldn’t really say it better than what they write on their own “about” page – Ben Clymer and his team “are known for their innate understanding of both historical references and the most cutting-edge haute horlogerie, and more importantly, can explain them in a way that is both entertaining and easy to understand. The HODINKEE team circles the globe looking for the most interesting stories about watches, watch collectors, watch makers, and more, and then tells those stories across a diverse group of multimedia channels.”
To date, HODINKEE – whilst frequently extolling the virtues of the modern Grand Seiko range of watches – have barely touched on the subject of vintage Grand Seiko. To the best of our knowledge, the HODINKEE shop has, in its vintage section, listed a sole 62GS, and apart from referencing vintage pieces when writing about the modern era watches, and Stephen Pulvirent sharing his 5646, that has been the sole appearance of a vintage GS on their pages. Certainly there have not been any deep and authoritative explorations of the watches that are so dear to us and – hopefuly! – those who visit this site.
That all changed yesterday, July 17th, when the “Bring a Loupe” section – where Isaac Wingold shares a weekly round-up of watches for sale from secondary dealers and auctions – led his article with a photograph of the watch pictured above – a Grand Seiko 6145-8000 sporting a “double-signed” dial.
Naturally we were delighted to finally see some recognition for vintage Grand Seiko on HODINKEE’s hallowed pages, but what we weren’t quite prepared for was the almost immediate outpouring of conflicting views and opinions on this particular watch from the community. So, we felt it might be worth sharing our own perspective on this piece, along with collating some of the viewpoints shared by the wider community.
We will pause briefly for a comment on copyright and attribution, and then move on with the article.
Copyright, attribution, and “Fair Use”
In this article we will be sourcing images of the watch from five places – the Hodinkee article; the Momentum website where the watch is listed for sale; the Dr Crott auction website where the watch originally surfaced in their 102nd auction that took place on June 29th 2020; the original Seiko catalogues from the 1960’s, scans of which are hosted on this website; and our own photography.
As some of those who follow us will no doubt be aware, we take intellectual property rights very seriously. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, section 107 allows the “fair use” of copyrighted work without creating an infringement. Specifically, the statute permits fair use of a work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching”.
Grand Seiko 6145-8000 – overview
Before looking specifically at the watch in question, it is worth setting the scene with a brief overview of the vintage 6145-8000 reference.
The 61GS series, featuring for the first time in the range automatic movements powered by a 36,000 bph calibre, was introduced in the February 1968 issue of the monthly “Seiko Sales” magazine that was sent out to Seiko dealers. It went on to make its catalogue debut in 1968’s number 2 Seiko catalogue (volume 1 of a catalogue would be published at the start of the year, with volume 2 released for the second half – both catalogues detailed the entire ranges available at the time of publishing).
Above are pictured the 6146-8000 (day-date) and 6145-8000 references as presented in the 1968 number 2 catalogue. As per the detailed listing, both watches were available with either stainless steel, or gold capped cases.
As should be immediately apparent when comparing to this article’s lead photo, the dials of these earliest 61GS references are not the same as that found on the “Toyota” reference (even ignoring the Toyota print of course).
These early 6145/6-8000 are considerably more collectible than the later references that share their movement-case codes, having been available only for a relatively short time, and perhaps more significantly being the last of the vintage Grand Seikos (excepting the legendary VFA’s) to actually feature the text “Grand Seiko”, in full, on the dial.
The November 1968 issue of Seiko Sales introduced the updated dial variant of the reference, which then appeared in the 1969 number 1 catalogue.
The 6145-8000 reference that is the base of the watch being discussed in this article can be seen pictured in the top right corner of the page from the catalogue.
It is a commonly held misconception that the 6145/6-8000 watches remained in the catalogues until “the end of the vintage Grand Seiko” era in 1975, but this is actually not the case. In fact, the base 6145/6-8000 made its final appearance in 1970’s number 2 catalogue, with the last references built on the 6145 and 6146 calibers bowing out of the range after 1972.
For full details of all the 61GS references, please refer to the articles in the “Catalogues” section of this site, where we do deep dives on all the topics mentioned in this brief overview.
The Grand Seiko 6145-8000 “Toyota dial”
We first became aware of the existence of this watch when the catalogue was published for Dr Crott Auctioneers’ 102nd auction, which was held in Mannheim, Germany, on June 29th 2020.
Whilst piquing our interest enough to follow the auction, we chose not to partake in the bidding, since the low estimate was in our view a little high for what – to us – wasn’t a particularly exciting piece. Oh how wrong we turned out to be on that one.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and a friend in Dubai alerted us to a watch that had turned up there “5500 available in dubai unpolished. Hi I need to know if interesting ??” came the WhatsApp message, along with a photo of a watch that looked rather familiar.
“Hi – caseback photo? 5500AED?” I responded…
“USD” came the reply.
“Pass 🙂 But would still be interested to see the caseback”
A caseback photo confirmed it was the same watch that first appeared at Dr Crott’s – the likelihood of two of these turning up at once would be remarkable to say the least (and not a little suspicious we might add – more on this aspect later), so it wasn’t much of a surprise. Dealer notices watch at an auction, thinks its underpriced, wins it, and lists it for sale. Absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with that of course.
We thought that was the end of the story. A vintage Grand Seiko sold at an auction and then turns up on a dealer’s website. Not really even worth thinking about any further.
And then it appears on HODINKEE, on the front page, with a photo of the watch featured as the banner photo. And of course, when something appears on HODINKEE, everyone has an opinion. Including us.
Bring a Loupe, and the community reaction
Isaac Wingold has been writing HODINKEE’s (don’t you get tired of reading that in all capitals all the time?) weekly “Bring a Loupe” feature for a long time now. It’s something that we genuinely look forward to reading every week, and it never fails to educate and entertain.
For longer than we care to remember, we have been patiently waiting for a vintage Grand Seiko to be featured in the column. So we were not only surprised, but delighted to see one finally appear.
The surprise was because – despite the fact that an earlier column featured another lot from the same auction (and in fact was the article that encouraged us to go take a look at the catalogue in the first place) – the “Toyota” Grand Seiko had somehow been missed, only to be noticed when it hit Momentum’s website.
Your author is registered with Hodinkee under his @watchdxb Instagram account, and if you scroll down to the comments section at the foot of the Bring a Loupe article, you will see a number of exchanges that took place – including my thoughts on the piece. Following a couple of responses to my initial comment, I felt it as necessary to underscore the most important thing about this watch – as far as “The Grand Seiko Guy” is concerned, it is totally legitimate, and this article will go on to explain why I feel that to be the case.
The reaction to the watch can broadly be broken down into two areas – whether or not the watch is legitimate, and whether or not it is worth the asking price.
Firstly let’s tackle the legitimacy.
Is the watch legitimate?
In a word, yes.
As mentioned earlier, the only thing that prevented us from being interested in acquiring the piece was what was in our view an unrealistic low estimate. Unrealistic that is, for us to purchase the watch and then offer it for sale to make a profit.
The HODINKEE article hasn’t even been up for 24 hours at the time of writing, but already there are accusations being made ranging from “the Toyota print isn’t correct”, “it wasn’t done by Seiko”, all the way up to claims that the entire dial has been refinished.
Let’s kick off with a photo of a “regular” 6145-8000, dating from May 1969, that we currently have in stock (this watch is not listed for sale at the moment). The purpose of sharing this photo is to enable us to do some comparisons against the Toyota watch to check specific aspects of the general dial print.
We are pretty confident in stating that over the last 5 years or so we have examined more examples of vintage Grand Seiko than anyone else on the planet. Literally every single vintage Grand Seiko that comes up for auction anywhere in the world, along with every vintage Grand Seiko listed on pretty much every dealer’s website – we see them all. To the best of our knowledge, we remain the only watch dealer in the world whose sole, and indeed, soul, focus is vintage Grand Seiko.
We are also very familiar with all of the different dial-reprints that are found on vintage Grand Seikos, and regularly see 61GS watches come up for sale whose dials have been “redone”. Despite what Mr Wingold states in his responses to comments made on his article, there absolutely is a sufficient incentive for people “out there” to fake vintage Grand Seiko dials. For a good example, have a read of our extremely detailed article on the legendary Grand Seiko First in stainless steel. To this day, we continue to see newly faked examples of this watch come to market.
So, in evaluating the base print of the Toyota dialed watch, we will compare it to that found on the watch pictured above, which we know to be genuine. We will break down the examination to a few key areas that you should also look at when considering whether or not a dial on one of these watches has been messed with. If you’re viewing on a mobile, switch to landscape view to see the pairs of images side by side.
General dial print details
First, the Seiko applied logo and “Automatic” text.
First thing to note – it is very common for the applied Seiko logo on these (and many other) watches to be somewhat askew. Whether this is caused by clumsiness from a watchmaker at some point in the past, or simply natural warping of the logo over time, we’ve honestly not looked into in detail, but you see it all the time, and it is nothing to be concerned over.
Design details of the applied logo itself have changed a number of times over the years, but here we see that for these two watches – manufactured just 7 months apart – the logos are identical (and indeed are correct for this reference).
Also identical is the font and placement of the printed “Automatic” text. What is evident is that the weight of the printing is different, with that on the Toyota dial being visibly heavier than that on the standard dial.
Again – and this comes from scrutinizing literally thousands of examples of vintage Grand Seikos over the years – this is perfectly normal and to be expected.
We’ll come back to the Toyota print itself later.
Next up – the printing on the lower portion of the dial.
The Toyota dial is on the left, the regular dial on the right.
Once again, we can see that the weight of the printing on the Toyota dial is noticeably heavier than that on the regular dial. But as we have said, this is perfectly normal – there is considerable variation on the weight of the prints on vintage Grand Seikos.
What is important here is to pay particular attention to the font, and the relative layout of the three lines of print – the “HI-BEAT”, “36000”, and Suwa company logo.
Note the different heights of the horizontal stroke in the middle of the B, the middle horizontal stroke of the E, and the horizonal stroke of the A. They are all at different heights, moving lower as we move from left to right. The shapes of the 3 and 6 in 36000 are also very distinctive.
Examine every character in the 36000 text, and note how it aligns with the characters in the HI-BEAT text above. Perfect match between the two.
It is important to understand that there are things that you can expect to vary between prints on different legitimate dials (such as the weight of the fonts, or the care/sloppiness of the prints), and things that absolutely should not vary (those latter particularly being the relative positioning of print elements to one another, and specifics about the fonts utilised).
The dial code print –
Toyota on the left again.
The dial code is actually normally the first place we look to check whether a dial has been reprinted or not. No faker gets this perfect.
Skipping over a very minor bit of dial degradation at the edge of the dial near the 32 minute marker, there are a number of “tells” for spotting a dial whose dial code has been reprinted, but the two immediately obvious ones can be seen by looking closely at the A’s and the 4.
For this reference (not the case for all vintage Grand Seikos), the A’s should be flat-topped, and not pointed. This is a commonly known tell to spot fakes. Less well known, and a little more subtle, is to look very carefully at the 4. The diagonal stroke of the 4 is not straight – it should be curved slightly.
Next, check the alignment of every single printed character against the ticks on the dial marking off the minutes. You will see when comparing the two watches that the relative positioning of every character is identical. The dial fakers/reprinters never get this relative positioning perfect.
Finally from this photo, note the major minute marker ticks as seen here below the 6 o’clock marker. It is thicker than the other ticks, and has pronounced and clear serifs.
It should be stressed that most of the above details are almost impossible to spot if you are simply examining the watch with the naked eye – HODINKEE call their section “Bring a Loupe” for good reason.
The one thing that can be spotted easily with the naked eye is the overall matte finish of the dial – they are not sunburst.
The “TOYOTA” print
And so we get to the most important aspect of this watch – the Toyota logo printed in the upper half of the dial.
We have seen many examples of both factory produced, and aftermarket, vintage Grand Seikos that have been created for one commemoration or another.
The most common, and commonly known, watches are the Toshiba 25 year service commemorative watches that were presented to long-serving employees of the Japanese electronics company. These watches don’t feature any additional logo on the dials, but they are interesting because they have different casebacks to the standard references on which they are based. Additionally, the 57GS series Toshiba commemoratives even have their own case reference number.
Lesser known are the Idemitsu watches which, like the Toshibas, have factory custom case backs. So far we are aware of two different Idemitsu commemorative watches – one based on the 6146-8010 “Arabesque”, and the other on a 5645-7000. Both were issued in 1971 (Showa 46), celebrating the 60th anniversary of the company’s founding.
What makes this Toyota watch both interesting – and, arguably, not so interesting – is that the only thing on it identifying it as being produced for Toyota is the print on the dial. Apart from that – admittedly signficant – detail, the rest of the watch is identical to a regular 6145-8000.
To us, this is both odd – consdering the lengths that other companies went to when commissioning commemorative watches from Grand Seiko – and worrying.
The reason that it is worrying is that it would be relatively simple for someone to add this print to the dial of a regular watch, thus (if we are to believe the valuation placed on the watch) affording the faker the opportunity to make a considerable amount of money for very little effort indeed.
Again – our concern regarding this watch is not that it is in some way of dubious provenance – we believe the Toyota print to be legitimate and will explain why shortly – but that unscrupulous people following the watch to see if it sells will be incentivized to create a few more.
The later “Hi-beat” dial variant of the 6146-8000, whilst in many regards a classic vintage Grand Seiko, actually isn’t really particularly interesting as a reference, and examples of it turn up on the market pretty much continually. Possibly only the 5645/6-7010/1 is more commonly found.
If all it takes to turn a circa $2k watch into a $5.5k one is the addition of a Toyota logo to the dial, we do worry about how many of these will start to “come out of the woodwork”.
When the watch first came to our attention in the Dr Crott catalogue, we had a very close look at it, and came to the conclusion that the additional Toyota print was genuine, created contemporaneously with the dial as opposed to being added years later, and we suspect done by Grand Seiko themselves.
Seiko collector and Instagrammer @vigges66 (Victor) independently has also looked into it in detail, and reached the same conclusions, supported by some pretty compelling evidence.
The above graphic, that has been shared on Instagram by Victor is taken from an article on a website dedicated to car brand logos.
As with many companies, the Toyota logo has changed several times over the years. Note the design of the 1969 logo in the upper right of that graphic, and compare to that found on the Grand Seiko.
Whilst the letters printed on the dial are clearly compressed together compared to that seen in the provided logo, the general aspects of the two fonts are extremely similar. Now, some will, we’re sure, jump on this immediately and point to it as being evidence that the print is not legitimate, but the fonts are similar enough for us to give it a pass – certainly there are plenty of other examples of “double signed” watches out there whose logos are radically different to that of a company featured on the dial, but which can be supported with provenance to be legitimate.
The second point that Viktor makes is actually even more compelling, is that the relative quality and aging of both the Toyota print and the standard print do appear to be remarkably similar.
Note particularly the same degree of roughness in the edges of the print in the letters forming both words, similar aging spots on the ink, and bleeding around the corners of letter strokes.
If this has been faked, it’s orders of magnitude better than anything else we’ve ever seen. And here’s the key thing – if someone is capable of doing this, this well, why do “this”?
Whilst it is impossible to state categorically that the watch is genuine, we believe that based on the objective evidence that can be gleaned from the photos shared online, the Toyota print is legitimate, contemporaneous with the manufacture of the dial, and almost certainly done by Seiko and not an aftermarket third party.
There are a few final things to cover before wrapping up, the most contentious of which of course being the valuation that has been put on this watch by the dealer offering it for sale.
For us, today, there is no way that a premium of close to 200% can be justified logically by the fact this watch has an additional line of print on the dial.
Despite Mr Wingold’s protestations to the contrary, the premium being asked here is not “exceedingly negligible”. It could be viewed as extraordinary.
But since when has this hobby had much to do with logic? Our desires for particular watches are driven primarily by our emotions first, and rationality second. Quite possibly, there is someone out there who will be attracted strongly enough to this watch that they can, after the fact, rationalise the premium necessary to acquire this watch.
It’s certainly rare – we’ve not seen another one, nor can find evidence of another ever previously selling.
But it’s not – to us at least – a particularly interesting vintage Grand Seiko. Based on our research to date, there are now 154 distinct, legitimate, vintage Grand Seiko references. One more than there was at the beginning of June 2020.
IF this does sell for anywhere close to the asking price – perhaps driven in no small part by that famed “HODINKEE effect”, it does leave one question hanging in the air.
What price now for the really interesting pieces?
Gerald Donovan. July 18th 2020.