Those who have been following the site for a while will be aware that in the past we typically would list dozens of watches for sale at once. Well that’s all about to change, because going forward, there will only ever be a maximum of three vintage Grand Seikos on offer at any one time.
There are a few key reasons behind this decision.
Firstly, from a technical point of view, we wanted to simplify the website. Previously we used a back-end “shop” plug-in to offer and manage the stock, but frankly speaking for the volume of watches that we sell, it’s simply too much effort to maintain.
Secondly, we have come to realise that the offer was rather daunting – you really can have too much of a good thing. The market for vintage Grand Seiko – whilst certainly evolving rapidly – arguably remains relatively immature compared to that for the more established brands, and listing ten different examples of the first Grand Seiko all at once perhaps complicates any buying decision to such an extent that no buying decision is ever reached!
Finally, despite the fact that we are sat on a quite significant volume of stock, we are in no hurry to move it on. With a VFA that we would have typically listed for sale just a year ago at $15,000 selling for over three times that amount at a Phillips auction last spring, when casting our eyes over the watches in the vault, we can’t help thinking that the best strategy is simply to sit back and let the market take its course.
Incidentally, in the photo above, there is not a single example of a “regular” raised logo dial Grand Seiko First. Every “pawn” in the photo is either a print logo, carved logo, or AD dial.
Just three at a time
So, as mentioned, we have decided that going forward we will only ever make available three watches for purchase at any one time, and those three watches will be listed for a maximum of six weeks.
As to how to select those three watches, we plan to cater to the three key sectors of the market as we see them.
Firstly, we have those collectors who are looking to acquire their first vintage Grand Seiko. Typically, they will have a budget of something in the region of $2,000 to $5,000, and more often than not, they are led by the wider market perspective on the brand and perhaps looking to acquire a “classic” piece.
For these collectors, the first watch in the offer will certainly be within their budget, but in choosing what to list, we may well often stray off that well-beaten Grammar of Design path and perhaps suggest to them that something a little less, dare we say it, clichéd, might warrant their consideration.
Of course, we have absolutely nothing against such classic references as the 4520/2-8000, 6145/6-8000 or 5645/6-7010’s – quite the opposite, they are superb watches, rightly highly in demand, and occasionally we will of course be offering examples of these exact references for sale. But we can’t help thinking that some collectors are missing a trick if they allow themselves to be led a little too much by what they see so-called “influencers” gravitating towards – vintage Grand Seiko is so much more than the Grammar of Design (“GoD”).
The second slot of the offer will usually be filled by a Grand Seiko “First”. However, when it comes to Firsts, we will almost exclusively be offering examples of the significantly rarer and more desirable print logo, carved logo, and AD dial variants.
Over the course of the last few years, we have found that a “First” is rarely the first example of a vintage Grand Seiko that a collector will purchase. Often a collector will “dip their toe” into vintage Grand Seiko with a classic GoD piece, and then as they learn more about the brand, they recognise just how significant the First was – not just as the foundation stone of the Grand Seiko, but actually as a highly significant watch in the entire pantheon of the history of the wider Seiko company.
There’s good reason why Grand Seiko have issued “re-creations” of their first watch on no fewer than – at last count – six occasions (2001 SBGW004; 2011 – SBGW033, 039, 040; 2017 – SBGW251, 252, 253; 2020 – SBGW257, 258, 259; 2020 – SBGZ005, SBGW260; 2021 – SBGW271)
Clearly for anyone looking to put together a serious vintage Grand Seiko collection – even if it is just three watches – there has to be a slot for a First.
As should be obvious from the photo of our chess set above, we are firm believers in the significance of the reference, and over time have acquired quite a few examples of the rarer variants. Once every six weeks, we will present an opportunity for those looking to grow their collections to add a rare variant of this seminal watch.
The watch filling the final space in the offer will more often than not be a VFA. With VFA’s making a significant impact at the Spring auctions, it is clear that the “big boys” are now getting into vintage Grand Seiko, and it only seems right that we have something to offer them as well.
If you cast an eye over our chess set once more, you will notice that whereas the pawns are all Firsts, the entire back row is comprised of VFA’s, and we have more in the vault than can be seen here on the board.
Whether or not those auction numbers last spring were just “blips” in the market remains to be seen, but certainly the days of TGSG offering a 6186-8000 for circa $15,000 are well behind us. For those who are interested, we have in the past sold four examples of the same reference that sold for $48,850 at Phillips. The prices of those four watches? $14,000, $14,000, $18,500, and $21,000.
On occasion, the third watch may not be a VFA. What could we possibly list in place of a VFA? Well, time will – eventually – tell.
How it will work?
It will work very simply.
Every six weeks we will list three watches for sale.
If and when the watch in slot one (the “entry level” watch) sells, it will be replaced with another option. If watch two or watch three sell, there will be a gap in the offer until the six weeks are up. This means that there are watches on that chess board that won’t be listed for sale for at least a year.
Any watch not selling within six weeks of it being listed will be withdrawn from sale, and will have to wait its turn before seeing the light of day again.
No other watches other than the three listed on the site at any one time will be available for purchase. Yes, if you are after a particular reference then in all likelihood we will have it in the vault, but no – sorry – nothing is available for purchase unless it is listed on the site.
And so, after that rather long pre-amble, let’s take a look at the first three watches available.
Grand Seiko 5645-7000 “Idemitsu Commemorative”
One of the most sought after vintage Grand Seikos is – fortunately for those seeking it – also one of the most common. However, the watch offered here, whilst sharing many of the same features as that watch, is anything but.
First introduced in the supplement to volume 2 of the 1970 catalogue, the 56GS series pretty much replaced the 61GS line, with only the cushion cased 6145/6-8020’s, 615x-based “Specials” and 618x-based VFA’s surviving a significant cull of the range.
With a degree of automation introduced into the production of the watches, even without having any access to production figures of the era, from what we see available in the market today, it is very clear that 56GS were produced in significant numbers.
The most commonly seen references are the 5645- (date) and 5646- (day-date) 7010’s, whose cases adhere strongly to the main tenets of the Grammar of Design (even if their dials and handsets do not). Given the prodigious quantities in which these references were produced, there is never a shortage of them on the market, and should you want to acquire one, there will be plenty out there available.
But for those who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, but which still retains that ever-reliable (just don’t try to quick-set the date in the “danger zone”) 5645 caliber 28,800 bph movement, the 56GS series contains a number of references in alternative cases.
One such case can be seen above – the beautifully brushed and elegant “turtle” case of the 5645-7000.
The reference was introduced alongside the much more common 5645-7010 in 1970’s volume 2 supplement as linked to above. Intriguingly, if you take a look at the catalogue, you will note that the 5645-7000 (catalogue code 56GAC 010) was priced at a slight discount to the 5645-7010 (56GAC 020), and available for “just” 40,000 Yen.
Whilst the more common -7010 cased reference remained in the range right up until the very last appearance of Grand Seiko in the Seiko 1975 volume 2 catalogue, the -7000 watches’ final appearance was in the 1972 catalogue. This significantly shorter selling period goes some way to explaining why these days we see something in the order of 3-5x as many 5645-7010’s in the marketplace as we do 5645-7000’s. Given the watch was dropped from the range after just two short years would probably also indicate that during the period both case-types were offered for sale, the -7010 was outselling its slightly cheaper, and more dressy, alternative.
But the watch on offer here is not just any old 5645-7000. Whilst from the front it looks totally normal, if we turn it over we reveal the secret it is hiding.
In place of the usual stamped details of the watch such as case serial number, reference number and case material surrounding the 14K gold GS medallion, we see instead two curved lines of Japanese text, repeated here with translation to English –
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Idemitsu
Showa 46th year
Showa 46th year is the western calendar year 1971, and the Idemitsu company was founded in 1911 as a supplier of lubricant oils, and has a long, diverse, and interesting history.
The movement-case reference number and case serial number, usually found on the outside of the caseback, have been moved to the inside caseback to maintain a very clean and uncluttered presentation of the commemorative dedication.
In a similar manner to the much more common Toshiba 25 year work anniversary pieces, whilst there is no contemporary documentation of this reference that we have discovered to-date, it is very obvious that these were factory produced pieces, and not after-market adaptations.
Indeed, this Idemitsu 5645-7000, along with another Idemitsu 60th anniversary Grand Seiko reference, the 6156-8010, are – along with the Toshiba references – the only instances of vintage Grand Seiko third party commissioned watches with custom casebacks.
Across both known Idemitsu references, we can count on the fingers of one hand the number of examples that we have seen on the market in the last 5 years (and we don’t need to include the thumb in the count).
The watch offered for sale is in extremely good condition. There is a very slight patination on the dial that is all but invisible to the naked eye, and the case shows minimal signs of any wear and we are certain it has never been polished.
For those interested in purchasing the watch, we are of course happy to provide many more photos and videos for your viewing pleasure – just get in touch using the contact form at the bottom of this post.
The watch has just undergone a full service, and the asking price of US$2,000 includes fully insured worldwide courier shipping, and a 1 year warranty on the movement (subject to the usual provisos).
Grand Seiko “First” – carved logo dial, split-12 index
Our second offering will need little introduction to vintage Grand Seiko aficionados – it’s a rather superb example of the highly coveted “carved logo” dialed Grand Seiko First.
We have documented the different variants of first Grand Seiko in a previous post – suffice to say, there are a remarkable number out there considering the relatively short period of just 3 years or so that the watch was on the market.
Whilst the “First” launched to the market on Decemeber 18th 1960, production actually commenced 8 months previously in April 1960, with the present watch dating from August of the same year.
After the legendary platinum cased references and the extraordinarily rare print and AD dialed variants, there is no question that the most desirable of the Firsts are the carved logo dialed watches from 1960. Only seen on watches produced up to November 1960 is the “split 12” index, where we see two separate pieces of metal making up the index at 12 o’clock, rather than a single dual-ridged index that was used for the vast majority of the production timeline of the reference.
Whether true or not, it has certainly passed into Grand Seiko folk-lore that these carved logo dials were phased out due the difficulty in creating the carving, and the low yield of dials this resulted in, but there is no question about the quality of the work carried out on the examples that survive to this day.
There is an undeniable degree of high level artisanship that we see on these early examples that simply isn’t there on the later carved dials. In fact, when examining the carving of this particular dial we noticed something that wasn’t apparent on other examples that we documented in the above linked article – pay particular attention to the carving of the letter “S”. You can very clearly see that the bottom stroke of the S is not connected to the rest of the letter. Proof, not that it was really needed, that every one of these dials is in some way going to be unique.
Just for comparison, here are some other carved dial examples –
It is remarkable to think back to 1960, when Grand Seiko were creating – by hand – several hundred of these dials every single month. We can’t help wondering how many watchmakers at Grand Seiko today would have the necessary skills to be able to deliver the incredibly intricate work required to make these dials?
But back to the watch at hand.
One of the things that we commonly see with the early Grand Seiko Firsts is that their 14K caseback medallion has been lost.
In fact, no fewer than 30% of watches produced up to October 1960 that we have records of have missing medallions. It seems likely then, that the method for attaching the medallion to the caseback in the early months of production wasn’t as secure as one might hope for. By way of comparison, fewer than 2% of the watches in our database that were produced subsequent to October 1960 have missing medallions.
Sadly, whilst the dial on this particular carved logo First is amongst the best that we have ever seen, when we flip the watch over there is a problem – the medallion has been lost.
This is such a common problem that there has been a demand for after-market medallions for many years, and reproductions are readily available in Japan for those who know where to look.
We often see Grand Seiko Firsts (and indeed other Grand Seikos) whose medallions are not original, and the quality of the after-market replacements leaves a great deal to be desired. They are typically made of tin, simply plated in yellow metal, and the medallion details are a very poor facsimile of the original. Having examined them in detail (and tested them to literal destruction), we would honestly recommend everyone to steer well clear.
But what to do with an otherwise beautiful example of a Grand Seiko First – such as the one listed here – if it is missing its original medallion?
Well, a few months ago, whilst photographing a print dial Grand Seiko first, its medallion – totally original it must be stressed – became separated from the caseback. To have a medallion actually separate from its caseback whilst being handled was a first for us, but it presented us with an opportunity. Perhaps we could commission the manufacture of some medallions that were of a better quality than the ones currently available?
The first thing to do was to find out exactly what the original medallions were made from, and we are happy to confirm the generally accepted knowledge that they are solid 14K gold.
Once the material had been confirmed, it was then a matter of finding a jeweler who was up to the task of replicating the original medallion as closely as possible – using of course solid 14K gold as the material – and the results are shown below. One of those medallions is the original, the other four are reproductions.
Given how the medallions wear down over the years, we are pretty confident that were we not to actually be up front about having some reproductions manufactured, and were one of those reproductions to be attached to a caseback it would be close to impossible to judge whether it was original or not.
Needless to say, we will not be making these medallions available separately, but where we have a First that is missing its original medallion, we will take that into account in the pricing (as we have done here), and include a reproduction medallion when supplying the watch. It is entirely at the discretion of the collector as to whether or not to have the medallion attached to the watch when it is shipped.
Excepting the missing original medallion, the case of the offered watch is in very good condition, with the lugs in particular retaining their original facets better than most that we see. As should be clear from the photos provided, the dial is exceptional.
As always, for anyone considering purchasing the watch, we would encourage you to contact us for additional photos and videos.
The watch has just returned from a full service, and the asking price of US$9,500 is inclusive of fully insured worldwide courier shipping, and the aforementioned reproduction 14K gold medallion.
Grand Seiko 6185-8010 VFA
The final watch on offer in this inaugural listing of three vintage Grand Seikos is arguably one of the most extraordinary watches we have ever had pass through our hands.
As one of the first four Grand Seiko VFA’s launched in the 1969 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue, all with movements regulated to a precision of +/-2 seconds per day, the 6185-8010 holds a very special place in the history of Grand Seiko, and this particular example is fully deserving of its position as “king” on our chess board.
For those interested in some more background reading on the VFA’s, we would recommend taking the time to read the article we had published on Watches by SJX back in 2018, and then the brief follow-up article on this site that discusses the two dial variants that can be found for this specific reference – the 6185-8010.
Three years after the publication of that update, we are still no closer to solving the mystery of why there are examples of this reference both with and without the “VFA” text on the dial above the applied Suwa logo.
With regards the the rapidly developing market for Grand Seiko VFA’s, we would encourage you to read our article on the spring 2021 auction season.
As can be seen in the lead photograph, the watch offered for sale here has those precious additional three letters of text on the dial, but given the condition of the watch it does seem very hard to continue to hold onto our original supposition that the dials with VFA on them were offered to owners at service time. The reason is simple – we don’t believe this watch has ever been worn, let alone serviced.
The 6185-8010, and the significantly rarer 6185-8000 – seen on the far left of the catalogue photo above – are manufactured from a palladium/silver alloy.
Being a very hard metal – on the Mohs hardness scale, palladium alloy is harder even than platinum, and almost as hard as stainless steel – palladium is very difficult to work with, and it must have been incredibly challenging for Grand Seiko to manufacture these cases. It is also extremely valuable – today being at least twice as expensive as platinum.
We have to admit to not fully understand the exact properties of the palladium silver alloy used for the case of this reference. Whilst the caseback states “Palladium 400 Silver 300”, quite how this translates into the proportions of each metal used in the alloy we don’t know.
What is clear however is that due to the silver in its composition, the cases of the VFA’s that are manufactured from this alloy are subject to tarnishing – pure palladium is completely resistant to tarnishing.
And it is that tarnishing over time that makes this particular example of the 6185-8010 so extraordinary. We have previously sold two examples of this reference – both of which were in very good condition, but neither of which were remotely similar in quality to the watch presented here.
Everyone is aware that polishing is the arch nemesis of vintage watch cases, and normally when considering polishing one thinks of machines designed to help buff-out scratches and dings.
But for a watch whose case tarnishes, over the years even simply regularly wiping away the tarnish with a soft cloth to keep the watch looking clean will have the effect of dulling the original sharp edges. Thus, it is perhaps not unsurprising that, prior to this watch, even the best quality examples of the 6185-8000 and 6185-8010 that we have seen – out of perhaps a total now of just a dozen individual watches across both references – have case lines that have somewhat softened due to the ill-placed diligence of their owners in the last 53 years.
For comparison, here are two photos that show the previous examples of this reference that we have sold. One with, and one without, the VFA text on the dial –
As can be seen – both watches are in extremely good condition, but the watch we are now offering is quite frankly in a completely different class. Here is a crop from the lead photo in this section –
This is without a doubt what can be considered to be an “end game” example of this reference. We can confidently state that a better preserved example will never surface. One equal to it? Possibly – if there is someone out there who has been sat on one of these for the last 50 years and never touched the case – but it could be a very long wait before another as good as this surfaces.
As such, it is priced accordingly, and we make no apologies for that fact. If there is one watch that we currently have in the vault that we would have no qualms about not selling for the next decade, it is this one.
US$95,000. Serious inquiries only.
To inquire about purchasing any of the three watches listed above, please use the contact form below.