For sale - Grand Seiko 6185-8020 VFA with box and papers
It’s been a while…
… since I offered something from my collection for sale, and I thought with Substack’s new video feature now up and running, it would be a good excuse to let go of something. Not least because I need to make way for something incoming!
This newsletter will be sent out first to paid subscribers, who can take advantage of a 10% discount on the listed price (only valid until 31st May 2023), and in one week’s time, it will then be sent to regular subscribers, for whom the listed price applies.
A brief history
The Grand Seiko 6185-8020 VFA as featured in this newsletter is actually the second of the VFA’s to share the same movement-case reference number. To differentiate it from the earlier reference, it is often referred to with the suffix “long hands”.
It was launched in the 1970 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue, full scans and translations of which can be found in the following newsletter -
As with all VFA’s, this is a very rare and desirable reference, and it was only offered in the catalogues for a year. Following its debut in the 1970 SLC, it made subsequent appearances in volume 2 of the regular 1971 catalogue (for some reason, it skipped volume 1 of that year), and then bowed out of the range with its final appearance in the 1971 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue.
From my investigation into sales of the reference over the last decade, the earliest examples were manufactured in July 1969, with the latest hailing from October 1970. As with all VFA’s, it seems that these were not in regular production every month, and I have seen examples from only five separate manufacturing months within that period.
For a primer on all the vintage Grand Seiko VFA references, and where the present watch sits in the overall timeline, I would refer you to the newsletter I published at the end of last year -
Serial number 900380
The watch offered for sale has the serial number 900380, indicating production in October of 1969.
Seasoned collectors of vintage Grand Seiko will be well aware of just how rare it is to come across any vintage Grand Seiko with its original boxes (both inner and outer) and certificate.
For the later 56GS series, it is pretty simple for someone to “create” a set by simply purchasing boxes and a generic certificate, and then pairing up with a watch. The 56GS series references were sold in their 10’s of thousands, and there are still plenty of boxes and certificates to go around.
Not so with most references from the earlier series however, where certificates were individually assigned to the watch by handwriting the case and/or movement serial numbers on the certificate.
Finding any vintage Grand Seiko with its original matching numbers certificate is a pretty significant event. Finding a VFA with its certificate is almost unheard of - I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of VFA’s that I am aware of “out there” that retain their original certificates, and know of only five examples to come up for sale in the last decade.
In addition to the front cover of the certificate, the serial number is also entered on the guarantee slip that would have been torn off and sent into Seiko, and then repeated on the page underneath that serves as a record of the retailer who sold the watch, and the customer who bought it.
Extraordinarily, in this instance, although the slip has been torn off and sent in, the full details of the original customer, including his name and address, are still shown on the fold-out page.
Out of respect for the original owner and their family, I have digitally blanked out the personal details in the photo above, but they are fully intact - presumably handwritten by the original owner himself - on the certificate itself. They are details that only future custodians of this remarkable set will have knowledge of.
What I have left visible in the above photo are the date stamp for when the watch was first purchased, shown dated in the Japanese Showa calendar to Showa 46, April 24th.
The traditional Japanese calendar - based on the dates that each emperor reigns - is still used today for official documents. The Showa era commenced in 1926 with the ascension to the throne of Emperor Hirohito, who reigned from then until his passing in 1989.
Showa 46 corresponds to the Gregorian year 1971, meaning this watch was first sold on April 24th 1971 - fully 18 months after it was manufactured.
In addition to the official Grand Seiko certificate, with its guarantee slip detached from the back, this watch also comes with an original guarantee provided by the retailer.
Above is the front cover of the guarantee, with the Japanese text translating to “Watch warranty”.
Opening it up, once again we have the proud new owner’s personal details (digitally blacked out here), along with the basic warranty guidelines, and the details of the shop that sold the watch.
The store name can be seen in the black oval above the phone number, which can be found “in front of Shimonoseki Station”. Shimonoseki is a town at the very western end of the main Japanese island of Honshu.
I wonder if they are still in business? If you fancy a visit to see if they are still there, it’s just a 6 hour journey on the train from Tokyo!
As if retaining its original certificate and store warranty wasn’t enough, the watch also comes with its original inner and outer boxes -
The boxes are in excellent condition, with no hinge damage on the inner box (it is quite common for these old Seiko boxes to have broken hinges), and no tears whatsoever on the outer brown card box, although you will note a slight scratch on the lid of the latter, and the gold printed Seiko text has rubbed off a little.
It is one of the fascinating details about the Grand Seiko VFA’s is that they were sold in boxes that only said “Seiko” on them, with not a hint of Grand Seiko branding anywhere.
And we’re not done yet. The original owner of this watch clearly took great care of it, and when I acquired it, the watch was still on its original strap, with the correct “Seiko” branded buckle. He even kept the original cleaning cloth that was supplied with the watch -
(I removed the strap from the watch for the purposes of attaching it to the robot to shoot the video - the watch is secured to the robot by clamping the strap, and naturally I did not want to do anything that might damage the original strap).
I can also confirm that the underside of the buckle is stamped only “Stainless Steel T”, and not “Seiko Stainless Steel Japan T”. This is a small, but significant detail for collectors who are insistent to have a fully correct set, and I discuss the significance and show the differences in the second part of my article on the vintage Grand Seiko buckles -
The watch itself is in overall excellent condition, with just a few issues to call out, each of which are very clear in the video presentation, and I can provide additional images on request if necessary.
The dial is close to immaculate, with just a small mark between the 8 and 9 hour markers that I suspect may well be a bit of detritus stuck to the dial that could be removed with a blower. There is also a very slight stain that can be seen under the 10 hour marker.
The case certainly appears to be unpolished, with a hairline scratch on the bottom right lug, and very small “dings” on the same case surface close to 9 o’clock. Both of these marks can be seen clearly in the early frames of the video when the watch is presented dial straight on to camera, and also 27 seconds into the video.
The only other case marks worth highlighting are on the opposite flank, where small (what I can only assume are) oxidation spots are visible, and the usual hairline scratches on the case immediately above the crown, where the case has been marked by the fingernails when it has been wound. Yes - fingernails will mark a case over the years!
The brushed surfaces of the case and their extremely small beveled edges are in immaculate condition.
The price for this extraordinarily rare VFA set is US$35,000, including worldwide fully insured courier delivery.
This is only the second time in six years that I have been able to offer a Grand Seiko VFA complete with box and papers, and it may well be a long time before the next one comes in. With Grand Seiko recently trademarking the terms “UFA” and “Ultra Fine Adjusted” for their Spring Drive offering, I don’t doubt for one moment that the demand for, and desirability of, vintage mechanical VFA’s complete with box and papers will only ever go up - and there simply won’t be enough examples out there to satisfy demand.
If you have any questions regarding this listing, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
For sale - Grand Seiko 6185-8020 VFA with box and papers