For sale - the first Grand Seikos
Print, carved, raised logo dials and more!
Today is the 62nd anniversary of the retail launch of the Grand Seiko brand. On December 18th 1960, the first Grand Seiko went on sale, beginning a legacy that continues to this day.
For detailed look at this iconic reference, I would recommend having a read of the newsletter I published earlier this month, where I also discussed the recent sale of an example of the first Grand Seiko (the common raised logo dial variant) at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XVI for over 20,000 Swiss Francs.
Below I present examples of all the major variants of the first Grand Seiko for sale. As mentioned in the earlier article, there are significant differences in the scarcity and desirability of these watches, which is reflected in a wide range of price points.
An example of that same raised logo dial variant of the first Grand Seiko that sold at Phillips for over $20,000 is offered here for just US $5,000, so I suggest you read on!
The watches will be listed in production timeline order. Although initially I had planned to also list examples of full sets of the watch in both the staggeringly rare early box and more common later box, I’ve changed my mind on that and won’t now be offering them for sale.
The prices listed include a complete service prior to shipping, and fully insured courier shipping worldwide.
The first Grand Seiko - printed logo dial
Examples of the printed logo dialed first Grand Seiko are extraordinarily rare, having been manufactured only in the first three months of production of the reference, alongside the carved logo dialed watches.
The watch offered for sale is a particularly important one because the case serial number indicates it was created in the very first month of production for Grand Seiko - April 1960.
As will be evident in the video, the dial on this watch is absolutely exquisite, with just a slight discolouration at the edge of the dial between the 57 and 59 minute markers that is not visible in all lighting conditions, but can be seen clearly 37 seconds into the video.
The condition of the case is excellent, retaining the important clearly defined lug profiles.
When purchasing an example of the first Grand Seiko, it is very important to ensure that the specific nuanced details of the watch - such as the logo, handset, caseback medallion and dial code - are correct for both the caseback serial number and the movement serial number.
I have studied a sufficiently large number of examples of this reference to be absolutely certain that print logo dialed variants only hail from the first quarter’s production (April to June 1960), and should have movement serial numbers commencing with the digits 60. The lowest movement number for a print logo dial that I have seen is 600045, and the highest 604554.
In the seven years that I have been collecting vintage Grand Seikos, and having studied every example of first Grand Seiko to come to market in the last decade, I have only come across a total of 13 legitimate examples of the print logo dial variant.
I would rank the quality of the watch offered here to be the third best example that I have seen, with the two better residing in collections that are unlikely to relinquish them in the foreseeable future.
Price - US $28,000
The first Grand Seiko - carved logo dial, split-12 index
Examples of the carved logo dialed first Grand Seiko can be found primarily in two different variants, with the earlier variant represented by the watch offered for sale here and shown in the above video.
The distinction between these “sub-variants” is a subtle, but important, one.
On the earlier watches, the index at 12 o’clock is manufactured from two separately applied pieces of 14K gold (the compass graphic below the “Diashock 25 Jewels” text in the bottom half of the dial indicates that this is an “SD” dial, where the indices are made from solid gold, and not just plated). On the later ones, that index is manufactured from a single piece - something presumably done to simplify the production process.
With the split-12 carved logo dialed watches in production from April 1960 through to November 1960, and the single-12 carved logos from October 1960 through to July 1961, you may be forgiven for thinking there would be similar numbers of both variants. However, a study of the watches coming to market would not seem to support that fact, with the later single-12 index watches outnumbering the earlier split-12 by about 2:1. I believe that the reason for this discrepancy is down to the fact that production of the reference was increased soon after its December launch, in response to a greater than planned demand for the watch.
Evidence for this can be found in the article about the first Grand Seiko that was published in the March 1961 issue of Seiko News.
I strongly believe that as interest in collecting vintage Grand Seiko increases, nuances such as the split-12 index will become more important, as collectors start to focus on specifically which variant of the first Grand Seiko they want to add to their collection, rather than just look for any example.
The carved logo dial split-12 index variant of the first Grand Seiko that I am offering for sale here is without question the finest I have ever seen, with an immaculate dial and a beautifully carved logo. I would encourage any potential purchaser to study very carefully the provided video between 21 seconds and 1 minute 28 seconds, where the dial is presented from all angles, and can say in all honesty that you could wait years for another one like this to turn up.
The case is just a little softer towards the end of the lugs compared to the print logo example shared earlier, but still retains strong lug profiles. The tiled video showing all six watches offered for sale is useful for comparing the cases on the watches offered for sale -
You will note in the video for this watch that the crystal is not seated correctly in the bezel. A new crystal will be fitted to the watch at service prior to shipping.
The case serial number for this watch indicates its manufacture in June 1960, the first quarter of production, making it all the more desirable.
Price - US $18,000
The first Grand Seiko - carved logo dial, single-12 index
This example of the carved logo dialed first Grand Seiko dates from February 1961, and hence has the single piece index at 12.
Whilst more commonly found than the earlier split-12 index variant, it is important to provide some perspective around what “common” means here. A study of all first Grand Seikos to be sold on Yahoo Japan Auctions - without question the largest marketplace for vintage Grand Seiko - in the last decade shows that ten times as many of the raised logo dialed variant (as sold by Phillips in Geneva for over $20,000) have come to market than examples of the single-12 index carved logo dialed watch as offered here.
As will be clear from the video, this watch does unfortunately have a scratch on the dial, however this is taken into account when setting in the asking price. The case is - as should be becoming clear by now - very typical of how we find them on these six decade old watches, with signs of aging and gentle polishing, but still retaining well defined lugs.
Price - US $9,000
The first Grand Seiko - raised logo SD dial
This is an example of the same variant of the first Grand Seiko that was sold at the Phillips auction.
As mentioned earlier, the raised logo dial variant is by far the most commonly found of all first Grand Seikos, with the earliest produced example I have seen dating from June 1961, and the watch staying in production through to August 1963 - the last month of production for all first Grand Seiko variants.
From the analysis of over 500 examples of the first Grand Seiko to be sold in the last decade on Yahoo, approximately 85% of all listings were of the raised logo variety.
The example presented for sale here has developed some “spotting” on the dial which is extremely common, indeed, it is almost universally found on these dials. The visibility of the spotting is dependent on how the watch is lit - the Phillips example had a very similar degree of spotting however it was not quite so evident in the much softer light that they shot the watch with. I take great care in lighting my videos and presenting the watch in 4K resolution from all angles to ensure you see a true representation of the watch.
Once again, the case is typical for what we find on examples of all first Grand Seikos.
The keen-eyed collector will note that there is another difference between this watch and the earlier print and carved dial variants offered in that the handset is different, with the hour and minute hands now being of the “flat”, rather than “mountain” variant. This is common to all raised logo dialed watches (excepting the transitional examples).
One slightly odd thing about this particular watch is that the second hand is not the one that I would usually expect to find on the first Grand Seiko - you will note the tail of the hand is straight, rather than triangular. Whilst I have been informed by highly knowledgeable Japanese dealers and collectors that it is entirely possible that the watch could have left the factory with this hand, I do have my doubts.
At the discretion of the buyer of the watch, I would be happy to swap out this second hand at service for the regular one if desired (I will supply a donor watch to the watchmaker to swap the hands over as I do not have spare parts).
Price - US $5,000
The first Grand Seiko - raised logo AD dial
Towards the very end of the production of the first Grand Seiko, we find examples of the “AD dial” variant being manufactured.
Quite why they were produced remains a mystery to this day, but it is interesting to note that when Grand Seiko released the modern SBGZ005 “Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary Edition” first Grand Seiko “recreation”, they showed an intricately carved prototype dial from the vintage era that was said to have originally been intended for a final run of the first Grand Seiko, but was never put into production.
It is possible that following the impracticality of productionizing that dial, they instead created the sunburst AD dial that we see here.
Regardless of their origin, AD dialed first Grand Seikos are extraordinarily rare. Indeed, I have records of more examples of the printed logo dialed variant than I do AD dialed ones.
The majority of these watches date - as this one does - to August 1963, where they were produced alongside the regular raised logo SD dialed watches.
The sunburst finish to the dial gives these watches a spectacular aesthetic, completely different to all other first Grand Seiko variants, and although I’ve done my best to showcase the dial in the video, they really do have to be experienced “in hand” to appreciate fully.
The example offered for sale here is almost as good as new, with barely a mark on the dial (there are a couple of tiny spots near the index at three), and indeed if it wasn’t for what’s coming next, I’d confidently state that this is the most desirable example of the AD dialed first Grand Seiko that you could hope to find.
Price - US $18,000
The first Grand Seiko - raised logo AD service dial
As mentioned above, the majority of AD dialed first Grand Seikos that I have seen were produced in August 1963, and for a while I was of the belief that they all must have been manufactured in that month.
However, over the course of the years I have now found three examples dating from May 1963, and the example featured here that dates from April 1963.
What is almost unique (I say “almost”, because there is just one other example known of) about this watch however is the dial. If you compare the two videos closely, you will notice that the indices on the the two AD dialed watches offered for sale here are different.
Whereas the earlier presented watch has indices that are the same as those found on the common SD dialed “Firsts”, here we see a radically different index at 12 o’clock, and if you look very carefully, you will notice that the indices at 3, 6 and 9 are straight edged at their end, and missing the bevels that we find on all other watches.
I was so intrigued by this watch when I first saw it that I knew I had to purchase it, and when it arrived, sent it off to my watchmaker to see if there was any clue as to what was going on here.
And the obverse of the dial revealed a huge surprise -
I’m not sure exactly when Seiko started to stamp their dials with production dates, but it was certainly some considerable time after the cessation of the production of the first Grand Seiko.
The stamp on the back of this dial is “57”, which means the dial was produced in July 1965. And no, that is not a typo. July nineteen-sixty-five. More than two years on from when this watch was manufactured as per its case serial number.
Now the first thing to note of course is that - and this is stating the obvious - there is no way a watch manufactured in April 1963 could have been born with a dial dated July 1965, so this is clearly a service dial.
But it really does beg the question as to why on earth Seiko were making a service dial for the first Grand Seiko almost two years after the final watch was made. And - why make this service dial? Why is it different to the “normal” AD dial?
The answers to both those questions are, unfortunately, the same - I have no idea.
How many of these service dials were produced is unknown, but to date, there have been only two examples of watches found with this dial - the one offered for sale here, and one other example that surfaced just over a year ago, and that now resides in an important Japanese collection.
Condition wise, the only things to highlight is there is a scratch on the dial to the right of the 12 o’clock index, and a small circular stain between the indexes at 10 and 11.
Whether any more of these ever turn up is anyone’s guess, but it is worth noting that the top Japanese dealer in vintage Grand Seiko (who has decades of experience) was not aware of the existence of this dial until I discovered the example offered for sale here.
Pricing this one is very difficult indeed, but I can’t quite bring myself to price it higher than the print dial - very possibly there will come a day when I regret this!
Price - US $25,000
As mentioned in the introduction to this newsletter, I was originally intending to include for sale here full sets of both the staggeringly rare early box (of which there is only one that I know of still surviving) and the more common (but you can still count the number that have come to market in the last decade on the fingers of two hands) later box.
However, on reflection I really don’t expect the early box to sell. Or at least, I don’t expect that anyone would offer me a price that would convince me to sell it (I’ve turned down an offer in excess of $100,000 in the past).
As for the later set, well, I think I’ll hang onto that for a little while longer. Maybe next year.
In the meantime, you can still of course watch the unboxing videos over on my YouTube channel, where you will find them in the same playlist as all the above videos.
If you have any questions about any of the watches offered for sale here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email - contact (at) thegrandseikoguy (dot) com.