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I had a tough decision to make for this week’s newsletter on whether or not to include a listing from this week’s auctions on Yahoo Japan that I am planing to bid on. In the end, I thought what the heck, include it anyway and may the best man (or rather, the highest bid!) win. Unsurprisingly, the watch in question has by far the most number of bids at the time of publishing of any vintage Grand Seiko listed this week, so it kicks off the newsletter. It also serves as a really good example for the sort of forensic checks you need to do on auction photos to try to ascertain exactly what it is you are going to get should you win the auction.
As regular readers will know, I frequently include in the recommended section of the newsletter listings that I have every intention of bidding on. Sometimes I win them, sometimes I lose, but to be perfectly honest I never really feel that bad about the losses. The ones I win, I’m sure I have to end up paying more than I would have done had I not publicised them, but that’s just the nature of the game.
Anyone who has already taken a look at the auctions this week will I’m sure know exactly which watch I am talking about. For those whose first exposure to the weekly listings is typically through this newsletter, read on to find out what all the excitement is about!
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There aren’t many watches that I see when scrolling through the new Yahoo Japan Auction listings in the Seiko category that stop me in my tracks, but this was one of them.
A previous example that turned up in 2022
The very existence of this dial variant of the first Grand Seiko was to all intents and purposes completely lost to history until an example - pictured below - turned up for auction on Christmas Day last year. I’d certainly never seen one, and none of the top Japanese collectors that I spoke with were previously aware of its existence.
The carved dial and split-12 index identified it as an early example of the first Grand Seiko (carved logo dials with the split-12 index were manufactured between April and November 1960), but what set it apart from all other known examples was the finishing on the dial -
At the time, I had my suspicions about whether or not the watch was even legitimate. I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong with the dial from the auction photos, but they weren’t the best quality, and the one glaring problem with the watch was the caseback.
Whilst the case serial number on the inside caseback made complete sense (although the seller hid most of the characters, the first two - 06, indicating production in June 1960 - were clear), what didn’t make sense was the caseback medallion.
There is no doubt whatsoever that is an aftermarket replacement medallion.
Whilst it is actually pretty common for examples of the first Grand Seiko from this period to have become separated from their medallions over the years, it is very uncommon to find them where the inside of the caseback looks like this -
In the end, despite the remarkable dial, the caseback issues were sufficient for me to pull out of the bidding, and the watch ended up in the hands of one of the top Japanese collectors - no doubt many of you reading this newsletter will have seen it on his Instagram feed.
Those paying particular attention to Instagram posts showing this watch will notice that the new owner has chosen to swap-out the original caseback for an undamaged one with the correct medallion. Whether or not this replacement caseback also dates from June 1960 I don’t know, but frankly it is a little concerning that this has been done. Whilst I understand why someone might do this for aesthetic reasons, I can only hope that the watch and its original caseback are never separated, not least in order that the correct serial number for the watch is not lost.
The new owner of the watch has also pictured it sitting comfortably in the early inner-box for the first Grand Seiko, which was acquired separately. Again, nothing wrong with this for aesthetic purposes, but there is the danger that years down the line, someone stumbles across the photo and assumes the box came with the watch.
The auction ended up closing for 588,000 Yen, and once better pictures of the dial turned up on the owner’s Instagram feed, there were a lot of collectors of vintage Grand Seiko who rued not chasing the auction a little harder - myself very much included!
Back to this week’s auction
Ok, so back to this week’s listing.
This is one of those instances where unfortunately, due to the extremely poor images provided, it is extremely difficult to make a good assessment as to the quality of the watch presented.
If you scroll back up to the lead photo, which shows the first image from the listing, it looks as if there is significant staining or patination around the periphery of the dial. There are also numerous scratches that may, or may not be, on the crystal.
Fortunately the scratches are pretty easy to analyse, since the seller provides two more photos of the dial side of the watch from pretty steep angles. Here’s the one from the left hand side -
This photo, along with the corresponding one taken from the opposite side, is sufficient to use parallax in order to check pretty much every visible scratch in the images. The good news is, most of the scratches that are obvious in the front-on shot are actually on the crystal. However, there is at least one very significant one that is clearly on the dial.
I spent a little time putting the following graphic together for my own benefit, and I may as well share it with you all here.
In addition to the radial lines out the the indices, I have also put in horizontal and vertical lines, and additional radial lines to mark out some of the more obvious visible flaws.
Just as examples I have highlighted two scratches, one in white, one in black. There is absolutely no question that the one circled in white is on the crystal, but unfortunately the one circled in black is clearly on the dial.
I say “just as examples” because there are clearly many more potential issues that need to be very carefully checked - if the mark turns out to be on the crystal, then its pretty much irrelevant, but if it’s on the dial, then it could have a huge impact as to the potential value of the piece.
The second major question to arise from the provided images is, what on earth is going on around the periphery of this dial?
I’ll leave it to you to examine closely for yourself, but once again, the parallax provided by the three differently angled images really helps here. I’ll just call out one very small specific area to examine in all three photos - the marker at 21 seconds. In the front-on image and the one taken from the left hand side, it looks very clear that there is a stain on the dial periphery that extends out well beyond the 21 second marker. But, crucially, when we take a look at the photo taken from the right hand side of the watch, this bright “stain” stops before it reaches the marker. Possibly there is a lighter stain that continues well into the dial (almost to the full extent of the hour indices), but in turn, this lighter stain is not visible in the other two images.
So, what to make of this?
Well, for someone who has taken many photos of many examples of the first Grand Seiko, I’m pretty sure this “stain” is actually no such thing, and simply down to the way light is refracted and focused through the edge of the crystal.
As an example, take a look at this photo of an AD dialed first Grand Seiko -
Note how there is an uneven “glow” around the entire dial periphery - this is simply caused by the same thing that I believe is going on in these auction photos, with the light being impacted by the crystal prior to it landing on the dial, and the reflecting back.
In the example photo of the AD dialed “first”, the photographer arguably took a little more care over the lighting and presentation of the image than the seller of the watch on Yahoo, but the effect going on is the same, and has the same cause.
To cut to the chase, I don’t believe there are any issues whatsoever with the dial periphery of this watch. There are however certainly issues with blemishes and scratches on the dial (such as the example highlighted earlier).
Ok, so that’s the dial discussed (phew!). Anything else?
The case looks pretty typical for what you might expect on an example of the reference that has not been babied for 63 years, and the positive thing about this example compared to the one from last year, is that at least this has the original and correct caseback medallion. Unfortunately there is no shot of the inside caseback provided, but I reckon it would be a safe bet to say that this one is also going to originate from the first quarter’s production of the first Grand Seiko (April to June 1960), and should certainly have a movement number starting 60, and with the third digit being no higher than 4.
The crown could be original, although as many will know, crowns on early examples of the first Grand Seiko are all over the place, with many original crowns for a long time being considered as “wrong” and having been replaced with “correct” later crowns.
The final point to highlight is the second hand. It is quite common to come across examples of the reference with this second hand (note how the tail of the hand is thin and straight, and not triangular in shape), with some Japanese collectors and dealers being pretty confident that it is entirely possible for this hand to have been the one originally fitted. Me? I’m not so sure about this, but getting a “correct” one would not be too challenging, and I suspect it won’t make the slightest bit of difference as to what this watch will end up closing for.
Ok. That’s almost an entire newsletter’s content on just a single listing. Enough already, let’s conclude and move on.
Right now I don’t know how much I’m willing to chase this one - such decisions are pretty pointless to make apart from in the last few minutes of the auction! What I do know is that I really, really, want it. But if - as is quite likely - someone here ends up beating me to the finish line, please do share your victory with us all in the chat (and who knows, perhaps we can work out a trade for something in the future!).
The photos of this one are rather annoying overexposed, so it’s impossible to be absolutely certain about the condition of the case. But, and it’s a big but!, the seller lists this as “dead stock”, it has it’s original price ticket, buckle, and almost certainly the original strap as well.
Last but certainly not least on the positive front, take a look at the caseback -
More and more people these days are after pristine examples of vintage Grand Seikos with intact original caseback protection stickers, so it will be interesting to watch how big a battle there is for this one. Hopefully there are no nasty storage knocks and scratches on the case that are hidden by the photography.
The only slight visible downside is that the dial does show quite a bit of spotting, but it is relatively minor, and I doubt it will put many off.
It’s not a vintage Grand Seiko, but I like it
Although not as desirable as the much earlier 68-6000 that has appeared in this section in the past, there is still are hardcore community of collectors out there who are interested in these remarkable 18K gold cased ultra-thin dresswatches.
Unlike the linen finished dial of its close cousin, the dial on the 6810-0020 has an almost molten metal look to it. I’m not sure what the material of the dial is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was solid gold (anyone who can clarify this, please do comment below!).
As soon as this one turned up this week when scrolling through the Seiko category, I immediately added it to my watchlist, and despite what felt like a pretty high opening price of 350,000, it attracted a bid within just an hour or so of going live.
For the newsletter write-up I actually clicked through to the listing itself, and the reason for that immediate bid became obvious when checking through the rest of the photos, which included this one -
Sadly no outer box shown (although perhaps there will be a nice additional surprise for the winning bidder!), but I think it’s Ok to let that pass when in addition to the correct inner box, you also get the original certificate/guarantee - showing the watch was manufactured in September of 1973, and sold on October 31st 1974 and cleaning cloth. And of course the watch also includes the important original buckle, and what is almost certainly the original strap as well.
Oh - I’ve just read the description, where the seller states -
“(Although it is not shown, the original outer box is also included)”
You’ll probably never come across a better one than this. If that single bidder ends up winning it for just 350,000 Yen, he (or she - this is a watch that would work so well for either sex) will be one happy person, that’s for sure!
Oh, one more thing…
Remarkably, this exact same watch sold back in June of 2020 for just 138,777 Yen. In that listing, the certificate was not pictured, and the seller did not make it clear that the original cleaning cloth was included (the cloth was pictured in several photos with the watch resting on it, but at no point did the seller highlight that it was the original cloth, and the Seiko embossing was not visible).
Presentation counts for a lot!
Walter (no relation!) Donovan
We’re all very familiar with this one now, and of course the seller.
As mentioned in a previous newsletter, going forward I will simply highlight one of his discretions each week. Take a look at the account, and I suggest you ignore anything listed by it.
Interestingly if you click through to the listing on the FromJapan link above, you’ll note an automated warning -
“The item(s) in this listing will be sent from outside of Japan. Please make sure to read and agree to the terms below before placing a bid. - There is a
high chance that the item(s) may be counterfeit or different than…”
I don’t ever recall seeing one of these warnings before, but it’s very apposite here.
Fake Arabesque dial in completely the wrong case. Avoid.
Even with what is almost certainly the worst set of photos in any auction this week, it’s still possible to see that the dial on this one is not original.
Trashy images, trashy watch.
Redone coloured dial summary
I close with the usual reminder to steer clear of any vintage Grand Seikos with coloured dials similar to the above. This is not a comprehensive photo - there are many references that get this “treatment” so be careful out there.
This week sees the return of some “Tiffany blue” redials. I’m sure there will be some people who find them attractive, but please don’t encourage this kind of thing!
the Grand Seiko guy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.