Discover more from the Grand Seiko guy
I suppose it's too late to make a run for it
Well, I'm game if you are
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide guidance on which vintage Grand Seiko auctions on Yahoo Japan might be of interest to collectors. I also detail those “dodgy” listings that you need to avoid.
What you will notice is that this isn’t just a simple list of auction listings - in discussing the merits (and demerits) of the listings I often branch off into a bit of background that I hope will be useful in helping you to learn some of the nuances of collecting vintage Grand Seiko.
For those paid subscribers who are reading one of these newsletters for the first time, you can access the archive of all the previous newsletters on the Substack website (or the iPhone and Android apps).
Going forward, I will be unlocking these newsletters a week after sending them out to paid subscribers. The main benefit is of course alerting paid subs to the auctions that they might be interested in bidding on (and avoiding), but I feel the educational value post-close of the auctions is only fair to share to all.
Important note for UK and EEA subscribers -
Yahoo Japan is now actively blocking connections from the UK and the European Economic Area due to the prohibitive costs of adhering to the GDPR regulations for a relatively small number of users.
To get around this for the purposes of this newsletter, links to the auctions detailed will be provided through one of the Japanese proxy companies - FromJapan.
Whilst I have been a customer of FromJapan for many years, I do not receive any benefits from using these links.
the Grand Seiko guy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It’s an absolutely bumper week this week, so if you’ve started to read this before grabbing a vessel of your beverage of choice and settling into a comfy chair, I suggest you do so now before reading on!
First up is a very nice example of the carved logo dialed first Grand Seiko from a seller who we are going to be seeing a lot of this week.
From the full set of photos we can confirm pretty much everything is as it should be. With the inside caseback indicating production in January 1961, the movement serial starting 60 is contemporary, as are the mountain handset and the early type of lion medallion. The only thing that is might not be original to the watch is the crown, but as I have stated on a number of occasions in the past, this is pretty much par for the course for these early examples.
The dial code isn’t visible - as is to be expected on these - and I’m pretty confident that it will be correct (GSJ14H156).
The dial itself would appear to show only light spotting, with no major stains apparent, and the case is very typical for these (more on cases later!).
I expect this one to do quite well.
Next up from the same seller is a great example of the later dialed variant of the 4420-9000. Once again we are presented with a full set of photos with which to judge the listing, and really the only negative point to highlight is the rather unsightly gouge in the caseback medallion.
Whilst I try to avoid making statements that watches that I feature here are “unpolished”, I would certainly suggest that judging from the photos of this watch, that it has not been refinished.
Rather annoyingly it seems Yahoo Japan have dropped the mouse-over zoom feature we saw last week, but it is clear from the screen-grab below that the lugs on this one are perhaps a little softer than one would hope for.
Still, that’s probably only going to deter perhaps the top 1% of collectors who are after (and prepared to pay for) the truly pristine pieces that turn up once every five years or so, so this will still do well, and would make for a great example of the 44GS for the vast majority of those after one.
It’s great to see another superb example of this reference with not only the correct inner box, but also the correct buckle (although if you’ve read the second of my newsletters on the vintage Grand Seiko buckles you’ll know that is actually more than one correct buckle for this reference).
The dials on these often “suffer” from UV burn, but this one is about as pure as you could ever hope to come across.
Whilst I’m not entirely convinced by the seller’s claim that the watch is “unused”, the case remains in superb condition.
If I didn’t already have a near-perfect example of this reference in my collection, I’d be chasing this one pretty hard.
Note that the second hand has not moved in any of the photos of this watch, and also that the seller states “operation unconfirmed”. As always, if you’re going to be buying from Yahoo Japan, unless the seller specifically states that the watch is running well or has just been fully serviced, work on the assumption that the first thing you’re going to have to do on receiving the watch is send it off to your favourite watchmaker.
The other downside in this listing is that we can see a green colour around the edge of the crystal, which almost certainly means there has been some oxidation of the case.
But, and this is why the watch is listed in the good guys section, those caveats aside, this is a very attractive example of the reference with what looks to be a clean dial (check multiple photos to take advantage of the parallax so you can work out what is on the crystal and what is on the dial), and a really nice looking case - oxidation (which I’m pretty sure can be dealt with) aside.
If the seller had claimed this watch had been sat in a drawer for 50 years, I’d believe it.
With the right care and attention, this could well turn out to be an absolute gem.
Getting a sense of deja vu? Same seller, and another late dialed 44GS.
He also has an example of the more desirable early dialed variant, but you’ll be reading about that later in the newsletter.
As before, there are plenty of photos provided to help you decide whether (or how much) to bid, and there isn’t a great deal to choose between the two he has to offer.
This one has a slightly worse dial, with a couple of obvious flaws (although very possibly that “mark” at 4 is actually a very small thread that can be simply removed), but arguably the better case. Here’s a lug detail to compare to the earlier one -
As I said. Not really a lot in it!
Just for some context, here’s what an untouched lug looks like -
The auction for the first listing featured here closes next Tuesday, whereas this one has a couple more days to run. I’ll leave it to you to work out the psychology as to which one to chase if you want to pick one of them up!
It’s pretty rare to get two great carved logo dials turning up in the same week, and this one is arguably even more interesting than the first.
It’s only because I’ve studied hundreds of examples of the first Grand Seiko that I’m able to state with absolute confidence that this particular watch is absolutely correct in all (ok ok, except as usual for the crown!) details.
Yes - the combination of a carved logo with the flat hands is correct.
The great thing is that in the lead photo of the auction we can just about make out the dial code - it’s GSJ14H156E. The “E” suffix is important because it confirms that this is the extremely rare “transitional” dial - I’ve seen perhaps just a dozen or so examples of this variant.
Earlier carved (and print) logo dialed watches have dial codes without the “E” suffix, and later raised logo dialed watches have an additional “SD” suffix after the E.
There are actually three different sub-variants that I have seen with this dial code. Carved logo dials with both flat and the “mountain” hands, and raised logo dials with flat hands. It wouldn’t surprise me if one day I came across the fourth possible combination of logo and handset as well.
The case serial number of 1612209 (indicating production June 1961) puts this right between two other transitional “Firsts” that I have records of from that month, with 1612122 having a carved logo dial and the mountain handset, and 1612303 having the raised logo dial and flat handset.
The movement number 111009 also falls between the movement numbers of the other two June 1961 production transitionals, which were 109766 and 113096. Note however that this is more of a coincidence than anything else, since movement numbers can appear significantly out of sync with case serials.
All in all, a really interesting one!
Condition looks to be great - there are a few minor marks on the dial, but nothing that would put me off from wanting to add it to my collection, and the case - as I so frequently comment - is pretty much what one can expect for a non-restored example of the first Grand Seiko.
Wait - did I say “non-restored” example? Does that mean there are “restored” examples?!
When I first saw this listing on Tuesday, shortly after it had been listed, it stopped me my tracks.
It was listed with a minimum bid of 400,000 Yen, and last night someone bit the bullet and placed a bid.
Yes - it’s a heck of a minimum bid for a “regular” first Grand Seiko with the common raised logo dial, but just look at that case. When was the last time you saw a case like this on an example of this reference?
Ok that was rhetorical. Let me answer it. I’ve seen a case like this on just three occasions.
Once was when visiting a Japanese collector who has a NOS full set raised logo dialed first Grand Seiko that even still retains its original purple caseback protection film.
Once when a “dead stock” example sold on Yahoo for 1.5M yen back in 2021 -
And the final time was when I visited the Wako department store in Ginza, and they had a restored example of the first Grand Seiko available for purchase for - wait for it - 2,585,000 Yen.
And yes - that watch has been sold.
So, back to the auction.
The question as to whether this is an untouched example of the reference or not is very quickly answered by both the provided images and accompanying text -
Those are of course the official Grand Seiko Japan service papers.
From the listing description, one could suggest that the seller is being slightly evasive about exactly how much was done at the service (equally, it could just be poor translation by Google), and some of the key text has been covered up. He states -
“As an aside, this is a watch that the Seiko Watch customer service team was impressed with, saying, "It's in excellent condition."
There is however no questioning whether or not the watch has been polished at service, because on the service papers it states that it has (although it is described as “light” polishing).
Unfortunately, without the “before” photos there is no way of knowing just how much work has been done on the case by Grand Seiko’s service department, but there can be no argument that the result looks absolutely fabulous.
Purists may well baulk at even the thought of contemplating a watch like this, but personally I absolutely love it. IF this was originally a “typical” example of the first Grand Seiko and the service department turned it around into what we see here, I reckon that’s a game changer, and they are going to get swamped with requests!
There’s only one way to find out just what they can do - I’m going to send them one of mine.
Watch this space!
It’s not a vintage Grand Seiko, but I like it (but perhaps don’t bid on it)
This is a relisting of a watch I featured in a newsletter a couple of weeks ago, so I will refer you to the commentary there for the details.
One should always be a little wary of auctions that get cancelled after they close and then are relisted. There are a number of reasons why this could happen, sometimes the winning bidder pulls out, sometimes the seller gets caught shilling his own auction.
It’s impossible to know what happened here, but suffice to say last time around this closed for 1,405,000 Yen, and then 9 days after the auction closed, the winning bid was cancelled. The fact it took 9 days to cancel is a little suspicious, and makes me think that possibly the winning bidder actually received the watch and then for some reason returned it.
The listing is identical to the last time around, except for one thing. The (translated) text “Since I am an amateur, it will be a simple inspection, measurement, and simple packing that can be confirmed with the naked eye.” has been changed to “Since we are amateurs, it will be a simple inspection, measurement, and simple packaging that can be confirmed with the naked eye” (my emphasis).
One final thing to highlight is that (according to FromJapan) the seller does not accept bids from proxy companies. I have had an instance in the past where FromJapan stated this on an auction, and when raising it with them they informed me that in actual fact it was they who refused to deal with the seller, due to bad experiences in the past. I’ve not made inquires on this one, so am not sure which side refuses to do business with the other.
Regardless, there are just too many flags on this one for me to recommend it again, which is a real shame, because it’s such a fantastic reference, and such a rare opportunity to purchase it in an open auction - remember there is one more out there at the moment with a dealer who is asking 2.38 million Yen.
It’s very rare for a relisting to hammer for more than it went for the first time around, so I can understand that it might be tempting to have a nibble, but be very, very wary indeed.
77 bids and up to 74,000 Yen already. Who is buying this junk? Certainly nobody who is subscribed to these newsletters I hope!
This is a rather odd 4520-8010 - a reference I’m usually a big fan of - for a number of reasons, and should be avoided other than for educational purposes.
Firstly, the dial has been reprinted - you don’t have to look any further to spot this one than the positioning of the text at the bottom of the dial, which is printed above the minute markers, rather than below them.
Secondly, it has the wrong crown, and thirdly, when you take a look at the photo from the back, you can see that it has a display caseback and not the original solid 18K one.
This final point is very strange - on rare occasions you might come across an example of the Seiko Astronomical Observatory Chronometer with a display back, but this typically happens when the original case for the watch has been melted down for scrap, and then years later someone “rescues” the movement and dial by putting them in a case from a 4520-8010. Obviously given the AOC’s caseback is completely different to that of the 4520-8010, there isn’t really any option in this scenario other than to put a display back on it.
At first glance this looks to be a really good example of the highly coveted early dialed variant of the 4420-9000. It’s all too easy to be taken in by the lovely clean dial and what looks to be a super sharp case. I was at first - this almost ended up with the good guys!
But then you might spot something rather odd - there’s no dial code.
And then you look closer at the print. Can you see the difference?
This listing -
A legitimate example -
Given the low resolution of the auction listing photos, it’s pretty understandable that lots of people would miss this. But look really carefully at the “K” in “SEIKO” in the photo of the legitimate dial above.
Do you see where the long diagonal stroke of the K meets the vertical stroke? Once pointed out, you’ll never not see it again - the two strokes meet very low down, in fact the K looks completely unbalanced now!
Now compare with the auction listing. Even at this low resolution, you can tell it’s not the same.
I have to be honest - I’ve never noticed this reprint before, and if it wasn’t for the complete lack of the dial code text around the index at 6, I might not have even gone hunting for other possible discrepancies and missed it myself entirely.
Yes, the “Diashock” font is also too small and so not aligned correctly, but without a legitimate example to compare with, I expect most would miss that too.
Given the quality of the other listings from this seller featured in the top section of the newsletter, it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people miss the problem with this piece. In fact I doubt the seller is even aware of it themselves.
Bidding is at 243,000 Yen already and the seller only posted his listings two days ago. We’ll see where this one ends up, but I hope it’s not bought by anyone reading here!
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to put this listing with the bad guys. The issue here is the claims being made for the “package”, rather than the watch itself.
No, it’s not a Wako limited edition. no, that crystal most certainly does not belong on this watch, no most of the paraphernalia that comes with the watch never would have been with it in the first place. And I very much doubt that price ticket is the correct one, otherwise why hide the price (for what it’s worth, this reference retailed for 46,000 Yen)?!
And as to whether the case is genuinely untouched, or expertly refinished, I will leave it up to you to decide.
Regardless of your thoughts on any of the above, he does well with these listings, and I expect this one to bring in a very good result for the seller as is always the case.
Usual seller, a usual reference, usual redial.
Avoid as usual.
Ditto, ditto, and ditto.
Redone coloured dial summary
As usual, 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”, and several listings typically appear every week.
See you all next week - and don’t forget, if you see a vintage Grand Seiko from any source that you are contemplating purchasing, and would like me to have a look over it for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.