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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.
As is the norm now, I will commence with the good guys.
It’s a bit of a slow week this week - I couldn’t find a listing to recommend in the top 50 Grand Seiko auctions when sorted in descending order of the number of bids, and this is in fact the sole example in the first 100 to make the cut.
No hesitation in including this 18K gold cased 4522-8010 though. As I’m sure many will recall my saying before, I think the 452x-8010’s (the 4520-8010 is the same as the one seen here, but without the date) are ridiculously good value.
Oddly the seller lists this as a 4520-8010, but I guess that’s just a typo - a quick check of the caseback shows that it is correct. Cosmetically, the watch looks to be in great condition, with a nice clean dial (these often turn up with moisture stains) and an unmolested case that shows honest signs of wear (note the scratches down the flanks and the slightly soft edges to the side bevel.
A good lesson here though is that you should always take care to read the description, and not just go off the images. A translation of the description states that whilst the watch is running, the time can’t be set due to the crown being “out of order”.
So if you do fancy your chances at winning this one, don’t forget to factor in the cost of a service to get it fixed!
Production of the 43999 started in August 1963, and with a case serial number of 3800701, that means this example was the 701st to be manufactured. Given I’ve seen an example numbered 3804470, we can almost certainly nail this one down to the very first week of production.
The case has clearly had some repolishing at some point in its life, and it’s had its original coarse-knurled crown replaced with the later version at a service, but even taking those two factors into account, with its very clean dial and super-early production date, I think this one still remains an attractive option for anyone after an SD dialed 43999.
Again, showing the importance of reading the description, if you do chase this one you will have a bit of a project on your hands as the seller states the watch is not running at all.
Very possibly this might end up going to someone who will do a complete movement swap on it. But if you do, make sure the movement serial number makes sense for a first week production watch, because it if resurfaces anywhere with an out of sync movement serial, you can be sure that I’ll comment on it!
The cap gold 44GS is an odd one from a collecting standpoint. Obviously its stainless steel cased counterpart is one of the most collectible of all vintage Grand Seikos, but due to the -9990 retaining the basic high level case design of the earlier 57GS, it always feels a little out of place.
What is intriguing about the reference is that it makes no appearances in any Seiko catalogue, nor any issue of Seiko Sales/Seiko News (the monthly magazine sent out to Seiko retailers).
I’m not entirely sure what is behind the discolouration of the caseback medallion on this example, but apart from that aspect, this looks to be a good example of the reference should anybody be after one.
The well worn original crown is a matter of personal taste - if you want a NOS replacement, there is one available for a BiN price of 8,000 Yen - but you’ll almost certainly want to replace that crystal, for which the correct part number is 330W01AN.
The early dialed 6146-8000’s (with the full Grand Seiko text printed in the lower half of the dial, above a rather eccentric Suwa logo) are the variants to go for if you’re after an example of the reference.
Excepting the VFA’s, these were the last of the vintage Grand Seikos to have the brand name printed in full on the dial (indeed, anywhere on the exterior of the watch).
The only downside of the 6146 caliber is the day wheel - it neither quicksets, nor is it bilingual, so you’re stuck with manually advancing the time on the watch the requisite number of days every time you need to set it. Personally this is why I always veer towards the Specials (or the VFA’s!) when it comes to the 61GS series, but there’s no denying this early dialed -8000 is a very attractive proposition.
The example offered for sale here retains its sharp caselines and has a clean dial, but as is so often the case with watches from this seller, you will probably be seeking to replace the crystal. Part number is 310T08AN. You can pick up a 3rd party one here, or wait for an original to turn up (they are pretty common, so you shouldn’t have to wait more than a month or two).
Oops. I almost missed this one.
Currently it doesn’t have any bids, so didn’t turn up in my usual descending order of bids list, but when picking out something in my saved auction list for the next section, there it was.
The 5641- and 5645-5000’s are increasingly being sought after due to Grand Seiko’s modern marketing message that the dials of these were the ones that influenced the creation of the modern “Snowflake” (more accurately, “Snow white”) dials.
Personally I am not at all convinced by this story whatsoever. There was never any mention of the vintage piece inspiring the first “Snow white” dialed modern Grand Seiko, SBGA011, on its launch in 2005. Not to mention of course that the dial texture is completely different.
But, marketing departments have to produce marketing I guess, so now we’re stuck with the story, and it has definitely had a big influence on the desirability of these references.
The “purer” no-date 5641-5000 is probably the more covetable of the two, but collectors chase after both references pretty hard.
If you’re after one of these, always pay very close attention to the periphery of the dial, as it is common to find them showing signs of degradation at the edges. Here however, no such problem - this is a really good example, and the case is in great shape too.
No surprise to discover in the description that the date mechanism is broken, but regular readers will know that’s nothing to be concerned about and can be easily addressed by any competent watchmaker (just source the replacement part for them!).
14 people are currently watching this auction, which has a minimum bid set at 248,000 Yen. Since most people don’t have the time to look at every auction on Yahoo every week, they often rely on simply doing what I do when compiling this newsletter - they check everything that has a bid on it.
But this is not a wise strategy, as it means you miss listings like this, where there is a reasonable minimum bid, but those who have seen it, are all waiting patiently hoping to be “the one” to nab it at the last minute for the minimum price.
That won’t happen here. I can assure you.
The last one of these to turn up on open auction - in October last year - ended up closing for 475,000 Yen, although it did have the advantage of coming with its original 18K buckle, and had the metal date wheel fix already installed at a service.
Best of luck!
It’s not a vintage Grand Seiko, but I like it
Don’t worry - a watch will be coming shortly!
I just wanted to include this one because it’s a bit of a mystery.
There are plenty of people “out there” now who are picking up things like this (along with boxes, manuals, certificates, etc) in the hope of one day putting together a set, no doubt more than a little inspired by the relatively recent (and completely sold out) book on Toki’s collection of 1950’s-1970’s Antique Japan Watch that has been selling for some very high prices of late.
What is puzzling about this listing of two price tickets is that no vintage Grand Seiko is listed as ever selling for 62,000 Yen in any Seiko catalogue or Seiko Sales/News of the era.
I was discussing this anomaly with Anthony, and we concluded that the most likely candidate would have been the cap gold Special - 6156-8020. This was a reference that was launched in the 1972 Seiko catalogue at a price of 58,000 Yen, and only made one further catalogue appearance, in the same year’s Special Luxury Catalogue.
Possibly if this reference had stayed in the range, whilst not being featured in any future catalogues, it might have had a price increase in later years due to the increase in the price of gold. The only cap gold cased references to feature in the catalogues after 1972 were the 5645- and 5646-7010’s, which remained in the (catalogued) range for another 12 months. These however did not have any price increase from 1972-1973.
The mystery of a vintage Grand Seiko priced at 62,000 Yen may well never be solved!
Time for another digital to feature in this section, and this week it’s this rare variant of the 0138 (Seiko’s first 1/100th of a second digital chronograph module).
These ones don’t turn up very often at all. I was fortunate enough to pick up an absolutely mint example a couple of years back for my digital collection (that one day I promise to get around to documenting!).
Just half a dozen fully functioning examples of this reference have turned up on Yahoo in the last decade, and this is the next best example to the one in my collection.
Here’s a photo of mine for comparison. The integration of the black stripe down the bracelet and into the watch is just superb.
You probably won’t need to pay much to pick this one up, but if you are at all interested in the early years of digital watches as more and more functions were being added to them, it’s a great piece for any collection.
Although thinking about it, maybe this black dialed variant may well need to be paired up with my white dialed one. Hmm…
Our “friend” is back this week with his usual assortment of dodgy watches.
From the description -
“Since it is not possible to determine whether the dial is redone or rewritten, please look at the image and make a judgment.”
Well, it is possible, and we will make a judgment, on the watch and the seller.
Same comment in the description.
Note - although not detailed here, the seller has three other listings at the time of writing for vintage Grand Seiko. Two have high starting prices and don’t have any bids yet (so they don’t make the cut here), and one is one of the generic recoloured efforts that I discuss in general terms in the usual summary below.
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.
Ok that’s it for this newsletter - nothing really of note at any of the dealers, so I’ll call it a day there. See you all again next week!
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