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The Seiko 1970 Special Luxury Catalogue
For the benefit of those subscribers who have signed up recently, each Tuesday I publish an article featuring scans of vintage Grand Seikos that appeared in the Seiko catalogues of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Although based on the articles originally published on TGSG website, these articles will be updated where appropriate with additional knowledge gained in the three or so years since they were first made available.
Additionally, since I now have the complete set of the catalogues, I am able to publish these articles in the correct chronological order - something that wasn’t possible when posting to the main website since, when starting out documenting the catalogues, I hadn’t completed my collection of them.
You can view the previously published newsletters in this series here.
The Seiko 1970 Special Luxury Catalogue
1970 saw the publication of the second of the “Seiko Special Luxury Catalogues” (“SLC”). At the time of originally publishing an article on this catalogue on TGSG website, I was not aware of the existence of the 1969 SLC.
As mentioned in the newsletter in this series that discussed the 1969 SLC, these catalogues presented the very top of the line references across the whole Seiko range, and are extremely rare. I do not have a copy of this one, despite searching for many years.
The 1970 SLC featured no fewer than four VFA’s - including the sole catalogue appearance of what is arguably the greatest Grand Seiko of all time - alongside four regular references cased in 18K gold.
Below are scans showing the pages from the catalogue that feature Grand Seiko references -
Of the eight references featured in the catalogue, three had made previous appearances in earlier catalogues. These three watches were the 6185-8020 VFA (6185A movement), and the 4520- and 4522-8010 18K gold cased models.
With five brand new references introduced here, the total number of men’s Grand Seikos in the range at the end of 1970 numbered no fewer than 41 distinct watches.
The Grand Seiko 4580-7010 VFA
The stand-out vintage Grand Seiko introduced in this catalogue is also the least expensive watch in the catalogue – the 4580-7010 VFA. Despite its relative affordability (at least compared to the other watches featured in this publication) back then, today it is – possibly with the exception of the platinum cased Grand Seiko First – the most sought after vintage Grand Seiko there is. Quite simply, it sits at the pinnacle of the Grand Seiko story – everything Grand Seiko set out to achieve when starting out in 1960 was delivered in this reference, and in my view it hasn’t been bettered since.
It is, to me at least, quite simply the perfect watch.
Until the discovery of this catalogue by Anthony Kable (who kindly provided the original scans) in the archives of the Seiko Museum in Tokyo, Japan, this reference had not been seen pictured in any Seiko publication of its era. It doesn’t feature in any of the regular Seiko catalogues, nor had it appeared in any of the monthly Seiko Sales newsletters that were distributed to dealers.
Indeed, prior to Anthony’s research, the only mention that I had managed to track down in any contemporaneous Seiko publication was hidden away on page 22 of the 1971 Seiko pocket diary. These diaries were available to order on request only, and of course as with most diaries, would probably have been discarded at the end of the year and so are extremely rare to come across. Indeed, the one in my collection is the only example I have ever seen anywhere.
There in the middle group of references (the vertical text on the left hand side translates to “Special Luxury Goods”), listed beneath the 45GSN (Seiko Astronomical Observatory Chronometer) and the 6800 (Ultra-thin Dress Watch), can be found entries for the 6185 and 4580 caliber VFA’s.
With the diary intended as an educational reference tool for sales staff, the accompanying text alongside the pricing of the watches details the three key selling messages for the VFA’s.
That they are ultra-high precision timepieces, pursuing accuracy in a mechanical watch to the limit;
They are assembled and adjusted only by the very best watchmakers, and then go through very strict inspection procedures; and
As much attention has been given to the design of the watches as statement pieces as has been given to ensuring their “super high” accuracy.
Until the discovery of the 1970 Special Luxury Catalogue, this diary provided the only corroborating evidence for the list price of the 4580-7010 VFA, thus confirming that the price ticket that came with a set that I sold some time ago does belong with the watch.
Before moving on to discuss the other new references introduced in this catalogue, it would be remiss of me not to use this opportunity to share one more photograph of the 4580-7010, and that being one showing the remarkably beautiful movement that is hidden away behind the solid caseback.
The 61GS series VFA’s
Of the other three VFA’s to be featured in this catalogue, I have already mentioned that the 6185-8020 (catalogue code 6185-030) had featured in the earlier 1970 volume 2 catalogue.
Pictured alongside that watch are the two new references – the 6185-7000 (catalogue code 6185-046), which is the only example of a VFA to be cased in 18K gold; and the 6185-8020 (catalogue code 6185-050). As discussed in the article I wrote that was published on SJXWatches, it can be somewhat confusing that there are two VFA’s with the same movement-case code of 6185-8020, which is why it is sometimes necessary to also mention the catalogue codes when discussing a particular reference.
The two watches are however very different in design, as can be seen in the composite photo below.
The 18K gold cased 6185-7000 is another favourite reference of mine, making its first of just two appearances in SLC’s in the 1970 publication. Interestingly, despite the 6185-7000 coming from Suwa and the 4580-7010 from Daini, they do have very similar case designs.
The Grand Seiko 5645-7005 and 5646-7005
The supplement to volume 2 of the 1970 catalogue that was discussed in last week’s newsletter introduced the first of the 56GS series to the range, and among those first four references were the brushed steel turtle shaped cased 5645-7000 and 5646-7000.
The 1970 Special Luxury Catalogue introduced 18K solid gold cased examples in the same design.
Although difficult to see in the catalogue photos, as is clear from the studio shot below of an example of the Grand Seiko 5645-7005 that I have in the collection, the dials on these references have a wonderful linen textured finish.
I discussed previously how I find the pricing difference between closely equivalent watches in the 56GS range compared to the 45GS and 61GS ranges quite surprising, with substantial premiums being applied for the 56GS series references.
Here again we see the same thing. Despite their significantly more substantial solid 18K gold cases, the 4520-8010 and 4522-8010 references - first introduced in the 1969 volume 2 supplement - are 40,000 Yen less expensive than their 56GS counterparts.
In today’s market however, it is the 18K cased 45GS series watches that are both rarer and more desirable, and so they actually command quite a premium over the 18K cased 56GS series watches. For the astute collector this of course does present an opportunity, as the 5645-7005 and 5646-7005 (when on a leather strap) remain the least expensive vintage Grand Seiko models cased in 18K gold to acquire today.
The 1970 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue is a remarkable publication that really does serve to show how Seiko generally, and Grand Seiko in particular, were setting the bars for quality, precision, and style higher than at any previous time in their history. And as we will see in future articles on the subsequent catalogues, they were just getting started.
Once again, my sincere thanks to Anthony Kable of Plus9Time for providing the scans featured in this article.