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The Seiko 1974 Catalogue Volume 1
For the benefit of those subscribers who have signed up recently, each week 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 1974 Catalogue Volume 1
In this catalogue – as is to be expected – once again we see a significant reduction in the number of Grand Seiko references featured, with just 10 men’s models listed on its pages.
Following the structure first introduced in the 1972 catalogue, the initial pages highlight the references in the range with precious metal cases, and there is not a single Grand Seiko to be found.
We then need to flip through another 8 pages featuring quartz references before we arrive at the Grand Seikos.
VFA’s and Specials make a return
Those who have been following these newsletters closely may recall that the entire 61GS range seemed to have been dropped for 1973, with no references from the range appearing in any of that year’s catalogues.
For the start of 1974 however, we see the return of examples of both the VFA and Special models.
Both silver and blue dialed versions of the 6186 day-date VFA - that first debuted in 1972’s Special Luxury Catalogue can be found headlining the Grand Seiko offer.
Although, priced at 110,000 Yen, the VFA’s clearly take pride of place at the top of the Grand Seiko range, it is indicative of the relentless march of quartz that no fewer than 30 quartz references appear on the previous 8 catalogue pages that not only are priced cheaper than the pinnacle of the entire vintage Grand Seiko era, but every one of those 30 quartz references were also of course significantly more accurate than, arguably, the very best mechanical watches ever made.
You can understand why the idea of spending 110,000 Yen on a mechanical timepiece that was “only” accurate to a minute a month might have been a little hard to justify at the time, but it is worth recalling that less than three short years previously, the Grand Seiko VFA’s and Specials took pride of place on page 1 of the entire Seiko catalogue.
At first glance, the Special that accompanies the VFA’s on the top row of the page may seem to be a 6156-8000, but if you look carefully, you will see that the code under the price is “803-800”. This is actually the debut of the 6156-8030, a rather curious case update (I am not sure of the exact details) of the 6156-8000 that makes its sole appearance in this catalogue.
The bottom row of the page features the familiar 6155-8000 Special, alongside the 5646-7010 on bracelet and leather strap.
Although we are clearly entering the twilight years of vintage Grand Seiko, that doesn’t mean to say there are no more interesting references still to be launched.
On the second - and final - page in the catalogue to feature men’s Grand Seikos, we discover two new references from the 56GS range.
Pictured top left is the 5646-7030 (catalogue code 56GAW 100), which has a beautiful sand textured dial that, whilst hard to ascertain from the catalogue photo, is clear to see on the studio photo below -
Whilst the catalogue image shows the watch presented on a strap, it is interesting to note that examples of this reference do occasionally turn up on a bracelet (part code XQB240) as pictured above. The 5646-7030 is an interesting reference because its lug size - at 17mm - is 1mm smaller than that found on almost the entire vintage Grand Seiko range. No other reference had 17mm lugs, which is why we can be confident in stating that this GS branded bracelet is correct for (and unique to) the 5646-8030.
The second, and final, new reference to be introduced in this catalogue is the 5646-7040 (catalogue code 56GAW 110), seen pictured next to the 5646-7030.
This watch too is unique amongst all vintage Grand Seikos, but perhaps for a more immediately obvious reason - it is the only vintage Grand Seiko to feature Arabic numerals on the dial.
As with the -7030, it’s worth taking a better look at the watch.
The dial of the 5646-7040 has a remarkable dual-layer texture that resembles molten lava bubbling on top of striated rock. And yes, I’ve checked, but there was no significant volcanic activity in Japan in the early 1970’s so the inspiration for this dial must have come from somewhere else.
The case is distinctly un-“Grammar of Design”-ish and would seem to actually hark back to the very first Grand Seiko, with a very simple “lugs attached to a round case” design, although enhanced by that wonderful texture on the top surface.
Needless to say, in any collection of vintage Grand Seiko, the 5646-7040 really does stand out, and is possibly the original inspiration behind the limited edition modern Grand Seikos we see from the Wako store that also feature Breguet-like Arabic indices.
The other two references featured on this page are the 5645-7010 on bracelet and leather strap. Both are making their final appearance in the range in this catalogue.
Briefly going over what has been dropped - as mentioned at the top of the article, there are no 18K gold Grand Seiko references to be seen, so it’s goodbye to the 5641/5-5000 and 5641/5/6-7005 which all featured in the 1973 volume 2 catalogue. Also of note, there are no cap gold references either, so that means no more 5645/6-7010 in that metal. Finally, we also say goodbye to the two coloured dial 56GS series references that we saw previously – the 5646-7010 with blue dial (although that will return for a swansong), and the 5646-7020 green dial.
25 catalogues down, just four more to go!