Vintage Grand Seiko Buckles
One of the perennial challenges in collecting vintage Grand Seiko has always been establishing what the correct buckles are for each of the references.
The primary sources of information as to which references were in the range at any one time are of course the Seiko catalogues from the era, and I have written an extensive series of newsletters on these catalogues that I’m sure most readers will be aware of.
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The problem - as evidenced in the example catalogue page scanned below - is that it is generally not possible to use the catalogues as a source for identifying the correct buckles, for the simple reason that they are almost never visible.
This lack of clarity as to which buckle designs belong to which references has been the cause of some confusion amongst collectors and dealers, leading to what I believe are mistakes being made in putting the wrong buckle with the wrong watch.
Unsurprisingly, very few examples of vintage Grand Seikos come to the market with their original straps and buckles. These are after all watches that typically are over half a century old, and the majority of straps from the 1960’s and 1970’s simply were not made to last that long.
Unless secreted away in a drawer for decades, it would not be surprising if many of these watches were on their tenth strap by now. And with each strap change, the chances of the buckle being reused diminishes.
More and more these days I am seeing collectors looking to “build” full sets of watches, where they may acquire an example of a particular reference, and then search for the correct inner and outer boxes and paperwork to go with it. This trend has increased significantly following the publishing of the book “1950’s-1970’s Antique Japan Watch”, which showcased an incredible Japanese collection that comprises many watches complete with paperwork, boxes, swing tags, and in some cases even still on the original strap.
It is however important to note that even in that esteemed collection, I believe there are a few mis-matches shown.
So, if we can’t rely on the catalogues for the answer, and if people out there are putting things together that might not be correct, where can we go to establish what is correct and what isn’t?
Examining full sets is certainly one source, but given the trend highlighted above, it’s best to not rely on just one example, since it is sometimes not possible to establish whether or not the set originated as such, or was put together over time.
Fortunately, there are also other sources we can turn to, and those are contemporaneous publications featuring photographs of the watches that also show the buckles.
Last month I wrote a newsletter on the Seiko News issue from March 1961 that featured the first Grand Seiko on its cover. I have an almost complete collection of these monthly magazines covering the entire vintage Grand Seiko era, and on my recent trip to Japan was able to check the handful of issues missing from my library for any Grand Seiko content.
Having now gone through all 200+ issues, I have been able to identify the dozen or so magazines that include photos showing the buckles on the watches.
Other publications that I have collected such as adverts, in-store posters and the Seiko Special Luxury Catalogues have also proved to be very useful sources, and finally, I have over the years personally owned and seen in other collections a number of full sets that give me the confidence establish what the correct buckles are.
This is going to be a long newsletter (in fact, I’m going to have to split it into two parts), so if you haven’t already grabbed a cup or glass of your favourite beverage and settled into a comfy chair, I suggest you do so now!
I believe it makes most sense to structure this by series, so let’s kick off with where it all started.
The first Grand Seiko
To the best of my knowledge, the March 1961 issue of Seiko News is the only publication that shows the first Grand Seiko buckle, and since the image is very clear, there can be no doubting that the buckle shown above (on a true NOS full set) is the correct one.
Note that this buckle has no stamping on the reverse side.