Vintage Grand Seiko Buckles
Last week I published the first of two newsletters that detail the evidence for what the correct buckles are for vintage Grand Seikos.
The previous newsletter explained the challenges in establishing which buckles go with which watches, and what evidence we might be able to call on in order to come to reasonable conclusions as to what is “correct”.
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If you have not already read last week’s newsletter - that detailed the buckles for the first, 57GS, 62GS, 44GS and 61GS series - I would encourage you to read it before proceeding with this one, since the introduction to that aritcle sets the context for this investigation.
A few collectors got in touch following the publication of the newsletter mentioning that they had been told by some dealers that different buckles were correct other than those that I highlighted. Whilst when it comes to establishing “facts” regarding historical Seiko watches there can be conflicting viewpoints on subjects such as this, I must stress that the information that is shared in these newsletters is based purely on my own research into contemporaneous Seiko publications; and into examples of watches that have surfaced - be it offered publicly in the market, or residing in collections - over the last decade or so.
I am more than happy to revise the “facts” presented in these newsletters should new evidence present itself, but that evidence does need to be grounded in something. Simply because in recent times certain references have been sold with particular buckles by certain people does not suffice. I would not for one moment suggest there is any deliberate malice or subterfuge involved, just that there are honest mistakes being made.
I will explain the background as to what may well be behind this confusion in part 3 (I had planned to include it here, but have run out of time and space), but for now, let’s crack on with part 2, and look at the buckles used for the 45GS, 56GS, and 19GS references.
Whilst the 45GS series debuted in the supplement to the 1968 number 2 Seiko catalogue with the 4520- and 4522-8000’s in steel and cap gold cases, it is not until the following year where we can find images of watches from the 45GS series showing buckles.
The above scan is from the special supplement to the June 1969 issue of Seiko Sales, which features a number of references from both the Grand and King Seiko families.
Whilst the page shows both 452x-8000 and 452x-7000 references, unfortunately it is only the latter pair where we can see the buckle - and it’s the same one that also features on the 614x-8000 references in the same publication.
I believe it is perfectly reasonable to assume that at least up until this time, the 452x-8000 references would also have been presented on the same buckle. Here is a photo from an auction for a true full set “dead stock” example of a 4520-8000 in cap gold to support this conjecture (the watch dates from September 1968) -
As we saw with the 614x-8000 references however, things aren’t quite as simple as that.
The above scan is taken from the November 1969 issue of Seiko Sales that featured prominently in the discussion on the 61GS series in the first newsletter. Zooming in on the upper photo -
- we can clearly see that the later GS logo buckle is shown on the blue dialed 4522-7000.
Additionally, I have managed to find a single magazine advert showing a white dialed 4520-7000 with that same buckle -
Although not dated, I suspect given the Expo ‘70 branding that this advert would have been published sometime between the latter part of 1969 and 1970.
Clearly what this shows is that there is evidence for two different buckles being used on the 452x-7000 references. As with the auction example pictured above, there is also evidence from other that this buckle was used on the 452x-8000’s, with an apparent “dead stock” example of the 4522-8000 in steel shown below -
The watch in this auction dated from October 1969.
As to which buckle would be correct for any particular 452x-7/8000, my view would be that it would very much depend on the date of the watch (as indicated by the first two characters of the caseback serial number). Clearly at some time there was a change, and with all things Seiko, there was probably a period where both buckle types were being used.
Unfortunately the number of examples of watches turning up that we can be confident retain their original buckles will always be extremely low. It is not like the situation with establishing production periods of variants of the first Grand Seiko, where many hundreds of examples can be used to establish a pretty accurate timeline.
As such, whether - for example - a July 1969 produced piece should have the early or later buckle is pretty much impossible to say. But the earlier the watch, the more likely it should have the early buckle, and the later, the later.
Unlike the 614x-8000 evidence, there are no photographs in any of the Seiko Sales magazines showing these references on the “thin” GS buckle. Until such time as an unequivocal dead stock example surfaces with the thin buckle, I personally would not consider it to be correct.
The back cover of the November 1970 issue of Seiko News shows the 4522-7010 with the common GS branded buckle. Given the date of this publication, this is unsurprising, as this buckle was pretty much universally in use across all standard references by this time.
It is the only example of this reference being shown with its buckle in any publication I have been able to find.
First launched in the supplement to the number 2 Seiko catalogue of 1969, we have to wait for their appearance in the 1971 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue before being able to see the correct buckle for these 18K gold cased references. Despite their appearance in both the 1969 and 1970 SLC’s, the buckles are not visible.
Following this “debut”, the buckle is also visible in the watches’ presentation in the next SLC.
Here’s the shot from the 1972 SLC -
And they also make an appearance in 1973’s volume 1 Seiko catalogue -
Although it may not be immediately obvious, once again we have a situation where the watches are shown at different times with different buckles.
In the 1971 Special Luxury Catalogue, we can see a GS branded 18K buckle where the buckle pin comes to rest on a bevel. In the later catalogues, the pin comes to rest on an indentation in the primary buckle surface.
For a better view of the latter, here’s an example from a mint 4520-8010 in my collection -
The watch this is on dates from June 1970.
For an image of the earlier buckle, once again we are fortunate to be able to go through the auction archives to discover the sale of a full set dead stock example that dates from February 1970 -
Given the fact these references were launched only late 1969, and that by mid-1970 it would appear that the buckle had changed already, it is probably fair to say that the latter buckle will be a lot more common (the references stayed in the range until the 1973 volume 1 catalogue.
Once again, whilst - because there are so few data points - it is not possible to nail down the transition period exactly, it is clear that the age of the watch is important in determining what the correct buckle would most likely be.
Pictured above is a scan from the 1970 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue.
It is the only publication that I have found to-date that shows the legendary 4580-7010 reference, and unfortunately the buckle is over-exposed. If it wasn’t for the existence of a dead stock examples of this reference, we would have to hazard a (reasonable) guess that it’s the same buckle that is pictured on the 61GS VFA’s discussed in the previous newsletter.
Here’s a photo of an almost complete set (it’s just missing the certificate) that I once owned -
As is clearly visible - it’s the same buckle that appears on the 61GS VFA’s.
Fortunately for anyone in the enviable position of needing the correct buckle for their 4580-7010 VFA, this buckle is very easy to find these days, with genuine examples turning up on Yahoo Japan pretty much every week.
Or is it?
Well. I guess that depends on quite how seriously you take your buckles.
Here is a buckle that would appear to be correct, available from this auction listing (current as of the time of writing this newsletter) -
And here is the VFA buckle -
They look basically identical, and I suspect that even if you had them in-hand and were examining them from the front closely, they would be indistinguisable.
But flip them over, and things start to get interesting. First the common one -
And now, here is the obverse of the one for the VFA that I picked up a couple of weeks ago -
And if there was any doubt whatsoever, here is the same buckle on a full set, mint, NOS, unworn, example of the 4580-7010 (yes, such a thing does exist) -
So it seems that not only should we always read the caseback, we should always be reading the buckle back too.
Now, it has to be stressed that the known number of examples of the 4580-7010 that can be used to confirm the correct buckle can - as far as I’m aware - be counted on the thumbs of two hands, so it is perfectly possible that the much more common buckle could be correct, but I’m happy to leave that up to the reader to decide.
The 56GS series was introduced in the supplement to the second volume of the 1970 Seiko catalogue, which featured four watches - the 5645- and 5646-7000, and the 5645- and 5646-7010. The 1970 Special Luxury Catalogue debuted the 18K gold cased 5645- and 5646-7005’s.
It is perhaps unsurprising then that November 1970 issue of Seiko Sales - which would have been published pretty much at the same time as both of the aforementioned catalogues - also features the launch of the 56GS series, with the front cover - scanned above - showing the 18K gold 5645-7005, and the 5646-7010.
Let’s get the latter out of the way first - it’s clear to see that it has the common GS logo buckle.
The 5645-7005 however is potentially puzzling, depending on how you chose to interpret the lighting. To me, it doesn’t look like any 18K buckle we have seen before - it looks as if the GS logo is in relief, rather than carved into the buckle. But we know from the appearance of the 5641-, 5645-, and 5646-7005’s in the 1971 Special Luxury Catalogues that the buckle does not look like this.
In these images it is just about possible to make out - helped certainly by the comparison with the buckle visible on the 4520-8010 - that this buckle would appear to be the same as the early buckle on the 452x-8010’s, something that is supported by numerous examples from the auction of sets -
If we zoom in on the front cover we can take a close look at the buckle on the 5645-7005 -
Now we can see it more clearly. Regardless of whether or not your eye sees the GS in relief or carved, there can be do doubting that the sides of this buckle create a ridge where they meet the main surface. This is very different to the 18K buckle in that there the entire top surface of the buckle - extending to include the sides - is flat.
I don’t ever recall seeing this buckle on a 564x-7005, but it is going to make an appearance later on in the article…
Back to the 564x-7010, and here are the later issues of Seiko Sales that show the references on buckles, and they are all the same.
From the November 1971 Seiko Sales we can see the 5646-7010 on the front cover -
- and pages 46 and 47 reproduce adverts where we can clearly see the buckles on a number of watches, including the 5645- and 5646-7010’s.
Pages 4 and 5 of the May 1972 issue show a great spread of watches. We also saw page 4 in context of the 61GS references last week -
Multiple 56GS references are shown here - the 5646-7010 in cap gold, the 5646-7010 with the silvered dial, 5646-7010 blue dial, the 5645-7010 white dial, and the turtle cased 5641-7000.
This spread, probably more than any other, shows how Grand Seiko had standardised the buckle design across all references - excepting the VFA’s and 18K gold cased - models by this time.
Finally, we can see the silvered dial 5646-7010 on the front cover of the November 1972 issue of Seiko Sales -
Speaking of the 5641-7000, it made earlier appearances in the June and November 1971 issue of Seiko Sales.
The June 1971 issue of Seiko Sales is one of the very few that I have missing from my library, but was fortunate to be able to take a snap of page 32 of the issue on my recent trip to Japan -
In the November 1971 issue, it makes an appearance on page 5.
5641- and 5645-5000
We saw this buckle earlier where it appeared on the front cover of the November 1970 issue of Seiko Sales, on a 5645-7005. Here it features on page 29 of the December 1971 issue of Seiko Sales.
At the time I was not convinced it was a genuine 18K buckle, but interestingly, here we see it again - this time on the 564x-5000’s.
I scoured through many auction listings for the 5641-5000 and on the rare occasions where one was sold with an 18K buckle, it was this one -
And then, just as I was about to give up my search, I unearthed an auction from over a decade ago that closed in August 2012. And sure enough…
… there it is.
What will be immediately obvious is that these two listings were from the same seller. What is remarkable is that they were listed just two weeks apart, with the earlier auction being for the watch with the more common buckle.
The seller’s description confirmed that the buckle was indeed solid 18K gold, and then I turned my search to the 5645-5000, and found another example -
This time, we don’t need to take the seller’s word for it, because he also included a shot of the underside of the buckle -
If we take a look at the scan from the 1971 Special Luxury Catalogue where these watches also appear, whilst the front surface of the buckle isn’t visible -
It does seem to be pretty clear that the underside of the buckle is engraved SEIKO, and sure enough, this is what we find on the more common buckle (the following image is from the one on my 4520-8010) -
So, once again, we seem to have two different buckles verified for the same reference family. The one with the raised GS is much, much rarer.
Unlike other examples where we see evidence of the buckle changing over the lifespan of the reference, in this instance the two publications that show the two different buckles would have been published within just a matter of a month or so between them - the 1971 Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue, and the December 1971 issue of Seiko Sales.
As such, it isn’t really feasible to suggest which buckle would be correct based on the manufacturing date of the watch. The 5641- and 5645-5000’s debuted in the 1971 SLC, and remained in the range until volume 2 of the 1973 catalogue. If you have one, and are after the buckle, I guess it’s a case of “take your pick” - until such time of course that more evidence emerges!
References from the ladies vintage Grand Seiko 19GS range make four appearances in publications where we can see the buckles -
A ladies’ vintage Grand Sieko made its first catalogue appearance in the supplement to the number 2 1968 Seiko catalogue. The supplemental catalogues would typically have been published in the run up to the holiday season, and sure enough we find the announcement of the 1964-0010 in the December 1968 issue of Seiko Sales on page 26 -
Zooming in on the buckle, we can see that it is just branded “Seiko” -
The next appearance of a 19GS reference with the buckle visible is in the September 1970 issue of Seiko Sales on page 10 -
Here we see what to me looks to be the same buckle, but this time on the 1964-0020 that made its first catalogue appearance in 1970’s volume 2.
Those with excellent memories will recall seeing the next appearance of a 19GS previously, since the 1964-0010 appears alongside the men’s 6155-8000 special on the back cover of the Seiko Sales from November 1971, a scan of which was included in part 1.
Although sharing the same reference code, this is not the same as the 1964-0010 that made an appearance in December 1968. We can tell this by two things - firstly, there is no 36,000 text on the dial, and secondly, the price of this reference is 40,000 Yen, not 36,000 Yen.
This identifies it as the platinum plated reference that first launched in the 1971 volume 2 catalogue.
The final ladies’ vintage Grand Seiko to appear in a publication where its buckle could be seen is the 1984-3000 VFA.
The 1972 issue of the Seiko Special Luxury Catalogue includes an additional inserted page that is held in place by a flap on the inside back cover, and that page is devoted to the ladies’ VFA -
What is interesting to note is that this buckle is not the same that is seen on the other 19GS references, but instead looks to be a smaller version of the Seiko branded buckle we see on the men’s VFA’s.
The sole remaining ladies’ 19GS reference that is not pictured anywhere showing its buckle is the cap gold variant of the 1964-0010. Fortunately some time back I was able to acquire an unworn example of this reference on its original strap and with its original buckle. As can be seen from the below image, it is a gold plated version of the buckle found on the other “regular” 19GS references -
And we’re done!
I very much hope that these two articles will help collectors track down the correct buckle for their vintage Grand Seikos. Please do not hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions or are able to provide any evidence to the contrary of what has been presented here.
I had hoped to include in this article some detailed commentary on some of the challenges that we face as collectors when trying to source original buckles, but have run out of time and space to include that here.
The other thing that I have run out of time to do is to go back and check this newsletter for any typos or errors and correct them - it is an unedited single stream of consciousness typed out. If you do spot anything that needs fixing, please don’t hesitate to highlight it in the comments below.
There will be one more newsletter in this series that I plan to publish next week, where I will go over this challenge in some detail.
And what about the bracelets, I hear you ask?
For those wondering about the correct bracelets for vintage Grand Seiko, there is no need for me to write anything on those, because Anthony Kable over at Plus9Time has everything you need to know here.
the Grand Seiko guy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.