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Vintage Grand Seiko models not appearing in catalogues - 57GS and 44GS
For the benefit of those subscribers who have signed up recently, over the last half year or so, I have been publishing weekly newsletters featuring scans of vintage Grand Seikos that appeared in the Seiko catalogues of the 1960’s and 1970’s, culminating in last week’s newsletter focusing on the Grand Seiko references for women.
The intention behind this series is to cover in detail every single vintage Grand Seiko, with - where possible - corroborating contemporaneous evidence for the legitimacy of the reference.
Having now covered all the official Seiko JDM catalogues of the period, there is one more major task to fulfill, and that is to document the legitimate references that never appeared in a catalogue.
These references can be broadly grouped into three different categories –
Vintage Grand Seikos that did not appear in the regular catalogues (annual, biannual, supplemental, or Special Luxury), but were featured in other official publications such as Seiko News and Seiko Sales. Examples would include both variants of the 43999.
Vintage Grand Seikos that appear neither in the regular catalogues nor other official publications (to the best of my knowledge following research to-date), but clearly were available for sale to the public based on extensive examination watches in collections and that have come to market over the past decade, and also following consultation with other experts. Examples would include the platinum cased “Firsts”.
Vintage Grand Seikos that were commissioned by third party companies, and would not have been available for sale to the general public. Examples would include the Toshiba 25 year service anniversary models.
Each of the seven men’s vintage Grand Seiko series features references that fall into at least one of these categories. Because there is a lot to cover, I will be splitting this study over the course of several newsletters, structuring the newsletters by series, and then by the above three categories.
In the previous newsletter in this series I covered the “Firsts”. Here, we take a look at the 57GS and 44GS references that never appeared in the catalogues.
You can view the previously published newsletters in this series - which is now complete and covers all the vintage Grand Seiko watches appearing in catalogues - here.
Grand Seiko “57” series references missing from the catalogues
Given the 57GS series debuted production in late 1963, it is unsurprising that there are several references from this series missing from the regular catalogues - after all, the first of those wasn’t published until 1966.
Fortunately, the first two references in this series – the 43999 with SD and AD dials – do make appearances in the monthly Seiko News/Sales publications that were distributed to retailers.
43999 SD dial in Seiko News, February 1964
As we find with the first Grand Seiko, there is a long period between the commencement of the production of the 43999 SD dial, and its public launch.
Whilst we don’t have an exact date for the launch of the 43999, we can trace its first appearance in an offical Seiko publication to the February 1964 issue of “Seiko News”.
Seiko News was a (by this time) monthly publication sent to authorised Seiko dealers, with a typical issue including company news, new product launches, merchandising guidelines, features on retailers, and technical artilces. With 1964 being the year of the Tokyo Olympics, the covers of all twelve issues feature sporting events, with that of February picturing the fencing.
Page three of the publication announced the launch of the Grand Seiko “Self-dater”, in its first guise being the SD dialed 43999.
Whilst it is not possible to accurately read the text of the dial code directly, its extent and spacing around the index at six make it clear this is the SD dial variant. This photo also enables the identification of the correct crown for this reference, which is the early “coarse-knurled” one.
43999 AD dial in Seiko News, June 1965
Back in March 2019, when I first wrote an article covering the vintage Grand Seiko references that didn’t appear in the catalogues, the earliest official publication that I could find picturing the 43999 AD dial was the January 1966 issue of Seiko Sales.
Since then, I have managed to significantly add to my library of Seiko publications from the vintage Grand Seiko era, and now have an almost complete run of Seiko News and Sales from 1958 through to 1974.
Going back through them for this article, I was delighted to discover an significantly earlier mention of the 43999 AD dial, in June 1965’s issue.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, there is no mention of the move from a dial with “SD” to “AD” applied indices (the former being 14K white gold, and the latter simply plated).
Once again, the image enables us to identify the original and correct buckle for this reference - it remains the coarse-knurled variant.
57GS series 18K gold cased references
In my very first newsletter in this series, on the 1966 volume 1 catalogue, I explained that whilst an 18K gold cased 57GS reference is detailed, I do not believe that the image used is actually that of an actual 18K gold cased model.
Put simply, whilst the catalogue confirms the existence of an 18K gold cased watch, it does not picture one.
With seemingly no contemporaneous images of these references - with the first production run of 18k 57GS dating from September 1964 - we have no option other than to scan the market over the years to find examples and attempt to get at least some insight into which variants might exist.
What is clear is that the 18K 57GS came in two main variants, as identified by the movement-case code on the caseback.
The 5722-9000’s would all appear to be the same, in that they have lion medallions and “Chronometer” dials, as seen in this auction example from 2015 -
Note that the dial code text at the bottom has the full “Made in Japan” text to the left of the 6 o’clock index and then the dial code 5722-9000T to the right. This is interesting since the only steel 57GS’s with the full “Made in Japan” are the 43999’s - by the time the 5722-9990 turned up in the January 1966 issue of Seiko Sales, the text is simply “Japan”.
Also of interest is that these earliest watches date from September 1964, and yet already have made the transition from the old model numbering scheme to the new.
Note - occasionally (and there is one on the market at the time of publishing this newsletter) one may come across a 5722-9000 with the later “non-Chronometer” dial. Here is a photo of such a watch -
In my view, this dial is not original to the watch. It simply does not seem feasible to me that a watch dating from 1964 would have been originally manufactured with the non-Chronometer dial.
The later variant of the 18k 57GS is the 5722-9001, and can be immediately distinguished from the earlier one in that it has the non-Chonometer dial, and the “GS” caseback medallion.
As with the steel 57GS, it is not unreasonable to expect there to be some “transitional” pieces, and indeed I have seen examples of 5722-9001 casebacked watches with the earlier Chronometer dial and lion medallion.
My personal preference however would always be to insist on either a Chronometer dialed 5722-9000, or a non-Chronometer dialed 5722-9001. These are very expensive watches, and you would not want to be caught holding a mismatched piece if further down the line evidence surfaced that only the “pure” examples detailed above existed.
The mystery of the 43999 gold dial
It would be remiss of me to close off this section without including here details of a spare dial that I have in my collection.
Some time ago I was able to acquire the dial pictured above. It is particuarly peculiar because as can be very clearly seen, it is a 43999 AD dial, but one very evidently intended for a gold cased 57GS.
The gold cap 57GS only came to market in 1966, and they are only ever seen with the later non-Chronometer dials.
It simply does not seem feasible that a dial such as this - presumably manufactured contemporaneously with the steel 43999 AD reference - was manufactured intended for the much later gold cap watches.
My pet theory for this dial is that it was the intended to be the dial for the first run of the 18K 57GS, but at some point it was decided to move over to the new movement-case coding system, and so it was never used.
It is the only example of this dial design known to exist, and has never been seen in a watch.
57GS series Toshiba 25 year service anniversary watches
Japanese electronics company Toshiba had a long-running relationship with Grand Seiko whereby watches would be produced to be given as gifts to employees completing 25 years of service with the company. There are four separate models that were produced spanning three different Grand Seiko series, commemorating employees completing 25 years of service in years 1965 through to 1973.
The first two of these models are from the 57GS series, and – unlike all other examples of commissioned commemorative watches – were actually given a unique case reference number that is stamped on the inside of the case back. The difference between the two variants is that one is based on the 5722-9990, and the other on the 5722-9991.
5722-9970 – based on 5722-9990 with Chronometer dial and, typically, 5722A movement. Commemoration year is marked as either 1965 or 1966.
5722-9970 – based on 5722-9991 with non-Chronometer dial and, typically, 5722B movement. Commemoration year is marked as either 1967 or 1968.
Grand Seiko 44GS series references missing from catalogues
Grand Seiko 4420-9990
The cap gold cased variant of the 44GS series – the 4420-9990 – does not appear in any Seiko Catalogue, and nor – despite extensive searching – have I been able to find it detailed in any of the monthly Seiko News/Sales newsletters.
It is a fairly rare reference, and intriguingly, whilst the 44GS series is widely credited as showcasing Seiko’s famed “Grammar of Design”, the cap gold model does not share the same case design as the stainless steel 4420-9000. Rather, it is very similar to the earlier cap gold references from the 57GS series.
The next installment in this series will detail the watches from the 62GS series that never appeared in the catalogues.