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Grand seiko - the genesis of a grand watch
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  Grand seiko - the genesis of a grand watch
Posted by: Collectionist - 10-15-2018, 09:07 PM - Forum: Vintage Watches - Replies (3)

Grand Seiko reborn – the genesis of a grand watch

In 1988 the caliber 9581 and the 9587 was Seiko’s first forage into GS territory after the GS brand was abandoned in the early seventies, as the Grand Quartz was in 1980 - but not the Superior.
There are too many GS models to get into here so let us just pay homage to the last of the vintage Grand Seiko - the range of the 56GS series. The 56 contained no “special” or “VFA” examples - but there are 35 different models produced from 1970 until 1974! It was an effort to keep up with the quartz proliferation. Ironically of Seiko’s own making. Below is just the line-up from 1974.

   

A Grand in Gold
The Seiko Grand Quartz first appeared with four models in the 1975 Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) catalogue, in white and yellow gold only. One should not mix these up with the Quartzes of 1974, the 38SQW V.F.A, 39SQW V.F.A or 38QTW, 39QTW, -QRW, QRC, QT etc. Prices of these would vary… but the classic automatic Grand Seiko was initially depicted in the ’74 catalogue as cheaper, as separate and to the lower right of the new fangled quartzes! These quartzes developed at a frenetic pace, in all four different GQ caliber series were introduced. The 48, 92, 94 and 99 series.

   

This 48xx was a very solidly made quartz with a production span of just four years. In the first year of its production in 1975, only this Grand Quartz reigned supreme right next to the Quartz V.F.A with just three models, 8000/8010/8020, there were no other GQ calibers! The models 8030/8040 were introduced later in 1975 and made for just three years; they came with a thick steel band for the 4843 and with leather only for the 4840 & 4842. That setup never changed for this caliber. Even when the much daintier 48xx-8110 variation was introduced in 1977, ending the 8030/8040 production run in that year.
In 1978 Seiko introduced the twin quartz 9943, ending all of the 48xx caliber that year. The 48xx of the year before however remained a thicker and wider flaring watch (38x43x11mm!) and was more robust than its 9943 descendant - it was after all a Tanaka design. 

Thirty-five fifty-six G’s
Even so, not withstanding the fact that these Grand Quartz movements were mass produced early on and sold (until 1980), the 56GS hobbled along, also mass produced. And 40 years after its production this last automatic GS still is the most reliable “workhorse” of all, with readily available maintenance parts even now! Of course, a slightly less finely tuned caliber 56 movement was also used in the King Seiko 562x series and the Lord-matics 560x, making it a universal favorite at the luxury top end of the market.
In this then Seiko’s design concept was successful, for Grand Seiko was to be the “ideal watch,” which meant “nothing less than the best luxury watch in the world."  For the company, this meant the Grand Seiko should have its own unique style that would resonate with the high-end market. Specifically, Seiko wanted the Grand Seiko’s style to suit both casual and formal attires. This can be seen in the line-up of 1971 below.

   

When the original Grand Seiko was created in 1960 by the company’s Suwa Seikosha division, its focus was on quality mechanics. It wasn’t until 1967 when the 44GS movement was released that the “Grand Seiko Style” by designer Taro Tanaka would from then on define the series as well as all future Seiko products.
The Grand Seiko range is of course also highly valued for its craftsmanship, particularly the traditional way in which the watches are created. Every Grand Seiko watch was polished by hand using the “zaratsu” technique. This is a traditional Japanese way of polishing used to create watches that have a mirror finish with no distortion. This happened to be the perfect extension of Tanaka’s iconic design ideas.

Tough Teams
The Suwa Seikosha division produced most of these Grand Seiko watches, except for the 44GS, 45GS, and 45GS VFA movements, which were created by its Daini Seikosha division. The two companies were Seiko’s subsidiaries which produced one brand to improve technology and hedge risk amid tough competition. If one experienced problems in production, the other would simply increase production.
Of the famous hand finished 61GS line for example, released in December 1967, Seiko created just 36,000 units. The 61GS movement is one of Seikos finest, a 25 jewel automatic hi-beat that operates at 36,000bph, made at their Suwa factory. It can also be wound manually, and has a hacking feature. It is finished to a high level, with a nicely decorated rotor. The 61GS movement achieved the Seiko internal GS standard approval, which was adjusted to be within -3/+5 sec/day when it left the factory.
The early 614X-8000 model had Grand Seiko written on the dial, which was marked 8000TAD at 6 o'clock. The movement was marked 614XA and both GS (sometimes) and Grand Seiko on the rotor. There was a gold cap version of this model also. Later models had automatic under Seiko and also dispensed with Grand Seiko and had Hi Beat 36000 instead, and 8010TAD at the bottom of the dial. The rotor was marked Seiko.
However, no fewer than eight distinct models have the same 6145-8000 code. And there are differences between these models, both with respect to dial design and case material. The full list of these models, along with the year of their introduction, and original prices, is as follows:

  • Stainless steel -8000 case; early Grand Seiko marked dial; supplied on a leather strap; 1968; 37,000 Yen
  • Stainless steel -8000 case; later Hi-beat marked dial; supplied on a leather strap; 1969; 37,000 Yen
  • Stainless steel -8000 case; later Hi-beat marked dial; supplied on a bracelet; 1970; 40,000 Yen
  • Cap gold -8000 case; early Grand Seiko marked dial; supplied on a leather strap; 1968; 45,000 Yen
  • Cap gold -8000 case; later Hi-beat marked dial; supplied on a leather strap; 1969; 45,000 Yen
  • 18K gold -8000 case; later Hi-beat marked dial; supplied on a leather strap; 1969; 190,000 Yen
  • Stainless steel -8000 case; Cross dial; supplied on a leather strap; 1969; 37,000 Yen
  • Stainless steel -8000 case; Cross dial; supplied on a bracelet; 1970; 40,000 Yen

The third digits 
To put a twist on the above list one might consider the third digit of the 61GS movement code, which will be a “4”, “5,” or an “8”. It is used to identify the quality. Simply put, the higher the number, the more accurate the movement. With Grand Seiko there is always good, better best. But for each buyer there is a grail watch, design oriented like the cross hair models or from a horological chronometry perspective like "the third digits".

So, after two decades has passed Seiko was still adhering strongly to the “Grammar of Design” rules set by Tanaka, but with the 9587 series Seiko dropped the Grand Quartz brand in favour of Grand Seiko, with GS on the dial no matter if the watch was quartz or automatic. In reviving GS primarily as a quartz collection it was imperative that the Japanese Manufacture develop a Voltage Compensated Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator (VCTCXO) module, which features both thermo-compensation and a rate trimmer. It would have to live up to the GS name and standard. 

The 9587/1 then is a great watch with nostalgic design, even if slightly small for today’s taste. Its movement is a Seiko Quartz Cal 958xA, with 7 Jewels, 32.768 Hz, thermal compensation, anti-magnetic, accuracy: +/- 10 sec/year, 3-year battery life. It is one of the very few Seiko watches that uses a 17mm lug width. This GS is one of the world’s most accurate watches even today, 20 years later. It is also one of the cheapest ways to get a GS. 
The outcome of this endeavor was a quartz module that was larger and more robust than previous “thin” Seiko high end quartzes, housed in practical but iconic (Tanaka) case design and with dials that have been uniquely Grand Seiko ever since. 
The 9581A, later re-designated 9F81, is equipped with a unique Twin Pulse Control high-torque stepper motor which makes each second hand movement in two fluid pulses to reduce energy consumption. Instantaneous date change occurs over just 0.5 milliseconds, while a backlash auto-adjustment mechanism eliminates stepper error. Furthermore, the movement module is air-tight, ensuring the stepper rotor and lubricants are protected from particles of dust. This last feature maintains optimal performance for an estimated period of 50 years before requiring a service! But this is nothing new to vintage Seiko collectors, most 70s quartzes still function without problems.
One cannot ignore, to put it in a nutshell, that the GS Quartz is the true carrier of the original ideal of GS, and arguably more so than modern mechanical GS. Owning a GS Quartz is by its very essence, owning the timepiece with the Grand Seiko ideals, the carrier of the original torch of precision. 
In 1992, the last year of 9581 production, the GS line was not only continued by its descendant the 9F81 movement but also extended by the legendary caliber 8J. The quality of this movement as compared to 9F can be easily expressed by the graph below.

   

Legendary movement
Grand Seiko SBGF, and the 8J movement in general was produced from 1997 to 2011 (as far as can be established). It is considered by Seiko to be one of the best quartz movements ever produced, much better than the equally well known 9F and much more stable and accurate. It was expensive to produce and parts of the design made it hard to fit into thinner cases. The more cost effective 9F movement on the other hand is less stable, not so resistant to temperature and magnetic fields and costs about 30 percent less to produce than the 8J. But, importantly, it is thinner, and uses more common parts, therefore the frame can be used for a number of other movements and watches.
However, the 8J is, without a doubt, the most robust high accuracy quartz movement ever made. Even the fact that it had to be thicker works in its advantage, resulting in even better thermo compensation performance.
The information coming from internal specs from Seiko in Japanese, on the 8J and 9F movements, is universal, saying the 8J was the last “cost be damned” very robust movement made. The internal feeling is the 9F is less robust, less accurate, less shielded, and, yes, some of them scoff at the lack of an independent hour hand with which one easily adjusts to other time zones on the 8J.
Of course, the very high accuracy +- 5 second twin quartz movements of the seventies were extremely expensive to produce, for example a “simple” steel edition of the Superior at 3200 Euro, but these were not robust in field use. This was evidenced by a rather charming anecdote. 
In Japan these high end watches were of course worn by well groomed businessmen. Their biggest problem was two fold, they needed the correct time at all times and they needed to catch the train straight from their bath house relaxation/happy hour. But, these watches tended to get fried if worn in hot baths or shower rooms - a real issue - the harried salary man must have his watch with him in the Sauna to benchmark the last train! The 8J was the answer to those concerns..

   

The 8J Grand Seiko SBGF021 harks back nostalgically to design characteristics of the seventies, most obviously the shape of the case. It is very reminiscent of Seiko’s crazy days, especially in the way in which the crown side is designed. It is just like some King Seiko Vanacs, but more distinguished. Also, the three dimensional dial design of those watches is present here, caused by applying the indexes, the SEIKO and the GS logo to an absolutely stunning effect. The hands are of course baton style, and even the seconds hand is the pencil of old. The minute match up (pun intended) of these design elements is typically Seiko, the hands at their center are about as thick as the hour indices, and where the minute hand meets up with the indices it overlaps just the raised part of it. Just great! And the seconds hand is the same width as the minute indices… 

L’histoire se répète..
Well, let us not get into it right here and now, but just conclude that for some aficionados the most disturbing and distracting aspect of “modern” Grand Seikos is a mismatch of the aforementioned design choices. They just do not attain the perfect harmony of an old school Grand Seiko or even Grand Quartz. Seiko itself seems to have realized this when they started reissuing the most iconic Grand Seikos in their Historical Collection. Now seikoholics can buy their 44s, 62s and what not in mint condition! It will cost you of course.. Maybe go vintage again?

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  Seiko World Time 6117-6010 "Error Bezel"
Posted by: SeikoMan - 10-08-2018, 02:29 PM - Forum: Vintage Watches - Replies (1)

The 1969 World Time GMT automatic is not only a gorgeous watch but was also a "special" in the Seiko Line-up of the late sixties. With a linen dial and a combination of blues and reds, it just exuded class among the more garish Seiko design experiments. Like the later Alpinist product line it sported an inner ring, but of the main timezone cities. It also featured a fixed day-night ring on the dial - so for the GMT hand you can immediatley see if it is day or night "over there". 
For lime one can see the old school rhodium 'baton' markers with tritium on the 12, 6 and 9, so the lume, as it is otherwise intact, still works well at its radioactive half-life! The caliber is actually 6105 with an added GMT complication (-17) as used in many other navigator models.
Now, here is where it gets interesting.. On the 27th of October 1968 Prime Minister Harry Wilson of the United Kingdom began an experiment to maintain British Standard Time (GMT) at +1 all year long. On October 31 1971 this ended, but until then London was in line with Paris! For Seiko this meant that its World Time GMT 6117 bezel had to reflect this British experiment, as it lasted for three years and watches had to be sold!
So, as Seiko does, precision was paramount and they put London after GMT on the bezel, just above Paris. A laudable attention to detail. However, it became known as the "Error Bezel" and quite uniquely so - because in October 1971 it had to be changed all over again! 
This GMT then is a rare bird with a historical twist.. How many were made actually? And isn't it time to just call it the "British Standard Time" bezel? Britain still does GMT +1 of course, heck, for 6 months each year you have the correct bezel that no other GMT has.. Of course these GMTs have the other part of the year covered. Just get a Seiko World Time from 1972...
Apart from this horological hair splitting difference the World Time had different distribution areas, the explanation for the 6117-6010 and 6117-6019 serial numbers. They are the same model, the "0" just signifies "the world", the "9" North America. Of course, as mentioned, after 1971 it all changed again as Seiko not only switched the GMT rings but used other crowns than the early flat ones.

Below are featured some adds I spotted online, they give an indication of the value attached by Seiko to these watches. Also depicted the 1968 catalogue shots to appreciate monetary value..

   
       

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  Grand Seiko 5646-7011
Posted by: SeikoMan - 08-31-2018, 09:58 PM - Forum: Grand Seiko - Replies (2)

Grand Seiko 56GS
As the last of the Vintage Grand Seiko, the range of the 56GS series is second only to the 61GS with regards to the diversity of the watches produced. Whilst utilizing only three different movements - there are no “special” or “VFA” examples in this series - there are 35 different models in the series produced from 1970 until 1974. One can find them in the catalogues of 1971 V2, 1972, 1973 V1, 1973 V2, 1974 V1, 1974 V2, 1975 V1 and 1975 V2.

The three movements mentioned were the no-date 5641A, the 5645A with date and the day-date 5646A, making this the only series with all three complication versions. Moreover, for the first time, an element of automation was introduced into the production line, and the beat of the movement was set at 28,800bph. The precision level suffered as a result of this transition, as a decrease in movement speed will do, but the reliability level on the other hand increased and some people even consider the 28,800 bph to be the best speed for a watch movement with its balance of maintenance, reliability and precision. As these movements were mass produced, it is easy to get maintenance parts for the 56GS even now, 40 years after its production, making it the most reliable of all the Grand Seiko models produced in the past.  Of course, a slightly less finely tuned caliber 56 movement was also used in the King Seiko 56 series and the Lord-matics 5606.

Case designs
Whilst there is a large variety of case designs utilized in this range, unlike 61GS series, there is consistency in design and associated numbering of the cases used across the different movements.
First up is the -5000 case, which was available with both 5641 and 5645 movements. It is a solid gold 18K tonneau shaped case, with the dial also made from gold, and featuring a “snowflake” textured finish that was the inspiration for one of the most popular of the current Seiko models.
The -5010 case is square in shape, coming in both 5645 and 5646 options, and with each option having both a plain dial with regular indices (white in the instance of the 5645-5010, and blue for the 5646-5010), and a textured graduated dial with roman numeral indices (retaining the same 5645-5010 and 5646-5010 references, a charcoal colour for the date version, and an earthy brown colour for the day-date version).
Available with all three calibres, the -7000 case is very similar, though not identical, to the 45GS -7010 case, being a “turtle-shaped” oval case finished in brushed stainless steel.
The -7005 case is similar to the -7000, but made from 18K gold. Once again, it was available across all three calibres, and uniquely on the 5646-7005, also available with a simply stunning 18K gold bracelet. This watch was the most expensive vintage Grand Seiko ever offered to the public, with a staggering for then retail price of 500,000 Yen (without the bracelet and on a leather strap, the price was a “mere” 181,000 Yen).
This particular watch, with its 18K bracelet, was only marketed from the second half of 1974, and its price almost certainly significantly impacted by the huge increase in the price of gold, which in 1970 when the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer was selling for 180,000 Yen was around $35 an ounce, but by 1974 when the 5646-7005 was sold on an 18K bracelet had risen to $180 an ounce.
Adhering strongly to the “Grammar of Design” rules, the -7010 and -7011 watches are almost certainly the most common vintage Grand Seikos that you see on the market today, and relatively easy to find. It is believed that the difference between the two cases is simply a move from marking the cases as being “waterproof”, to “water resistant”, but this remains to be confirmed. It is not consistent however with the 5646 models seen, where both -7010 and -7011 references are marked as being “Water Resistant”.
Due to the catalogues not detailing the last digit of the 8-digit movement-case reference number, it is not clear exactly when the change-over from the -7010 references to the -7011 references occurred. 
Sold with both day and day-date calibres, and in both stainless steel and cap gold case variants, white dialed examples of all versions are relatively easy to come across even today – they must have been made in very significant numbers. They were marketed with both leather straps, and for a 3,000 Yen premium, also available on a bracelet. In addition to the white dialed versions, there was also a blue dial available in both calibres with the stainless steel case on a leather band.
There were many -7000 cases available for the 5646 movement. There was the 5646-7020, a striking watch featuring a case similar to that found on the 61GS VFA’s, a deeply faceted crystal, and a graduated green dial (note – this watch only exists with a green dial – there are no legitimate white dial variants). The 5646-7030, with its wonderful sand-textured dial (very possibly the inspiration for similarly textured dials in the modern era), is unique amongst all vintage pieces in having a lug width of just 17mm. And rounding out the set of cases only available with the 5646 day-date movement is the 5646-7040. The -7040 is unique amongst all vintage Grand Seikos in using applied, Breguet-type Arabic numerals on the dial, and was possibly the inspiration for the modern-day Wako limited editions.
Finally, the -8000 case was available with both 5645- and 5646- movements. There are multiple different dials available for the stainless steel version, with white, blue and grey colours all existing, and some models coming on a bracelet. Topping out the -8000 cased range are solid 18K gold models which, like the 5646-7005, also came on 18K gold bracelets. Released in 18 months prior to the -7005, when the price of gold was around $100 an ounce, they were available for 390,000 Yen for the date version, and 395,000 Yen for the day-date.

Below are some photos with its descendant that wiped out the GS for a decade... Well the Superior helped too of course and some other HAQ calibers.. But go with the flow here. Which one would you choose?

           

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  Citizen Cosmotron X8
Posted by: Collectionist - 08-31-2018, 09:31 PM - Forum: Citizen Photo Gallery - No Replies

The X8 Cosmotron production run was short, about 10 years in all, since the early 1970s saw the quartz revolution, and older technology was quickly rendered obsolete. However, there was significant development of the technology during its brief history, including raising the beat rate from a conventional 18,000bph at the start to 43,200bph at the end, in those using a relatively conventional balance. The quality of the X8 movement was indicated by its achievement of chronometer standards. This reflects the aims of the electronic technology to increase both reliability and accuracy, both of which were overtaken by the advantages of quartz modules.
In March of 1966 Citizen presents the 'X-8 Cosmotron' with spring balance and transistor. The X-8  was a watch with four magnets on the balance and two fixed coils. Movements like cal. 0802, 0820, 0884, 0840, 0880 and 4840 were even sold to about twenty foreign companies including Bulova, who manufactured complete watches under their own name. Citizen itself was faced with strong competition from the cheaper Seiko-Electronic EL 3300.
Launched in 1967 with 12 jewels and beating at 6 beats per second (21600 bph), this Citizen was produced for 5 years only. 
1972 saw the launch of new models with both date and day complications, now using the 78 movement. With jewelling reduced to 8, and now powered by 1.3v silver oxide batteries, the movement design had been refined, with more functions. The rate increased to 36,000bph, and movements were designated 7801A, 7802A, 7803A, 7804A and 7806A. The X8 name had been dropped, still, dials are marked Cosmotron, Electronic and carry the Cosmotron applied logo.

                       

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  Citizen Cosmotron 7804 High Beat 36000bph
Posted by: Collectionist - 08-31-2018, 09:25 PM - Forum: Citizen Photo Gallery - Replies (1)

The Cosmotron production run was short, about 10 years in all, since the early 1970s saw the quartz revolution, and older technology was quickly rendered obsolete. However, there was significant development of the technology during its brief history, including raising the beat rate from a conventional 18,000bph at the start to 43,200bph at the end, in those using a relatively conventional balance. Movements like cal. 0802, 0820, 0884, 0840, 0880 and 4840 were even sold to about twenty foreign companies including Bulova, who manufactured complete watches under their own name. Citizen itself was faced with strong competition from the cheaper Seiko-Electronic EL 3300.
The quality of the Cosmotron movement was indicated by its achievement of chronometer standards with the X8 (not this one). This reflects the aims of the electronic technology to increase both reliability and accuracy, both of which were overtaken by the advantages of quartz modules. Still, this Cosmotron retains its analogue charm, which is demonstrated in the date quickset mechanism. One has to move between the time of 20:45 and 03:30h (back and forth) to adjust the date! The day quickset is done by simply pushing the crown.
This particular watch is from the late seventies, as 1972 saw the launch of new models with both date and day complications, now using the 78 movement. With jewels reduced to 8, and now powered by 1.3v silver oxide batteries, the movement design had been refined, with more functions. The rate increased to 36,000bph and movements were designated 7801A, 7802A, 7803A, 7804A  (this one!) and 7806A. Also, the X8 name had been dropped, so dials are marked Cosmotron, Electronic and carry the Cosmotron applied logo.

                   

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  King Seiko Vanac Triplets
Posted by: SeikoMan - 08-29-2018, 06:16 PM - Forum: King Seiko - Replies (2)

Well, it doesn't happen very often, some collector showing off his Vanacs... So here it is, three fully serviced minty Vanacs!

                       


That is pure watchporn if I say so myself!

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  Seiko 7123-503A
Posted by: SeikoMan - 08-13-2018, 07:22 PM - Forum: Seiko Type II - Replies (4)

                       

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  Rado Alpine Geography
Posted by: Intoit - 08-08-2018, 10:00 PM - Forum: Vintage rado - Replies (6)

I have been able to come up with more of Rado's preoccupation with alpine geography. I just love those specially designed mountain like watches! But many of them were also in the Diastar range like the Rado Eiger.

* means photo included..

Alpineum* - is a museum with a diorama of the Alpes in Luzern, Switzerland
Arosa* - is a city in Switzerland.
Berg* - is the name of several cities in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and also German for mountain.
Bernina* - is a mountain(Piz Bernina), a mountain pass and a district in the Swiss eastern Alpes
Breithorn - ("broad horn") is a mountain near Zermatt in Switzerland
Brienzer - is an inhabitant of the Swiss city of Brienz - in the near the Brienzer Rothorn
Brig - is a city and a district in the Kanton Wallis in Switzerland
Durance - The Durance is a river in the French Alps.
Ebnat - is a city in Switzerland 
Eiger* - is a mountain near Zermatt in Switzerland
Esel - is a mountain in Switzerland - and German for donkey
Freiger - or Wilder Freiger is a mountain in Tirol at the Austrian-Italian border
Furka - is a mountain pass connecting the Swiss federal states Uri and Wallis
Gorner - is a glacier near Zermatt in Switzerland
Jorasses - or Grandes Jorasses is a mountain near the Montblanc in France
Kapell - is a skiing and hiking area in Austria
Kriens - is a city near Luzern in Switzerland
Lauberhorn - is a mountain and a famous ski race located near Wengen in Switzerland
Limmat - is a river in Switzerland
Lumino* - is a municipality in the district of Bellinzona in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.
Matterhorn - is one of the most famous mountains of the Alpes near Zermatt, Switzerland
Meilen - is a city at the Lake Zürich in Switzerland
Monte Rosa - is the 2nd highest mountain of the Alpes in Switzerland
Murten - is a city in Switzerland
Randegg - is a city in Austria
Rothorn - ("red horn") or Brienzer Rothorn is the name of a mountain near Brienz in Switzerland, a lot of other mountains in the Alpes wear this name
Scheidegg - is a mountain pass in Switzerland(Große/Large and Kleine/Small Scheidegg)
Schilthorn* - is a mountain near Mürren in Switzerland
Schreckhorn - is a mountain in Switzerland
Simplon - is a mountain pass in Switzerland
Ticino - is both a river and a Kanton(federal state) in Switzerland (see also Lumino above)

Now for some photos!

Alpineum
   

Arosa
   

Eiger
   

Lumino
       

Schilthorn
   

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  Seiko 5Actus 6106-8410 UFO
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