Friday, February 6, 2015

Hodinkee: A Vintage Grand Seiko Chronometer Wristwatch With A Bargain Basement Estimate


Hodinkee, the world's leading online wristwatch magazine, published a report on a Grand Seiko 5277 Chronometer offered for sale on Antiquorum's Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces 2011 auction in New York.








The good thing is that a second generation Grand Seiko chronometer has made it into Antiquorum's Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces auction to be held in New York tomorrow.

The bad: well, let's see if we can spot the mistakes in their description:

SEIKO - GRAND SEIKO - CHRONOMETER Grand Seiko GS Seiko, Japan, No. 514855, case No. 5500504, Ref. 5722-9990. Made in the 1970's. Fine, center seconds, water-resistant, stainless steel wristwatch with date and a stainless steel Seiko buckle. C. Three-body, polished and brushed, screwed-down case back with embossed gold logo, inclined bezel, sapphire crystal. D. Matte silver with applied steel faceted baton indexes, outer minute track, aperture for the date. Steel dauphine hands. M. Cal. 5722A, rhodium-plated, 35 jewels, straight-line lever escapement, monometallic balance, shock absorber, flat balance spring, index regulator, hack mechanism. Dial, case and movement signed. Diam. 37 mm. Thickness 11 mm.

This particular chronometer was manufactured in May 1965 (serial no.5500504, case number 9990, caliber 5722A, acrylic crystal), and succeeds its immediate (and almost identical but infinitely more collectible) predecessor, the "Olympic" 1964 cal. 430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer. For more information on the significance of the 43999 and 5277 caliber chronometers, please visit my blog post at: http://vintageseikoblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/reflections-on-1964-cal-43043999-grand.html

I would consider this a good investment for 1000USD, although a similarly priced 1964 production 43999 is more collectible and should be considered a better investment.

Actually, the 5722 is not that rare, and appears relatively frequently on eBay and Yahoo!Japan. Going prices seem to hover around the 1000-1500USD mark. It will be interesting to see the final price, but I'm personally not expecting it to go for more than the estimate. Things to look out for are condition of the medallion (often missing or damaged), the correct crown and possible redials. I'm surprised Antiquorum does not show the caseback and movement, perhaps one needs a subscription to view these? It is very rare to see an original bracelet and buckle, and I have yet to see one offered with original papers and box, although there was one on Rakunen some time ago IIRC. Again, personally, I would pay a premium for a cal.430/1964 caseback because of the historic link to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the pivotal importance of this event in Seiko's development.

It went for 2125USD, well over estimate. The WWII B-Uhre mentioned in Hodinkee's earlier post went for their estimates or below, despite their coverage. It will be interesting to see if their coverage and the very appearance of a vintage second generation GS chronometer on Antiquorum heralds a new era of popularity for vintage GS'. In a couple of years people may very well be looking back to the good old days where a vintage GS chronometer could be had for under 3K!

Now, why would Seiko be appearing on Antiquorums Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces auction in the first place - is it because vintage GS are now considered Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces in their own right, following the expansion of the line from Japan-only to global... or is there a conscious movement afoot to create this perception among buyers. If so, what (and who) could the drivers of this movement be?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My father's watch...

Often, a post will be made on a watch forum, where the poster has a question regarding the feasibility of restoring or repairing a watch inherited from their father. Almost immediately someone (often me ;-) will reply that for most of us, your fathers watch will always be the most valuable watch in your collection, and to have it repaired or serviced regardless of cost. Sometimes I detect a wistfulness on the part of those who never had the chance to secure one these most personal of bonds between a father and son - a shared mechanical marvel passed on between men...

I grew up in the 60s and 70s very aware of my fathers watch, and always associated it with a sense of stability, dependability and of being grown-up. At boarding school I once borrowed it for two months, sleeping with it under my pillow and hearing its ticking through the night. It was replaced in the 80s by a digital watch, and I was told it had been thrown out. I was devastated, but hey, who would have known what it meant to me. I really have nothing left of my childhood, but should I have wished to keep one thing - it would have been my father's watch...

Fast forward to this year, visiting my parents with the kids and my Mum decided to show my daughter the jewelery she had got from HER mother when they lived in Persia, when....at the bottom of her jewelry box: my fathers Altus!! On its Fix-o-flex bracelet just as I remembered it! He looked as surprised as I did, I tried to describe to him how I felt and he of course gave me the watch, which I have had cleaned and serviced.

So here it is, an Altus handwind bought by him around 1960, probably just before I was born. The picture shows him wearing the watch on its present bracelet around Christmas of, ooh... 1976 or so, me beside him opening a parcel which IIRC contained a kit model car:



Funny how a photo and an old watch, each without much material value, become ones most valuable possessions when they are associated with a time and a person!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Speedmaster anomaly?



Ever since I first began my interest for the Speedmaster Moon watch, I asked myself: surely, given the importance of timing, NASA would have built timing modules into the space suits...a couple of stopwatches, mission timer etc...probably in a specially designed nylon housing with ultra large dials and indices, hands and pushers, backlight etc. It seems a little illogical that NASA would say: oh, we need a timer for EVAs, lets just buy a watch off the shelf...

After using the Speedmaster in space twice (Gemini 12; Apollo 11) Buzz Aldrin gives us a first-hand insight as to the effectivenes of the Speedmaster as a space watch:

"I had a watch on but I don't think I looked at it. Which would probably say that I should have had it set at something so that it was just not a normal time going around, but going from some specific...It was a lousy watch to have on the surface. It just didn't give good numbers as far as a stopwatch type thing. To have gone to all that expense and then to have crews out on the surface with just an ordinary watch, in retrospect, is a mistaken priority somewhere." Source: http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11.evaprep.html

And upon completing the EVA on the lunar surface (closeout):

111:34:43 Aldrin: I think my watch stopped, Neil.
111:34:46 Armstrong: Did it? (Pause)
111:35:01 Aldrin: No it didn't, either. (Garbled) second hand. (Pause)
Source: http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11.clsout.html

Thinking about it logically, a regular watch worn outside the space suit must have been difficult to read, to say the least. Buzz Aldrin appeared to have problems reading his. In shadow - impossible. Pressing the pushers must have been a problem too, but I am not that sure they were used while "moon-walking". Muliple timing tasks - forget about it.

But, (amazingly to me) - NASA has stuck to off-the-shelf Omegas since. That's great for us who "dig" the whole moon-watch story, but has anybody else ever wondered at the "anomaly" of NASA using a regular sized, common-or-garden wristwatch (with a tachymeter scale ) as one of their most important pieces of EVA equipment, with essentally no development or change after 40 years?

Omega Speedmaster "Chronometer" donning & hacking, EVA preparation, Apollo 11 protocols




References to the implementation of the chronometers can be found during EVA preparations, i.e after the Eagle Lunar Module has landed.

The first reference comes on page Sur-27 of the Surface Checklist (at 106h49), where the begin donning the PLSSs (Portable Life Support System or backpack) and the Oxygen Purge Systems (OPSs). Chronometers are fitted to the RH gloves, which at this stage are not donned:




Page SUR-37 mentions the chronometer on the RH gloves:




The gloves themselves are donned at 108h42:


Click this bar to view the original image of 930x75px.


Prior to the EVA, hacking of the chronometers takes place:


Click this bar to view the original image of 876x108px.


And a little later:


Click this bar to view the original image of 880x193px.


And the rest, as they say, is history...

References/Credits:

http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11.evaprep.html

http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/surface11.html

How to fit a domed sapphire crystal (Seiko 6309-7040)


Having seen a number of questions regarding the fitting of new crystals to Seiko divers, I have prepared the following simple guide. From the outset I would like to say that anyone can do this, with a few simple tools, even if their 9-year old son William is watching and has an inexhaustible line of questions.


Start with a clean work area. A sheet of printer paper gives a nice, dust-free work surface. The crystal is a domed sapphire crystal from Harold Ng (Yobokies), the watch is a wonderfully patinaed original vintage Seiko 6309 on a Super Oyster with Yobokies solid end links:



Using a sharp pocketknife, ease the bezel off by pushing the knife under the crystal and twisting gently. The bezel will pop off. Take care not to lose the small steel ratcheting ball.



Tell William to keep quiet. Use a rubber-ball (or other) caseback remover to...remove the caseback:



Press down on the retaining mechanism and remove the crown:



Turn the watch over and gently tip out the movement. Cover the movement with a shot glass:



Get another shot glass, pour a whiskey and tell William to keep quiet. Rummage in your box of tools and find the crystal press:



Remove the crystal retaining ring in the same way you removed the bezel:



Send William out to blow his nose. Crystal retaining ring removed:



Use crystal press to remove crystal. A firm squeeze:



...and it pops right out. Check the condition and orientation of the crystal gasket and wipe it with a smear of silicone grease:



Clean the surrounding area with a Q-tip:



Press the new crystal in with the crystal press, checking that the crystal gasket is not pinched:



Place the crystal retaining ring in position:



...and use the crystal press to snap it home:



Insert the movement and crown, making sure the chapter ring lines up:



Lubricate the caseback with a dab of silicone grease and fit, after which the bezel can be snapped on using the crystal press:



And admire your handiwork, after unlocking the cupboard and letting William out:





Time taken: a little over 10 minutes.

THE VERDICT: it was a pleasure to deal with Yobokies, in the same way it is a pleasure to deal with our other suppliers of Seiko parts. We really need to stop up from time to time and thank our blessings by having suppliers who also are enthusiasts

The crystal is a wonderful upgrade to the flat Seiko original. The gentle dome gives depth to the dial and creates a wonderfull play when moving the watch. The dome gives life to the watch and makes it look like it is under water, even when it is not. The AR coating on the inside of the watch gives fascinating blue reflections (see last picture) and makes the dial easy to read at all angles. The fact that it is a scratch resistant sapphire gives peace of mind in daily use. In all, a "mod" which improves an already perfect watch. SCORE: 10/10.

The 1964 Grand Seiko Chronometer Box..... is IN!



Finally together - with the 1964 Grand Seiko Chronometer, Owners Manual and a copy of a Chronometer Certificate, the original box just arrived from Japan.... this collection centerpiece is beginning to take form....


















The box has a decidedly Oriental design, with the sides slightly angled and the base wider than the top. The red cushion is silk-like in texture and the writing is printed on the material. The felt base is removable, and includes a tab as well as an elastic loop to slot the watchband in.

The box is light and appears to be made of pressed cardboard, covered by what appears to be lacquered paper textured to look and feel like leather.

The search continues for the remaining parts of the collection, including a hang-tag, original chronometer certificate and receipt.... Until then, I have prepared a fascimile of the Chronometer Certificate (note the fictitious date and "Fascimile" stamp) based on a 1966 King Seiko Chronometer certificate, which is identical with the exception of the Lion Seal, which was printed after 1965, and should be a gold applied seal for 1964:










Thursday, January 31, 2013

Seiko "Tuna" and summary of Seiko's vintage Shrouded Divers

Having lunch with some new colleagues from Sales, I was wearing the "Tuna" Seiko 300m Professional Shrouded Diver 7549-7010 on its summer bracelet: a stainless steel solid end-link SuperOyster. One of the new colleagues leaned over and asked: "So, is that a Rolex?"



The 7549- 7010 300m Shrouded Diver, this time on a Monster bracelet, trying not to look like a Sub...

Quick as a flash I sized up the situation and said "Rolex!? Nooooo, what we have here is a heavy duty professional, 300m shrouded saturation diver designed and built over a quarter of a century ago by the legendary Ikuo Tokunaga, incorporating a revolutionary helium valve and with the high-torgue movement specially designed for this watch and its heavy duty hands.....see!" and I passed it over for him to see the hands.

For a second he was about to fall for it, when his face brightened and he roared with laughter as he shouted "HA! You almost had me there - it says SEIKO on the dial!!"

I just love WIS moments like that Anyway, here is a summary of Seiko's legendary Professional Shrouded divers:




... with the 7549-7010 as the first 300m professional diver with a quartz movement and protector (shroud) released by Seiko in 1978. Its stainless steel shroud looks like a can of Tuna, hence the nickname "Tuna".

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Japan: Clocker of the Games Time Magazine, Oct. 16, 1964






The following article appeared in Time Magazine, Oct. 16, 1964 and provides an interesting insight into Seiko production figures in 1963:




"Next to the athletes, the most vital ingredients in the Olympic Games are the precision timepieces needed to clock the contests, whose outcomes sometimes depend on milliseconds of difference. Last week, as the 18th Games got under way in Tokyo, the official timepieces were not European for the first time in Olympics history. They were Japanese, and they all bore one name: Seiko, the brand mark of K. Hattori & Co., Ltd., Japan's biggest watchmaker (1963 sales: $98 million).The switch made sense. Duplicating its efforts in cameras and transistor radios, Japan has quietly become a top producer of watches, aggressively competing around the world against the long-unchallenged watchmakers of Europe. Japanese watch production has ticked upward from 2,000,000 annually to 11,700,000 in a decade, now ranks fourth behind that of Switzerland, Russia and the U.S.Split-Second Timing.

Hattori, founded in 1881 by a clock salesman of that name, started out as a shoestring importer of foreign timepieces, later pioneered Japan's own watch industry. Destroyed by a 1923 earthquake, Hattori rebuilt, only to be leveled again by U.S. bombers. That disaster proved to be a blessing. In starting from scratch the third time, the company virtually scrapped hand-assembly methods, today makes 75% of its watches by machine. As a result of its super-efficiency, Hattori claims to have been for five years the non-Communist world's largest maker of jeweled-lever watches. Last year it turned out 5,900,000 wristwatches, 53% of the Japanese total, this year expects its output to rise to 7,000,000.In 1959, when Tokyo was selected as the 1964 Olympics site, Hattori shrewdly picked a delegation of technicians to attend the 1960 Games in Rome, where they carefully studied timing problems and techniques. When the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee asked whether there was a Japanese company capable of providing time clocks for the 1964 Games, for the sake of national honor, Hattori was ready.

Last week, after an investment of $850,000 in research, Hattori's men unveiled 1,300 ingenious Olympic time devices. They ranged from nine varieties of split-second stop watches to an electronic judge of swimming events that: 1) clocks swimmers to 1/1,000th of a second; 2) memorizes individual lap times of up to nine swimmers at a time; and 3) prints all scores on a sheet of paper the instant the race is over, thus eliminating time-consuming human calculation.Pushing the Undersell. For its services Hattori is paid only in prestige. "I hope some of the foreign visitors will remember us after the Olympics," says Company President Shoji Hattori, 64, second son of the late founder.

To refresh their memories, Hattori salesmen are stepping up their export drive, in the past year have broken the Swiss monopoly in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, where Seiko watches now sell at the rate of 9,000 a month. Another target is the U.S. market, which Hattori has heretofore tapped largely by supplying movements to Benrus. Despite forbidding U.S. tariffs, Hattori is beginning a U.S. sales campaign for Seiko, retailing 17-jewel wristwatches for $29.75, just over half the price of a Swiss equivalent."

The following are contemporary 1964 US ads:

(Source: eBay)



(Source: http://www.network54.com/Forum/78440/thread/1195051689/My+new+5717-8990+and+a+question....)



Thursday, January 24, 2013

1964 Olympic Seiko One-button Chronograph


Been looking for years for a very specific version of the 5719 one button handwind chronograph: the 1964, metal/black bezel, no lume version. Sorta like this one:





Actually, EXACTLY like this one! I'd actually seen this one on the bay and tried a few tentative offers to no avail. Did the same again with a higher offer and - suddenly it was mine!

The price I offered just made my own hair stand up!! But, thinking about it, this is exactly the one I have been looking for, for the last few years - and now I have it! Have seen them go for less, but I have never been around to pull the trigger! So, is it worth what I paid? Actually, yes - as an integral part of a 1964 Seiko collection, I would say its value is greater than as an individual piece. I know I am going to get a lot of bang for the buck doing the researching ;-) I think the caseback may be slightly above average too, and the October 1964 serial number coincides nicely with the October 1964 Tokyo Olympics:




I always factor into the price of my obsession that I - by researching and documenting significant (aren't they all ) vintage Seiko watches  - are paying back some of the knowledge, education and sheer entertainment provided on Seiko and watch forums by members who have paid their "dues" by investing their cash or time. I personally would have a hard time justifying costs if I couldn't share - or receive - the fruits of this obsession!

Here's an interesting piece of information from the Official Report of the Organizing Committee for the Games of the XVIII Olympiad 1964 - 50 Crown Chronographs were presented as Torch Relay gifts. One wonders if they were specially inscribed, or with a special bezel/dial combination - or... perhaps... 5718s?










To those not familiar with the 5717 Crown chronographs, they came in a bewildering variety: black dials / white dials; with/without lume; steel, plastic and steel/insert bezels; date/no-date. I tried once to summarize the different permutations below (please note the 4598 is probably an erroneously typed 45899):







(Figure reference: Vintage Seiko GS Chronometer Crown Liner 5722 5719 book /eBay)