Saturday, December 3, 2011

Runners high - on the road with a 1964 Seiko cal. 5717 Olympic Chronograph

Runners high - on the road with a 1964 Seiko cal. 5717 Olympic Chronograph 

The men's marathon was part of the Athletics at the 1964 Summer Olympics program in Tokyo (Wikipedia). It was held on 21 October 1964. 79 athletes from 41 nations entered, with 68 starting and 58 finishing. Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia won the race in a world-record time of 2h12m and became the first athlete in history to win the Olympic marathon twice. Third place went to Kokichi Tsuburaya of Japan (possibly the runner in the Seiko brochure above) in a time of 2h16min. For the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics, Seiko introduced the caliber 5717 One-button chronograph, and almost certainly this chronograph would have been used by spectators to time this race.

On December 3, 2011 Harry, Denmark decided to run 5km against time on a particularly stormy afternoon wearing an almost perfect 1964 caliber 5717 One-button chronograph, although this race would be different: this time, the Seiko was on a non-original bracelet:

Essential to any good run are the right shoes. Not your daughters shoes, or the brown leather shoes you got last Christmas and never wore, but your own favorite running shoes you eventually find under your son's bed:

Properly kitted, the next stage of a successful run usually takes place outside, where you wonder whether it would not in fact be better to get out of the rain and watch some sport on TV instead:

At this stage its worth looking at your watch to see if there is any daylight left, which there unfortunately was. Thus starts the Loneliness of the Overweight Runner. Turn the bezel (the same as on the 62MAS diver) to the minute hand, fire up the iPod and you're off! Exactly 5km later you stop the chrono in a blaze of pain and read off your time - 33m19s:

A new personal record (by 7s) which brings you one step closer to being in reasonable physical form (for a 47-year old). I felt a small tinge of pride as I remembered starting to run regularly a few months ago, and not being able to complete more than a single km without stopping to walk!

Its a great feeling to have a dedicated vintage running watch from your birth year, a Seiko and from the year of the Tokyo Olympics at that! As a collector, I really enjoy using this 47-year old watch for its intended purpose, and having it work as precisely and elegantly as the day it was sold. There is some wear on the caseback, revealing that this watch has been worn and used, while at the same time it has been cared for and appreciated by its original owner. Case lines, dial and brushed finished are pristine, and only the caseback and a few scratches on the bezel indicate that this watch has ever been used:

Finally a shot of two Olympian timekeepers, the 1964 caliber 5717 One-button chronograph and its bigger counterpart, the 1964 caliber 9011 (90ST) 1/10s Olympic stopwatch:

Friday, December 2, 2011

1964 Seiko "Olympic" catalogues

Just in from Yahoo Japan. Its not too often you find Seiko catalogues from the Tokyo Olympic year of 1964, so you have to bait your line when they do appear. Only local Japanese can bid on Yahoo Japan, so I had to get hold of my Japanese "agent" to snag these:

Well, lets see if there is something new in them....

One-button chronograph....nope, got that! How about an Olympic stopwatch then?

Nope...been there, done that. Maybe a dress watch for Christmas, how about a full day/date?

Rats! I got that one too. Well, lets try some high-end "showcase" stuff, maybe Grand Seiko? Or a diver?

Aaargh! I give up! Well, at least I have something to wrap fish in.....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

1964 Second generation 43999 or 5722 Grand Seiko chronometer, box and owners manual

The search is on for a Second generation 43999 or 5722 Grand Seiko chronometer, box and owners manual. I have never seen a set of these, or even photos, so I have attempted to reconstruct this information from what is available on the internet.

1) Photo of first generation cal. 3180 Grand Seiko Chronometer packaging, tags and certificate:

Source: eBay auction (book)

Note that the first generation GS uses the Applique Dial 3-pointed star-inside-a-triangle logo (,161.0.html) rather than the GS Lion on both the box as well as the Chronomter certificate.

2) Photo of second generation cal. 43999 Grand Seiko chronometer, receipt and owners manual (not original box)

Source: uhm, not sure, but seem to remember it was cached from Rakuten.

3) Second generation 43999 or 5722 Grand Seiko chronometer, box and owners manual

Source: cached from online sales site

So, to sum up, a complete set for the second generation GS Chronometer would appear to include: 
  • a black, presumable wooden box with yellow and red "Lion logo" interior as seen in figure 3,
  • an owners manual as seen in figures 2 and 3
  • a chronometer certificate similar to figure 1 but with Lion logo rather than the three-pointed star,
  • hang-tags and price-tags similar to figure 1
  • an outer protective cover in cardboard similar to figure 1
  • receipt
Of all of these, only the owners manual appears from time to time on Yahoo Japan, in such pristine condition that the seller must a) either have a box full of NOS manuals, or b) have a good color printer and some strange fetish which involves copying only the second gen. GS manual and selling it on the internet. Occams razor suggests the former.  A scan of the manual can be downloaded at: 

1964 Cal 430 to 5722 Second Generation Grand Seiko Chronometer transition

 By way of introduction, these "second generation" Grand Seiko chronometers were preceded by cal. 3180 "first generation Grand Seiko". The 43999 has the caliber 430 (with "tadpole" regulation) and is occasionally termed 43GS, while the 57GS have the otherwise identical 5722A (tadpole) or the 5722B ("rack & pinion" regulation) caliber. Both are very similar to the original cal 3180 of the first GS.  My review of the cal. 430 Chronometer Grand Seiko can be seen at the Seiko and Citzen Watch forum

With respect to their crowns, a rule-of-thumb allowing the quick identification of otherwise essentially identical pieces is that the 43999 has a coarse-knurled crown, similar to that of the cal. 3180 "first generation Grand Seiko":

Source: Stefan Molle,

while the 5722 has the fine-knurled crown:


Both the 43999 and 5722 version of the second GS have the "W SEIKO" imprint on the crown. What is uncertain is whether there was a transitional period where 43999s had a fine-knurled crown, or whether these crowns where subsequently fitted during repair and maintenance.

The following indications suggest that there was indeed a transition period:

Exhibit 1: Antiquorum's recent auction of an early (1965) 5722 with a coarse-knurled crown:


Not exactly conclusive, but next we have:

Exhibit 2: 43999 paperwork, and what we must assume is the associated 43999, with fine-knurled crown.

Source: uhm, not sure, but seem to remember it was cached from Rakuten.

and finally,

Exhibit 3: From the "Vintage Seiko GS Chronometer Crown Liner 5722 5719 BOOK" what appears to be a cal.430 (=43999) judging from the short three-cifer caliber number on the movement, apparently a 1964 as far as I can make out from the case back, with a fine-knurled crown:

Source: eBay auction

Accordingly, it can be assumed to be correct to fit the fine-knurled crown (part number 55W31NS) to both the 43999 as well as the 5722 caliber second generation Grand Seiko chronometers, while maintaining originality.

Finally, part number 55W31NS is correct for the following watches:

  1. Grand Seiko Chronometer models 5722, 43999
  2. King Seiko Chronometer models 4400-9990, 4420-9920, 44999

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Geek nirvana? Moleskine notebook, 1964 GS chronometer & 1954 Parker pencil...

 Was sitting at a meeting today and had a moment of pure pleasure from the combination of my Moleskine notebook, a pristine Parker clutch pencil (0.9mm HB lead) from 1954 and a recently serviced 1964 Grand Seiko chronometer on a WJean mesh. Geek nirvana, or just the quiet enjoyment of some of the fine, understated pleasures of life in an every-day situation?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reflections on the 1964 cal. 430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer

1964 cal. 430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer


Name:                cal. 430/43999 second model Grand Seiko Chronometer
Producer:            Suwa Seikosha co
Movement:          cal.430/43999, 35 jewels, manual-wind self dater, 12 lignes
Movement code:  GSS
No. produced:     81000 units (cal.430 and 5722 combined)
Production years: 1963, 1964
Rate:                 low beat, 18000 bph
Regulation:        "tadpole" fine-adjuster
Waterproof:        50 meters
Dial:                  pearl silver signed "SEIKO Chronometer, Grand Seiko,
                        Diashock 35 Jewels" "MADE IN JAPAN, 43999TD";
                        3-pointed star inside a triangle for Applique Dial (AD) Seiko logo.
Caseback:          threaded, 18k Gold Lion “chronometer-grade” medallion.
Case:                stainless steel
Crown:              signed, W Seiko

Chronometers and The Grand Seiko Standard
A mechanical chronometer watch is a spring-driven escapement timekeeper, tested and certified to meet certain precision standards. Chronometers often include other innovations to increase their efficiency and precision. Grand Seiko Chronometer grade watches are characterised by relatively unadorned hand-screened and-assembled movements regulated by specially selected and trained watchmakers.

The official chronometer authority for each member country authorized to issue the title of "chronometer" is under the supervision of the Commission Internationale des Controles Chronometriaues (CICC). Any country recognized by the CICC, and testing in accordance with ISO3159 may issue certificates for chronometers. In Japan, the JCA (Japan Chronometer Association) issued chronometer certificates from 1969 to 1983.

For Swiss watches, only timepieces certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) may use the word ‘Chronometer’ on them, although COSC does not have a monopoly on certified chronometers.

Accordingly, in the early 1960s Seiko displayed the 'Chronometer' name on selected, precision watches which had passed the in-house Seiko chronometer standard testing, the equivalent of the BO (Basel Observatory) Chronometer standard, but stopped displaying the ‘Chronometer’ designation in 1966 due to the lack of independent CICC Certification facilities in Japan. During the early part of this period the 18k Gold Lion medallion was used on the caseback to denote “chronometer-grade” pieces.

When the CICC-recognized JCA (Japan Chronometer Association) was established in 1969 in Japan, a few movements designated "Chronometer Officially Certified" appeared. However, under Tsuneya Nakamura, the Seiko team had developed the Grand Seiko Standard: initially the original “AA Grade” or “Grand Seiko (GS) Standard” accuracy followed the same standard as the BO (Basel Observatory) Chronometer standard, subsequently the Grand Seiko Standard became more stringent (and included a 6th regulation position) than any existing Chronometer certification standard.

Today, precision Seiko watches displaying the simple ‘Chronometer’ designation are a rarity sought after by collectors, and perfectly reflect Seiko’s “finest decade” – encompassing the introduction of The Grand Seiko Standard and Seiko's victory at the Astronomical Observatory Competitions.

Astronomical Observatory Chronometer Concours 1964 - 1969
In the 1960s, the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer Concours in Neuchatel, Switzerland precision tested and ranked the finest chronometers in the worlds most prestigous chronometer competition.

In 1964 SEIKO entered the contest and secured a 144th and 153rd place. In light of this, the 1964 second generation Grand Seiko Chronometer presented here seems particularly refined and unassuming compared to the audacity of Seiko taking on the Swiss watch giants at their own game on their “home-turf”!

It bears mentioning that already in 1964, Seiko was producing movements of such precision that they could even consider competing them against the finest chronometer movements in the world.

In 1967, a mere three years later, SEIKO secured 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 12th place in the Chronometer Concours, winning 2nd and 3rd place in 1968. In 1969, with the advent of quartz movements, the Observatory contests of Neuchatel ended. It is particularly impressive to note that it was Seiko who astonished the world by introducing the first commercial quartz wristwatch, at the same time their Grand Seiko chronometers where redefining the definition of accuracy and precision for superlative mechanical watches!

Photo credit: “A Journey in Time” /Seiko, 1983

1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo
Japan hosted the 1964 Olympics, and the eyes of the world were upon them as Japan attempted to highlight the technological advances made since the Second World War. These were the first Olympic Games televised in colour and transmitted live via satellite to North America and Europe, commercial opportunities were huge, and no-one could have felt the pressure more than Seiko, who were responsible for the timing of all events.

Photo credit: “A Journey in Time” /Seiko, 1983

Remember, this was the year when Seiko for the first time entered the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer Concourse in Neuchatel, Switzerland and secured a 144th and 153rd place amongst the worlds finest chronometers! From the decision in 1960 by Seiko president Shoji Hattori that Seiko would “handle official timing duties”, Seiko’s engineers had only four years to be awarded the contract and develop the technology to become the Official Timer of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The 1964 second generation cal.430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer presented here has a serial number of 4NXXXXX (November 1964) suggesting that it was possibly being assembled during the actual Games, which took place between October 10 and October 24, 1964.

Seiko timed the games flawlessly, and their success at the 1964 Olympic Games gave Seiko international respect and credibility.

Summary of events
The following is an attempt to summarise the period that can be considered Seiko’s “finest hour” – encompassing among others the introduction of The Grand Seiko Standard, Seiko’s success at the Tokyo Olympics and Seiko's victory at the Astronomical Observatory Competitions.

The watch
In 1956 SEIKO introduced the “Marvel”, the most precise wristwatch they had ever built. This was followed by the “Crown” in 1959, which ushered in the 1960s – a decade which can be considered Seiko’s “finest hour” – encompassing among others the introduction of the Grand Seiko Standard, Seiko’s success at the Tokyo Olympics and Seiko's victory at the Astronomical Observatory Competitions. Seiko’s 1960 first generation Grand Seiko cal. 3180 was developed from the "Crown" movement, and encompassed a hand-wind 18000 bph 25j movement with a Grand Seiko Standard specified rate of -3 to +12 s/day, improved to -3 to +8 s/day in 1961.

The 1964 second-generation cal.430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer presented here is an original low-beat (18000bph) chronometer, superseded by high-beat (36000bph) and VFA (very fine adjustment) chronometers developed following Seiko’s international successes at the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer competitions.

The present watch is of contemporary dress size at 38mm diameter and constitutes a timeless design which is carried through in the modern hand-wind Grand Seiko.

The present watch contains a chronometer-grade cal.430 movement defined by hand-selected components, fine regulator, self-compensating hairspring (reference needed), generous jeweling and large balance.

The cal.430 movement is termed “self-dater” because it has quick set date function.  The date function is jewelled, as is the barrel bridge and mainspring barrel.

The large balance sports Seiko’s Diashock set-up, as well as Diafix jewels for all bearing points on the GS's train bridge (including the hour and minute wheels).

35 jewel Chronometer grade cal.430 (left) with fine regulation and multiple diafix jewels comprising selected, hand-assembled parts, compared to contemporary cal.6602 handwind movement (right).

The movement, produced by Suwa, is 12 lignes in diameter and runs at a low beat of 18000bph. The "tadpole" fine-adjuster was retained for the 5722A (the relabelled 430). Finishing is excellent, with no unnecessary decoration, but the care taken with finishing the individual working components is immediately evident.

Winding is firm yet very easy, and adjusting time and date occurs with a precision which again is evidence of the excellent fit and finish of this superb movement. The date flips over with a satisfying click almost exactly at 12pm.

Case and Caseback
The cal.430 movement is cased in a heavily-lugged stainless steel case with threaded caseback and is waterproof to 50 meters.

The case-back shows the original 18k Gold Lion medallion used to denote “chronometer-grade” pieces. This was subsequently replaced by a "GS" emblem for the cal.5722 models.

Dial and Hands
The present watch is characterized by an original pearl silver sunburst dial with faceted, applied steel markers and subdues legends, and sports highly readable, faceted “bamboo-shoot” hands.

The dial is signed "SEIKO Chronometer, Grand Seiko, Diashock 35 Jewels" and "MADE IN JAPAN, 43999TD" It has a Applique Dial (AD) symbol on the dial - a 3-pointed star inside a triangle indicating the Seiko logo is applique rather than printed on the dial.

Later versions of 5722 did not retain the "Chronometer" dial legend, due to the lack of independent CICC Certification facilities in Japan.

In 1965, Seiko´s first model diver (62MAS) sold for 13,000JPY, approximately half the monthly wage of a Japanese college graduate. By way of comparison, the precursor sport/waterproof 50m Silver Wave 6201B (1960) cost 11,000JPY while its lower-spec successor, the 6601-7990 30m Sportsmatic Silverwave sports diver cost about 8,200JPY. At this same time the GS 5722 cost a breath-taking 27000JPY.

Today, 62MAS divers are selling for 500 to 1000USD, while GS430/5722’s are selling for 1000-2000USD, depending on condition. For this price you are buying into an unbroken legacy of watchmaking, and historically significant pieces like the vintage Grand Seiko’s can only continue to increase in value with the recent internationalization of the Grand Seiko line.


Seiko prices - the definitive guide – Improved

Diafix Diashock,12031.msg64396.html#msg64396,13207.0.html

Guide to Seiko Men's 1958-1964 Mid/High Quality Mvmts.

Grand Seiko. 50 years of dedication to perfection.

Info from Tachy-san - Pt.II: Seiko Accuracy Standards

The History of Grand Seiko


Grand Seiko, Cal. 5722B

Here is the updated compendium so far. and another question

cal.5722 service*modem-burner*-203184.html