State of the collection – the 57GS movements

A write up of the vintage Grand Seiko watches in my collection that utilise the movements from the 57GS series

Between now and the end of the year I will be posting articles on my collection of vintage Grand Seikos.

Since there are over 40 pieces in the collection, it makes sense to break this write-up over several articles. Each post will cover a specific movement – or set of movements – from the vintage Grand Seiko releases, and include photos of the watches I have that utilise that movement.

Whilst I don’t intend these articles to provide a comprehensive and thoroughly researched scholarly history of vintage Grand Seikos, I will share some knowledge on the pieces that I have picked up over the course of the last year. If I get anything wrong, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

Macro detail of the 5722B movement
Macro detail of the 5722B movement

Following on from the first Grand Seiko, based on the 3180 movement, were a series of watches now categorised as being in the 57GS family.

Three different movements were utilised over the period that the 57GS were on sale, and the three watches that I have representing these movements were made in 1963, 1965 and 1967.

Grand Seiko 43999, 5722-9990, and 5722-9991
Grand Seiko 5722-9990, 43999, and 5722-9991

In the photo above, in the middle of the shot is the 43999 – my example is a very early “SD dial” version from 1963; on the left, a 5722-9990 from 1965; and on the right, a 5722-9991 from 1967.

Whilst superficially they all look the same, they each have different movements, the dial evolves over time, as do the crowns and casebacks.

Starting with this series of watches, the traditional method of identifying vintage Grand Seikos is by the model number that is indicated on the case-back.

Grand Seiko 43999 movement and case-back
Grand Seiko 43999 movement and case-back

Above we can see the case-back removed from a 43999 revealing its movement. Note the lion logo medallion – this is something else that changes through the release of the 57GS series over time. What is not quite visible (sorry!) is that to the left of the lion is engraved the model number.

Grand Seiko 5722-9990 with case-back removed
Grand Seiko 5722-9990 with case-back removed

In the image above of the 5722-9990, taken sitting on its rating certificate, you can clearly see the model number engraving on the case-back.

From a purist point of view, one might expect to find the 430 movement in the 43999 model; the 5722A movement in the 5722-9990; and the 5722B in the 5722-9991. Additionally, one would think that the dials of each iteration in the series would also match up the model number.

But this is not always the case. In fact, it can be a right mess, and in addition to what one would expect, I have seen all of the following examples –

43999 case; 5722-9990 dial; 430 movement and 5722A movements.

5722-9990 case; 43999 dial; 430 and 5722A movements

5722-9990 case; 5722-9990 dial; all three movements (!)

5722-9990 case; 5722-9991 dial; 5722B movement

(Note – to the best of my knowledge, there are no 5722-9991 dials actually marked 5722-9991. They retain the 5722-9990 numbering. However, there are other fundamental differences that separate them from the true 5722-9990 dials, which I will go into later.)

As will be obvious from the above combinations, all the different parts are interchangeable. Personally, I find it a bit of a stretch to accept that Seiko had all these different combinations coming out of the factory. Certainly there is the possibility of some of these variants being “transitional” pieces, but surely it is more likely that parts have been swapped around between different iterations of these watches over time? After all – most of these pieces have been knocking around for close to, or even more than, 50 years.

Despite its age, the 57GS series is one of the most common of the vintage Grand Seiko series that you will find available. As at the time of writing, there are no less than 32 available on Yahoo Japan auctions, and 23 on Rakuten (see my post on ZenMarket for details as to how to find and buy these watches from Japan).

Grand Seiko 43999 with SD dial
Grand Seiko 43999 with SD dial

(Interesting bit of trivia. The 43999 is the only vintage Grand Seiko – in fact it may well be the only ever Grand Seiko in history – to have “Made in Japan” on the dial, rather than just “Japan”.)

My personal recommendation if you are looking to start collecting these pieces is to go for “matching set” watches where the dial, movement and case-back numbers all tally. Additionally, look for 43999 and 5722-9990’s to have coarse-knurled crowns as in the above photo (they should be marked “W Seiko”).

As mentioned at the top of this post, the idea behind these “SOTC” entries is not to provide scholarly and authoratitive articles on vintage Grand Seikos, rather just to give an insight into my collection and share some knowledge.

There are too many differences between the three interations to highlight here, but I will mention a couple more before signing off.

The earlier two pieces have lion medallions, whereas the -9991 crown was changed to “Seiko GS” as per the below two images.

The lion medallion as found on the Grand Seiko 43999 and 5722-9990
The lion medallion as found on the Grand Seiko 43999 and 5722-9990
The GS medallion as found on the 5722-9991
The GS medallion as found on the 5722-9991

When it comes to the dial, there are quite a few things to look out for.

Firstly, there are two variants to the 43999 dial. The first is the SD dial pictured above. The text at the bottom of the dial will read “Made in Japan” to the left of the 6 o’clock baton marker, and “GSS13H380-SD” to the right of it. Below the text “Diashock 35 jewels” will be a compass logo.

The other variant will read “Made in Japan” to the left, and “43999TD” to the right, and below the diashock text will be a logo that is made up from a triangle with three lines cutting through it. Initially and from a distance, the two logo variants may look the same, but they are very different once you know what to look for. See the final image in this article for what that second logo looks like.

In the picture below of the 5722-9990, you will note that it retains the text from the 43999 SD dial variant pictured earlier, but drops the compass logo that can be found on the earlier piece.

Grand Seiko 5722-9990
Grand Seiko 5722-9990 (shown placed on its original box)

The text at the bottom of the dial will read “Japan” to the left, and “5722-9990T AD” to the right

And by the time we get to the 5722-9991…

Grand Seiko 5722-9991
Grand Seiko 5722-9991

… there are yet more changes.

Seiko were asked (told?!) by the Swiss to drop the word “Chronometer” from the dials of their watches. Despite Grand Seiko chronometry standards being higher than that demanded by the Swiss COSC, the Swiss were not happy for watches from other countries to use the term.

Note also that the -9991 introduces the applied “GS” logo, the Grand Seiko text is now plain, rather than gothic, and it just has the single word Diashock on the last line.

Compare the above two images to see the difference between the coarse knurled crown as used on the 43999 and 5722-9990, with the fine knurled one used on the 5722-9991.

Almost finally…

As with the original Grand Seiko, there are different case metals available.

Model numbers 5722-9010 (with a lion medallion) and 5722-9011 (with a GS medallion) are “Cap Gold” cases utilising the 5722 movement. “Cap Gold” was used a lot by Seiko for Grand Seiko watches from here on in, and can best be described as a gold wrap of a steel case, rather than just a plating or filling. It is very thick, and I will show examples from later series in future SOTC articles.

Model numbers 5722-9000 (5722A movement) and – allegedly, although I have never personally seen an image of one – 5722-9001 (5722B movement) represent the first time Grand Seiko utilised solid 18K gold cases.

They are extremely rare. I have only seen two come to the market in the last year, and you can expect to pay considerably in excess of US$10,000 for one of these watches in good condition.

Finally…

Caveat Emptor.

As should be clear by now, purchasing a 57GS watch can be a bit of a minefield. You really do need to know what you’re looking at, and whilst this write-up can be considered a bit of a high-level guide, it is not totally comprehensive.

There are a lot of these watches out there, in varying degrees of distress, and many of dubious provenance. My strong recommendation is to buy from a reputable dealer with a good history of selling vintage Grand Seikos. If you are going to buy from auction, keep your wits about you.

The good news is that because there are so many around, you can pick them up relatively cheaply. If you do make a mistake – like I have done – it hopefully won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

One mistake you should not make is the one that I made on more than one occasion. And that is to purchase one of these –

Grand Seiko 5722-9990 black dial
Grand Seiko 5722-9990 black dial. Avoid!

Looks amazing doesn’t it? The only problem is, there were never any black dial variants of any of the 57 series vintage Grand Seikos.

This is a custom re-dial.

There is one seller on Yahoo Japan who sells these pieces month in, month out. Without mentioning they are not genuine. Rather bad form if you ask me. I won’t name him, but you’ll find his listings easily enough.

In my very early days of collecting vintage Grand Seikos I got caught out more than once before it dawned on me that these almost always seemed to be coming from a single seller. And if you think about it, that’s a rather odd thing to be happening.

They are very attractive watches, and the custom re-dial work has been done really well. Movements appear to be totally genuine, and have been overhauled – so you can expect them to keep good time. Cases are typically well polished.

Nothing whatsoever wrong with picking one up if you like the look, but they’re not the real deal.

If you do fancy one, drop me a line first – I have three to shift!

 

7 thoughts on “State of the collection – the 57GS movements”

  1. Pingback: Anonymous
  2. Nice examples.

    I do want to point out 1 subtle point about the “3 different movements” statement you made.

    In reality, the cal. 430 and the 5722A are “architecturally” and technically the same. The reason why there are 2 different numberings of movement (and case/dial) is that Hattori Corp. [Seiko] revised their numbering system for both movements and casing during the production lifetime of the 43999. Thus a 5722A is simply a renumbering of a 430 and same with the case/dial code#s. The 5722B is indeed a departure from the 430/5722A having a different fine adjuster (cog-wheel instead of the “tadpole”) and a higher beat-rate.

    I’ve heard also (indirectly from former Hattori employees) that it was indeed company policy to “mix” old & new numbered parts in the production. Thus, a 5722A case (5722-9990) legitimately could have a cal. 430 inside [in fact, I do have on like this, along with an example of a 43999 with all the initial numbering].

    1. Hi Don –

      Thanks once again for your detailed feedback (answering your comments in reverse – sorry!).

      From a collection point of view, I chose to seek examples of all three movements, even though technically the 430 and 5722A are architecturally the same. Simply because they are numbered differently was good enough for me to want to seek out examples of both of them.

      There are of course also significant differences in the dials and casebacks of watches using these calibres, so that makes the collection more interesting as well if I can pick up the different examples. Currently I only have a -SD dial 43999, but I will pick up a “regular” one at some point in the future when I can track down a good one.

      I may have set out to purchase one example of a Grand Seiko watch utilising each movement, but that was rather hard to stick to!

      Kind regards,

      Gerald.

      1. I do understand you are making a distinction between a 43999 with cal. 430 and a 5722 with 5722A for collecting purposes. Nothing wrong with that as long as your readers do understand that the distinctions are more in the realm of appearance and designation (a change in company identification system for casing/dial & movement calibre) than technical differences in the movement. It is something that people new to Seiko brand likely do not know. It is important (if they are interested in ’60s vintage Seikos) for them to understand in order to get a “handle” on the plethora of calibres, case-style #s, and dial coding. A significant number of those differing codes are simply re-designation from old style to new style.

        Collectors often have a differing perspective of these things (in terms of what to buy for the collection) than technical researchers who are simply trying to understand the composition of the product line in a past era.

        Certainly, what you have decided to do (and what you consider to be a different “variant” for collecting purposes) is valid. But, we should also educate the collector base about the “history” of these different variants so there is a wide understanding of their genesis.

  3. While this comment does not pertain to the 57GS, it is the only way I have to comment on a post you made in another venue (where I am not a member & cannot respond).

    Is an “Astronomical Observatory Chronometer” {AOC} a GS or not?

    It is a somewhat artificial distinction, after all the “AOC” does legitimately use a “45 Family” movement. The real difference between a 45 KS, a 45GS (like 4520), a 45 GS VFA, and a 4520 or 4580 AOC is not a physical difference in architecture, but a big difference in how the watch was regulated. There is a table that shows the various different criteria for each level of GS & AOC on the net (probably from KSeiya’s article), but I’ve replicated it in the vintage Japanese database I constructed. You can see it @

    http://seikoholics.yuku.com/sreply/170/Seiko-Grand-Seiko-automatic-Ad-scans#.WFxxibkuM0k

    In addition, you can argue that the inital production of the 62 family of GS is “not a GS” as well. For example, the early 6246 models in the 6246-9000 cases are NOT marked “Grand Seiko” or “GS” anywhere inside or outside. They use “Seikomatic” and “Chronometer” on the dial, and “Chronometer” on the movement. Similarly, there is a 6216 calibre used in a “Seikomatic Weekdater” model (with whale case-back). Like the “AOC” vs. “GS” question, the 6216 vs. the 6246 is also just a matter of level of adjustment/regulation at the factory – and labelling. The movements are “architecturally” the same.

    Now, I’ve not heard anyone argue that the early 6246 (same with 6245, Date-only) models are NOT a true “GS”. In one sense they are not (as there is no GS badging), but in another sense they are as they comply with whatever “GS” accuracy standard was in existence at the time of their manufacture. My database entry referenced earlier does show the 1960, 1961, and 1966 standards used by Hattori, and also the more formal GS “tiered” standards {AA, AAA, & AAAA for entry level GS, GS Special, and GS VFA} that started in 1968.

    So, it really depends on how you are defining “GS” to say whether the AOC is one or not.

    1. Hi Don –

      Thanks for the comment. My definition of Grand Seiko is extremely simple – if the watch is explicitly identified, sold and marketed as a Grand Seiko, then it is a Grand Seiko. If it is not, then it is not. This is nothing “artificial” about this distinction. It’s the distinction that the manufacturer themselves defined.

      A few examples that you mention –

      The movement in the AOC is not the exact same 4520A movement that is in the Grand Seiko 45. It isn’t simply a matter of it being finely regulated, it is also finished entirely differently. Also, I should probably clear something up here regarding the 4580 movement. There is no such thing as a 4580 AOC. The only Astronomical Observatory Chronometer is the one that used the upgraded 4520 movement – the one that 73 pieces were made of. All 4580 movements were used in 4580 VFA’s. It is extremely confusing to claim otherwise, and this has been the source of much mis-information regarding the number of AOC’s that were made.

      Even if the same movement is used in watches branded Seiko (the early 62’s) and Grand Seiko (the later 62’s), it does not make those early pieces Grand Seikos. I wouldn’t argue that the initial Seikomatic Chronometer 62’s are Grand Seikos. They are not. And if you’ve not heard that argued before, then you have now!

      In my view, you are coming at this from the wrong perspective. It is not, and never has been, the movement utilised that determines whether or not a watch is a Grand Seiko. It’s whether Seiko sold the watch as such.

      One other thing to mention. Too many people view Seiya’s article as “gospel”. With all due respect to Seiya himself, there are several errors and omissions in it.

      1. I do not consider the different finishing of an AOC movement to be sufficient to consider it to be of a radically different design. Again – a difference of perspective in evaluating these. I consider the architecture of the physical movement to be the primary determining factor. A finer grade of finishing and regulation to a different accuracy standard/grade does not make for a completely different movement calibre. To me, if the plate architecture, the design of the balance and accompanying fine-adjusting system, and jeweling are consistent between calibres (in the 45 family) they are derived from the same base & constitute simply a variant of the same calibre. Were AOC calibres “specially handled” in production? Certainly. Same for the VFA examples. Does not necessarily make them something other than simply a variant of the same calibre though. Hattori Corp. however, were (in my opinion) remiss in NOT designating a 4520 AOC differently from a 4520 “normal” GS – for example by using a different “rev” code like 4520A vs. 4520B.

        There is a lot of conflicting information out there on vintage Seiko, including the issue of accuracy grades & chronometer trial pieces as was stated by “Tachy-san” [son of a former Seiko engineer] in my discussions with him in the early 2000s about these topics. However, there are sources who do indicate the existence of 4580 AOC examples.

        My info on the use of 4580 in the trials comes from sources such as an article online, “Watches by SJX: Explaining Seiko’s Legendary History In Swiss
        Chronometer Trials, With Live Pictures Of Its Landmark Astronomical Observatory Chronometer”, not from KSeiya.

        In there the author indicates: “So in 1968… Daini Seikosha submitted 103 of its cal. 4520 to… Neuchâtel…73 movements passed and were certified as observatory chronometers”

        Then, “In 1969 and 1970, an additional 25 and 128 cal. 4580 movements were certified and subsequently sold, for a total of 226 observatory certified wristwatches sold publicly.”

        Whether an AOC or early 624x is a “Grand Seiko” is a matter of perspective … Marketing vs. Technical. I can say that often the technical/engineering/development departments of a large corporation say one thing while Marketing devise an entirely different “view” of the product line for public consumption. It may well be that there was a difference of opinion within the various departments of Hattori Corp. on what really constituted a “Grand Seiko” vs. another product in those days. The “company line” may well have been simply a Marketing decision that did not fully correspond to what the designers intended.

        However, the 57GS, the King Seiko 4420A, and the 6245/6246 Chronometers can all be seen sold together in scans of mid ’60s Seiko sales materials, without any great distinction made between the types.

        For me, I really don’t think the designation “GS” vs. “something else” is that important. It is more an issue of the quality level and the technical characteristics of the movement which indicate the relative quality level of the watch in question. To me, that says that early “Chronometer” types based on things such as the 624x, 45xx, 3180/5720, and the other 57 family movements are all very closely related.

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