State of the collection – the 61GS movements (part 2)

Part 2 of a write up of the vintage Grand Seiko watches in my collection that utilise the 61GS movements.

Since there are over 40 pieces in the collection, it makes sense to break this “state of the collection” 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!

Grand Seiko 6155-8000 "Special"
Grand Seiko 6155-8000 “Special”

The 61GS series started production in 1967, running all the way through until 1974.

With seven different movements, there are as many calibers being utilised within this single series as in all earlier series combined. Not only that, but numbering over 40, there are more individual 61GS watch designs than existed across those earlier series (the Grand Seiko First, 57GS, 44GS and 62GS).

Given the extent and diversity of the 61GS series, it is not feasible to discuss all the examples from my own collection in a single post, and as such, I have split the write-up of the 61GS over two separate articles.

A link to the first article – covering the watches in my collection that utilize the 6145A and 6146A movements – can be found here.

In this article, I will be covering the watches in my collection that utilize the remaining 5 movements from the 61GS series – the 6155A, 6156A, 6185A, 6185B and 6186B.

The Specials

Grand Seiko "Special" dial detail
Grand Seiko “Special” dial detail

Whereas the 6145/6146 movement watches were regulated to achieve the Grand Seiko standard of -3/+6 seconds per day, those watches using the 6155A and 6156A movements were regulated to a higher standard of -3/+3 seconds per day. By way of indicating the performance of these watches, the world “Special” was added to the dial.

It is worth mentioning that even today, the Swiss “COSC” (Controle Official Suisse des Chronometers) certification standard for mechanical watches is -4/+6 seconds per day.

Introduced in 1970, there are a few variations of these Specials, with the 6155 having a date complication, and the 6156’s having day-date complications.

Grand Seiko 6155-8000 and 6156-8010
Grand Seiko 6155-8000 and 6156-8010

Pictured on the left in the above photo is the 6155-8000. As far as I can ascertain, this is actually the only model of watch utilizing the 6155 movement, and is cased in stainless steel with a white dial.

On the right is the 6156-8010, which as can be seen has a faceted crystal. This watch was also available with a black dial – although I should point out that you should be very careful when shopping for black-dialed vintage Grand Seikos in general as there are appear to be a lot of re-dialed watches out there.

Not shown is the 6156-8000. This watch was also available with both white and black dials, but lacked the faceted crystal. The dial number is the same though, being 6156-8000.

Another variant is numbered 6156-8001, although I am not sure what the difference is between this and the -8000. If anyone can help clarify, please do leave a message in the comments.

Grand Seiko 6156-8020 "Special"
Grand Seiko 6156-8020 “Special”

Above can be seen the cap gold cased version of this watch, the 6156-8020. Once again we find ourselves out of sync with the case and dial numberings, with this watch’s dial being marked 6156-8010.

The 6156-8030 is a rarely seen model, and I am unsure as to what the case difference is – again, if anyone has details please do get in touch.

Finally, wrapping up the Specials is the 6156-8040. This again is a watch that does not come onto the market very often. It can be distinguished by its lug-less design and textured white dial. I’ve been on the look out for a good example of this watch for some time now, but with no luck!

The VFA’s

Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G VFA dial detail
Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G VFA dial detail

The pinnacle of the vintage Grand Seiko models were the VFA’s – the “Very Fine Adjusted”. I spoke earlier of both the regular and “Special” Grand Seiko chronometer standards. The VFA standard was even higher, with the movements being regulated to -2/+2 seconds per day, and guaranteed to be accurate to 1 minute per month for the first two years – a quite astonishing achievement.

Both Suwa and Daini factories made VFA’s, and I will come to the extremely rare 4580 VFA from Daini in a later article.

From Suwa, there were three VFA movements, and I have examples of each movement in my three different 61GS VFA’s.

First up is probably the rarest of the Suwa VFA’s, based on the 6185A movement – a 6185-8010 from 1968.

Grand Seiko 6185-8010 VFA
Grand Seiko 6185-8010 VFA

This watch has a very interestingly designed partially hammered case. The case material is unique across the entire vintage Grand Seiko range, being made from an alloy of Palladium and Silver. These watches are incredibly rare – this is actually the only example I have seen on the market in the last year or so, and even though it has had some polishing, I couldn’t pass it up because who knows when another one will surface!

Whilst the above watch is the only one that I am aware of that uses the 6185A movement, there are more options available when it comes to the 6185B movement.

Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G VFA
Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G VFA

The example I have of the 6185B movement is the watch pictured above, the 6185-8021-G. It has a particularly interesting dial and handset design, with prominent raised hour markers and shortened hands. I have speculated on Instagram in the past that quite possibly the design of the hour markers was inspired by the geometry of the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001 – A Space Odyssey.  Although it is of course quite difficult to measure the exact dimensions of the markers, they do seem to be remarkably close to the 1:4:9 ratio that the monolith was designed to.

A close up of the hour markers on the Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G VFA
A close up of the hour markers on the Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G VFA

To see the startling resemblance to the monolith design, have a look at this link from Wikipedia.

OK – enough speculation and back to the watches.

The 6185B movement was used in a number of watches with differing designs. Whilst my example is designated -8021-G, there was also a -8020 model that had flatter hour markers and longer hands.

At the very top of the range was the 6185-7000 that had a solid 18K gold case and a linen textured dial.

The 6185’s are not too hard to track down. However, what is difficult to find is 6185’s in excellent condition. For every example you see without series flaws, you may come across another 10 that have dial corrosion around the edges. Quite why so many of these watches have this problem I don’t know, but if you are interested in picking a 6185/6 VFA up, do look at the dial VERY carefully before pulling the trigger.

Grand Seiok 6185-8021-G VFA
Grand Seiok 6185-8021-G VFA

Finally, rounding off this write-up of the 61GS watches in my collection is a watch based on the 6186B movement.

As can be expected from a movement number from Suwa ending in a “6”, this watch features both day and date.

Grand Seiko 6186-8000 VFA
Grand Seiko 6186-8000 VFA

The 6186 doesn’t seem to be as common as the 6185, but this doesn’t effect prices too much. Again, keep a look out for corrosion around the edge of the dial if you are looking to acquire one of these.

Apart from the additional complication, my 6186-8000 is basically the same design as my 6185-8021-G, with its fascinating, tall, three dimensional hour markers, and short hands.

Also available, though seen much more rarely, is a blue-dialed version of this watch with low profile hour markers and long hands.

I’ll sign off this article with a couple more photos – a side profile of the 6185 showing off it’s incredible casing, and one last close-up look at the “monolith” hour marker.

Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G side profile
Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G side profile
Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G hour marker
Grand Seiko 6185-8021-G hour marker

 

 

1 thought on “State of the collection – the 61GS movements (part 2)”

  1. Coincidentally, the 6156 that I have is a 6156-8030. There doesn’t appear to be too many differences, other than a silver dial. Oddly enough the dial reads 6156-8000T AD.

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