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!
The 56 series of vintage Grand Seiko is second only to the 61GS with regards to the diversity of the watches produced. Whilst utilising only three different movements (there are no “special” or “VFA” examples in this series), there are over 40 variations with differing cases or dials.
With production starting in 1970 and running through until 1974, the 56GS series marks the end of the line for the vintage Grand Seikos.
The three movements that were used in this series were the 5641A, 5645A and 5646A.
I’ve mentioned in previous articles that the final numeral in the movement number is used to identify the “complications” in the calibre. For these watches coming from the Suwa factory, the number “5” indicates a date complication, and the number “6” indicates a day-date complication.
With this final vintage Grand Seiko series – for the first time since the original “3180”, or “First” Grand Seiko – we have movements coming from Suwa with no complications at all. The “1” in the 5641A movement number indicates that the watch displays neither the day nor date.
Unlike the neat symmetry of the Daini produced 45GS series detailed in my previous article, where the same four case designs were used for watches utilising both the 4520 non-date and 4522 date movements, with the 56GS series we find multiple case variants, but not all case designs were used for all movements.
Above is a photograph of what is currently the only 5641 movement watch in my collection – I really should add a couple more examples!
This particular watch is the 5641-7000, and as can be seen above, the -7000 case is an oval shaped brushed steel case. The other cases that housed 5641 movement were the -5000 and -7005. Both of which I have examples of being used with 5645 movement.
The -7005 case is the same one that you can see at the top of this article – it is an oval, solid 18K gold case, with a similar brushed finish to the steel example.
In the photo above, you can see an example of the -5000 case that was used for both 5641 and 5645 movements. To the best of my knowledge, this case was not utilised for the 5646 day-date movement. Like the -7005, it is a solid 18K gold hammered case, but with a tonneau shape. The -7005 has a subtle linen-textured dial, whilst the dial on the -5000 has a more prominent, rougher texture.
Whereas the 5641 had models with three case variants, the 5645 has models with seven different case suffices – the -5000, -5010, -7000, -7005, -7010, -7011, and -8000.
The -5010 is a squared TV-shaped case, and is available with two different dials. Earlier in this article is a photo of the 5645-5010 with a plain white dial that matches the case number and is marked 5645-5010T.
There is also another variant of the 5645-5010 – pictured above – with striking dial that combines a gradient textured pattern with Roman numeral hour markers. I used to think that these Roman numeral dialed watches were fairly easy to pick up. However, I think I just got lucky with the two that I have and was able to acquire them at good prices. More recently, they just don’t seem to be hitting the market. The dial marking on this one is 5645-7020T.
Segueing nicely into the 5646 watches in my collection, above is a shot of the only two Roman numeral vintage Grand Seikos – the aforementioned 5645-5010, and its day-date 5646-5010 brother.
Next up are watches using the -7010 case. This case is more traditionally designed, and available in both stainless steel and gold-capped stainless steel, with multiple dial colours available on the stainless steel version.
Above is pictured the 5646-7010 Cap Gold variant, which was also available on the 5645.
Where things start to get interesting (and complicated) is with the stainless steel version of this case.
The only -7010 steel case example I have is of a 5646-7010, pictured below.
As can be seen from the photo, this watch has a couple of striking features. Firstly, it has a wonderful deep blue dial, and secondly, the crystal is multi-faceted.
On both the 5645-7010 and 5646-7010, dial colours are available in white, silver, black and blue. It seems though that this faceted crystal only exists on some examples of the blue dialed 5646. It has been claimed by a seller on Yahoo Japan that these watches with faceted crystals were limited editions available only from the Wako department store in Ginza, Japan. Grand Seiko do continue to produce limited exclusive examples of watches for the Wako store with the modern range (I have a few of these myself), but whether or not they were doing a similar thing around 45 years ago I cannot confirm for sure.
Regardless, these faceted crystal watches are extremely sought after and fetch a considerable premium over the regular ones.
Next up after the -7010 case, we have the -7011, also available in both 5645 and 5646 variants. I don’t have an example of a -7011, so am not sure exactly what the case difference is to the -7010, but again there are 5646-7011 examples with faceted crystals.
Available only in the 5646 range is the -7020 variant. As can be seen from the above image, this is another example of a coloured dial – this time green, and with a faceted crystal. Again, a seemingly very rare and sought after watch.
The 5646-7030 pictured below has a more subtle and classical design that has a wonderful sand-textured dial.
Only available as a day-date version, the watch is shown with its original bracelet. Very few vintage Grand Seikos were available on bracelets. I haven’t done enough research to be sure how many were – but I believe it was only a select few of the 61GS and 56GS series. The bracelets can sell for several hundred US dollars just on their own, and of course add significant value when a watch is available with its original bracelet. The one challenge can be finding examples with all links still remaining – something to be wary of if you are looking to purchase a watch with a bracelet with the intention of wearing it.
And so we finally reach the end of my collection, with the 5646-7040.
I actually have a couple of examples of this watch. It is the only vintage Grand Seiko with Arabic numerals, and examples come to market only very rarely – since I started collecting vintage Grand Seikos, I have only seen five for sale.
Whilst that rounds out my collection (or at least, my collection as it stands today – I have several pieces on the way to me from Japan!), it doesn’t quite round out the write-up of the 56GS series.
The final models in this series are those using the -8000 case. This is a lugless case design that was available in both day and day-date versions. Made from stainless steel, it is available with both silver and grey dials, and the watches are available with original bracelets.
The -8000 case was also available in a very rare 18K gold version which also came with a bracelet – to the best of my knowledge the only vintage Grand Seiko available with original 18K bracelet. Whilst it is possible that this watch existed in both 5645 and 5646 variants, I have only ever seen the 5645 version.
And that’s it! It took a little longer than I original envisaged, but after close to 10,000 words and countless pictures, I’ve covered the entire collection hopefully in some kind of context of the wider range of pieces available.
For those who may have missed some of the earlier write-ups, here are the links –