On the block – 19

A weekly series of posts highlighting interesting Grand Seiko watches on the market

Grand Seiko 6185, 6186 and 4580 VFA's
Grand Seiko 6185, 6186 and 4580 VFA’s

For this week’s On the Block, I thought it would be interesting to do a round-up of the Grand Seiko VFA’s that are currently available on the market in Japan. The reason for focusing on the VFA’s is that I can’t recall a week where there has been such variety for sale.

I’m not going to highlight every one that is currently “out there”, since personally I would never recommend one of these watches if the dial shows signs of “burning”, or corrosion around the edges.

As always, photos accompanying this column feature watches from my own collection. Click through the links provided to see the actual watch being offered for sale.

For details on how to purchase these watches from overseas, check out my article on Zenmarket.

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

First up is a watch that I featured in this column a few weeks ago. The seller has taken the rather odd decision to list it both on Rakuten and Yahoo Japan auctions.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Rakuten is a fixed-price marketplace typically used by the Japanese pawn shops to sell their pieces, whereas Yahoo Japan auctions offers a number of different auction formats and is more typically used by independent dealers who don’t have a physical presence, and private individuals.

On Rakuten, the watch is listed for 567,000 Yen (note – this includes Japanese sales tax at 8%), whereas on Yahoo it is on auction with a hidden minimum selling price. Presumably that minimum price is 525,000 Yen. On several occasions this watch has topped out at 400,000 Yen bid on Yahoo (note – you have to add 8% sales tax to the price bid), only for the auction to roll-over and start again at 1 Yen the following week.

The main negative thing regarding this listing is that – as is quite common with 6185/6 VFA’s – the crystal is quite badly scratched. Apart from that, it looks to be in really good original condition. Ignore the bracelet of course as that is not original.

Grand Seiko 6185-8021 VFA
Grand Seiko 6185-8021 VFA showing the raised hour markers on these watches

My personal example of this watch also has a crystal that – at some angles and in some light – looks pretty badly scratched. But as you can see from the photo posted earlier, it’s not the end of the world. Personally, I’d take a VFA with a scratched crystal with a sharp case over one with dial problems or a polished case every day of the week.

Next up are two examples of the 6186-8000-G, but this time with dark blue dials. I don’t actually have one of these in my collection, so you’ll have to click through the links to see how great this watch looks.

The first one is listed on Yahoo with a fixed buyout price of 580,000 Yen. Again – check listings carefully, because this is another one where you have to add the sales tax to the listed price, bringing the total to 626,400 Yen.

The second example can be found on Rakuten, available from Kyotoya – a dealer who is almost a permanent weekly fixture in this column. As is usual with this dealer, there are a lot more images of the watch available on their website, and the watch can be had for 788,000 Yen (including sales tax).

You don’t see blue-dialed 6186’s very often, so it is very rare to see two on the market at once. Note that they look very different in colour, but this is almost certainly simply a result of how they have been photographed.

No question here that the example with Kyotoya is worth the additional asking price. Whilst I think that given how infrequently these watches come to the market, you wouldn’t really be going wrong with either of them, the 25% extra cost of the one with Kyotoya is a no-brainer. The cheaper watch has that all-too-common scratched crystal problem, and if you look carefully, there is some degradation on the “Seiko” part of the “Grand Seiko” logo.

Finally for this week, we have two examples of the earlier 6185A movement based VFA’s – the 6185-8020.

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

No, not the watch above! That’s the incredibly rare -8010 version from my collection with a silver/palladium alloy hammer-toned case and blue dial.

The 6185A based watches available are the slightly more common – but still extremely rare – 6185-8020 models with regular steel cases and champagne dials.

Once again, we find one example with a dealer on Yahoo auctions, and one with – yup, you’ve guessed it – Kyotoya on Rakuten. And, no surprises here, Kyotoya’s example is the more expensive of the two, and as usual, worth it.

The early 6185 VFA’s based on the 6185A movement have a couple of interesting dial features that are worth highlighting (and that also make them very easy to spot from the far more common later 6186B based movement watches). Firstly, and most obviously, there is no “VFA” branding on the dial. Secondly, the Suwa company logo is applied, rather than printed.

Here’s a macro shot of the printed VFA and Suwa logo that you will find on the later 6185/6 VFA’s  with the 6185/6B movement –

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

And here’s a close-up showing the applied Suwa logo (and no VFA branding) on the earlier 6185A movement watches (there was no 6186A movement).

6185-8010 macro showing applied Suwa logo
6185-8010 macro showing applied Suwa logo

These surely are the ultimate “stealth” vintage Grand Seikos!

The example on Yahoo needs to be treated with a bit of caution. The photographs of the watch (as is always the case with this high-volume dealer) are pretty poor, and in the description he states that “dial has a stain in the 12 o’clock position”. If that “stain” is corrosion around the edge of the dial, I’d probably give it a miss. Definitely ask for further photos before taking the plunge.

And the one on Kyotoya? Well, as with so many of the watches that pass through their hands, I wish I had the money to buy it! Yes – it is expensive at 1,080,000 Yen, but as evidenced by the more detailed pictures on the dealer’s own website, it is in truly spectacular condition. Highly recommended.

Caveat emptor – whilst I personally would be happy to have any of the pieces I comment on positively in my collection, you do need to be aware that there are always risks when you purchase a watch remotely. My recommendation of a watch can in no way be taken as any guarantee as to its condition or authenticity, nor as to the credibility of the individual or company selling it.

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