I recently had a week off from work so headed back to Japan for a quick break. I flew into Japan on the Friday evening and was greeted with a large Grand Seiko advertising sign upon my arrival at Narita airport. It is not unusual to Seiko advertising throughout Japan but it felt like there was more GS advertising I saw on this trip and that is likely due to the change to an independant company and promotion of the new branding.
On the Saturday morning I headed to the Tokyo flea market. It was quite cold and looked like rain so there were not too many vendors there. As usual there was many watches from various vendors but the only thing that caught my attention was an issue of The Mainichi Graphic from February 1972 covering the Sapporo Winter Olympics. This is a paperback periodical published by The Mainichi Newspapers. Inside the front cover was an advert for Seiko publicising their timing of the events. Seiko provided 583 individual timing devices and these were comprised of 26 different types.
After leaving the flea market I traveled over to Ginza and visited the WAKO store. They had just remodeled the Grand Seiko and Credor section of the store to highlight the new branding design for Grand Seiko. The new layout gives a little more space to the Grand Seiko section and separates out the Credor section. The store does not allow photos inside but if you have visited before it is worth dropping by to see the new layout.
I then walked a couple of blocks to the Seiko Premium Boutique. The staff here were friendly as always and they have a full range of GS and Credor models. The store had the new green dialed model SBGH261 that had just been released the day before. This is a limited edition of 250 units and it is a modern interpretation of the 62GS.
In the afternoon I checked out some of the various second hand stores in the Shinjuku area such as Komehyo and Ippuukishi but there was nothing that grabbed my eye. That evening I caught up with Björn a friend and locally based Japanese watch collector. We had a quick dinner and a few drinks while discussing some of our latest acquisitions.
On the Sunday morning I headed across to a smaller flea market that is held next to the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho. As the weather was relatively cold there were not too many sellers and there were no particularly interesting pieces on offer.
After the flea market I dropped by the Ginza Lemon store to see what they had for sale. The store has been much smaller for a little over a year now and they did not have any exciting items, but it is always worth checking out as you never know what could turn up.
I next went to Watch CTI (http://cticorp.jp/) just a couple of blocks away. There were a couple of interesting items for sale there. The first was a nice 6306 ScubaPro diver with the original ScubaPro strap. This was in excellent condition and it is very unusual for the original strap to still be present and in good condition. The second interesting item was a Seiko 7T27-7A20 Swedish Military issued piece. This came with the original Seiko tag, manual and Swedish military packaging. While both great looking pieces they were both outside of what I was prepared to pay for them.
After visiting Watch CTI I traveled over to Nakano Broadway to check out the stores there. In one of the small cube stores I spotted a set of Seiko matches from the 1972 Sapporo Olympics. This is a full set of all five Olympic colours that were produced to publicise that Seiko was the Official timer for the event.
The small cube stores have all sorts of different items for sale so you never know what can turn up. There are also a number of different vintage watch stores in the venue that are worth looking at when you are there.
After finishing up at Nakano I headed back to Shinjuku and visited both the Keio and Isetan Grand Seiko Master Shops. At the Keio store I picked up a copy of the latest issue, number seven, of the GS9 magazine. At the Isetan store I picked up the seventh issue from the 10 Stories of Grand Seiko. Issue seven was focused upon the competition between the Suwa and Kameido (Daini) companies and how this drove innovation and technology development.
On the Monday morning I caught a Shinkansen north to the Fukushima region. I was spending the night at a ryokan in the mountain region and I had a couple of hours before a scheduled bus connection so decided to wander the city. Just outside the main part of the city, about a 45 minute walk away, I found a Bookoff Plus store that had a small section of household goods. It was here that I found a Seiko 30 Day wall clock for just a few dollars. This was a 4PC436N Time-Dater from 1967 and it measures 44 x 26 x 11cm. The clock was in good condition and seemed to be functioning OK. These are very common clocks to see for sale in antique stores and at flea markets as they sold for many years and have a simple reliable movement. I have been looking for one of these models for a while and luckily due to my short trip duration I had enough room in a suitcase to fit the clock.
I then headed back to the station and checked out a few small watch stores along the way but did not find anything interesting. After a quick lunch I caught the bus to my ryokan where I was able to go for a short hike in the mountain region and check out the autumn foliage before a fantastic kaiseki dinner.
On late Tuesday morning I checked out of the ryokan and caught another shinkansen for a short ride to Sendai. I had not been to this area before so didn't really know what to expect. I decided to take a long walk to a Bookoff Plus that was in the outer suburbs to get a feel for the area and see some of the countryside. When I arrived at the Bookoff there was a reasonable selection of watches on display but the only thing that caught my eye was a SNX431 (7S26-00D0) from 2007. This is a very simple military styled watch but as is was only a few dollars it was hard to pass up.
After walking back into the city I wandered around the main shopping district and visited a few different watch and pawn stores. I also found another Bookoff store at the Aeon centre in the Clis Road mall. This store had a good number of different watches and my interest was peaked by a Landmaster South Pole SBCW023 (5M47-0A10) from 1998.
This is an unusual watch that was released as a Limited Edition of 800 pieces to commemorate the solo expedition to the south pole by Japanese adventurer Mitsuro Ohba. Two years earlier, in 1997, he had completed a solo expedition to the North Pole and at that time Seiko released another limited edition Landmaster, the SBCW009 Transpolar. To enable Ohba-san to navigate using the same methods he used at the north pole seiko designed the south pole version with a number of unusual features. These included a 24 hour hand that rotates in an anti-clockwise direction, a feature that is unique to the 5M47 calibre. The bezel also has the markings reversed with the lume pip at the south position and the coordinates in an anti-clockwise configuration. The watch was also the world's first to feature a complete construction from cermet including both the bezel and full one piece case. On the watch dial is a map of Antarctica. The watch did not come with it’s original cermet bracelet but was in otherwise great condition due to the extremely durable and scratch resistant material, so I was happy to take this with me.
Also in the Clis Road mall was Mihara Honten a Seiko Master Shop. In their window was a display of Orient Star models including the new skeleton models and this showed the prominent Epson branding on the poster and promotional material. In the store they had a good selection of models and I was able to pick-up issue five of the 10 Stories of Grand Seiko series. This issue covers the resurrection of the mechanical Grand Seiko models.
On the Wednesday morning I headed across to the Sendai Mitsukoshi Premium Watch Salon with the hope of picking up some more of the Grand Seiko 10 Stories brochures. The stores traditionally only have the latest issue on display but the staff at the store were extremely helpful and they went through their cupboards and shelves and managed to find the majority of other issues but issue one was not able to be located. When I mentioned that I was a big fan of Seiko and was visiting from Australia the staff there extremely generously offer to give me their store folder that contained all issues to that time. This was an extremely generous offer and I would strongly recommend if you are in the Sendai region to drop by the Mitsukoshi store to check out their models as the level of service there can not be beaten.
After spending the morning in Sendai I headed back on the train to Tokyo. That evening I caught up with a friend for a couple of drinks and managed to get a very special piece from their collection. This is a Daini-Seikosha 052 that was created for the 1967 Neuchâtel Observatory Chronometer competition. In this competition the 052 caliber was awarded fourth place. There were a couple of different versions with one running at 72,000 bph and a more traditional Hi-Beat 36,000 bph model. Surprisingly the 36,000 bph models outperformed the higher beat versions.
This example is a 36,000 bph model as these can be easily identified by the very large balance wheel, compared to the more standard sized version on the 72,000 bph model. This is a piece that I never thought I would be able to own and I feel extremely lucky to add this “Potato” to my collection.
On the Thursday morning I headed to the Seiko Museum to do some research and see some of the recent changes. The museum had created a new interactive audio app, revised signage and some minor changes to the exhibits. A more in-depth look at the new changes can be found in the blog post here.
I spent around an hour in the library section with my good friend Kumagai-san from the museum and then we were joined by the museum general manager Kobari-san. We headed out to a nearby steak restaurant for a fantastic lunch and interesting conversation. After lunch we headed back to the museum and Kobarai-san gave me a quick tour of the museum and the new interactive audio guide application. There were some VIP visitors who were coming into the museum so I finished up the tour section and then headed back to the library section to do some more research with Kumagai-san.
I also donated a number of different original bracelets to the museum as multiple watches on display are fitted with incorrect models. These items were for the following models:
- DPZ010 (C153-5000) Calculator watch with Z145 bracelet
- 56LMW 010 (5606-7000) Lord Matic with 5606-700A bracelet
- 56LMC010 (5605-5000) Lord Matic with 5605-500 bracelet
- 07ELW 054 (0703-7020) Elnix with a XBA-051 bracelet
- QFN020 (4823-8010) King Quartz with a XGB430 bracelet
- 1944 R100 (1944-0012) Ladies 36000 Hi Beat with a XDM020 bracelet
They also had displayed their 6217-7000 World Timer from 1964 on an incorrect bracelet. Most people likely recognize the “railroad” bracelet that the watch was more commonly sold on but the museum did not have this attached to the watch. People may not as commonly realize that the early 6217-7000 World Time model was originally sold on a crocodile leather strap for the first six months of production. I provided a buckle and suggested the bracelet on the display model was changed to leather as it is the early variant of this model.
I started my Friday stopping by the Yodobashi dedicated watch store in Shinjuku and picked up the new SARY087 "Starlight" Limited Edition that was released that morning. This watch is a new addition to the Presage Cocktail Time line up and is a collaboration between Seiko and award winning bartender Sakura Fubuki from Star Bar in Ginza. The watch has an interesting textured dial and features the 4R57 movement with 40 hour power reserve indicator. The model is a limited edition with 1300 pieces being released for the Japanese market.
After picking up the Cocktail Time I grabbed an early lunch and then headed back to the Seiko museum and continued to research a number of topics and viewing many issues of the Seiko news and various catalogs. When leaving the reception staff gave me an origami watch that had been created by students that had previously visited the museum.
That evening I caught up with Björn and his wife for a highly enjoyable dinner while looking through a range of pieces from his extensive collection.
On the Saturday morning I headed off to the Tokyo Flea market but there was a little rain and that combined with the cold weather kept the attendees to a minimum. There was nothing particularly interesting on offer so I ended up leaving here empty handed. I then headed back to the Shinjuku area and checked out a range of different pawn and reuse stores including Komehyo, Ippuukishi and Best Watch. There was again nothing I felt compelled to walk away with but you never know what will turn up at these stores so it is always worth checking out these stores with a relatively high turnover of second hand items.
At around lunch time I traveled across to the Ginza area and met up with Gerald from WatchDXB (http://watchdxb.com/). We had been communicating online for a while but this was the first opportunity that we had to meet face to face. We discussed watches, with Seiko being the focus, as well as photography and a range of topics. It is always nice to be able to catch up with a fellow enthusiast especially with someone with such a focused collection as Gerald. We chatted for a few hours and eventually caught up with another couple of Japanese watch enthusiasts. This was Honda-san, who literally wrote the book on Seiko as one of the authors of the recently updated Dragonfly Japanese watch books (https://www.plus9time.com/japanese-domestic-watch-series#Domestic-Seiko-Crown). He was also joined by Tanaka-san who is another local with an amazing collection of vintage timepieces. We had a very informative discussion regarding the small differences with various model releases and how they evolved over time. They both brought along an amazing collection of watches with some very rare and even some prototype pieces. This was a fantastic way to spend a few hours on a weekend.
On the Sunday morning I headed across to the JWTG (Japan Watch Traders Guild) watch show that was being held in Yūrakuchō. I met both Gerald and Bjorn at the event. This show had around 15 to 20 vintage watch dealers who were trading pieces between themselves and also to collectors. The watches on display were not only Japanese pieces but also a wide selection of Swiss timepieces. Many of the sellers at this show are also familiar faces to people who have attended the FMWV (Free Market of Watch Vintage) that are regularly held in Ikebukuro.
At the JWTG I managed to pick up a couple of interesting items. The first was a Walter Wolf Racing Citizen chronograph from 1982. This has the Citizen 8110 automatic movement and is fitted to a titanium case and signed bracelet. The watch probably had black day and date wheels but there is little information on these and I have seen other examples with the white wheels.
These Walter Wolf models only appear in the 1983-6 Citizen JDM Catalog and due to their release dates are a very strange co-branded product. Walter Wolf entered Formula 1 in 1977 and with Jody Scheckter at the wheel they won their debut race. They went on to claim nine podiums and receive fourth place in the constructors championship that year despite only having a single car competing. By the time the Citizen models went on sale in 1982/83 Walter Wolf had already departed Formula 1 racing as their last season was in 1979. Walter Wolf later went on to work with Suzuki in motorbike racing but this partnership did not begin until 1986.
At the JWTG show I also picked up a few high quality third party leather straps and an original unused Seiko XGL-731 dive strap. I had originally thought that I would donate this to the Seiko Museum for their displays. I remembered that they do not have the correct strap on their 6215-7000 and it should have a ZLM01. I previously donated a ZLM01 and this is fitted onto a 6105, so I thought that this could be moved to the 6215 and the XGL-731 fitted to the 6105. Unfortunately looking back on this the 6105 model on display is the 6105-8000 and that only came on the ZLM01. It was only the 6105-8110 that was available with the XGL-731. Consequently the XGL-731 will be fitted to one of the 6105-8110 in my collection.
While there were many fantastic looking watches on display I did not pick up any other items at the show.
Upon leaving the show I headed over to the Ueno area and visited Mizutani’s store. As always there was plenty of watches to check out and a number of really nice pieces. A Grand Seiko 56GAC 064 (5645-5010) with unusual graduated dial and roman numerals caught my eye. This was in fantastic condition and the case retained it’s original lines. As it is a quite non-traditional model, and was only produced for a short time from late-1972 to mid-1973, I was happy to add this to my collection.
I proceeded to check out a range of other stores in the Ueno area but did not find any other exciting pieces. When back in Shinjuku I dropped by Books Kinokuniya and grabbed the latest issue of LowBeat magazine (No.12) that contains a comprehensive article by Honda-san on the differences between the different versions of the second Grand Seiko 57GS models. I also stopped by the Yodobashi watch store and picked up a range of the latest watch brochures. While there I checked out the new Epson Trume models. These were recently released and have functions similar to the Seiko Astron models and a number of other features. These look like interesting watches and I think they would be popular with frequent travelers but they did not grab me.
In the evening I caught up with Björn and Gerald for a few drinks and I quick bite to eat. It was a great way to wrap up my trip as I was heading home the next day. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Japan again and look forward to when I am next able to return.