This is a summary of my summer 2016 visit to Japan, it is a general overview of my trip and links to expanded articles covering my visit to the Seiko Epson factory at Shiojiri, the Seiko Epson Monozukuri Museum, Gishodo Suwako Museum at Suwa, a presentation on the Credor Fugaku at WAKO and the GS9 Club Salon. I try to visit Japan a couple of times a year and attempt to document my visits and watch hunting.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend a couple of weeks in Japan in July 2016 for a mix of both work and a holiday.
As my flight began decent I took a quick shot on my 1st gen GPS Astron before it acquired the GMT +9 time.
After landing and heading into Tokyo on Thursday evening I visited Yodobashi in Akihabara to pick up a data SIM for my phone.
At Yodobashi they have a good selection of domestic and foreign watches as well as a wide selection of accessories like straps and some tools. While at the store I saw the new “solar tuna” models. These were all limited editions created in collaboration with LowerCase that had just been released around two weeks earlier.
There are five LowerCase models released in the series but the model I was interested in was the blue SBDN026 and this model was already sold out at Yodobashi. As it was getting late at this time I headed back to the hotel for the night.
On Friday morning I checked out a number of the “recycle / brand stores” in Shinjuku. These stores have second hand fashion goods such as handbags and watches and you never know what will turn up there.
I checked out the Ippuukishi stores in Shinjuku and they had a wide range of models but nothing that really grabbed me. I then headed over to Komehyo also in Shinjuku to see what they had for sale.
There was a good selection of models available at Komehyo but the one thing that caught my eye was a 2000 Historical Collection Astron. These were a limited edition model with 500 units produced. It came with a 9F61 movement that was rated at +-5 sec/year and a solid 18K case and buckle. This was in nice condition but was priced a little above market price and was more than I had planned on spending so early in my trip.
I next headed over to the dedicated Yodobashi watch store in Shinagawa as I find they have a really good selection of the current models as well as very friendly staff. Lots of nice models here but nothing that I had to have. They also had some stock of the LowerCase models but no example of the blue version.
Just a couple of minutes away I visited the Yamada LABI store and checked out their watch section. Luckily here they still had a SBDN026 blue solar model available so I decided to grab it as I was unsure of when I would see another. This turned out to be a good decision as I only saw one other store during my trip with the blue model.
These models were selling for ¥40,000 ex tax (~US$388) and as I paid with Visa I got another 5% discount. At these prices I understand why they were selling out so quickly. I do like the blue and rose gold combo and it comes with a nice very comfortable strap.
I next stopped off at the Odakayu department store in Shinjuku. They are a Grand Seiko Master Shop so have some interesting pieces. They were showing the just released engraved Skeleton LE Credor SBBD963.
This model was limited to 30 pieces and has a list price of ¥4,800,000 ex tax. It is based around a manual 6889 caliber and is cased in 18K white gold. It has an Urushi wave on the dial that is inlayed with mother of pearl to help create a sense of movement. This was actually very attractive in person but outside of my price range.
Next I headed over to the Ginza district where I visited the WAKO store as well as the Seiko Premium Boutique.
At the Premium Boutique they were showing the limited edition GS model (SBGA151) commemorating the one year Anniversary of the Premium Boutique opening. This watch has a dial pattern that matches the one used by Seiko in their boutique designs globally. This is a limited edition of 30 units, comes with a bracelet and strap and if customers placed a deposit for a watch they were able to select the serial number they wished to reserve.
On the Saturday morning the weather was a little rainy but still quite warm. I headed over to the FMWV meetup in Ikebukuro. This is a semi regular meeting with a number of vintage watch retailers and collectors.
The mix of watches is about 65% domestic and the rest Swiss. If you ever go bring cash as credit cards are not accepted. There were lots of fantastic watches there but this time my only pick up was a Seiko Cronos with an interesting faceted crystal.
After leaving the watch get together I was still thinking about the Historical Collection Astron (SCQZ002) that I had seen the day before so I headed back to Komehyo. I figured that these do not come up that often so I picked this one up.
The watch is in great looking condition and shows no obvious wear and tear. This was a limited edition model from 2000 with 500 pieces made, it is powered by a 9F61 that is rated at +/-5 sec per year.
I then headed back to my hotel and changed before heading to a GS9 Club Salon event that was being held.
GS9 Club is for customers who purchase a Grand Seiko from a Seiko Master Shop in Japan. This club is only for Japanese residents but I was lucky enough to get an invitation from a contact at Seiko. This was a really enjoyable event and there was lots to see and experience. I wrote a separate report on this event and it can be found here - Tokyo GS9 Club Event 2016.
On the Sunday morning I went to the Tokyo Flea Markets at Ohi Racecourse.
The flea markets in Japan are worth going to as there are always a lot of watches and anything can turn up. Unfortunately this time there was not anything of interest.
After the flea market I headed over to Watch CTI in Ginza.
One of the items they had in the store was a NOS Citizen Challenge Golf. This has the original inner and outer boxes, hang tag, strap, buckle.
The most interesting thing with the watch set was the inclusion of two rare name plate medallions that were designed to be engraved and attached to the watch case back.
If I did not already have an example of this watch on the original strap I would have been very tempted by this set.
I then headed out of Tokyo for a week of work. By Friday morning I had finished up all of my meetings so I headed back to Tokyo and visited the Seiko Museum again.
While at the museum I donated the original 62MAS strap that I acquired a couple of months ago.
The 62MAS at the museum is displayed with a totally wrong strap so it will be good for the watch to be finally be able to be correctly displayed.
While at the museum I saw some of the original advertising for the 62MAS. In addition to the advertising I also saw the announcement from the August 1968 Seiko News.
As you can see in the product shots the 62MAS is displayed with the distinctive Tropic strap. After checking the rest of the records for the 62MAS it appears that it was only ever sold on this strap. This strap is shown in the catalog shots including the last entry in the 1967 Volume 2.
The 62MAS is also often associated with the ZLM01 waffle strap but there are no photos from any catalog, brochure or promotional shot from the period showing this strap on a 62MAS. The ZLM01 first appears in the 1967 Volume 2 Catalog Supplement on the 6215-7000 and the 62MAS is not featured in the 1968 catalogs. There are shots of the 62MAS on a waffle strap but these are all from a later period such as the book “A Journey in Time”.
After leaving the museum I dropped by Lemon in Ginza. Here I picked up a Presage model SAWV002 (7F38-8040) from 1988.
This is a quartz model, as all the late 80’s to 90’s Presage models were, and it has a moon phase and subdials with day, date and an independent second time zone 24 hour display. The styling on this model does capture the period it is from.
On the Saturday morning I headed back to the Tokyo flea market. Here I managed to pick up a few Seiko and Citizen bracelets for about a dollar each.
These were not too exciting but having spare original bracelets always comes in handy.
After the market I headed into Ginza to the WAKO store to see a presentation on the Fugaku tourbillon model that was announced at Baselworld this year.
This event had the designer and one of the artisans responsible for the dial construction discussing the watch and demonstrating the craft that goes into the production of these watches. A separate write up of this event can be found here - FUGAKU Presentation at WAKO
On Sunday I traveled to Osaka and caught up with friends there. When I arrived in Osaka there was an Evangelion themed shinkansen train at the station.
This train is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Sanyo Shinkansen completion as well as the 20th anniversary since the start of the Evangelion TV series.
Monday was a public holiday so I spent these days relaxing and traveling around the city. During these trips I saw numerous Seiko railway watches in use.
The storage space in the train console has inbuilt lighting so that the watch remains clearly visible even when entering dark tunnels.
On the Tuesday I stopped by a small watch store in the Semba Centre in Osaka. This store has numerous vintage watches and always some interesting pieces.
One of the nice pieces here was a 6105-8110 on the original tyre track strap. This was in nice condition but there was obvious damage to the original bezel insert.
After leaving this store empty handed I caught a shinkansen to Nagoya. Once in Nagoya I visited a couple of different stores that I had gone to on my previous trip. These stores included Big Moon and a large Book Off that I previously found numerous bargains at.
Unfortunately this time I was not so lucky and did not manage to find anything. I next decided to check out some other stores in the city.
The first place I visited was another Komehyo store. This store had a mix of second hand items as well as numerous new items for sale. As always there was lots of interesting pieces for sale but nothing I had to have.
Just near the Komehyo was the type of Japanese watch store that you dream about finding. This was a small watch store that was literally packed to the ceiling with interesting items.
The store was overflowing with vintage watches as well as advertising and POP items. They had quite a number of interesting watches and many items I would have purchased if I did not already own examples of them.
I happily spent a long time looking through their items. This was one time I was frustrated that I do not speak fluent Japanese as I am sure I would have had a long chat with the staff there.
On Wednesday morning I got up early and headed to the station to travel into the countryside. When leaving Shin-Osaka station there is a large Seiko clock towards the shinkansen entrance gates.
I boarded a train that would take me up into the mountains of the Nagano region.
This train travelled up into the mountain region and gave a great view of the countryside. During much of this trip you are surrounded by the mountains and fir trees that have previously been represented on Grand Seiko dials.
I got off this train in Matsumoto that is a small city just north of the Suwa region. While in the city I visited the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum. The building has a large clock and pendulum on the outside.
The museum has a number of different watches and clocks and attempts to show the history of timekeeping. Towards the entrance there is a display covering many of the developments in clocks and watches and these are supplemented with video segments.
The museum has numerous clocks of all different types starting with the traditional Japanese clocks that divided the daylight and night time into even segments so in summer time an “hour” during the day would be longer than one in winter.
The museum also has a collection of other clocks from many different countries and in different types.
Some of the more interesting models include a Japanese clock with that appear to swim around the bowl and a ball clock.
An unusual clock was this reverse Seikosha wall clock that was designed for barber’s shops so it could be viewed in the mirror.
The clocks in the museum are all in running condition and are set slightly differently so their chimes are able to be separated. Make sure you stick around for the hour to hear the chimes and it is best to be there in the morning, I was there at 11am so was able to hear them all.
In addition to the clocks there are a collection of pocket watches. These include early domestic models as well as some pocket sundials.
The museum also has a small collection of more modern timepieces. These include a Seiko tactile pocket watch that was first introduced in 1939 for vision impaired users.
The quartz revolution is introduced with a Seiko crystal chronometer and a kinetic diver is also on display.
The museum is relatively small and does not have a large collection of modern pieces but if you have some time to spare it is worth a quick look. I would expect most people could see the whole museum in around 45 minutes.
After the museum I grabbed a quick lunch before catching a train south to visit the Seiko Epson factory at Shiojiri.
This was a fantastic experience as I had expected and I wrote up a separate post on and post here - Seiko Epson Shiojiri Factory Tour.
On the Thursday morning I headed back towards Lake Suwa and visited the Gishodo Museum at Shimo-suwa.
This was a very interesting museum and I can strongly suggest that if you ever are in the areas you should check it out. There are a wide range of items on display and some great interactive exhibits. I created a separate write up on the museum and posted it here - Gishodo Suwako Watch and Clock Museum in Suwa
Just next to the Gishodo Museum is the Akimya Shrine. This shrine holds the Onbashira Festival where fir trees are carried down the mountain side and this was the inspiration for the green dialled black ceramic limited edition GS chronograph.
That afternoon I visited the Monozukuri Museum at the Seiko Epson HQ at Kami-suwa. This was fantastic and a museum I have not previously seen any write up's on. Check out my report here for more details - Seiko Epson Monozukuri Museum Visit
After visiting the Epson HQ I caught the train back to Tokyo.
On Friday morning I stopped off at some of the second hand stores in Shinjuku that were close to my hotel. At Ippuukishi I picked up a Seiko Ananta chronograph from 2009.
This is a SAEK003 and is powered by an 8R28 caliber. I do like this original Ananta styled case compared to the more conservative later models.
I next headed over to Ueno to visit Mizutani. This is a nice vintage watch store with lots of interesting pieces. While there was lots to look at I did not find anything I had to have.
Early on Saturday morning I went to a flea market at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tobitakyu. There were many stalls but comparatively few watches. The only item I purchased was a Seiko Modern Masters of Time box that had store warranty papers for a 44-9990 King Seiko inside.
After the market I headed over to Ikebukuro to go to the FMWV market. As I arrived quite late I decided to stick around for the informal auction that is held at 1pm. In the auction there was a nice Credor Phoenix chronograph with blue dial that I was interested in. The auction started and as it was all in Japanese I had a little trouble following the bidding. The watch sold for ¥100,000 which is about market rate for these. It was not really a huge bargain but I would have bid at that price if I had understood the auctioneer in time.
On the Sunday morning I headed back to the Tokyo flea markets but did not find any items I had to have.
Later that day I said goodbye to Tokyo and caught the train back to the airport to head home. As always I enjoyed my time in Japan and I cannot wait to head back when I have a chance again.