Grand Seiko History

1. Introduction 

Daini Seikosha Co., Ltd and Suwa Seikosha Co

Seiko brand watches were originally produced by two different Seiko Corp. subsidiaries. One was Daini Seikosha Co, Ltd (Kameido,Koto-ku, Tokyo) and the other was Suwa Seikosha Co (Suwa-shi, Nagano). Two different companies produced one brand  in order to improve technology through severe competition and to hedge the risk. Splendid watches were produced at both companies because of this tough competitionand this system proved efficient at hedging the risk.. If either company experienced production problems the other company could compensate by increasing production. Eventually Daini Seikosha Co, Ltd. changed it its company name to Seiko Instruments Inc. and Suwa Seikosha Co, to Seiko Epson Corporation.

Birth of the Grand Seiko

Prior to 1960 most people believed Swiss watches were the highestquality and  Japanese watches were inferior. Seiko believed they were capable of producing watches of the same quality as the Swiss. In fact, they had already made two high-quality examples, Crown and Chronos . The Grand Seiko is the result of their beliefs. Who made it? Daini Seikosha and Suwa began discussions  under the suggestion of their parent company, Seiko. It was decided that Suwa would produce the first Grand Seiko (GS). Most men's watches were produced at Suwa and most women's watches were made at Daini in those days. The birth of GS was followed by the success of the Tokyo Olympics and Seiko's victory at the astronomical observatory Concours. 

2. Successive Grand Seiko 

The First Generation GS -- 1960/8 The starting point of "SEIKO of the world"

Suwa Seikosha Co., 25jewels,Manual wind 36,000 units were produced. 

  • 3180 -- Seiko internal Chronometer declaration. 18,000bph  

This was the first Chronometer grade watch manufactured in Japan. It was based on an official certificate chronometer standard developed internally within Seiko. Seiko improved the CROWN with careful screening of materials and higher quality parts. People say that SEIKO disregarded profit structure and pursued the highest technology available at the moment. The initial characters on the dial of Grand Seiko were carved, but were changed to characters in relief because manufacturing was too difficult. 

The back lid was a snap type and non-waterproof. 
There is a lion logo on the back of the case. 
Most cases were18K gold-plated (80 ), but  platinum cases were also produced.

The cost for this watch was equivalent to 300,000-400,000JPY today. It was unbelievably expensive in those days.

The first stage of "SEIKO of the world" began with this GS. 

The following are common to all GSs: 
-Hack mechanism 
-Two phase regulator mechanism 
-Rating Certificate included

Note: Recently it has sold from 180,000 to 300,000JPY , depending on quality, at antique watch shops in Japan. In most cases, crown and other parts have been swapped. 

57GS --1963/11 The highest quality masterpiece of Low Beat GS

Suwa Seikosha Co., 35jewels,Manual-wind, 81,000 units were produced. 

  • 430,5722A(Self-dater) -- Seiko internal Chronometer declaration. 18,000bph
  • 5722B(Calendar) -- (1966-)GS standard official approval. No Chronometer declaration. 19,800bph 

    Date function was installed in 3180 Movement. The back lid was SCREWBACK type and it provided water resistance to a depth of 50m . Most cases were SS but we can find Gold Cup too. 

    A pure stainless steel was used for it its case, which was unusual in those days. There is no need to mention that this design is outstanding. The 430 Grand Seiko which I possess is so accurate (+/- 3 seconds/day) even thought it is 35 years old. The Lion on the backside has worn and the characters on the dial have blurred, but a feeling of solidness and quality exists that is completely different from other SEIKOs. Very impressive. It is clear that the new 9S has succeeded in matching the quality of this design and proves the level of this old design.

    As for the 5722B, the latter period model had no chronometer declaration and its LION mark changed into GS mark on the lid.

    I think that lion logo of the back case didn't mean the symbol of GS, but meant that watches had passed the company internal Chronometer authorization.

    The reason why I believe so is because of the many Japanese reference books for Seiko watches. We can see many King Seiko Chronometers, Seikomatic Chronometer, Liner Chronometer which was made till 1966 had that lion medal on back. After 1966, all were changed to GS logo and of course were available only on GSs

    [My guess] Why 5722B became 19,800bph ? 
    There was Chronometer appeal in 1966 and Seiko determined "GS standard" which was stricter than the official Chronometer standard in 1966. I think that number of vibrations was increased in order to get higher quality because the standard became tougher. 

    [MEMO] 5722B at 128,000JPY at a used watch store in Ueno, Tokyo (Dec. 2000) 180,000JPY at a used watch store in an open air antique market (Feb. 2001) 
    DEAD STOCK 350,000JPY at a used watch store in Shizuoka pref, Japan (Feb. 2001)

    44GS --1964/09 King Seiko which pretended to be a Grand Seiko.

    Daini Seikosha Co., Ltd. 27jewels,Manual wind

    • 4420B -- Seiko internal GS standard. No Chronometer declaration. 18,000bph. 

      Daini Seikosha released it in 1964 as a King Seiko Chronometer initially, but because of Chronometer appeal in 1966, it became 44Grand Seiko.

      With it, a case and a stitch were changed. No DATE display. 

      The back lid is SCREWBACK type and it guarantees 50 m depth waterproof. 
      Only SS case is found. 

      The difference on Movement between 44Grand Seiko(4420B) and 44King Seiko Chronometer (No No. & 4420A) is the control device for a second hand. Case design was changed in order to emphasize the beauty of a straight line. Seemed to be a base of later models, 45GS and 61GS. 

      KS is often compared with GS, but I think that only 44KS Chronometer is regarded as an equal level as GS in accuracy and product quality. It's very difficult to find 44GS even here in Japan because of limited production. But I saw that it was sold at a range of from 200,000 to 200,000 JPY in the past. I personally prefer to KS Chronometer, but it is relatively expensive. 

      62GS --1966/01 First Automatic  as a Grand Seiko

      Suwa Seikosha Co. 35,39jewels Automatic 

      • 6245 A -- GS standard approval. No Chronometer declaration. 19,800bph. 35j DATE 
      • 6246 A -- GS standard official approval. No Chronometer declaration. 19,800bph. 39j DAY/DATE 

        Produced at Suwa Seikosha. This was originally sold as a Seikomatic Chronometer but because of Chronometer appeal, the name was changed to 62Grand Seiko. 

        Only a few products were produced, so it is difficult to find today. Compared to other GSs, there were differences in the position of crown and case design. 

        [MEMO] One was sold at 150,000JPY in a used watch store in Ueno, Tokyo Dec.2000) It was the first time for me to actually see it.

        61GS --1968/01 AUTOMATIC GS which was the result of FEEDBACK of technology from astronomical observatory Concours 

        Suwa Seikosha Co : 25jewels Automatic 

        • 6145 A -- GS standard official approval. 36,000bph. 25j DATE 
        • 6146 A -- GS standard official approval. 36,000bph. 25j DAY/DATE 
        • 6185 A -- VFA 36,000bph. 25j DATE 
        • 6155 A -- GS Special standard official approval. 36,000bph. 25j DATE
        • 6156 A -- GS Special standard official approval. 36,000bph. 25j DAY/DATE 
        • 6185 B -- VFA 36,000bph. 25j DATE 
        • 6186 B -- VFA 36,000bph. 25j DAY/DATE 


         VFA (Very Fine Adjusted)

          This GrandSeiko that is one of the best  Seiko automatics. It achieved SEIKO internal GS standard approval. Developed from the base 61SeikoMatic 5. Grand Seiko which fed back by the technology that Suwa cultivated by the astronomical observatory Concours . There is GS mark at a crown. The back lid is GS, not lion. It had an automatic movement which had a hand winding mechanism. The thickness of a machine is 5.6 mm.(45xx, 3.5 mm) and it may seem to be too thick. 

          The Best 61GS was the VFA (Very Fine Adjusted) model. It guaranteed that Mean Monthly Rate 60 Sec for two years. The VFA was specially made GS that was manufactured and adjusted by superior engineers with selected parts. It expanded the ability of 61GS to the limit. Those engineers seem to include participants of the astronomical observatory Concours . 
          Ordinary 61GS is -3+6 and 61GS special is +-3. 


          [MEMO] Two of them were sold at 68,000JPY and 88,000JPY in Ueno (Dec. 2000). Most metal backs are damaged, as far as I know. 

          45GS --1968/09 GS which was loaded with the best quality Movement (hand winding) of SEIKO

          Daini Seikosha Co., Ltd: 25jewels,Manual wind,

          • 4520 A -- GS standard official approval. 36,000bph. 25j NONDATE 
          • 4522 A -- GS standard official approval. 36,000bph. 25j DATE 
          • 4580 -- VFA 36,000bph. 25j DATE 
          • 4520 A -- Astronomical Observatory Chronometer official approval. 36,000bph. 25j NONDATE

            This Grand Seiko benefited from the technology that Daini Seikosha cultivated at the astronomical observatory Concours . Thin movement. With this type of movement, KS Chronometer and KS were made. 

            The back lid is SCREWBACK type and guarantees wate rresistance. 
            Case is SS, GC. 18K is available. 

            This 45 GS includes "Neuchatel astronomical observatory authorization Chronometer 45 Grand Seiko" which is surely a legend. Most of the watches try to acquire "Neuchatel astronomical observatory authorization Chronometer" in those days were not sold on the ordinary market since they lacked durability. They seeked accuracy too much. Same as Formula 1 race cars. But SEIKO sold 73 "Neuchatel astronomical observatory authorization Chronometer 45 Grand Seiko" and showed the level of their technology to the world. 
            And we can't neglect another rare product, V.F.A (Very Fine Adjusted) which is sought by many maniac watch lovers. These watches are manufactured by specialty selected engineers at SEIKO. They used only selected parts and received careful adjustment. It resulted in 2 years guarantee for, Mean Monthly Rate 60 Sec. I have a 45 King Seiko (NON CHRONOMETER) which is ranked at the 45 Movement. I may imagine Potential which 45Movement has when thinks that is now that passed for 30 years, getting the daily less than 2 seconds whether is high Movement of completion degree. Even this 30 years old one has just 2 seconds differences. Considering it, you can imagine the potential of 45 Movement. It was just a perfect movement. 

            [MEMO] Japan CHRONOMETER authorization association was established in 1968 when this 45 GS was released in Japan. However, Grand Seiko got only company internal GS standard, not Chronometer approval even after it. But high rank type of 45, 56, 52 King Seikos received domestic Chronometer official approval. Then there is Chronometer declaration on then. 

            430GS Self-Dater(18000 vibration) and 45KS Chronometer(36000 vibrations) have been measured by "Witschi Watch Expert Electronic Timer". When "posture" of 18000 vibration was changed, vibration varied and it took some seconds till be stable. But 36000 vibration didn't change a lot even though "posture" was changed. There was big difference on it in short. 

            Several were sold at 88,000JPY in Ueno (Dec. 2000) 
            GS, 18K was 350,000JPY at a store in Okachimachi, Tokyo, Jan. 2001)

            Price comparison--+ of-45 serise (1969)  



            45 GRAND SEIKO V.F.A.(SS NONDATE)


            45 GRAND SEIKO (SS NONDATE)




            45 KING SEIKO (SS NONDATE)



            56GS --1970/08 Mass production Co-existing of design and precision Grand Seiko  at the time of change

            Suwa Seikosha Co: 25jewels : Automatic 

            • 5641 A -- GS standard official approval. 28,800bph. 25j DATE 
            • 5645 A -- GS standard official approval. 28,800bph. 25j DAY/DATE 
            • 5646 A -- GS standard official approval. 28,800bph. 25j DAY/DATE 

              Beginning in the 1970s, SEIKO began to use robots in the production process. Some manual processes remained, but compared with other watches, most of the 56GS production was automated. It means that the precision level of 28,800 bph decreased from 36,000 bph, but the reliability level had some reliability. Considering the balance of maintenance, reliability and precision, some people say that 28,800 bph is the best. To be frank, however, I think that 36,000 bph needs a lot of handcrafted man's work and it doesn't fit for mass production in particular, detailed adjustment for it. I feel that there is no dignity on movement because it might be affected by automation. And with advantage of thin product, we now can see the luxurious design for it, like 56 type (4.5 mm) or 61 type (5.6 mm). 61 GS was remained and grade upped as Grand Seiko Special after these 56 GS was released. 
              Thanks to mass production, it is easy for us to get maintenance parts even now, after 30 years. This is the most reliable Grand Seiko currently because we can easily get maintenance parts. 

              But GS disappears with this for awhile. 

              [MEMO] I have seen 5 or 6 of them sold in Ueno, Tokyo (Dec. 2000). I think that price was almost the same as 45GS or 61GS. 
              Gorgious 56GS of 18 K gold was sold for 168,000JPY (originally 191,000JPY brand new) in a used watch storein Shinjuku, Tokyo (Dec. 2000).Considering the material, this was a reasonable price.

              QuartzGS --1988


              9SGS --1998/11 Wayne Lee has this GS

              Seiko Instruments Inc(Daini): 26jewels, Automatic 

              • 9S51 -- GS standard official approval. 28,800bph. 26j NONDATE 
              • 9S55 -- GS standard official approval. 28,800bph. 26j DATE 

                1998/11/28.The legendary mechanical type Grand Seiko was revived after a 24 years absence. Using computer technology, a high precision gear was designed. It realized high conduction efficiency more than the same class as 45GS astronomical observatory chronometer. With adoption of Dia Flex, Power Reserve spring was realized for50 hours(38 hours for 45 GS) With regard to the finish of the movement, we can see the thoroughness and pursuit of high-quality even for unseen parts. Conscious of COSC chronometer standard of the present age, they set higher standard for NEW GS and this watch has passed it. It has 30 years parts guarantee, conscious of the world trend for the highest-grade watches. Many durable materials were developed for this watch. Then, Seiko lovers wants "36,000bph Hi-Beat GS" at the same time. We also want to revive Chronometer declaration GS, beyond the concept of GS company internal standard. Seiko, you can do it! 

                3. Reference 

                Chronometer appeal

                In the middle of 1960's, European Chronometer Official Association appealed that Seiko shouldn't use the name Chronometer. Because of that, Seiko was unable to use the name of Chronometer. With this appeal, Seiko, Daini Seikosha and Suwa established stricter group internal standard for quality which was called GS standard. Seiko watches which had this Chronometer declaration began to be use the name of Grand Seiko according to company internal GS standard. (62GS,44GS) At the same time, the Japan chronometer approval organization was organized, and officially approval started in 1969. (however, because of rise of quartz it was closed in 1983) Chronometer of 45,56,52 King Seiko did PASS this official approval. 

                About astronomical observatory Chronometer Concours 

                From 1964, Daini Seikosha Co.,Ltd and Suwa Seikosha Co has participated in a department of Neuchatel at astronomical observatory Concours .

                In the first participation, Daini got 153th place grade and Suwa got 144th grade. Order is suddenly raised afterwards. Only three years later, Daini got 4,5,7,8th and Suwa acquired 12th in 1967. With regard to the series prize, Omega won the best, Daini got the second and Suwa got the third prize. But the Concours was stopped suddenly by the year. The contents of Concours was an examination of astronomical observatory Chronometer standard precision for 45 days. Watches passed that examination became certificate "astronomical observatory authorization Chronometers". Each watch manufacturer submitted special movement produced only for the Concours . 
                Most of them were not good for commercial market as they were too high precision, not durable. 
                But this 45GS was marketed after it passed this astronomical observatory Chronometer (only 73 units of 100 were PASSed)) 
                There were only two companies who could sell watches passed astronomical observatory authorization Chronometer in those days. ---Seiko and Giraud Peregaux. 

                4. At last 

                I greatly appreciate the assistance of Mr. Koji Kubota, head of Seiko Museum. He told me, in detail, many precious stories about Seiko GS production in 1960-1970. Another great mentor is Mr. Wayne Lee. He showed me the wonders of the Seiko GS world. Without his thoughtful guidance and suggestions, I wouldn't even think of writing this note. Thank you very much again.Id like to thank Mr.Jacob Aalfs to edit this Seiko History. I cant thank him enough for his kindness. 

                 5. References 

                THE SEIKO BOOK,Tokuma Shoten 1999/5

                Domestic watch Series No.1,3,5,9 Tombo Shuppan, Yoshio Nagao,Toshiki Mori 1996/6 

                6. Link 

                Grand Seiko official site