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4420-9000 & 44GS L.E




Taro Tanaka, Seiko’s first hired graduate of a College Design Program came up with design rules which eventually came to be known as the “Grammar of Design” at Seiko. He wanted Seiko watches to sparkle brilliantly when on display and without any distortions.


  1. Perfectly flat surfaces and angles for cases, dials, hands, indexes
  2. Two Dimensional faceted curves for the bezel
  3. All distortion should be eliminated from the dial, hands, indexes and case, the finishing of the dial and case should be a mirror finish so it shines and sparkles
  4. No more round cases, a unique case design

And which watch would be lucky enough to be the first to get the “Grammar of Design” treatment? The 44GS :) (4420-9000) in 1967.



Only Grand and King Seiko’s benefited from this as the new case design required very expensive and labour intensive polishing and finishing. This is what makes the 44GS so special along with it being the first Grand Seiko made by the Daini (now Seiko Instruments Shizukuishi) factory and the first time the GS logo appeared at 6.

The 44GS L.E brings all those special features back to us in 2013 and impeccable Zaratsu finishing in every way.









4520-8000 and Neuchatel & Geneva Observatory Competition

The singular focus for Seiko under the Grand Seiko banner was the pursuit of accuracy and where every form and function of the watch works in harmony for the pursuit of accuracy. Post 1966 very finely mirror finished cases, dials, hands and indexes also became a priority. Unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world (not until the 2000s) Grand Seiko never pursued complications such as minute repeaters or chronographs but just focused on creating mechanical watches that were as accurate as technology and skill would allow.


Neuchatel Observatory


Geneva Observatory

Therefore entering into accuracy trials held by different Observatories in Switzerland was inevitable for Grand Seiko and both manufactures of Daini and Suwa would compete to outdo each other with the ultimate goal of being the first group under the Grand Seiko banner that created the most accurate watches in the world.

As per KIH’s excellent article the “Grand Seiko VFA Story” regarding Grand Seiko’s participation in the Accuracy Observatory Trials at Neuchatel and in 1968 in Geneva:

1964
Daini: Zero example evaluated*, Best of the submitted examples - 153th, award – none
Suwa: Zero example evaluated, Best of the submitted examples – 144th, award – none
(Top: Zenith, Series (total of the best three examples) Top: Omega, Second: Omega)

1965
Daini: 2 examples evaluated, Best of the submitted examples - 124th, award – Series 6th
Suwa: 1 example evaluated, Best of the submitted examples – 125th, award – none
(Top: Zenith, Series (total of the best three examples) Top: Zenith, Second: Omega)

1966
Daini: 23 examples evaluated, Best of the submitted examples - 9th , award – Series 3rd
Suwa: 9 examples evaluated, Best of the submitted examples – 104th, award – Series 6th
(Top: Zenith, Series (total of the best three examples) Top: Omega, Second: Omega)

1967
Daini: 36 examples evaluated, Best of the submitted examples - 4th , award – Series 2nd
Suwa: 26 examples evaluated, Best of the submitted examples – 12th, award – Series 3rd
(Top: Omega, Series (total of the best three examples) Top: Omega, Second: Daini SEIKO)

(*”evaluated” means the score was within 20th place (there were many same score examples).

1968
After Suwa submitted its competition examples, Neuchatel declared on 26[SUP]th[/SUP] April, 198 that the Competition would be suspended (later it was announced that the SEIKO examples dominated the Competition by taking 2nd, and 4[SUP]th[/SUP] to 8th places). So both SEIKO teams submitted to Geneva Observatory instead. Best of the submitted examples came 4th (1st to 3rd were quartz movements), in fact from 4th to 10th were all SEIKO, which means that SEIKO movements dominated from the Top to 7th place in the mechanical watch movement division. Total wrist watch division of course, 1st place.

**************************
In just 4 years Seiko Suwa managed to move from 144[SUP]th[/SUP] to 1[SUP]st[/SUP] place. An astonishing feat by any standard.

Daini went on to further improve its movements and had 73 Cal. 4520 movements and 153 Cal. 4580 movements Certified by the Neuchatel Observatory which issued “Observatoire Astronomique et Chronometrique Bulletin de Marche” Certificates for each movement over the period from 1968 to 1970. Thereafter 73 of the Cal. 4520 movements were cased in Yellow Gold Cases known as the Seiko Astronomical Observatory and sold to the public in 1970 then for just USD 1,800 each.







Although a Period relevant design for me personally it is not to my taste and I much prefer the “Grammer of Design” inspired case of the 44GS and this is where the Grand Seiko 4520-8000 shines. The 4520-8000, made by Daini in 1968/69 has the same Calibre as in the Yellow Gold Seiko Astronomical Observatory watches with the pedigree of the award winning movements of the Neuchatel and Geneva Observatory trials. Making the 4520-8000 an important and very special model from Grand Seiko.
















6186-8000 VFA (Very Finely Adjusted in Six Positions) & God of Adjustment

What makes the 6186-8000 VFA so special? Well it is the culmination of a dream to be the best in the world and the pinnacle of what dedication and hard work can achieve, from the lowly ranks of 144[SUP]th[/SUP] for the Seiko Suwa (now Seiko Epson) factory in 1964 at the Neuchatel Observatory Competition to 1[SUP]st[/SUP] place for mechanical watches in 1968 (first 3 places went to Quartz movements) in the Geneva Observatory Competitions and not stopping there but pushing even further to achieve even more accuracy from there and creating the VFA watches before Quartz watches completely took over.



The Grand Seiko team at Suwa didn’t stop in 1968 and say ok guys we’ve beaten the Swiss and now we should just chillax and take it easy but they kept pushing even further. It was to be the last Hurrah and the best Mechanical watch ever made by Grand Seiko and by the best engineers and craftsmen they had.





















This is what makes the VFA so special. It reminds me that it’s never over, even when you’ve achieved everything, you keep on persevering to be better.

What makes this particular VFA even more special is that it has been adjusted by a Master Watchmaker and Technician known in Japan as “God of Adjustment”.



Mr. Akira Ohira was part of the team that restarted the Grand Seiko brand in 1997/98 and was responsible for assembling and adjustment of all the Grand Seiko pieces. When the VFA was sold in the early 1970s it was advertised to have an accuracy of +-3 seconds per day. I had the watch checked out by my watchmaker who is Swiss Trained by AP and JLC. He was very sceptical when I handed the VFA over to check out even though I told him the history of the watch and about Mr. Ohira. A week later he gave me the watch back saying the VFA astounded him and his colleagues. He couldn’t believe it had a mean accuracy of + 1 second per day! He thought there was something wrong with his instrument so repeated the test on three different machines :), a testament to amazing movement of the VFA and to the God of Adjustment to bring this level of performance out of a 41 year old watch.

S

Special Thanks, Credit and Picture Sources: KIH “Grand Seiko VFA Story” and Others, SJX WatchesbySJX, Ninja01 and Dr Seiko from Seikoholics, A Journey in Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko, Google Images
 

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I don't mean to offend anyone, I get the quality, the fit and finish and the high beat, but the designs don't speak to me - at a glance they look like many other Seikos or other Japanese watches.
 

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How can you say that? Seiko is the master of dial designs which only come alive in realtime as the light passes through them. On static images they look like any other. But live, they are like nothing else.
 

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Magnificent pieces of engineering and art.

Japanese design is some of the best in the world. If you like woodworking then look up Sashimono Woodworking or even Wakasa-nuri (lacquered) Chopsticks

I have a great respect for their arts and even some parts of their culture. refreshingly unusual but ironically peaceful. I am so glad that I investigated their culture and overcame the negative opinions I had about it.


chopsticks
 

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Great write-up. Thanks for taking the time to put this all together.


I don't mean to offend anyone, I get the quality, the fit and finish and the high beat, but the designs don't speak to me - at a glance they look like many other Seikos or other Japanese watches.
No offense taken. The fact they look like other models now is kind of one point of the article. It's those first three watches that started the well known and recognizable dial/case designs Seiko now uses. The design philosophy was not in place prior to Tanaka-san.
 

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Great summary of several topics. Excellent photographs. You also emphasized a key thing that a lot of Seiko fanatics seem to miss - Seiko isn't magic and somehow perfect. Seiko makes mistakes but they usually succeed in the end through deliberate planning and a lot of work. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank You for your kind words, all credit goes to the various sources and this great forum in helping me compile this post.

Ninja01 from Seikoholics was kind enough to indicate a mistake in the following sentence:


"When the VFA was sold in the early 1970s it was advertised to have an accuracy of +-3 seconds per day."


According to the database information by Kobayashi Seiya (KSeiya) and to quote Ninja01:


"Well, close, but no cigar!! It was actually a more impressive +-2 seconds & that started in 1968 according to my info!"


According to the KSeiya table the GS VFA was the most accurate movement ever manufactured by GS Pre-1976/77.


S
 

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Great write up.

I read this right before breaking out the cooking knives.

The Japanese are true craftsman at many things, but they make the best knives. Off topic a bit, I know, but reading this made me think of Japanese craftsmanship.

I also really like their cameras!

 

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what about their cars??
 
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