Before Heritage Was Cool – an Overview of Seiko’s Incredible Historical Collection from 2000

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Modern reissues of historical watches have been the trend of the past few years. This year’s Baselworld was perhaps the zenith of the vintage-inspired craze, with a large number of heritage releases coming out across all market segments, from brands both big and small.

Seiko, not immune to market demands, has also played the heritage game, reissuing watches based on or inspired by, to various degrees, historical counterparts. For example, in the brand’s final release of 2016, Seiko issued the lovely Presage Automatic 60th Anniversary, a watch acknowledging the 60th anniversary of its very first automatic watch. Of course, there were notable differences between the modern and vintage models; the power reserve indicator was in a different position on the two watches due to the differing architecture of their respective movements. Another attempt by Seiko was in the affordable, vintage-themed Recraft series powered by the ubiquitous 7S/4R movements, a line inspired by, but not actually based on any vintage references. And at Baselworld this year we saw Seiko tapping their archives with the release of the SLA017, a 62MAS homage, and three watches from Grand Seiko honoring the very first Grand Seiko from 1960.

But before this craze ever hit the peak we’re seeing now, Seiko, way back in 2000, did something really cool with their history. Now, let’s imagine that just for a moment we could turn back the hands of time, go back 17 years with exactly JPY 1,735,000, or roughly $15,863 today. What could that get you? Well, nothing short of seven (yes, seven!) shockingly accurate reproductions of Seiko classics deemed worthy by the brand to be reissued.

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It’s worth noting that this was before the fandom and appreciation that Seiko commands today, and this reissue was not done due to any particular demand from the market. In fact, if anything, some of the seven–which were all released in the span of one year–are probably not highly appreciated by the market today. This cements my observation that this collection was released as a celebration of the turn of the millennium by Seiko without the expectation that these would be bestsellers in their time. Even today, many Seiko lovers might not be aware of these watches.

To top it all off, there was even a storage cabinet for buyers who had all seven watches. This storage cabinet is so rare that I have never see it for sale online.

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As these were meant to be re-issues of significant watches from Seiko’s history, hard choices had to be made, and no doubt certain references that collectors today covet and would argue should be included were left out. Among these are the iconic 6139 chronographs, the world’s first quartz analog chronograph (ref. 7AX8), and the first-ever watch driven by body heat alone.

Among the seven that were included, however, I would say that the two divers are the most frequently discussed and seen on the secondary market (side note: they were how I discovered the Seiko Historical Collection 2000 in the first place). The other models are not as frequently discussed nor put up for sale.

Below is a rundown of each watch in the collection.

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SBDX003 8L35 Diver’s 300M – 200,000 JPY ($1,828); released June 2000; limited to 500 pieces

Not much needs to be said about this iconic dive watch as most are already familiar with the SBDX001–otherwise known as the MM300, which is the non-limited edition variant of this release. Both pay homage to the 6159-7001 diver, a rare and important Seiko dive watch with a high-beat movement first released in 1965. This limited edition variant only came paired with a rubber strap, unlike the MM300 which comes with both a rubber strap and a metal bracelet.

As I wrote above, the SBDX003 is one of the most sought after watches from the Historical Collection.

SCVM001 4S28 Laurel – 100,000 JPY ($914); released July, 2000; limited to 1,000 pieces

This is a very interesting watch in the sense that the “Laurel” branding had actually been used to launch a series of mechanical watches in the mid-1990s (check them out here), and it also recently inspired some modern releases through the Presage series.

However, this re-edition follows the historic Laurel from the early 1900s fairly accurately, down to the fixed wire lugs and diminutive diameter. This is probably the smallest wristwatch I ever owned, measuring no more than 32mm across with a fixed lug size of 13mm. It can only be worn with a World War I-era bund strap. It comes with an enamel dial with neatly printed hour markers. Keen-eyed collectors might notice that the 12-hour marker is black and not red as per the historic Laurel. Seiko subsequently released different models of Laurel-inspired models (although they were not branded as such) with the red 12.

SCVN001 4S15 King Seiko – 150,000 JPY ($1,371); released August 2000; limited to 2,000 pieces

Modern watch collectors may not be aware that King Seiko was actually a competitor to Grand Seiko back in the 1960s and ’70s, with the two operating as separate subsidiaries (our very own Sean Lorentzen covered that history here). Though certain King Seikos shared movements with Grand Seiko and were also Chronometer-certified, the friendly internal competition between the two brands resulted in different and, one might ultimately argue, better products from both branches of the Japanese giant. Seiya-san, the renowned Seiko online seller and collector, has long argued that the 52 King Seiko, powered by the caliber 52, was superior to the Grand Seiko at that point in time, not necessarily in terms of accuracy, but in the overall quality and build.

The caliber 52 was subsequently resurrected in the 1990s as the 4S family of movements (you can read more about that here) and could be found in mid-range Seikos up until 2000, where it was moved upwards to power Credor and Brightz watches. The reason behind this move, or so rumor says, is that the 6R movement was finally developed from the basic 7S movement, and that it was designated for use in mid-range Seikos.Seiko Historical Collection - 7Interestingly enough, Seiko chose to bring back a modern interpretation of a King Seiko, and not a Grand Seiko. This, however, might be due to the fact that the modern Grand Seiko range was launched in 1998, and Seiko did not see the need to confuse consumers with a relaunch of a product that, to casual watch enthusiasts, was only released two years prior.

Given the fact that this is the only King Seiko released in modern times–using a period appropriate movement (the 4S15 simply being a rebadged caliber 52) and done with historically accurate case finishing (read about Seiko’s Grammer of Design)–the SCVN001 is a very valuable watch indeed.

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SCVR001 8L34 Railway Watch – 250,000 JPY ($2,284); released September 2000; limited to 3,000 pieces

I find this to be the most interesting and curious release of the Historical Collection. This Railway Watch, as it was dubbed, is based on an example from 1929. It’s powered by the 8L34 movement, which is the only manual variant of the 8L movement that I am aware of, and it’s also the only model that uses this particular variant. Furthermore, the Railway Watch is encased in sterling silver and has an enamel dial, both of which made this the third-most expensive watch in the collection. Yet, it also enjoyed the highest number of production pieces (3,000) compared to the rest in the line, which ranged from 500 to 2,000 units. Perhaps pocket watches were enjoying a revival in Japan at that point in time.Seiko Historical Collection - 8Furthermore, I also find it intriguing that the two manual watches in this collection, the Laurel and the Railway watch, use two different manual movements. Perhaps this was done to show off the variety of calibers Seiko was able to produce, or perhaps it was a way for Seiko to differentiate between the historical specifications of their predecessors. Given that railway watches needed to be extremely accurate over 24-hours in actual practice, it might very well be the reason for Seiko using the 8L movement as it is more tightly spec’d at +15/-10 seconds per day. By comparison, the 4S movement in the Laurel is spec’d to +25/-15 seconds a day.

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SQBR017 7C17 Pocket Watch – 35,000 JPY ($320); released October 2000; limited to 1,000 pieces

This was a surprising addition to the collection, but it’s undeniably cool. According to this Japanese sales post, this watch was originally manufactured in 1939 at the request of the Imperial Household Ministry. The Empress bestowed this watch upon disabled veterans and it was said to be the first domestic “touch pocket watch.”

As you may have guessed, this watch was designed for the visually impaired and tells the time by touch. There is no crystal covering the dial so that owners could trace their fingers over the markers on the dial.

SCQZ002 9F61 Quartz Astron – 700,000 JPY ($6,395); released November 2000, limited to 500 pieces

The historical Astron was the first commercially available quartz wristwatch released on Christmas day (no kidding!) in 1969, which was also the year that saw the release of the world’s first automatic chronographs. At that time, the watch–which was solid gold–cost as much as a small car in Japan. Similarly, the reissue, which also came in a solid gold case, was the most expensive in the collection, despite being powered by a quartz movement, albeit an extremely accurate one spec’d to +/- 5 seconds a year.

Subsequently, in 2009, Seiko released yet another variation of the Astron (limited to just 200 units) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of the Astron. For that release, Seiko went with a high-intensity titanium alloy case, which made it more affordable.

SBDX005 8L35 Diver’s 600M – 300,000 JPY ($2,740); released December 2000; limited to 1,000 pieces

Similar to the first watch discussed in this post, most Seiko lovers should be familiar with the SBDX005, which is the limited edition of the popular SBDX011, otherwise known as the “Emperor Tuna” due to its size and heft. The Tuna has a rich history within Seiko’s diver lineup–which you can read more about here–and this release pulled on the heritage of the foundational 6159-7010, also known as the “Grandfather Tuna.”

Seiko Historical Collection - 11One difference of note between the SBXD011 and the SBDX005 is that the former has an upped water resistance of 1,000m, while the latter is water resistant to 600m (though that’s no small feat).


With this lead-in article to a much overlooked collection by Seiko, we will be diving deeper into some specific pieces within this line in future articles. Watch this space for more.

Image credit:

Featured image: user harryoboy via watchbus.com; catalogue scans courtesy of Stefan Molin (mollewatch.com)

 

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ZQ’s a die-hard Seiko lover, an obsession first sparked by the purchase of a Seiko Orange Monster, the original 7S classic. ZQ has yet to find his way out of the Seiko rabbit hole, dabbling in both vintage and modern, but his love extends to watches of all kinds. This isn’t ZQ’s first foray into the writing about watches, and he’s excited to bring his bank of knowledge to worn&wound. ZQ currently resides in Singapore with his family.
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  • epps720

    Lot’s a great information in this article that I was never aware of but can you please do the reader a favor and include the USD conversions? It takes away from the readers experience when I have to consult to Google to determine how much 300,000 JPY is. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I updated the article to include USD conversions. -Ilya

      • epps720

        Perfect, thank you!

  • chenpofu

    I have been looking for that KS for a few years, saw one on a Chinese site a couple of years ago, but seems a bit sketchy.

  • Ben Sanderson

    Very interesting, good read.

  • Molle

    It would have been great to have the whole collection including the box. As for the pictures I actually think they are from the scans I did many years ago of the brochure I have. Can be found here: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B7m8_X1IE8PWYjViNTkyNDctN2UxYS00MWUwLWFlZDktMGFhNTA4NjgwZTA1&hl=en&authkey=CJPD15MP

  • Joe

    Great article.

    Even as a Seiko fan, I’d never heard of these watches, let alone seen them up for sale anywhere.

  • Никита

    Wonderful collector’s box indeed

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