During one of my long monthly flights back home, I took the opportunity to examine in detail some of the old Seiko ads and catalogues from the early 1970s that I downloaded from here when the watches powered by my latest favourite vintage Seiko movement (2220) were still in production.
Perhaps it was due to my smoldering interest in vintage Seikos or a nagging suspicion from seeing the serialised movement plate on my 2220, but what I found did surprise me to say the least.
Another example taken from the internet.
Before I discuss my findings, let’s put things in perspective. The Seiko 2220s were in production alongside many of the popular vintage watches today such as the 6138/9 chronographs, the 36K Lord Marvel (powered by the 5740C caliber), the Lord-matics, the Bell-matics, the 61 divers, and of course the ubiquitous 61 Grand Seikos and 56 King Seikos. Please take note that this was the start of the heyday of the quartz revolution, and many quartz pieces cost much more than their lowly perceived mechanical counterparts. Until now.
But let’s leave the quartz pieces aside for the moment and concentrate on the mechanical babes.
Let’s assume that the prices of vintage pieces these days are determined by the demand and supply of the market. The average Seiko 2220 can be purchased for around USD 100 usually, without box, papers nor original strap as most of the 2220s came with leather straps which would have disintegrated by now. I have paid up to USD 150 for a decent example with a rare dial design, but that’s an exception rather than the norm.
One does not need to camp out on eBay or watch forums to know that most of the other well known and popular vintage Seikos mentioned above costs at least double that of the asking price of a regular 2220. Hence I can safely conclude that the demand for 2220s are lower than that of the other vintage favourites, and/or the supply is high. However in my opinion, it is likely driven by low demand than than a high supply, for reasons I shall explain later.
Some reasons could be due to the ever-green popularity of divers, historical significance of the chronographs (first automatic chronograph and first watch in space), first Seiko movement to beat at 10bps (Suwa 5740C), etc.
However it is clear that the asking price of vintage pieces today rarely if ever corresponds to the recommended retail price of the vintage pieces when they were first released. How many of you readers actually even know the recommended retail price of your vintage loves?
From the watch manufacturer perspective (this is just my assumption), the retail price usually reflects the combination of the movement grade, the material used and the watch design, as the selling price is usually a certain multiple of the manufacturing price after taking into account transportation, marketing and other general costs. Some exceptions of course exist in limited edition releases where a premium is paid for a certain design quirk and limited supply.
Picture taken from PuristPro
Certainly, there might be other reasons for a manufacturer to set prices for reasons other than what I have mentioned, but within a manufacturer’s own stable of products, the pricing should generally reflect the reasons I provided earlier.
I was very surprised to find out where the 2220 stood in relation to its more famous brethren back when they were sold in the 1970s given their asking prices today compared to other vintages.
Prices stated below are as per the recommended retail prices in JPY in 1975.
Seiko 2220s (JPY 18,000 – 23,000)
Differences in prices are probably reflected in the dial design and case material used.
The price of the 2220 were also not cheap back when it was introduced and probably explained the relatively low supply of 2220s compared to the other watches that provided more complications or as I call it “bang for the buck”! Read on for prices of the more complicated Seikos released at the same time.
Seiko LordMatic Special (JPY 27,000 – 28,000)
Not surprisingly, the LordMatic Special are slightly more expensive than the 2220s. Both movements are from Daini, but the 52 is an automatic with handwinding and comes with day/date complications compared to the plainer handwinding only 2220.
Seiko 6138/9 Chronographs (JPY 18,000 – 24,000)
These watches need no introduction! The ever popular chronographs from Seiko sells for quite a bit these days. Corresponding to their popularity and demand, it is not surprising that there are plenty of frankens/fakes around.
Note that they sells in the same range as the Seiko 2220s, but these are automatic column wheel chronographs with day and date and metal bracelets, compared to the 2220s which are handwinding only movements without a second hand and generally comes with a leather strap.
Seiko 61 divers and Worldtimer
Not surprisingly the 61 tuna is a LOT more expensive due to its technical features, but the 6105 diver and Worldtimer is surprisingly in the same price range as the 2220s.
Seiko 5740C Lord Marvels (JPY 14,000 – 17,000)
These were Seiko’s first movements to beat at 36,000 bph at a time when 21,600 are the norm even for Swiss companies. These were also the flagship of Seiko before they introduced the King Seiko and Grand Seiko watches. Notice that the most expensive gold plated Lord Marvel sells for less than the cheapest 2220. A good tear down of the excellent 5740C movement can be found here.
Grand Seiko and King Seikos (JPY 33,000 – 110,000)
Adding in the prices of the 56 KS and 61 GS VFA for comparison. Not surprisingly, these blow all the previous watches out of the water with their price.
This is pretty much in line with my supposition previously that the 2220 was not a lowly run of the mill movement given that some of them had serialised movements and this exercise in examining the vintage ads and catalogues proves me right.
For example, in terms of complications, the much much simpler 2220 sells for as much as a 6138/9 chronograph and the 6117 Worldtimer, which likely implied that the difference in cost is due to the movement quality and dial work of the 2220s, offset by the cost of the chronograph case which should be pricier given the extra buttons, gaskets, steel used and for the GMT, probably the internal bezel and 24 hours hand.
Another telling example is in comparison to the Lord Marvels which sells for less despite running at a higher beat rate and having an additional seconds hand. The difference is likely due to the dial work of the 2220 again and perhaps the attention paid to the 2220 movement. I have yet to see a serialised 5740C movement.
Given that the Seiko 2220s are considered a high beat movement in its time, usually found with gorgeous dials, easy to maintain (only 2 hands), low cost (for now), and low probability of frankens/fakes, its certainly makes me wonder why it did not get more recognition from WIS.
Such is the fickleness and banality of the vintage watch collecting fraternity.
How many more vintage Seiko movement gems are out there waiting to be rediscovered?