After having a very positive experience with my Seiko 2220s recently, I decided to go down the rabbit hole a little further and attempt to pursue what was once my vintage holy grails, the Seiko 45 and 61 caliber watches. I am well aware of these 2 calibers right at the start of my watch journey given that vintage watches were a lot more affordable than their modern counterparts. However things changed along the way and I started to collect the Seiko 4S watches instead, as they are the only known modern incarnation of vintage Seiko movements to-date. Having somewhat scratched that very expensive itch, I now turn back to the vintage movements.
The interesting thing about these 2 movements is that they are respectively the pinnacle of the respective Seiko companies, Daini and Suwa, and each represents a different winding mechanism. Interestingly enough, both beats at 36,000 bph when most movements in the same era are contented with beating at 21,600 bph.
Handwinding from Daini. Can be found in both KS and GS.
Some might argue that 52 was the pinnacle from Daini, but the 45 is at least on par if not superior to the 52.
“In 1968, the same year Seiko swept the board at the Geneva chronometer competition, Daini Seikosha submitted 103 of its cal. 4520 to the Neuchâtel Observatory for chronometer certification. These were high beat movements running at 36,000 bph, just like the prize winning chronometers. 73 movements passed and were certified as observatory chronometers.”
Price comparison 45 series (from Seiya’s blog):
ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY CHRONOMETER 180,000JPY
45 GRAND SEIKO V.F.A.(SS NONDATE) 85,000JPY
45 GRAND SEIKO (SS NONDATE) 27,000-29,000JPY
45 KING SEIKO CHRONOMETER (SS NONDATE) 20,000JPY
45 KING SEIKO (SS NONDATE) 15,000-16,000JPY
Variants (taken from Watchwiki)
- 4520A – GS standard official approval, No date
- 4522A – GS standard official approval, Date
- 4580 – V.F.A., Date
- 4520A – Astronomical Observatory Chronometer official approval, No date
Automatic from Suwa. Only found in GS. These calibers never took part in the astronomical Observatory Chronometer certification unlike the calibers 45, but was developed from the lessons that Seiko learnt from participating in these trials. The V.F.A. models especially had extra attention paid to them, with selected parts and special care taken in adjusting them.
Variants (taken from Watchwiki)
“Very Fine Adjusted” (“V.F.A.”) models boasted accuracy of one minute per month for the first two years of ownership.
There were seven 61GS models:
- 6145A (1968-1970) – GS standard official approval, date only
- 6146A (1968-1970) – GS standard official approval, day/date
- 6185A (1969-1972) – V.F.A., date only
- 6155A (1970-1973) – GS Special standard official approval, date only
- 6156A (1970-1973) – GS Special standard official approval, day/date
- 6185B (1972?-1975?) – V.F.A., date only
- 6186B (1972-1975) – V.F.A., day/date
Timing Specifications for GS in general (movement independent) (from Seiya’s blog)
My KS 45-7000
I grabbed a decent sample of a super clean 45KS, with no day/date, which is just the way I like it because of the symmetry. These are generally harder to find than the day/date, as most consumers prefer the convenience of a day/date complication.
Also the dials tend to show signs of water stains or rust due to their age. My dial was also stained but thankfully they are right at the edges and only in 2 spots. Blink and you’ll miss them. I would not put as much emphasis on the condition of the crystal because crystals can be easily swapped for generic ones, which was exactly what I did.
Secondly, my gold medallion located at the caseback is also in very good condition with only a tiny fleck missing. This gold coin is usually missing entirely, badly chipped or eroded in most examples. There have been speculation on the make up of these gold coins, but based on several examples I have seen so far, it is not solid gold throughout but likely to be a layer of gold over base metal. Over the years, I speculate that somehow, the base metal managed to corrode and drop off together with its gold layering OR the gold layer was eroded exposing the base metal below. Either way, gold is supposed to be pretty inert so I have no idea what exactly happened that caused so many of these gold medallions to be in such bad condition these days.
To conclude, you should be willing to pay a premium for a clean dial and intact medallion. Day/date complications are a matter of your personal preference. However I would strongly recommend that you buy the best example that you can afford. This would also make it easier to sell subsequently without too big a loss.
As usual with all my vintage watches, I brought it down to my watch guy for an overhaul. The amplitude before servicing was around 160 degrees! Surprisingly, even after servicing the amplitude remained the same. This was much worse performance than the slightly younger 2220s (mid 200s to high 200s degrees) from the same decade. I also had the opportunity to test my friend’s KS 4502 (with a date complication) which he also wanted to send in for servicing, and the amplitude results were similar! In comparison, Christian over at watchguy serviced a similar 4520 GS, and the amplitude was 230 degrees after servicing.
Based on just these 2 samples, I highly suspect that this was due to the higher beat rate that caused additional wear and tear as compared to the same era 2220s but which beats only at 28,800bph versus Cal 45’s 36,000 bph. This was also emphasized by the fact that subsequent to the the 45 and 61 calibers, Seiko no longer produced a 36K movement until the era of the modern GS. They were probably aware of the fact of the high wear and tear of 36K movements, and opted for the sweet spot of the 28.8K movements. Of course, I’m certain that there are other caliber 45s in the market that are in much better condition due to regular maintenance, lack of use or just simply good luck.
As such, in my personal opinion, it would be advisable for vintage collectors to target a KS or GS with a movement that beats at 8bps or slower, for a higher probability that your movement will still be in decent shape, unless your targeted 10bps movement had been regularly serviced over the past decades. My opinion is to get a 56 KS or GS as the 56 was mass produced by machines, replacing the hand made 45/61. As such, the 56 watches tend to be in better shape, thinner and many more likely survived throughout the decades.
This was something that my wife observed when I was busy taking photos of my KS 45 for this post. By itself, one would not notice that the dial has aged because it looks as silver as the day it was produced, however, as I was doing the comparison shot below, I noticed that my 45 KS dial had actually turned a nice creamy/off white!
Now I have to say that this was in comparison to my friend’s 4502 KS while is basically the same watch with a date complication produced in the same decade. My own Historical KS SCVN001 is in the middle, and it is the most white of the 3. I would love to make the assumption that the SCVN001 was completely representative of a NOS KS 45 from the 60s/70s, however due to improvement in manufacturing techniques, this is highly unlikely. On the other hand, it does make a very compelling comparison. LOL.
While I was at it, I wanted to showcase the slightly differences in the Grammer of Design, Seiko’s design ethos, as it evolved in the 60s and 70s.
Now I was aware that the SCVN001 followed the case designs of the 56KS. Now the 56 KS was the second last KS to be produced and by then the Grammer of Design was pretty much evolved. 1 clear difference between the 2 was that the lugs of the 45KS is very much shorter compared to that of the SCVN001, which was more pointed. Another subtle difference was that the sides of the SCVN001 are slimmer in profile compared to the 45KS. As such in comparison to the 56KS, a 45KS will appear to be slightly shorter and stouter.
However make no mistake about this, a 45KS design is still very much classic Seiko and very handsome in its own right. In fact, many of my collector friends actually prefer the older Grammer of Design compared to the evolved Grammer of Design (aka. GoD) of the latter KS/GS as they appear too pointed and “edgy”.
I am not familiar with the intricate differences between the different KS crowns and which one did SCVN001 emulate, but you can tell the difference between the 45KS crown which appears to be “bold” compared to the thinner font found in the SCVN001 crown.
In contrast the case back medallion of the SCVN001 appears to be in “bold” compared to that of the 45KS.
The 45KS is one of the most desirable vintage to get given that it is the base movement of probably Seiko’s best movement and is cheaper than its GS equivalent. The allure of it being hand-winding only is another plus point who people who love hand crankers. Also as mentioned earlier, it follows the design standards of Seiko’s GoD, yet might appeal to others who do not like their watch to be too “pointy” and “edgy”. However, where movement health is concerned, one should be more careful as the super high beat rate of the 45 do cause excess wear and tear compared to its slower beat cousins.
The 45KS can still be easily found for around USD 200-400 depending on the condition of the dial and medallion, so do buy the best you can afford and enjoy it in good health!