Update: The auction is not cancelled. We reached out to Bonhams: see their response at the end of the article.

We take a look at a few pieces from the cancelled online Bonhams Seiko auction. It wasn’t pretty.

In this day and age of negativity online, you might think that we get a lot of joy from breaking apart an auction. Let me be clear: we don’t. But when something was this bad, we need to learn from it. After all, we write a lot about Seiko and especially vintage Seiko. We love the brand and its voluminous catalog. We’re not sure how this auction ever came to light, but it had the opportunity to cause a lot of havoc. Hey, it was even featured on some other prominent watch sites! And two other points are worth mentioning. First, our header image is one of our watches and not from the cancelled sale. Second, take a look at our recent video on all the vintage Seiko divers. We made it as an overview reference and while it may not be 100% perfect, we think it’s pretty close.

Making waves was making a mess

This Bonhams Seiko auction called “Making Waves” proclaimed to be the first auction dedicated to all things Seiko. It was to run until August 25th. Today, while I was writing the article and downloading pictures, all the links suddenly expired. It seems that online commentary and, likely, phone calls culminated with Bonhams choosing to do the right thing and shelving the whole auction. Embarrassing? Sure. But, it would’ve been far worse to let this collection of Frankenwatches run for another few weeks. The backlash would have been bloody.

Credibility all around would have suffered

As I said, we love vintage Seiko around here, and we get excited when Seiko comes to auction because it happens so rarely. The international set of high-end watch collectors continues to focus on the Swiss output, and that’s fine, but Seiko (and other Japanese makers for that matter) also produced sought after pieces. The lack of overall interest has suppressed prices, which is good for us, but I’d still like to see a little more recognition. The Bonhams Seiko auction may have given the anti-Seiko community more ammunition. As many would complain about the typical side-street watchmaker fixes on these watches. And it would’ve hurt Bonhams big time.

Seriously, pulling together a good or even borderline excellent array of Seikos isn’t so hard. And there is plenty of factual info out there to debunk the shoddy pieces. Somehow that wasn’t done here, and I’m sure Monday will make for some interesting meetings in London and Hong Kong. What it does underscore is a lesson that we preach time and time again. Namely, auction houses cannot be trusted to vet watches. They don’t do the job on million-dollar lots, and they clearly don’t do it for €150 lots. Do your homework or risk being very very sorry.

A few pieces for learning sake

This collection of watches is said to have come from a prominent collector. We found some of the pieces online in some forums from years back, but maybe they’ve changed hands since then. As mentioned before, the links now won’t likely work, and I was cut short of downloading when the Bonhams Seiko auction was cancelled. And, some of my downloads aren’t great. Still, let’s go through a few for the sake of learning. Oh, and when I say “we”, I am talking about my friend George. Some of the issues were obvious to me, but he knows his stuff and helped in a considerable way.

Bonhams Seiko auction 6105 2

Lot 801  — Seiko 6105-8000

Right out of the chute the Bonhams Seiko auction sets a low standard with Lot 801. This 6105-8000 (the watch that preceded the 6105 “Willard”) is one to stay away from. Why is that? A look at the case back shows a 1968 serial number — the first number is an “8” — and it also reads water proof. Flipping it over, we see the dial says “resist”. The two should match and this should be a “Proof” dial.

Bonhams Seiko auction 6105-8000 1

In 1970, Seiko complied with new laws and switched dials and case backs to “Resist”. Some transitional pieces exist with a mix, but 1968 is way too early for such an aberration. Oh, and the crystal is clearly aftermarket with its anti-reflective coating. We reviewed a nice one here. And I still like this old reference site.

Bonhams Seiko auction 6215

Lot 803 — Seiko 6215-7000 — Corrected…

FYI — we now feel, after a few collectors have come forward that this watch is correct. It is interesting because amongst the large number of incorrect watches, this would rate as one of the best non faded 6215 bezels we’ve ever seen.

Next up in the Bonhams Seiko auction is Lot 803 for a rare 1967 6215-7000 diver. It’s hard to tell from the photos if the dial is washed out of if it’s glare from the crystal. However, the red flag is the bezel insert. We’ve seen NOS examples of the 6215 and we’ve never seen one with gold font. On the other hand, I don’t really know of a burgeoning aftermarket industry for 6215’s. So, this one is odd and I’d have proceeded with caution. You can read about the one we reviewed here. I like this reference link, but many of the photos have expired. Additional note: one of our readers contacted us stating that promotional information from Seiko in 1967 originally showed a gold font bezel. However, neither he or we have never seen one before. Hence, our skepticism and the fact that the majority of other lots had issues. One more addition: an additional reader came forward who feels this bezel is legitimate. We have changed our stance with this additional information. 

Bonhams Seiko auction 6105 Willard

Lot 804 — Seiko 6105-8119

Lot 804 in the Bonhams Seiko auction is for a Seiko 6105-8119 “Willard”. This one is a real mess and sports an aftermarket dial and bezel. The lume plot frames, upon closer inspection, are polished. Also, the lume should be sharp in the corners — Seiko wasn’t doing shoddy work. They should be a bit dull. We can also see that the “Suwa” symbol is too thin and the font is off on the small writing of “Japan 6105 8009t”. The bezel “tell” is the lume pip that’s way too small.  Head here for our review and here for a good reference.

Bonhams Seiko auction 6306

Lot 805 — Seiko 6306-7000

Lot 805 is a Seiko 6306-7000 “Turtle”. These garner higher prices than their 6309 counterparts due to a higher jewel movement that allows for hacking. Unfortunately, this one has issues. The dial is real, but we see new lume. The hands, however, are aftermarket as is the bezel. The bezel tell is obvious to fans, but see the serif on the “1”? It shouldn’t be there. The hands show edge polishing typical of aftermarket pieces and the lume work looks a bit sloppy. I mention mine (with relumed hands by the way) here and a good reference on hands is here and the 6309 series here (not the 6306, but the dial and hands guide is good advice).

Bonhams Seiko auction Scubapro

Lot 807 — Seiko 6306-7001 Scubapro 450

The Scubapro Turtles are amongst the rarest Seiko divers out there and they attract big money. We’re talking thousands if they’re correct.  With just a couple hundred or so rumored to exist, most that come up are fakes. The Bonhams Seiko auction happens to feature two bad pieces. Lot 807 has an aftermarket dial and bezel. Look at the Scubapro logo — it’s crooked and visible in this bad render. Regarding the bezel, the numbers are waaaaay too thick. Here’s a nice article on these difficult pieces.

Folks, that’s sadly where things stopped. There were Kakume chronographs with fake dials, Rally Divers with wrong hands, and a Bullhead with all sorts of issues. And the aftermarket bezels kept piling up on additional lots within the Bonhams Seiko auction.

Seiko 6215-7000 9

Final thoughts

Again, we are very happy that the Bonhams Seiko auction was pulled today. It was really bad and Seiko collectors were vocal and, frankly, ashamed that a large auction house did such a flippant job on this coming out party for a favorite brand. But maybe their saving grace was the power of listening to the vocal community. The other good thing is that there are loads of great vintage Seiko watches out there and loads of friendly people who will happily help. Visit The Watch Site (aka Seiko & Citizen Watch Forum) and Wrist Sushi for tons of great people, great reference material and a nice place to buy watches.


Here the official response from Benedict Tsang , Head of Communications Asia at Bonhams after we reached out to them.

“There has been strong interest in our Making Waves: Seiko online sale since the sale page went live on our website on Friday. We have temporarily removed the preview function in order to upload the condition reports accompanying each lot. We apologise to anyone who hasn’t been able to access the sale page. We invite everyone to revisit the page this week to see all the information we have about this private collection that’s been assembled by a dedicated watch collector over the past 15 years. The sale is taking place ‪until 25 August.”

You can be sure we will take a good look at the catalog once it returns to their site. More to come..