A little piece of history - the Seiko 3823-7000 VFA Quartz from 1971

Jan 23, 2018,13:16 PM

The three letters VFA - Very Fine Adjusted - usually conjure up sweaty palms and excitement amongst Seiko enthusiasts. They have historically stood for the most accurate time pieces, beating the standards of the day. The Grand Seiko hand wound and automatic watches with the VFA label managed a guaranteed 30 seconds +/- deviation per month in the late 1960s - something truly extraordinary (here:  www.watchprosite.com  for an overview of the classical model lines).

At the same time Seiko launched a revolution with its 1969 Astron 35Q (to be followed by 35SQW shortly afterwards) - their first quartz watch. Shortly after the launch the Suwa designed Cal. 3500 movement was further refined into the thermally compensated Cal. 3800, which was furthermore adjusted to 6 positions. 

This movement is the heart of my recently arrived 1971 Seiko 3823-7000 VFA Quartz. The VFA version promised a heady +/-5 seconds a month deviation - something completely unheard of in the day. It had a price to match - 150.000 yen or the equivalent of a Toyota Camry - at the time (about 50% more than a mechanical GS VFA in steel if I got my figures right).

Mine comes in the 7000 case, which is suitably ‘spacy’ and fits the era. It also has a wonderfully patinated dial, which turned from white to a fairly uniform cream and a day date complication (both discs are white still). 

The 3823 model also featured a dial variant that would later lead to the famous SBGA11 Snowflake (the 3823-7040, I believe).

Not only the hour but also the minute markers are applied. The finish is perhaps not quite GS grade but then the watch was more a showcase for the then novel quartz technology than for Zaratsu polishing. 

The hour and minute hands somewhat resemble the current dauphine fusee shape used by Chopard in its LUC line but the ‘thick part’ is longer here. The seconds hand is black. 

The watch is topped by a fairly thick and slightly protruding crystal that does interesting things in terms of distortion of the dial edge, when looked through at an angle. 

I have to admit that even the VFA Standard from 1971 cannot quite match the atom clock accuracy of a modern Grand Seiko 9F quartz movement but the watch definitely is fun - and a historical curiosity - nevertheless. 

Thanks for reading!

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Was a white dial originally...

 By: KMII : January 23rd, 2018-22:10
The acquired cream colour is patina

Not well enough for your annual test for the moment :)

 By: KMII : January 23rd, 2018-22:12
Apparently they can be regulated to do much better, though. Right now it’s definitely off but I first need to set it properly and will give you some feedback shortly. It certainly is fun, though

Will do 👍🏻 [nt]

 By: KMII : January 25th, 2018-03:06

About 12 seconds a month slow so far :)

 By: KMII : March 15th, 2018-13:34
Which while nowhere near modern performance is still more than decent for the age 👍🏻

Nice catch!

 By: cazalea : January 23rd, 2018-14:52
How you find these Japanese rarities while your children are babes and your company reorganizing is a real surprise to me! Between Watches and icons, it’s almost a full-time job for me just dealing with import/export forms and Fedex, UPS & DHL — not to me... 

There’s one less for me to deal with...

 By: KMII : January 23rd, 2018-22:16
No homeland security here, and then I don’t collect icons, either, saving a bit of time. In a more serious note, I am subscribed to a small vintage Seiko auctioneer and occasionally bid. For the GS stuff it’s occasionally checking the large Japanese retai... 

What a wealth of knowledge/ history you provide here!

 By: KIH : January 23rd, 2018-15:54
A friend of mine has all YG version. It looks great, but the battery compartment is right on the case back - wonder how well it wears on your wrist.... Comfy? I see these from time to time here at reasonable prices (equal or less than the original price),... 

Wears quite well on my wrist...

 By: KMII : January 23rd, 2018-22:18
Even though a look at the case back would have you imagine otherwise. Thanks for your kind words, Ken - and do have a look at it, they are fun and good value, too Btw. finding a Snowflake dial one may be even cooler!

Very cool!

 By: KMII : July 11th, 2018-07:33
Which model reference is it?

Hi it is 3823-7040

 By: Stewart Weller : July 12th, 2018-02:28
It's very like my KS 4822-8000. Both are very accurate, and remain within a second of each other over 6 months, seem to loose about 20s a year

Thanks for the additional detail!

 By: KMII : July 12th, 2018-11:49
And welcome to Puristspro - have missed that detail the first time around Looking forward to finding out more about your collection!

Awesome survivor

 By: JToddH : January 25th, 2018-18:07
Thanks for the lesson!

The seiko kinetic design very similar to this legend...

 By: iceheller : January 26th, 2018-15:40
Here is my first watch... ...  

Cool piece, Iceheller!

 By: KMII : January 27th, 2018-00:12
And even cooler that you still have it 👍🏻

++1 (nt)

 By: Ronald Held : January 29th, 2018-13:31

I hope to add some mechanical VFA watches at some point, too

 By: KMII : July 12th, 2018-11:47
A bit of patience may be required there, though

Quite special to me.. If the price is not too much..

 By: Teacher Yang : July 12th, 2018-11:57
I might want to get a quartz or mechanical one for my upcoming birthday..

I missed this post first time around. Very interesting and thanks for sharing.

 By: Jay (Eire) : July 18th, 2018-03:58
I like the 'spacey' case design as you put it and I'm somewhat amazed that the pricing at the time was comparable to a Camry. Amazing.

Thanks Jay!

 By: KMII : July 18th, 2018-04:42
Unlike the current state, quartz was very expensive to start off with. So for quite some time one had a completely opposite picture compared to today

Hi and congratulation.. https://www.watchprosite.com/seiko/-span-style-color-gray--seiko--span-seiko-quartz-v-f-a-3823--/876.1052248.7574373/0/

 By: lukather1 : August 10th, 2018-05:57
I'm a fan for this reference,great watches and quartz Hi-End....some time ago i have open a post here in Purist....this one.

Just a couple of clarifications

 By: gerald.d : August 10th, 2018-20:28
Have to say I love these early quartz models - I seem to be "accidentally" building up quite a collection of them, including an example of this reference. A couple of points on the general commentary though... The mechanical VFA's were guaranteed to +/- 1...