Updated: Nov 15, 2020
The Lord Marvel (LM) introduced in 1958, was Seiko’s first high end luxury watch model. The first generation LM’s (1958~1964) are extremely popular here in Japan, with many seasoned collectors favoring it over the Grand Seiko First.
Produced by the Suwa factory in Nagano, Japan, there were no compromises made during the production process and one can tell the difference in quality when comparing the movement, case, and the dial between the LM and other models produced by Seiko during this era.
Although there were differences in the case design, most collectors here in Japan like to categorize the first generation LM’s based on the dial. There were roughly speaking, five different dial variations for the first generation LM's.
The First Generation Lord Marvel dials, mark 1 to 5
One of the most distinct feature of the first generation LM is that the early dials (mark 1-3, featuring a carved logo), all had the octagonal sun shaped SD (“special dial”) logo above the six o'clock signifying that the dials had 18k solid gold index (or 14k white gold for stainless steel cases). The later mark 4 and 5 dials, presumably in production around 1963-64 when Seiko transitioned their dials from solid gold SD index dials to the gold plated AD dials, for the most part were produced with an AD index.
Throughout its entire production run, all LM index were planted manually by craftsmen and women from the Suwa factory using the 植字 (shokuji) planting technique, instead of being glued or raised. To read more about the special dial logo and the “shokuji” method, we encourage you to read our two part post on the history of the special dial.
Now lets take a closer look at the five dial variations of the First Generation LM.
The mark one dial has an applied “S” with a hand carved “Seiko Lord Marvel” logo. There has been much debate in Japan on whether the mark 1 or the mark 2 dials were the first to be sold in the market when the LM was released in 1958. Although there is no consensus and both could've been released at the same time or sold in parallel, we’ve categorized the dial with applied “S” as the mark 1 based on the opinion of the majority of dealers here. The mark one used either the 14056 (stainless steel) or 14057 (gold filled) case code. It is important to note that both the mark 1 and 2 came in a smaller case size (34mm excluding crown) than the later variations which had a diameter of 36mm.
*left:14057 **top to bottom: 14056 and the 14057
The mark two dial has a carved logo with a cursive writing distinct from the other carved variations (most notably the S and L having a loop). As you can tell from the photos both the mark one and two dials have a beautiful arrow shaped beveled index for the 1,2,4,5,7,8,10,11 o'clock index. The 12 o'clock is also made of two metals. Similar to the mark one, the mark two used either the 14056 (stainless steel) or 14057 (gold filled) case code. Both the mark one and two dials are very hard to find these days and they rarely come up on Yahoo auction. Your best chance is to buy it from a dealer based in Japan.
*The 14056 case
The mark three dial has the logo carved similarly to the mark one but without the applied S. The mark three dial employed the J14038 (stainless steel), J14039 (gold filled), J14068 (gold filled beveled lugs), and the J14050 (solid gold beveled lugs) case code. The J14038 and J14039 is the hugely popular ハマグリ “hamaguri” or “clamshell” case design. For case fanatics here in Japan this is probably the single most popular case out of all vintage Seiko dress watch models because of its simple, no nonsense (non beveled), and sharp design.
*left: the ever so popular J14038 "hamaguri" case
*from top to bottom: J14038, J14068, J14050
Mark 4 and 5 (both pictures below courtesy of yahoo auction)
The mark four and five dials are estimated to be produced around the same time (1963~64). Both have a print logo with different variations to the design of the dial from sun burst, to a hairline and linen texture. As mentioned previously, the mark four and five dials exists in both the SD and AD variants. The case employed in both were larger sized than its predecessor and have a case code of either a 15023 or a 15027. These cases will later be recycled in the early models of the 2nd generation LM's which would start production in June of 1964.
In regards to pricing, given that the LM was Seiko's first ever luxury model, the price certainly reflected that and when it first came out, its been said that Seiko managers were worried that they wouldn't sell well due to its abnormally higher price tag. However, there was no need to worry as the LM turned out to be a huge hit and the first generation LM would pass its baton to the second generation which started production in 1964 featuring the paired down caliber 5740. Although technically speaking, the LM, would be relegated as Seiko's top high end model after the introduction of the Grand Seiko First in 1960, the LM brand turned out to be so successful that it had the longest production run out of all Seiko models in the vintage era with off course the final LM model culminating in the great "experiment" that is the 36000 Hi-beat caliber model. But that story is for another journal...
The price of the first generation LM when first released to the market in 1958 were as follows:
Stainless Steel - JPY 9800, adjusted for inflation in today's price is JPY 180,000
Gold filled - JPY 12,800, adjusted for inflation in today's price is JPY 237,000
18k Solid Gold - JPY 25,600, adjusted for inflation in today's price is JPY 473,000
It should be noted that the solid gold LM was ¥3000 more expensive than the Grand Seiko First - which off course was not solid gold but gold filled.
国産腕時計セイコー自動巻 森 年樹
国産腕時計セイコークラウン、クロノス、マーベル 長尾善夫 本田義彦