For the very first installment of what is sure to be an evolving section, I wanted to provide some background and working examples. In passing discussions, one of the sentiments I hear the most from those wanting to buy their: first watch / vintage watch / see what's out there, etc., is they don't even know where to start. Even if they make it to the watch forums, eBay, and great resources like Watchrecon.com, they don't necessarily know how to, or want to, wade through it all. This is where columns like Hodinkee's Bring A Loupe, and Wound For Life's Market Watch(ing), shine. They aim to expose cool watches to those that maybe don't have the time to scour the internet, find cool pieces, AND THEN do a ton of research to read up on them and vet their authenticity and condition. Now, these columns, (and this one), do require the buyer to do their due diligence and be reasonable when purchasing; but what I personally enjoy the most about them is the uncovering and exposure to new pieces I never knew existed, or maybe the backstory of what makes that watch cool or unique, why it was made, or what kind of person it's designed for.
My goal is not only bring as much of that as I can to you, but to grow a readership that can bring it to each other as well. What I mean by that is say you were in a town and saw something cool in an antique shop, or maybe you came across something on your local craigslist. Maybe you recognize it's a cool watch, but it's not necessarily for you for whatever reason. So, instead of taking a picture and sending it to your buddy, get the info and send it here. Maybe you found something that you're not sure if it's correct, or where to find the info on it - I'll certainly help find that info or point you in the right direction where I can. Maybe you came across a piece that's just downright cool, but not the right size for you, or you're saving up for a grail piece at the moment, why not share it with others? One of the things that I love so much about this crazy hobby is that everyone has their own preferences, tastes, likes, etc., and they're all valid (unless it's a Hublot j/k). That's why so many watches are made, and that's what make this fun.
One of my other goals is to not limit it only to watches for sale, but highlight notable recent sales as well. Why, you ask? Well, take this article by John Mayer for example, The Five Best Buys in Vintage Rolex, For $8000 or less. That was written a mere 4 years ago, (which I actually cannot believe it's been that long), and though some of it is still valid, you'd be hard pressed to find some of those models for 8 large these days. It suggests 1675's to run you about $5500 - $6500, which would a bargain for one that's correct and in good condition these days. This is a great article, but with an ever changing market, especially in vintage watches, it's helpful to see what ballpark different references are selling in when zeroing in on your next hunt. Take this 2446 Heuer Autavia with minutes bezel for example - screw back Autavias are some of the hottest vintage chronographs around these days. The buyer was seeking offers over 15,000EUR, and went "on hold pending funds" in about 12 hours! For a watch that would have sold for a fraction of that price 3-4 years ago, it's very helpful to gauge the market best you can.
So, without further adieu, let's look at some listings that popped out recently.
Having recently just went 2+ weeks straight on the wrist with a GMT watch on vacation in China, my affection for GMT watches is strong. What a cool and useful complication. Designed to track two different time zones, the bezel rotates to indicate a second time zone, on a 24-hour scale, indicated by the red hand that makes its way around the dial once every 24 hours. If you know how many hours ahead a time zone is, simply turn the bezel such that the number of hours ahead is located at 12 o'clock on the bezel. So, if you know China is 15 hours ahead of PST, rotate the bezel to put 15 at the top and viola, you're tracking the time in China. If you're tracking a second time zone that is behind your local time, you would subtract the number of hours ahead you are from 24, and set that number to the 12 o'clock position. So, while I was in China, 24-15=9, I put the 9 at the top and I had the time back at home.
Back to the watch, you have a Swiss Made, appearing to be completely correct, cool, automatic caliber in a full stainless case for less than $500! I would request a head on picture of the dial, but the patina on the hands looks even and original, the crown is signed, the dial appears unmolested, and the bezel still has its paint fill. As with any vintage watch with an unknown service history, you should factor in the cost of servicing, but even with that, you're out the door with a really cool daily wearer, containing a functional complication. Asking $475 plus shipping over on ChronoTrader.
Sticking with the GMT theme, we move to one that does it in a much different fashion. I happen to love these super-compressor cased Enicars, (I own a Sherpa Jet). To me, there are just so many quirky-cool things going on that make it really interesting, but it's executed so well. The super compressor case was designed to actually become more water resistant the deeper you dove (rated back then to 600'), and I love the big, cross-hatched crowns. Enicar is kind of a cult following brand that had all sorts of quirky design elements, like the logo, the hands, where they located the lume around the dial, a roulette date wheel, etc. I won't rehash too much of what has already been said so well about these, so I suggest checking out Mike Stockton's great article on Fratello Watches covering this one's big brother, the Super Jet. And for even more history on the brand and these in particular, The Spring Bar, is absolutely killing it lately, producing these great guides to some of the less documented watches.
As far as this one goes, I typically would not recommend purchasing through Chrono24 based on the horror stories I've heard, but the retailer name is very prominently displayed on the listing, and very easily found via the Google machine, so, I always figure it wouldn't hurt to call, and find their non-commissioned price. For what they're asking for this one, I would expect an original or correct bracelet, and maybe a better crystal, but maybe the listed price includes what they're cutting to C24, and they're willing to deal. The watch overall appears to be in really nice condition, other than the crazed crystal, which could be replaced after a little bit of hunting for an original replacement. The dial and lume are all intact and very attractive, and the EPSA super compressor case, though a bit soft at the corners, is fair overall. $2000 asking price via Chrono24 here.
Admittedly, I don't know a ton about these French diving watches, maybe because you just don't see a lot of them, but this one has a lot going for it. An over-sized case for its time at 38mm, funky arrow hour hand, big lumed minute hand, lollipop second hand, and all matching attractive patina throughout the dial, combined with a classic bezel, and period correct Swiss Tropic Mod Dep strap, yes please! 38 mm is a great size for a vintage diver, and the case looks very sharp - though I'm not sure if the brushed surfaces have been refinished. Frankly, even if they have, that doesn't bother me, because this thing was meant to be worn and knocked around. The straight forward 17-jewel manual wind movement shouldn't be too difficult to service, and it comes from a well known and frequent poster on Instagram, @watcheswithpatina. $800 asking on this watch that oozes patina and funky vintage vibe.
The owner and seller of this watch is very transparent that information on this particular watch has been sparse, but it does seem to be all original and correct. The reason I chose this watch is because it is simply a great looking, classic, charming watch at a decent price. The patina on the hands and dial is very attractive, and you have to love how clean and timeless this dial is. The Zenith text is sublime and it doesn't get much better than those dagger hands. I personally think sub-seconds are very cool, and you just don't see many new watches sporting this clean, no-date look. Service history is unknown, but the movement looks pretty clean, and like the watch above, a service shouldn't be too hard on the pocket book. Zenith is known for having very well built and reliable movements of this era, and I wouldn't expect anything different from this manual winder, even at 60+ years old. The signed crown and sharp case put the icing on the cake for me, and at the 500CHF asking price, you really can't go wrong. Listed FS on omegaforums.net, here.
Recommending a vintage Tudor Ranger is probably suicide for a first post, but hey, why not? Mention the words "vintage Tudor Ranger" in any forum, and you'll hear gasps and sighs of doubt. There are simply far more fake and frankens (put togethers) than real Rangers out there. An authentic Tudor Ranger is almost a mythical beast of sorts. However, after I chased one down only to be outbid last year on eBay, this one checks out against the obvious signs of fake. It's a later model with an actual reference number and the Tudor shield instead of the rose on the dial, the word "OYSTERDATE" does not have the common red flag space between "oyster" and "date", and everything else appears how it should. The difficult thing with these, especially the early ones, is that they shared a case and movement with the standard Oysters and Prince Oysterdates, so even the reference numbers were the same, not differentiating a standard Oysterdate from a Ranger Oysterdate. These later versions did have a specific reference number, such as on this one. The most common dead giveaway of a fake is the "red ranger" where the "RANGER" text is in red, and absolutely incorrect. This one does seem the part to me partially because it checks all of those boxes, has a period correct, and seemingly well fitting bracelet, and just seems honestly well worn from use. For me, that great 34 mm size, combined with the explorer style dial, and those fantastic hands make this such a cool, under the Rolex radar piece.
Now this one has seen some abuse, and the price is a bit absurd, but for anyone hunting one of these, I figured I had to call it out, because you just don't see real ones come up very often. From the same seller out of Canada as the Enicar above on Chrono24, maybe someone in the USA can take advantage of the favorable exchange rate with a bit of strong arm-ing? Asking a strong $4000 here.
I think I'm going to cap it at that, considering I may have potentially shot myself in the foot with the "dead man walking" Tudor Ranger, but hey, if it is correct, it's a damn cool watch. I'd love to hear what you think, feel free to comment here, use the contact page, try me on Instagram, or follow me on Twitter, where I post a lot of other watches and highlights as I come across them throughout the week. I'm hoping to make this a regular post, shooting for every other week while we get things ticking. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from some of you soon!