My goal with The Sub Register has always been for it to be more than just a roundup of “hey, look at these watches I found and think are cool,” and for it to be interactive based on past sales in helping determine market values and spur new ideas, pickups and finds to assist and inspire others to keep hunting, and to also share cool stuff others have come across but maybe can’t pull the trigger on. To kick off that theme, I’m starting with my most recent find:
Heteca Durexact Chronograph
Found while rummaging through some vintage/antique shops in the art’s district near downtown Las Vegas last weekend, I spotted a no-name, vintage, three-register chronograph strewn about in a glass display case. When I asked to see it, I immediately started looking at the dial, which appeared a bit tired, but original and honest and said the all-important “SWISS” at the bottom, giving me hope when turning it over, to find a crisp caseback indicating an all stainless steel case and a Swiss Made watch. The hands were clearly missing all of their lume, which was still okay with me given the price, and that all of the hands appeared original. (Funny enough, the employee told me I was wrong and that hands never would have been lume filled.) I then wound, set, and started operating the chronograph, which all worked as it should and the chronograph had that distinct positive but buttery smooth “click” signature of an old column wheel movement. I didn’t have a way to open the caseback, so I was just kind of crossing my fingers that it was in fact a column wheel under the hood.
I then more closely examined the case to find nice drilled 18mm wide lugs that still had an original bevel on the top edge. Between these rather simple downturned lugs and the very crisp caseback (save for one bad attempt at opening by someone prior) everything appeared to be very sharp and minimally or unpolished. Taking one last diligent look at the dial to determine any signs of redial, everything appeared original. The whitish/silver dial had some definite warm and even patina across it from what I assume was radium lume, judging by the lack of “T”’s on the dial. The acrylic crystal was fairly well scratched up, so there were a few marks I couldn’t quite determine if they were on the dial or not, but overall the printing appeared consistent across the entire dial and sub registers. I was also able to identify the non-original bracelet as a Kreisler “coffin link” which I knew had at least a little bit of value as these are often popular amongst the Bulova/Accutron crowd since many came with these bracelets originally. A quick google search didn’t pull up anything on this watch to verify any of this or what movement might be inside, so I haggled the last few dollars out of it and was able to walk out of the store with a vintage, three register, Swiss Made, stainless steel chronograph for $40.
Finally getting home a few days later to clean it up a bit and open up the caseback, I couldn’t have been happier to discover a fairly clean Valjoux 72 movement. The caseback was on pretty securely and there was plenty of grit and grime in the seal, which makes me think there’s a chance this thing hasn’t been opened in quite some time. The venerable Valjoux 72 movement appeared very clean and unmolested, which is about the best case scenario I could possibly hope for. A little bit of Polywatch on the plastic crystal did reveal what might be a little bit of dial damage at the very bottom towards the end of “SWISS” and a mark around 23-24 minutes, but overall, I could not complain. I haven’t been able to turn up any information on Heteca, other than I know they were importing watches for some manufacturer, as the caseback and bridge both had uniformly scratched out engravings covering up the original signed pieces, with the new import names and codes above the former markings, including the correct HZE import code for “Hetega” or Heteca.
I popped this on a Horween Shell Cordovan strap from JankoXXX, and so far it’s keeping time incredibly well and running like a champ. The moral of the story is to do your homework and keep hunting when you have the chance. I’ve actually been keeping an eye out lately for an inexpensive vintage chronograph to supplement my Carrera, but this has become such a hot market that has been a tough feat. I’ve long since adored the Valjoux 72 movement, and I never would have thought I’d be able to combine the two into one watch. Time spent researching, learning, and looking at a lot of watches allowed me to asses and identify what I stumbled across, making this a (so far) very happy find.
Like the Heteca above and in the true tradition of the 60’s and 70’s, many watches of different brands shared cases, dials, even entire looks save for the branding. This annoys some people, but I kind of like it. It gives some that maybe can’t afford the more recognizable or expensive examples an opportunity to get into something that looks nearly the same and provides some good variety, since many of these had slightly different dial color or hand variations. This Desotos “Camaro” illustrates this perfectly. Sharing what appears to be the same exact case as the Heuer Camaro, and in nearly NOS shape, this thing almost makes you forget its more famous cousin. The condition of the case is fantastic, keeping the original brushed top surface, polished chamfered edges, and corner bevels, this is the kind of case you can hope for. The silver dial is made vastly more interesting with the use of midnight blue sub registers in lieu of black for a little twist on the usual panda. The lume dots all look present and in remarkably good shape, and I particularly love that the Tachymeter track is incorporated into the chapter ring, making the dial appear even larger and cleaner, and being arguably a bit more tidy than those Mr. Heuer produced. Top that off with a red lollipop chrono sweep hand and clean Valjoux 72 movement for 2000EUR or higher asking price… this has a lot going for it.
I guess I unintentionally created a “poor man’s” or “sister brand” theme this week because this next one is sometimes referred to as a “poor man’s Carrera” since it has a lot of similarities to the 60’s Heuer Carreras at a lower price. I’ve seen these from Zodiac, Clebar, Hamilton, and Tourneau, to name a few, and save for the lack of the trademark angular Carrera lugs; these were of a similar size and shared a similar aesthetic across the dial. I’ve seen the case style in both plated and stainless steel, so be sure to keep an eye out and price accordingly. This one happens to be plated, but the case is in good condition overall. I traded a few messages with the seller and he was both a nice guy and very responsive. The hands and applied indices are very similar to that of the MKII Carreras and the reverse panda dial is very charming overall. These were equipped with Valjoux 7733/7734 movements, and all together it makes for an attractive, vintage chronograph with much of the same looks as the 60’s Carreras at a fraction of the price. Just reduced on ChronoTrader to $765 shipped.
Another one that often gets dubbed one of the "poor man's Carreras", are those from Sears and Roebuck's brand, Tradition. True "Poor Man's" watches should be those made by a company, such as Heuer, for a different brand. More on that can be read over at On The Dash. Similar to the Zodiac, this watch comes in a steel case, with much of the same aesthetic, including the roughly 36 mm size, engine turned sub dials, applied indices, and lumed steel hands. This one is also equipped with a Valjoux 7730, and although the seller states it operates correctly, the pusher caps clearly need to replaced or reseated. A new acrylic crystal shouldn't set you back much more than $25 so, after a service and a crystal, you can get a lot of the vintage charm described above at a very reasonable price. Currently sitting at $363 on eBay here.
Happy hunting out there people, and as always, if you see anything cool out in the wild or have any questions, feel free to tag #thesubregister on Instagram, leave a note in the comments below, or send me a message at meticulist.net (at) gmail.