Competition for vintage watches just keeps increasing, and as discussed in Nat’s recent post comparing the vintage watch market to collecting vintage guitars in semi-response to Michael Stockton’s great Vintage Market Update on Fratello Watches, as the price keeps rising for what I looked for in the past, I find myself trying to dig a little deeper. For me, this means looking past the typical brands and suspects and finding their relatives, no-name import codes with great movements, or just plain fun and character filled watches. For the first roundup of 2017, here’s what I turned up.
One brand and one specific watch that I keep finding myself coming back to as of recent is Tissot. These vintage chronographs came in a variety of dial, hand, and case configurations with a good amount of subtle character and lot of yachting inspiration. This particular watch has all of the buzz words going for it. A beautiful matte, inverse-panda dial with really nice and even patina, applied indices, and fantastic lume-filled paddle/syringe hour and minute hands. The Seastar seems to be slightly more common as a two-register configuration, making this 3-register version even better. The Lemania cal. 1281 served as a predecessor / base movement for the Omega Cal. 861 used in the Speedmaster, so ‘nuff said there right? Completing the package here, the case is said to be knife sharp, and it comes with a genuine Tropic strap, which compliments this watch perfectly, is comfortable, and completes the vintage package. Seller is asking $900 net via ChronoTrader, with it currently listed on eBay for $950.
This watch is not going to be rare or particularly collectible in a sought after sort of way down the road, but it’s exactly what I look for when perusing eBay. It’s kind of an odd, cushion, Heuer Camaro-esque case that appears to be in decent condition, and doesn’t have the sexiest of movements either, sporting a Venus 210 under the hood, but it does have a great dial behind a badly scratched crystal, and lots of 1970’s vintage charm. The silver starburst dial with applied markers is very similar to those used in Heuer Carreras and Camaros of the time, and I particularly like that the Tachymetre scale is tucked cleanly on the rehaut. The metal hands add a nice coordinating finishing touch of character to complete the package. The watch is definitely not perfect, but it has a lot of character and more importantly, it appears unmolested, correct, and original. If the price stays low, this is exactly the kind of watch that cleans up nicely, like the dorky girl with glasses Freddy Prince Jr. brings to prom. Sitting at $163 at time of writing, and ending within the hour.
I almost didn’t post this one because it’s a watch I’ve been keeping an eye out for over the last few years. It’s such the pure tool watch of its time, and I have a personal connection and fondness to the name “wanderer” as that’s my favorite way to experience a new place. Digging into the utility of the watch, you have the venerable Vulcain Cricket 120 movement providing a basically now extinct complication of a very loud mechanical wrist alarm, a red accent 24-hour dial, and a rotating 12-hour bezel. The bezels on these and it’s foreign sibling, the Nivada Grenchen Wanderer came in black or silver, and I happen to like the uniqueness of the silver ones slightly better. The dial is super clean, restrained, classic, and is capped off by a stamp I love seeing; “RA SWISS MADE RA” indicating the luminescent material is radium and not Tritium. There’s something about radiation that just creates the best patina on a watch. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this one, but if it’s anything like others I have seen at auction, it very well could end up near $1000 or more. It’s currently sitting at $255 and ends on Sunday, so hopefully everyone forgets about it, and I’m able to pounce.
I went back and forth on if I should include this one because it has me all confused. The case is clearly a nod to the 60’s Heuer Carreras, it bears the name the name of a different Heuer Chronograph from the 1970’s, and it almost looks like it’s missing the bezel, but being that it has a tachy scale on the dial, the smooth edge bezel might just be another quirk to this very funky watch. A contrasting panda dial of sorts, with a great hand set, funky 70’s typeface on the dial and everything appears consistent and not replaced or put together. It is a chrome case, but it appears to be in decent enough condition if the price stays low (and the reserve isn’t too high) and the movement, which I’m assuming to be a Valjoux 773x or the like is said to be recently serviced and running strong. This one is a bit of a gamble, but I do really like that the seller lists his phone number, so you could definitely try reaching out for better pics and more information, which might offer some real assurance about the sale. Sitting right around $100 at time of writing with 8 days left in the auction.
High up on my list of regrets is not snagging one of these two years ago when they were consistently selling for less than $1000 with Valjoux 23 and 92 movements and broad arrow hands. This configuration would be a close second to that with the coveted lollipop, which is a bit of a caveat emptor in this case since it is starting to show signs of the lume fill cracking. That could be stabilized to have a really killer lollipop though. I’ve always loved the case on these with the sharp narrow and beveled lugs, and this one looks to be in good shape. The crystal is well marred, but the dial looks like it might be clean beneath. The dial is also in my personal preferred configuration with the three name text falling in the bottom half of the dial cleaning up the top. The main reason I posted this one, however, is because I have some major red flags with it. For one, the seller knew enough to list that it’s a Valjoux 23 movement in good working order, show pictures of it, reference the bezel spinning freely, and the crystal having some scratches, but then seems to all of the sudden not know anything about the watch when he references that the he doesn’t know about the pushers on the side and what they do or if they work. Unless he was provided the details from someone else and filled in the rest in between, this seems odd that he would know all the lingo and details a buyer would want to know otherwise. The $1400 asking price with the ability to make an offer presents a good opportunity, but I would certainly want to ask some questions first. A good lesson on what makes these so interesting can be found by reading Worn & Wound's fantastic guide.
Thanks for reading. I’m hoping in 2017, this can truly become more interactive. So, if you come across anything out there, please feel free to write in, contact me, tag me, or use the hashtag #thesubregister. Or, if you’re interested in contributing on a regular basis, feel free to get in touch! In the meantime, keep hunting my friends!