Looking at what caught my eye to start off 2018, the common theme seems to be off beat, “affordable” vintage watches from sub brands, something I guess I have a soft spot for. What I like about these watches is they generally fly a bit below the radar since they may not have the provenance of the big names, but still have loads of period correct character and often have many of the same parts as some of those big names at a lower price. These are watches that may not be the next lottery ticket to appreciate in value but check the right boxes to make them enjoyable to wear. This is #thesubregister for January 2018.
I don’t get the impression that Helbros was particularly well respected back in the day, and it was more of an assembler of components from manufacturers (like many watch brands were in that era), but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a watch that can (presumably) be had for less than $300 and it has loads of character (read: buzzwords). Starting from the outside, you have a 38 mm stainless steel case that appears very sharp, drilled lugs, a big crown, and big rotating bezel, everything that exudes vintage tool watch. The dial and hands are the star of the show with a huge broad arrow hour hand, syringe minute hand, and paddle tipped center seconds hand. Add in the big lume plots with inset numerals at 12, 6, and 9 and the abundance of evenly patinated tritium sets off the black dial really well. The automatic movement features Helbros’ “invincible” main spring, as indicated by the mustache/paper clip logo above 6 o’clock. The watch is currently sitting with an asking price of $314.10 without a best offer option, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on this one or send over a lower price. It’s not a bad deal even at the current price, but could really be a fun bargain snag if you can get it for less.
Next up, and perhaps a better “value” or buy than the Helbros is this really funky and chunky 1970’s diver. The unusually shaped and highly angular case is reminiscent of King Seiko bevels on the lugs, and I like that despite being a chunky 70’s style case, the dial still retains the size rather than becoming a little porthole. Both the dial and the case appear very clean, with nice even patina on the dial and hands, and the clean and unique vertical day-date windows at 6 keeping things nice and symmetric. The icing on the cake here is the seemingly original stainless steel bracelet, making this a pretty good “value” with an asking price of just $350.00
I’m not really a Zenith guy, but I seem to have a real soft spot for their vintage three handers because they’re always laid out so clean, but have just a bit of design thrown in here and there for subtle interest and refinement. This one is a great example of that with an extremely clean and minimal dial with the big black applied indices that serve as a stark contrast to the silver dial and complement the black inlays on the hands. The trapezoidal date window at 4:30 is cleanly tucked away and the case is large, slim, and very modern-minimalist. Zenith was known for having fantastic movements, and this manually wound caliber shouldn’t be too difficult to service and will ensure the case maintains a nice svelte appearance. The bracelet is not for the faint of heart, but you have to love how period correct and unique it is; there’s simply no mistaking that this watch was not made recently. This one has the highest asking price of the week at $900, shipped, but in this condition, with bracelet, that seems pretty damn reasonable.
I guess returning to the funky and chunky 70’s diver with original bracelet, this light blue dialed Bulova is so uniquely great. Just look at the color of that matte dial!!! Add in the blocky ridged hour makers, and sharp case and original bracelet, and this is another example of a watch that may not necessarily be collectable, or sure to appreciate for the flipper, but is really fun with lots of character regardless. And at a current price of $17.50, why not have a fun, vintage weekender like this to throw in the rotation now and then?
Last, but not least is a neo vintage, panda dial chronograph also from Wyler (Vetta). Three register chronograph are great; it’s a useful complication, the hour register always ups the ante a bit. Finding triple register chronographs in stainless steel cases, for under $1000, that you’d actually want to wear gets tricky. This one checks all of those boxes with a great 38mm stainless steel case with crisp beveled lugs, a big tachy bezel, inner telemeter, and one of the whackiest chrono sweep hands I’ve ever seen. The hour, minute, and sub register hands are interesting in their own rights but just look at the Wyler Vetta logo on the tail of the lumed arrow sweep hand, how cool is that? The applied arrowhead indices, panda dial, and use of a common Valjoux 7750 movement round out the package and make it a bit easier to repair or service down the road, though it is reported to be working well. The cinnamon roll type logo carries through to the crown, and it’s always a bonus when you get an original bracelet too. This is currently listed at $699 on eBay, though the seller is accepting offers.
As always, thanks for reading, if you’re out and about and see something or have a question, please comment below or tag me on Instagram @meticulist. If there’s more you’d like to see or have a theme for an upcoming post, send me a note via the contact me page, and happy hunting.