We teamed up with Analog/Shift to bring you a high-quality selection of affordable vintage watches
Let’s get one thing straight: once you develop an interest in mechanical watches, you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole so deep that there is absolutely no getting out. However, the good news is that once you’re stuck down there, you’ll find an endless – like, literally endless – supply of fascinating items, knowledge and shiny (or with patina, if that’s your jam) things to last a lifetime. So, the question then becomes: why wouldn’t you want to fall down that hole?
I actually know the answer to that and it comes from my personal experience before getting bit by the vintage watch collecting bug as well as from close friends who want to dive in, but are somewhat hesitant. That reluctance comes primarily from one belief: that vintage watches are expensive. And that’s certainly a fair belief, especially considering how vintage watch collecting is portrayed in the media. Especially these days. Let’s just take two recent examples.
Back in June at Christie’s “Rare Watches and American Icons” sale, a Cartier Tank owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which was estimated between $60,000 to 120,000, ultimately fetched $379,500. Not chump change by any stretch of the imagination, until you consider the following. On October 26, 2017 at Phillips you will find perhaps the holiest of holy grail watches up for sale – Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Ref. 6239 Rolex Daytona. Some experts believe this watch has the potential to sell for almost $10 million. Yes, 10 million.
To be fair, the sort of collector who will pay those kind of dollar figures for something that tells time, is just that – a certain kind of collector. (Except in the case of the buyer of Jackie O’s Tank, but let’s not go there.) In other words, they’re not the everyday guy with a regular job. But, it can paint a picture of the vintage watch market as something that is completely unattainable for the baller on a budget.
However, that’s just not the case.
There are tons of vintage watches up for grabs out there that are super interesting and investment-quality that won’t break the bank. We’ve gotten to know you guys, our readers, over the past five years and we know that these are the sorts of watches that would really turn you on. But you’ve got to know where to look and you’ve got to know that the people you’re buying from have not only a vast knowledge of vintage watches, but the integrity to back up what they’re selling.
Over the better part of a month we pulled together a collection of vintage watches that would check the following boxes:
1. A “no-brainer” and “no regrets” first vintage watch purchase
While all four criteria certainly carry equal weight, I want to focus briefly on the first and last. Buying a vintage watch is scary, especially the first one. That’s why each watch we selected has a quality that will make you feel like, hey, that’s mine and I’m damn proud of it. And of course, to help dispel the myth that vintage watches are a rich man’s game, we kept our watches within a reasonable price point. Very, very reasonable, in some cases.
So without further ado, let’s introduce our collection, which I think you’re going to like. A lot.
Tudor Prince Oysterdate Ref. 7966/0
For decades, the Prince Oysterdate was a cornerstone of the Tudor (sibling of Rolex) collection. Produced in myriad configurations over the years, we truly believe there is an Oyster Prince for every wrist. All in all, it’s hard to go wrong with Tudor- rock solid movements and iconic designs add up to a tremendous value proposition. One of the most versatile watches in the collection.
SHOP HERE: Tudor Prince Oysterdate Ref. 7966/0
Universal Genève Polerouter Gold-Plated
In the world of vintage watches one of the names you really need to know is Universal Genève. High-quality and very attractive watches that can be had at very affordable prices. We’ve got a couple of Universal Genèves in the collection, but this handsome dress watch is among my favorites. While it’s certainly versatile, it would look particularly smashing paired with a dark navy or grey suit at an elegant dinner.
SHOP HERE: Universal Genève Polerouter Gold-Plated
Enicar Jumbo Gent’s Watch
Don’t let the term “jumbo” fool you. At 37mm, this watch is large for the era, but just about perfect for contemporary tastes. Touches like the Art Deco numerals at 12, 3, and 9, the running seconds register and the honeycomb texture in the chapter ring give it a decidedly 1950s flair. It’s things like that, along with the reliability of the Enicar name, that make this watch unique.
SHOP HERE: Enicar Jumbo Gent’s Watch
Universal Genève Polerouter Date
If the gold-plated Universal Genève Polerouter above is the ultimate elegant watch in our collection, this steel version is its workhorse cousin. Honestly, a Polerouter has everything you want in a vintage watch: an interesting history and a sleek exterior designed by the hand of a master. And this one has one of the more interesting date windows.
SHOP HERE: Universal Genève Polerouter Date
Rolex Datejust Ref. 1603
The Rolex Datejust is easily one of the most recognizable and sought after watches in the world. Everyone from children who grew up seeing their fathers buckle it on before work, to those who fondly remember back to the first “nice” watch they ever bought. Almost nothing else has what it takes to be the perfect watch for everyday life. What you’re looking at here is a beautiful 1970s Reference 1603 – 36mm case, fluted bezel and Horween shell cordovan strap.
SHOP HERE: Rolex Datejust Ref. 1603
Universal Genève Gent’s Watch
The piece we have for you here is a shining example of just how capable the brand once was at producing stunningly high-quality gentlemen’s wrist wear. At 34mm, it’s simple and elegant. And the brush effect on the dial with contrasting gold-tone hands and hour markers along with the beveled edge on the case cut an exceptionally attractive profile. Though we don’t necessarily recommend wearing a watch with a tuxedo, this is probably the one we’d reach for if we were going to break that rule.
SHOP HERE: Universal Genève Gent’s Watch
Benrus U.S. Military Watch C. 1964
Now we’re getting into some of the more sporty options. True military watches exude a kind of toughness that’s hard to replicate. These watches (with their black dials, easy-to-read numerals, and luminescent hands) pack a punch in a deceptively compact package. Combining sturdy construction and a respectable history of use by American service members, this Benrus GI watch is a true testament to the versatility and timeless appeal of proper military timepieces.
SHOP HERE: Benrus U.S. Military Watch C. 1964
Clebar Chronodiver Chronograph
If you’re a new vintage enthusiast looking for your first great watch, this Clebar is an excellent choice. We have to warn you though, these things can be addictive, and affordable vintage chronos are the gateway drug. Honestly, that’s my way of saying don’t buy this because I want it for myself!
SHOP HERE: Clebar Chronodiver Chronograph
Ollech & Wajs Selectron Computer Chronograph
Ollech & Wajs set out to produce high quality, no bullshit watches that were meant to be worn and used. We think they nailed it with this one. If a cool chronograph is in your future, you could do a lot worse than the one you’re looking at.
SHOP HERE: Ollech & Wajs Selectron Computer Chronograph
Vintage watches and motoring go hand-in-hand, which is why we love this particular watch. This LeJour Chronograph, like the fabled Rolex Daytona, is powered by a Valjoux drivetrain, a caliber 7736, that is a accurate as it is reliable. All of these factors make this “no-name” chronograph a strong value proposition, not to mention a stunning historical example of the chronograph’s Golden Era, the kind of example that is becoming increasingly hard to find.
SHOP HERE: LeJour Chronograph
Another big thanks to our friends at Analog/Shift for helping us pull this collection together. If you have any questions about any particular watch, how accurate they are or where they come from, feel free to hit us up in the comments or send us an email.
Thanks for reading.