Friday is here, and so is your weekly roundup of what’s hot in the vintage watch world. Keeping things interesting, we’ve got an anonymous chronograph with military provenance, along with the estate of a German watchmaker to further impress the value of a good story. While chronograph fans will enjoy the inclusion of a rare, stepped-bezel Vetta, those looking for value play alternatives are sure to get a kick out of the luxuriously configured – and perhaps “neo-vintage” – Patek Philippe Calatrava.
And, just because, a vintage Rolex Submariner display, because who doesn’t need one of those?
Clamshell Chronograph w/ Military Provenance
Everyone’s got their story, and this is mine. I originally got sucked into the watch collecting vortex as a result of an admiration for all things mechanically complex, but as time progressed, my focus soon shifted away from the watches themselves and more towards the stories that accompany them. There’s a distinctly personal connection which one can develop with their watch. Pieces like the one we’re about to discuss afford the opportunity to harness a bit of that while carrying on the legacy of past owners, and that’s pretty special if you ask me.
You’re looking at an anonymous, clamshell-cased chronograph powered by Venus 150, but to describe it merely as such would be to disregard its detailed and compelling provenance. This watch was originally purchased by a decorated fighter pilot by the name of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Edgar Burtner, who acquired it while in Sweden during the Second World War. On August 25, 1944, Burtner experienced a mechanical failure while flying the P-51D Mustang “Mary-Ann” over northern Germany, and instead of risking life as a POW, Burtner made a run for Sweden. In doing so, he landed safely while avoiding imprisonment.
Before being transported back to England, the Lieutenant Colonel lived a good life as an internee in Sweden. Still receiving military pay, Burtner set his sights on a chronograph wristwatch that he’d have the retailer engrave with his name, branch, and serial on its caseback. Speaking of its caseback, it’s also got two lines of text which read “SANDWIKEN STÅL IMPORT,” confirming it was indeed first sold in Sweden. With a variety of photos showing the airman wearing the watch, his plane, and the retailer the watch was purchased from, this is a seriously well-put-together listing, reflecting the extensive research done by its current owner. For the money, it’ll be tough to find a piece with more history to boast.
The collector Brandon Cripps is offering this piece from his collection via the Chronotrader forum for just $ 3,500. Checking out the full listing is definitely the move here – it’s well worth the read.
German Watchmaking School Set
Let’s say we’re operating on the same wavelength here, and you’re not looking for just a watch, but a link to the life of another individual by way of horology. If for some inexplicable reason, that last piece didn’t do it for you, then this next set ought to. Like the tale of the aforementioned chronograph, this next pick’s story also took place in the 1940s, but differs by being very much set in Germany and unrelated to the war effort in any way. Though its provenance is undoubtedly of a different breed, I’m optimistic it’ll rouse the same sort of emotions in collectors.
This is the extensive, albeit focused, estate of a watchmaker named Hans Ernst Müller, who studied at the German Watchmaking School in Glashütte. This set consists of a pocket watch made in 1938, along with a graduate project wristwatch produced in 1940 and a functional model of a flying tourbillon. Both the pocket watch and tourbillon model are signed with the watchmaker’s name, though all are attractively finished and recognized in German watchmaking collecting circles. Should you flip through the pages of Kurt Herkner in the 1978 book Glashütte und seine Uhren, you’ll find them featured proudly. I don’t know about you, but I need that model on my office wall yesterday.
What makes this set so fascinating is the number of included extras which further contextualize the kind of watchmaker Hans Ernst Müller was. Included alongside the wristwatch, pocket watch, and functional tourbillon display model are Müller’s school diploma and “references, certificates, design drawings, photographs and extensive reference library.” These extras come in the form of both loose documents and hardcover books, helping paint a picture of the German watchmaker’s career and accomplishments. This is genuinely the most excited I’ve been by an auction lot in a good long while, so you better believe I’ll be watching closely to see what this set achieves.
Dr. Crott Auctioneers of Mannheim, Germany, will be selling this set in their sale taking place on June 29. Its estimate has been set at €15,000 — € 30,000.
Vetta Cronografo Ermetico Impermeable
My journey down the rabbit hole of vintage watches was largely fueled by chronographs. It didn’t really matter how many subdials it had, or what the name on its dial said. As long as it had something of aesthetic or mechanical note going on, I was intrigued. This avenue also exposed me to varying tastes of collectors in different countries, but most notably the chronograph collectors of Italy.
This oversized chronograph by Vetta measures a whopping 38mm across and emerged out of a partnership with Wyler. After the Swiss brand began selling watches under the Wyler Vetta name in Italy, pieces branded Vetta alone also benefited from the collaboration, resulting in watches like this stepped-bezel Ermetico Impermeable. I especially enjoy this piece’s pop of color, which is served in the form of both a brilliant blue pulsations and red telemeter scale. Paired with the set of tracing, blued steel hands, these details really help elevate the appearance of an otherwise straightforward chronograph.
As evidenced by the lack of lug holes and the presence of a fold-and-secure style, two-piece strap, this Vetta has fixed bars. This is a detail I personally love, as it speaks to the no-nonsense, hard-wearing ethos of these early oversized chronographs. At a point in time when collecting of such watches was uncommon, strap options for fixed bar watches were limited, but with more enthusiasm surrounding the class, the possibilities have expanded accordingly. Though it does look excellent as it’s currently configured, I think a blue strap could really make those applications of color pop even further.
The Parisian dealer Harbor Watches has this Vetta listed with an asking price of €14,900. Get the full scoop here.
2001 Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5107G-001
What everyone’s now calling “neo-vintage” is undeniably in, and anyone who’s not convinced has likely yet to see the numbers that clean sports Rolex models of the 90s and early 2000s now command. This speaks to the mass appeal of Rolex’s designs. But if that’s not exactly your bag and you’re after something less obvious, where else is there to turn for similar money? While this next piece and a gold GMT-Master, for example, are absolutely apples and oranges, the closeness in pricing does make you scratch your head.
Despite a strong no date preference, this Calatrava always stood out to me as an impressive design and a good candidate for a one-watch collection. At 37mm the reference is discrete but not tiny, and then bulked up ever so slightly further by the set of not-so-dress watch crown guards. In white gold, the Ref. 5107 is arguably at its stealthiest, but still not suited for Rolex-like wear on a leather strap. Here’s the fix and what makes this specific example worth talking about: It’s fitted with a matching white-gold bracelet of the most extremely high quality. If you’ve never handled a Patek Philippe bracelet, I’d recommend you do so.
Although it’s got the seldom-specced bracelet and is in clean-looking shape, there’s an important detail that guides its pricing. This is a “naked” watch as some might say, sold without any boxes or papers. If the plan is to regularly wear the watch, or even go as far as daily-ing it, I wouldn’t let this dissuade me from pursuing this example. Considering the ease with which an extract from the Archives can be acquired, new paperwork to accompany the watch isn’t impossible to get your hands on and is always a good document for any Patek owner to have. No matter how you slice it, it’s an interesting alternative to consider before taking the Rolex route within the price bracket.
A dealer located in Madrid has this piece listed for sale on Chrono24 for $ 23,150. For further details, follow the link.
Rolex Submariner Display
The immediate reaction for the truly crazed upon taking delivery of a great watch is to wonder how it can be topped. Once upon a time, this was how my mind worked, but in the past couple of years, the game has changed. Instead of jumping straight to chasing the bigger and better deal after finally finding a watch you’re enamored with, why not instead invest further in that same watch? There’s a number of ways to go about doing so, like the purchase of a matching metal bracelet for your Calatrava, but Rolex is a tougher nut to crack. Seeing as chasing down the ultimate bezel insert can prove to be a never-ending wild goose chase, maybe consider this as the next step in building a full-set of overkill proportions.
Marketing and Rolex go together like America and apple pie, but the watchmaking Goliath didn’t stop after hooking clientele with their advertisements. Namely, they ensured your first point of exposure to a Rolex was nothing short of magical. Using ornate window displays like this one intended for Submariners, the brand tastefully communicated everything that needed to be understood about the watch and more. With text reading “Professional divers stake their lives on the Rolex Submariner,” the point definitely gets across, and it is only intensified by the accenting piece of coral and miniature diver’s helmet.
You could probably put a late model Explorer 1 on your wrist for the seller’s asking price, but if you’ve already got a Sub you’re smitten with sitting pretty in your arsenal, this would be an excellent way to fall deeper in love with it than you already are. Though it’s said to date back to the 1950s, this looks more like a 1970s display to me, allowing it to pair perfectly with a single example or a collection of matte dial references. All in all, it’s a piece of history, informing what made Rolex the brand it is today, and it would make for one seriously cool addition to any Submariner set.
An eBay user based out of Hamelin, Germany, is selling this display with an asking price of $ 5,000. You also have the option to make an offer, so why not start there?