If you’re wondering what time it is, don’t look down at your wrist for the answer: It’s time for the weekly round-up once again. This week’s lot is a varied bunch with obscurities aplenty, including a Zodiac Autographic in excellent condition along with an early Mido which uses small spheres to tell the time. Closer to the realm of normalcy is a clean and complete Omega Constellation, and that’s complemented by a more dressy Patek Philippe Calatrava in rare stainless steel. Since five is the magic number, there’s also a Breitling-manufactured chronograph retailed by a little-known name, which ought to rouse some emotions. Let’s find out.
Zodiac Autographic Ref. 666
For a name in watchmaking without top-tier status, Zodiac has a ridiculously long list of achievements and accomplishments within the industry and history of the craft. In addition to pioneering techniques and carving out new subcategories, it mastered mass-marketing in its heyday, explaining the success that characterized the company’s original sales and the availability of vintage examples in today’s market. I’m generally down with most Zodiacs of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, but it wouldn’t feel right to break out just any old piece with the name on its dial. With this in mind, let’s kick off the week with a look at a heavy hitter of another time, so to speak.
Our example shown here dates to the 1950s. Breaking out onto the scene with one of the first power-reserve complications in a wristwatch – plus a self-winding caliber and luminous applications – the Autographic made serious waves, quickly becoming one of Zodiac’s most popular offerings. This watch is proof of the Autographic’s genius, through its symmetrical design that offers intrigue in the form of its several hands. Black dials may be tempting, but I’d argue that this watch in this condition beats a black dial example in average condition every day. After all, condition is everything.
Powered by the Cal. 11A, which is based on A. Schild’s Cal. 1250, the watch is capable of running for up to 36 hours at 18,000 vph when fully wound. That’s not nothing, but my obsession with this watch stems from its appearance. Possibly shallow, yes, but there’s no denying the beauty of the ornate lugs on the waterproof case, especially when paired with the luminous dial. Should you be after an impossibly clean watch, but still aren’t looking to break the bank, I’d definitely take a look in this direction.
Justin Vrakas of Watch Steez is selling this Zodiac. The price on this one has been set at $ 1,300, which sounds pretty good if you ask me.
1966 Omega Constellation Ref. 168.017
The watches you see featured every week in this column become known to me in a number of ways: First, there are those which I personally seek out or am regularly on the hunt for, which make up the bulk of weekly roundups. Then you’ve got the watches that are purposely brought to my attention by their owners – some more directly than others – who are usually watch dealers I’m already familiar with. In rare and exciting instances, collectors introduce me to compelling pieces from sellers I don’t already know of after asking for opinions concerning potential acquisitions. After not one, but three different collectors forwarded links to pieces from a Canadian dealer’s inventory, I couldn’t help but poke around in search of something of note.
Should you not have already figured it out, you’re looking at a Constellation. This particularly spartan example of the reference dates back to 1966, putting it somewhat later in the storied lineage of precision-focused Constellations. Despite not being the earliest piece to bear the name, it’s still got a Cal. 561 beneath the caseback and a Genta silhouette, ensuring both timing and styling capable of living up to the collection’s reputation. Omegas of this vintage and price bracket simply can’t be beat, and they are what I’ll almost always suggest to non-watch-crazed friends after a respectable everyday piece.
Normally, I wouldn’t be quick to jump at featuring one of these in that they don’t exactly bring much wow factor to the table, but this is a bit of a different animal. The initial indication of excellence was the presence of the original boxes and papers, including its serial-matching chronometer certification. That alone would’ve been enough to pique my interest, but matters were made more interesting after noting the original crystal, unpolished case, and fitted Omega bracelet in matching stainless steel. While the full set isn’t necessary, it sure is nice to have, and at the seller’s asking price, your dollar goes quite a long way.
Bill Le Boeuf Jewellers of Barrie, Ontario, is offering this Omega on its site with an asking price of $ 2,695 CAD, which equates roughly to $ 1,985 USD. Additional photos and contact information can be found by accessing the link.
Patek Philippe Ref. 3509
If owning an example of a Patek Philippe is an honor bestowed upon a lucky few, acquiring a significant piece in stainless steel represents a unique pinnacle within that particular realm of collecting. For those that can’t wrap their heads around the appeal and don’t see what’s the big fuss about steel dress watches, allow me to break it down for you. It all comes back to the unexpected nature of a delicately designed timepiece cased in such a hard-wearing material, which only gets more unexpected as the reference itself gets more complicated.
You’re looking at a steel ref. 3509. Patek Philippe introduced the reference back in the 1960s, and it’s remained relevant to this day as a result of its timeless styling and to-the-pointness. A number of dial variants were indeed produced, but the white dial with applied indices is without question the most elegant of the bunch, in my eyes. This combined with the steel case, you’ve got quite the stealthy little heavy hitter of sorts. It’s sure to be the coolest piece in the room, and all without turning heads.
Collectors are sure to appreciate this one for the presence of its original boxes, papers, and hangtags, but eyes really light up upon noting its unpolished case and evenly aged white dial, which has now achieved a light cream color. The only big thing to consider is that the case size is actually somewhat small at roughly 33mm across, but if you’ve got the wrist to pull it off, I see no reason not to splurge. Whether you’ve already got a stable of watches this one can complement, or you’re ready to go all-in on one great watch, this Calatrava is definitely worthy of consideration.
Miami’s Menta Watches has this Patek Philippe listed for an even $ 10,000. For the perfect entry point into the world of stainless steel Calatrava collecting, hit that link and add some subtle heat to your collection.
Melik-Mido Rolling Hours
For me, coming across something the likes of which you’ve never seen before is the peak of watch collecting, as it’s a reminder that there’s still much to be discovered. It’s not a common occurrence, but it’s always a special occasion when I’m lucky enough to encounter one such curiosity. Earlier this week, I got lucky.
Though they’re best known for more conventionally laid out pieces like those of the Multifort collection, Mido has a long history of taking the road less traveled in an effort to differentiate their designs. This early Melik-Mido is no exception, with two small balls indicating the hours and minutes. To this day, the ball and track system remains exceedingly avant-garde looking, but one is reminded of the watch’s age after getting a look at the chrome-plated case. Usually, that’d be a dealbreaker for me, but in the case of a piece this unusual, we can make probably make an exception.
My one gripe with this example is the current condition of its dial and case, which while not entirely trashed, still isn’t exactly clean. As many will know, chrome platings begin to wear off with the passing of time, just as dial colors change if not preserved properly, and while the two of these factors together would usually be enough to make me avoid a watch, this Melik-Mido might just slip through the cracks. It’s just such a radical approach to time-telling (especially considering its release in the 1930s) that’s hard not to fall in love with, which I’m sure you will too.
Boule Auctions of Monaco has this piece going up for sale on July 18, when it’ll be offered with an estimate of €1,000 — €1,500. Find the full scoop here.
Breitling Southwest Instrument Clamshell Chronograph
A weekly round-up wouldn’t be complete without a chronograph of some sort, and if chronographs are what you’re about, this week’s is sure to get you going. As the widespread horological lexicon has come to accept, stopwatch-equipped timepieces like these are known as “clamshell chronographs” as a result of their case construction. As we’ve discussed before, this case design was impressive at the time of its release and remains so to this day, but this specific watch’s design is simply on another level. Also, in an effort to make sure Tiffany dials aren’t the only ones receiving retailer-signed fanfare, let’s take a closer look at the history and outfit behind this one.
As you’ve likely already noticed, the dial on this Breitling-manufactured watch is signed Southwest Instrument. The Southwest Instrument Co. of San Pedro, California was founded in 1926 to supply sailors and aviators with necessary tools, including but not limited to chronometers for timekeeping en route. Southwest not only sold timepieces like this one, but also serviced them for clients, shedding light on their commitment to service way back when, even if not a textbook watch retailer. These two lines of text are the cherry on top of an already attractive, 36mm piece — complete with an inner blue snail scale on its dial and blued steel hands.
For a watch of this age and construction, its condition is quite good, indicating decades of either careful ownership or dormancy. Despite having developed a layer of patina, the white dial has aged evenly, and its two-tone, foil applications still reflect light in that indescribably epic way such dials do. The stainless steel case is in similarly stunning shape, with thick and well-defined lugs. Evidence of its unpolished case can also be found on the caseback, where deep engravings can still be found. All in all, it’s a terrific piece for the money, regardless of whether the obscure retail association does anything for you
An individual on the ChronoTrader sales forum has this chronograph listed with an asking price of €3,750. Check out the full listing for some great photos at minimum.