This week, we’re back in the groove of old and gold, as evidenced by a round-up featuring three pieces produced in the warm-toned precious metal. For the triple calendar crazed, there’s an example dating back to the 1940s from Universal Genève, plus a more complicated chronograph by Heuer in 14k yellow gold. At the baller-most end of the spectrum, the gold trio is rounded out by a Ref. 1675 without crown guards, while still addressing more accessible pieces in the form of a steel Vacheron Constantin and a military watch from Hamilton. A fun time is in store, and you’re invited.
1963 Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 1675
Everyone knows Rolex produced the Ref. 1675 with crown guards. What this portion of the article presupposes is: maybe they didn’t? This is explained by the fact that, like other models, the GMT-Master simply didn’t progress in a cut and dry, black and white fashion. We’re kicking things off with might be one of the nicest GMTs you’ll ever encounter, and I couldn’t be more excited. Just so we’re on the same page, this piece is the stuff of dreams.
If you weren’t already aware of these anomalies of the back catalog, here’s the long and short of it: In the earliest days of the reference, examples cased in steel did indeed benefit from the addition of crown guards, which were seen as an upgrade coming from the markedly more fragile Ref. 6542. Although gold examples with crown guards would eventually be realized, production of pieces in precious metals like gold began with the use of crown guard-less cases like the one on today’s example. All this makes this generation of 18k GMT-Master a transitional hybrid of sorts, that’s only furthered by the presence of alpha hands, as also seen on 18k Ref. 6542s.
Focusing in closer on this watch is quite the experience, in that there’s much to get lost in. With a hyphen separating the words “OYSTER” and “PERPETUAL,” plus a set of “ghost T’s” guarding the minuscule text reading “SWISS,” this one passes the dial test, and all without any noticeable flaws. While on the topic of flawlessness, you’ll want to inspect the condition of its 18k case that’s nothing short of terrific. Normally, this is where you’d joke about cutting your finger on the edge of the case, but we are indeed talking about the soft alloy that is gold. The only detail to note is the bracelet’s technical incorrectness, but given its period correctness and visible aging identical to that of the case, it’s likely been with the watch since new.
Kirill Yuzh of Lunar Oyster has this top-tier GMT-Master listed on his site with an asking price of $ 87,500. Additional photos and details can be found here.
1946 Universal Genève Ref. 51307
The first antique show I attended was in Palm Beach roughly ten years ago, and it was at that show that I first saw a UG in the metal. It did, in fact, leave a lasting impression on me, and in many ways it fueled my interest in triple-date, moon-phase-equipped watches. After pacing through the aisles of what was, and continues to be, a pretty unexciting show for those in search of watches, a piece corresponding to the exact same reference we’re about to discuss made itself known. Though it was a 51307, it was nowhere near as attractive as this particular example, which is more than deserving of a good home.
Powered by the Martel and Universal Genève devised Cal. 291, this reference is the result of an effort to diversify production. Coming in ever so slightly after the Tri-Compax’s introduction, the Ref. 51307’s 1945 release spoke to the manufacture’s deliberate shift towards making more complicated, calendar watches following the Second World War. Existing on the cutting edge of horology, these timepieces demonstrated what was in store for the future of watchmaking on both a mechanical and aesthetic level. This notion is surely supported by its 35mm case in 14k yellow gold, which would’ve been regarded as being somewhat large in its day.
Neatly displaying the date and month with subdials, while using small apertures for the day of the week and moonphase, the reference communicates a great deal of data in tremendous style. This specific one is so special because of its configuration and the condition it’s being offered in. It’s undeniably unusual to see such an ornate case shape and elegant complication paired with a functional, radium-adorned dial traced by radium-filled hands. To see one preserved so well is truly a treat, and not an everyday occurrence by any stretch, with most examples out there sporting refinished dials. In other words, it’s a dope watch, and its past owners knew how to take care of their stuff.
Head on over to the Chrono24 page of Swiss dealer Avocado Vintage Watches, where the UG is up for grabs at $ 4,801.
Heuer Triple Calendar Chronograph
While on the topic of triple calendars, I thought we’d keep things moving with the inclusion of another similarly complicated piece, but with a twist in favor of variety. Let’s say you’re in the market for a triple calendar, or you’ve already given one such timepiece a shot, but decided it just wasn’t cutting it. If your itch for complication is in need of further scratching, the logical next step is a triple calendar chronograph. Not all are created equally, though fear not, as we’re now going to dissect what earns one of the best its high regard.
Using Valjoux’s Cal. 72C, Heuer experienced much success with triple calendar chronograph production spanning nearly a half-century. The watchmaker even went as far as producing such watches for other brands, speaking to their involvement in the field. Of the wide array of different case shapes and dial options, it’s the earlier iterations that really do it for me, namely those which emerged out of the 1950s, like the one you’re looking at. This is what I’d personally consider to be the poster child of Heuer triple calendar chronographs, in that it’s arguably the same watch proudly featured in period Heuer advertisements.
Some are quick to refer to these as “Pre-Carreras,” which in my mind doesn’t make much sense. Between the radical differences in functionality and lack of most defining Carrera characteristics, it’s an entirely different beast, and this beast just so happens to have a seemingly flawless case and dial. This might just be one of those pieces I use to gauge the market, as Heuers have historically achieved rather strong numbers at Bonhams. While the number it achieves can’t be taken as a sure indication of conditions, it does make for a decent opportunity to roughly take the market’s temperature.
This Heuer is featured in the catalog of Bonhams’ upcoming July 21 sale, and it is being offered with an estimate of £3,000 — £4,000. Find more details along with the rest of the catalog here.
Vacheron Constantin Ref. 7397
In that we’ve discussed the use of the term Calatrava, along with what exactly constitutes one in the past, I thought it’d prove productive to further the conversation to next highlight a piece not privy to the title, albeit seriously compelling in its own right. It’s to-the-point, free of any other complications aside from the date, and measures in at a perfect 35mm across. Though all the elements of a great Calatrava might be there on paper, it just isn’t one, plain and simple. Having said that, there’s still a lot to love here.
You’re looking at a Vacheron Constantin that dates back to the late 1960s and corresponds with the reference number 7397. In addition to stainless steel, the manufacture also produced the reference in both white and yellow gold, but in this hard-wearing alloy, it’s got a more individual appeal. This is especially true upon consideration of the case’s lines, which are essentially akin to that of a sports watch. Altogether, the unique combination of rugged materials and slightly less dress-oriented styling makes for a bit of an oddball, but an amply tasteful one at that.
Naturally, it’s not just a pretty face, but a mechanically sophisticated one as well, given the presence of Vacheron Constantin’s Cal. K1072/1. The manufacture put this caliber to use in a number of important watches like the Ref. 6782, and for good reason. Apart from being beautifully finished, the self-winding caliber is heavily jeweled and thin, allowing Vacheron to realize slender silhouettes like the 12mm-thick case of the Ref. 7397. Thinness translates to increased wearability, and increased wearability translates to more chances for this to potentially become your next favorite watch. If a subtle flex of taste is what you’re after, you’ll want to check out this unpolished piece.
The Keystone of Beverly Hills is offering this Vacheron Constantin for $ 7,500. Find the full scoop here.
1978 Hamilton MIL-W-46374B
To wrap up the week, I thought we’d shed light on a watch that’s not only relatively affordable, but also just great for all the right reasons. I enjoy collecting the sort of watches that I’d gladly wear all day, every day, if it were my only watch, and military watches are surely up to the task of delivering in any situation. Like all other arenas of this collecting scene, you can spend a dangerously pretty penny on certain military watches, but this isn’t to say all require the remortgaging of one’s abode. Illogical or not, I like the sound of a one watch collection, and this week’s closer definitely fits the figurative bill.
Along with watchmakers like Benrus, Hamilton supplied the U.S. military with wristwatches for use in the air and on land in Vietnam and elsewhere. Military-focused collectors will know the brand’s MIL-W-46374 spec to have been one of the more popular pieces on the wrists of enlisted men on the ground, and if you’ve ever considered making one your own, then you’ll want to keep reading. As the B at the end of its reference would indicate, this example is a B-spec, which was manufactured in 1978. B-spec production can be traced back to 1975, and it is characterized by the introduction of dials featuring a radiation symbol along with the luminous-indicating “H3” text.
All in all, this is a great looking example, despite a cracked crystal and a bit of surface gunk that’s currently on the case — both comically easy to remedy should you so wish. Watches in this sort of condition are not to be avoided as, on occasion (like this very one), it’s an indicator of originality. To be fair, there’s not all that much incentive for someone to go all out with the restoration of a Hamilton like this, but you’d be surprised at how many collectors wouldn’t know to look past a cracked crystal while hunting down a vintage watch. With an ultra legible dial, and a basic manually wound movement, this is the sort of no-nonsense watch you could call it a day with.
You’ll find this piece at Hill Auction Gallery of Sunrise, FL, where it’s being offered on July 29 with an estimate of $ 100 — $ 1,000. To get in on the action, click here.