It’s with great pleasure and a dash of disbelief that I announce that this week marks my hundredth installment of this column, offering a selection of what’s noteworthy and available in the world of vintage watches. In honor of the occasion, this week’s roundup is most definitely capable of dropping a few jaws and then some, with picks like a fresh-to-market Omega Chronomètre, a first-execution Favre Leuba, and what many would agree to be the ultimate Paul Newman Daytona in stainless steel. Because you can’t just stop there, keep your eyes out for a Submariner worn daily by a painter, plus a Breitling worn by Italian paratroopers.
1967 Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512
Unless you’re looking for a project, it’s always advisable to go for the best condition your budget will allow. The dud might be a few bucks cheaper and easier to stomach, but the well-preserved example is objectively more desirable, thanks to its ability to convey all the original design has to offer. This is an opinion I’ll stand behind until I’m old and grey, though exceptional instances call for a different sort of consideration. Though it might defy all common logic of vintage watch collecting, this first pick has much in the way of magic.
We both know you’re already familiar with a little old watch called the Submariner, so let’s skip to what makes this piece so incredibly charming. Before you go uttering a three-letter, abbreviated expletive, consider the provenance. This example was owned by a painter who wore it daily, explaining why its case, crystal, bezel, and bracelet are speckled with paint. Further personalizing it is the engraving on the caseback, which reads “I LOVE YOU MR BOND, SHARON.” To many, combining these two factors with a worn and relumed dial would amount to a gargantuan red flag, but I like to think this one has a unique appeal.
I love the idea of a notable watch that’s been worn like it was stolen for the better part of a lifetime, without much regard for resale or heirloom value. Pieces like these obviously aren’t the prettiest, and are often far from easy to unload, but there’s a humanness to them that the minty fresh example just doesn’t afford. Unlike something that’s sat in a safe deposit box for decades on end, watches like these have scars that translate to stories, and inseparable ties to those that previously wore them. While I still do advise opting for the best, I’d argue this is a different brand of best.
Sotheby’s is offering this Submariner in its latest online sale, which has quite the big catalog. Its estimate has been set at $ 5,000 to $ 7,000, which seems fair all things considered.
Omega Chronomètre Ref. 2364
It was with great delight that I found the listing for our next pick of the week, in that it’s exactly the sort of eBay listing I dream of and represents the inquisitive spirit of hunting high and low that this column promotes. Well-preserved watch, unknowing seller, the sort of photos that don’t cut it but also keep you up at night – you know the drill. Luckily, it also just so happens to be for an incredible watch that seldom surfaces, making the opportunity to own this fresh-to-market example all the more exciting.
You’re looking at an Omega Chronomètre corresponding with the reference 2364, which as many will know is a significant piece in the history of both the watchmaker and watchmaking as a whole. The source of its significance is of course the sub-seconds-equipped, 17-jewel, Cal. 30T2RG movement, which was first fitted in this very reference. Omega experienced great success with the caliber in period chronometer competitions and was clearly committed to its excellence, given the ways in which the Cal. 30T2RG would go on to be finished. For my money, the most compelling examples of the reference are cased in stainless steel, proving that tremendous beauty can be yielded from a non-precious metal.
Though the case numbers might not be visible, I’d hazard a guess that this one dates back to 1941. Despite nearing 80 years old, it’s aged more than gracefully with only minor wear. This can be seen best upon inspection of its two-tone dial, which seems to be free of flaws aside from a minimal marking inside the sub-dial, and a slight accumulation of particles surrounding the tone dividing ring. Compared to the several yellowed, damaged, and over-polished examples I’ve seen, this piece has it going on, and it is probably the best I’ve ever come across.
This Omega is being sold on eBay in an auction that’ll come to a close on Saturday evening. At the time of publishing, the high bid stands at $ 4,949.
Favre Leuba Deep Blue Ref. 59603
Over the years of writing this column, I’ve been able to handle more of the featured picks in the metal. Whether you’re first introduced to an example on the wrist of a fellow collector, or at a dealer’s show booth, it’s always nice to have prior knowledge of a specific piece before writing it up, for obvious reasons. With this in mind, we’re taking a look at an uncommon dive watch I saw not too long ago. It’s chock full of unconventional design traits, but in the best way possible, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The last time I saw this watch, the individual offering it was taking delivery, while at a collector’s get-together in the pre-pandemic era. Being that sort of event, the watch quickly ended up in my hands, and being the earliest variant of Favre Leuba’s Deep Blue, it quickly wowed me. With curved dial script and a small application of text indicating the use of radium luminous compound, it’s most definitely a first-execution example of the Ref. 59603, and a good looking one at that.
Overall, this example is in great shape, and while the name on the dial doesn’t say Blancpain or that of another more notable dive watch manufacturer, it really is a top-tier dive watch. Its case remains sharp, and its bezel is still legible as ever, without any cracks, but most notable is the sunburst dial finish, which remains brilliant as can be. The only remote flaw is what looks to be a bit of spotting near the logo at 10 o’clock, but that wouldn’t be enough to dissuade me from pursuing this one further.
A collector on the Omega Forum has this piece listed with an asking price of $ 2,975. Additional photos and contact info can be found here.
1969 Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263
When I discuss the vintage watch market with friends who don’t wear watches, I’ll usually use Rolex to explain the concept of how subtle variations can yield drastically different price points. You can probably imagine the looks on people’s faces when you tell them just how much a line of red text costs, which is why the conversation usually ends there. If it were to continue, it’d likely end with mention of the famed “RCO” Paul Newman Daytona, which can be seen as a case study in the perceived value of inconsistencies. It’s not every day that an RCO comes up for grabs, which is why this next piece’s place in the roundup is more than deserved.
This piece earns its name as a result of the dial printing, which reads “ROLEX COSMOGRAPH OYSTER,” instead of “ROLEX OYSTER COSMOGRAPH.” Originally intended to be used in pump pusher cases, Rolex would later add the “OYSTER” text upon deciding to case these exotic dials in early examples of the reference 6263. Naturally, this variant is exceedingly rare. How rare you ask? It’s estimated that less than 20 are in existence, so it’s safe to use that word with this one, and you’d better believe that rarity translates to desirability, given its place at the very top of vintage Daytona collecting.
Condition should be of extreme concern when chasing after a watch along these lines, but luckily, you don’t have to worry as this example is just about perfect. Still fitted with its original Mark 1 bezel and tree trunk-like Mark 0 pushers, every last detail on this piece makes sense for the serial range and is known to be associated with the watch based upon past public offerings. As for the dial, which is, of course, the main event here, it’s also in outstanding condition and far better than other examples that have surfaced, making this a true grail watch in grail shape. If what you’re after is the last word in Daytona collecting, I’d argue this is it.
You’ll find this hen’s teeth Daytona in the inventory of Wind Vintage. Further details can be found here; its price is available upon request.
Breitling Brigata Paracadutisti Folgore
With the big guns out of the way, I thought we’d wrap up on a bit of a fun note, with a relatively accessible military watch. But it’s anything but your average military watch that was potentially worn on a base by an unnamed individual. Oh no, this is quite literally a watch for members of an Italian paratroopers brigade. In other words, it’s a Breitling designed to be worn while jumping out of a plane on behalf of your country. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool to me, and if you agree, you’ll want to keep reading.
Breitling produced these watches in the 1980s for the Brigata Paracadutisti Folgore, or Paratroopers Brigade Folgore, which is Italian for lightning. These watches were designed to be worn by paratroopers, meaning that they needed to be both functional and legible under demanding circumstances. As a result, it’s a bold watch with a wide bezel, making it easily read in less than optimal circumstances. Included with the watch is a handwritten card from the regiment, along with some other regiment documents and materials, suggesting that the circumstances under which it served can be determined.
The only facet I could see someone not being sold on would be the quartz movement that powers this watch, but might I remind you we’re talking about a military watch, and one designed to withstand the rigors of jumping out of planes. There’s something special about a purpose-built watch, and in this case, the purpose the watch was built for demanded the utmost precision and durability. All this to say, it’s a tool watch, and one that was clearly up to the task at hand, in that it’s still here and still looking great.
An eBay seller based out of the United Kingdom is offering this piece for £799, which equates to approximately just over $ 1,000. To make an offer, or claim it as your own, hit the link.