We believe every vintage watch has a story to tell. That’s what HODINKEE was founded on, and since 2016, we’ve used our knowledge to bring you a curated selection of vintage watches in the HODINKEE Shop that you won’t find elsewhere, all delivered with an emphasis on education, transparency, and storytelling. And now, we’re kicking things up a notch.
You’ll still find us here every Wednesday morning, and we’ll still be highlighting what we love and what you should know about every vintage watch that appears in the HODINKEE Shop. What’s new, however, is the amount of watches you’ll discover each week. We’ve grown our team of specialists, and we’re now able to deliver a larger – and broader – selection of vintage watches than ever before. You’ll also learn about the highlight pieces in each week’s assortment in articles like the below, directly from the team members who are most excited about them. The comments section is also now open for discussion, because we want to hear from you – don’t hesitate to let us know what you think and what you’d like to see from us going forward.
This Week’s Vintage Watches
We started the day in the HODINKEE Shop with this morning’s announcement that the Benrus Type I has officially been reissued by the brand. It’s the first time the Type I has been recreated since its original 1970s run, as well as the first time it’s been released for the civilian market. It’s been recreated with close consideration for the original, in a way we think anyone that’s a fan of the vintage examples will appreciate. Our vintage team was able to source an original example of a 1972 Benrus Type I, with a rare “sterile” caseback, as well as a Benrus Type II from 1979, to help commemorate the occasion. But that’s not all we have for you this Wednesday – over 15 additional vintage watches were just added to the HODINKEE Shop. You can check out all of those new vintage watches for yourself right here, or read on to discover a few of our team’s personal highlights.
A 1978 Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016 And A 1970s Heuer Carrera Automatic Ref. 1553N
By Saori Omura
I have admired the Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 for as long as I can remember. But it’s one of those watches that I’ve never been able to call my own. The value of this reference has grown exponentially in recent years, and every time I come across a new example, I always feel regret for not purchasing one for myself earlier on. Today’s watch is as tempted as I’ve ever been. It’s a Mark 4 variation, which is partially indicated by the handsome, extra-tall coronet logo on the dial.
The patina of the lume on a vintage watch is, in my opinion, one of the most important distinguishing factors when determining its overall desirability. On this Explorer, the color of the lume is prominently displayed through the recognizable 3-6-9 dial configuration, as well as on the large inverted 12 o’clock triangle and the rest of the hour markers. It’s so rare to come across an example with a perfectly even pale yellow patina on the dial and hands, which helps this watch really stand out against the matte black dial. Don’t make the same mistake I’ve made over the years; check out this Explorer ref. 1016 in the HODINKEE Shop right now – you never know when it might become out of reach.
The Carrera is Heuer’s iconic watch. First released in 1963, the same year as the Rolex Daytona, the inaugural Carrera (ref. 2447) was manually wound with a round case and a classic three-register sub-dial arrangement. As the Carrera matured in the following years, its aesthetic execution began to shift from its original design, serving as a reflection of the era each reference was released in. Is it any surprise, then, that the funky, blue-dialed Carrera ref. 1553N pictured below is straight out of the 1970s?
The Carrera collection was full of surprises in the 1970s. It adopted a C-shaped case and called on the use of brighter and more exciting color options for the dial and hands. And, in keeping with the early 1970s, when this chronograph was produced, it used the updated automatic caliber 15. The caliber 15 was released in 1972 and built on the base of one of the very first automatic chronograph movements: 1969’s caliber 11, which Heuer famously helped develop. This example features a rare navy blue dial with a bright orange central seconds hand that unmistakably reflects the era in which it was born. The color of the dial can transition from dark navy blue to a more mid-blue hue, with a slight purple undertone, depending on the light of its surroundings. The unusual design of the 30-minute counter at three o’clock and the extended silver bar with the Carrera logo on the center of the dial definitely adds to the quirky character of the watch. Check it out for yourself, right here.
A 1969 Rolex ‘Red’ Submariner Ref. 1680 With Mark I Dial And A 1967 Seiko ’62MAS’ Ref. 62137-8001
By Brandon Frazin
The Rolex Submariner ref. 1680 is a watch that is near and dear to my heart. If I were to have only one watch in my collection, I think it would have to be my personal “Red” Submariner – it simply checks all the boxes for me. There is just something about that small line of red text under the “Top Hat” crystal that serves as a reminder of why I love watches so much. I’ve worn my watch in all sorts of different settings and occasions, from the most casual hang-outs to black-tie events. I know many believe wearing a steel sport watch (or any watch, really) with a tuxedo breaks the conventions of style, but it’s always worked out just fine for me.
When this Rolex Submariner ref. 1680 with a Mark I dial crossed my desk, it gave me the same feeling my personal Submariner does. I have personally not had many hands-on opportunities to study the Mark I variation of the Red Sub, prior to this example showing up at HODINKEE HQ, so this was a great opportunity to do a deep dive into all the little details. The biggest difference between Mark I dials and those on later Red Submariners is the meters-first depth rating with closed sixes, as well as a more compact font choice. As many of you may already know, the ref. 1680 was the first Submariner to feature a date complication, which was a pretty significant addition when you consider the history of the watch’s development over time. Rolex still offers the Submariner with or without a date window, but it all started right here with the ref. 1680. This variation doesn’t come to market very often, and it features a gorgeous patina and is in overall excellent condition. You can view more details in the HODINKEE Shop.
Over the last few years, I have fallen hard for vintage Seiko. From divers to dress watches, I have become infatuated with many of the company’s historic models. I visited Japan about a year ago, and I couldn’t help but visit every watch store and jeweler I saw in hopes of finding a hidden Seiko gem. That trip helped solidify my appreciation for the brand, and as I write this, I’m wearing one of my favorite vintage Seiko watches.
We’ve been fortunate to come across a couple of great Seiko “62MAS” dive watch examples and offer them to you over the past few months, and today, we’re excited to showcase a third one. This example is in particularly beautiful shape. The dial has kept its nice grey color, and the lume has stayed clean over the years – finding these true vintage tool watches, in this type of condition, is becoming more and more difficult as time passes. The 62MAS is Seiko’s original professional diver’s watch, and it’s amazing to consider all of the dive watches to come from the brand since this watch was released in 1965. Demand has grown for these early Seiko divers in recent years, and this example would be a great addition to any collection, which you can make happen right here.
A 1972 Benrus Type I ‘Sterile’ And A 1979 Benrus Type II Class A
By Logan Baker
I recently completed a deep dive into the world of vintage Benrus military watches, specifically the Type I and the Type II. I read the original MIL-W-50717 specification in its entirety, chatted with the experts, and soaked up as much information about these essential pieces of 1970s military kit as possible. That effort was all in preparation for today’s exciting release of the BENRUS Type I Limited Edition, for which the HODINKEE Shop is proud to be the exclusive launch partner.
To coincide with the launch of the new-for-2020 Type I, we were able to source vintage examples of the Type I and Type II for today’s round-up – and, man, are they cool. We’ll go in numerical order here and highlight the Type I first, which is pretty exciting, as the watch we’re sharing is considered to be one of the rarest vintage Type I variants ever, and it comes from 1972, the first production year of the watch. Most Benrus Type I watches – including today’s reissue – feature unsigned dials with engraved casebacks that detail, among other things, the MIL-W-50717 spec, the watch’s serial number, and its date of delivery. Very few known Type I models went without this caseback engraving, and those that did – like today’s watch – are considered to feature “sterile” casebacks.
Now, there are a number of rumors surrounding the intention of this omission, but one of the more popular stories claims that Benrus created these completely sterile executions for American operatives in foreign countries who, if captured, would not have wanted to be identified by a bold “U.S.” engraving on the back of their watch. Other theories are more conventional, stating that these variants were prototype examples or were even ordered outside the MIL-W-50717 contract. There is no definitive proof for any of these rumors, but their rarity and off-the-grid detailing have proven to be successful factors in increasing the watch’s overall value and desirability.
You’ll notice that this Type I features numerous scratches on its acrylic crystal and black bezel, and the parkerized steel case – asymmetrical as ever – shows signs of wear. There’s a reason for that. This watch was worn hard over the years, providing it with a unique and well-defined tool-watch character that suits its legacy. The original owner was a diver for the U.S. Navy, where he had a long career and saw combat abroad. We’ve been told he wore the watch through numerous operations, and the deeper cracks on the crystal occurred during one such mission. You can take a closer look at this rare Type I now in the HODINKEE Shop.
The MIL-W-50717 specification called for two different wristwatches, and while the Type I might be – deservedly – grabbing all the attention today, the Type II is plenty cool for its own reasons. The Type I was always intended to be unsigned and unmarked, with a clean dial sans any verbiage or numerals. The Type II, on the other hand, was also unsigned, but it was required to feature a 12/24-hour display on its dial, which gives it a slightly more conventional military aesthetic. The Type II is further split into two separate models. There’s the Class A execution, which features an application of lume on the dial and hands, while the Class B was a non-lume alternative that could be used in areas where no level of radioactivity was permitted. The Benrus Type II we have available today in the HODINKEE Shop is a Class A from 1979, which makes it a later production example. It’s a fantastic reference point of no-frills, function-first 1970s watchmaking, which you can see for yourself now in the HODINKEE Shop.
To view the entire current selection of vintage watches available in the HODINKEE Shop, click here.