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 are back this week with the HODINKEE Shop’s final selection of vintage watches this year! We’ve had a blast with our weekly round-ups in 2020, bringing you a wide variety of our favorite vintage watches nearly every Wednesday. And after such an eventful year, we wanted to end 2020 on a high note with one of our largest assortments of vintage watches ever, all at a range of price points fit for whoever is left on your holiday shopping list – even if that means just treating yourself (we won’t tell!). You can head over to the HODINKEE Shop now to explore our entire selection of vintage watches or read on to discover our team’s take on a few of this week’s top picks.
Oh, and before we forget, make sure you’re signed up for the HODINKEE Shop newsletter to receive first dibs on all of next year’s vintage watch updates. Trust us, you won’t want to miss out on what we’ve got planned for 2021.
A 1960s Universal Genève Polerouter Sub Ref. 869121/02 And A 1960s Universal Genève Polerouter Super Ref. 869112/25
By Saori Omura
Universal Genève watches have always been among my favorite vintage pieces because of the company’s tireless dedication to creating new and unique designs, constantly iterating on its wide-ranging collections over the decades. Let’s face it – the traditional Swiss watch companies often veer toward the conservative side and have the tendency to focus on what they do best. Universal Genève is one of the few brands who have managed to produce simple and elegant time-only dress watches alongside rugged sport chronographs, including the iconic Tri-Compax. One thing has always remained true: Universal Genève was never afraid to try something different, a fact expertly illustrated by the brand’s comprehensive standout collection, the Polerouter.
The revered watch designer Gérald Genta was the man behind the original Polerouter design, which came into being in 1954. It was a gorgeous design with just enough dressy and sporty elements rolled into a single look, featuring sculptural lyre lugs and a silver chapter ring to bring out a touch of the tool watch vibe. The Polerouter collection eventually diversified to include even more robust pieces, such as the Polerouter Sub and the Polerouter Super, as seen in these two examples.
The Polerouter Sub has a bold, cool look that grabs immediate attention. It’s almost like seeing some strange deep-sea fish for the first time and not quite being able to process what you’re looking at. The asymmetrical case on this example features a chunky, heavily ridged crown, an unusual red bezel, wide luminous hour markers with a white painted frame, a large luminous silver hour hand, and a neon orange minute hand. There is a lot going on, but after examining it for a period, everything starts to harmonize and make perfect sense. This is a watch intended to accompany a diver on an underwater adventure after all, and its dynamic appearance serves as a seamless complement to the daring nature of the sport. I will say, however, that I’m glad the watch retained some familiar Universal Genève elements, such as the famous “U” logo and the horizontal crosshair motif that ties it together as part of the broader Polerouter family. You can take a closer look at this Universal Genève Polerouter Sub right now in the HODINKEE Shop.
It’s not often that you’ll find a Polerouter with a grey dial, but that’s exactly what we have here for you today. I am a big fan of grey dials, so this Polerouter Super definitely caught my eye when it first arrived in the Shop. It’s hard to believe it only measures 35mm in diameter because it definitely wears larger on the wrist. The satin finish of the case is a subtle but important detail, and it looks great against the grey dial, whose non-lume execution keeps the overall appearance nice and clean as well. Another detail is the ultra-fine outer track. It’s so fine, it reminds me of the silver-tone chapter ring found on the original Polerouter. This is such a great under-the-radar piece, and you can make it yours today.
A 1977 Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680 Retailed By Tiffany & Co. And A 1974 Rolex Explorer II ‘Straight Hand’ Ref. 1655 With Full Kit
By Brandon Frazin
Like my colleague Cole Pennington says: “Always read the caseback.” And that couldn’t be more true than with this Submariner. In addition to being originally sold at Tiffany & Co. with the retailer’s stamp on its dial, the watch has a lovely caseback engraving that simply says “12-25-77 Love, Gayle.” The thought of waking up Christmas morning to this Submariner in a little blue box is a watch collector’s dream. Who knows how this gift exchange actually went down, but it is fun to think about the scenario and how, back in 1977, a “Tiffany-signed Rolex” wasn’t that big of a deal, whereas today, these retailer-signed watches are some of the most sought-after by collectors everywhere.
In addition to the intriguing caseback engraving – which is appropriate for this time of year – and the retailer-signed dial, this watch is in overall beautiful, honest condition. It looks like Gayle really nailed this present, as the watch was worn and loved for many years. The bezel has aged to a beautiful dark grey, graphite color and the lume has all turned to a consistent beige/yellow color. The hands have even developed a patina that almost gives them a gilt look, which adds to the charm of the watch. As many of you know by now, the Submariner ref. 1680 is one of my personal favorites, and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to this fine example. You can check out all the details and take a closer look now in the HODINKEE Shop.
The Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 is as interesting as the day is long – if, by chance, you can’t tell whether it’s day or night wherever you are, then this watch will be perfect for you. Originally intended for use by cave explorers and those who found themselves in environments where AM and PM couldn’t be determined by the surrounding elements, the Explorer II ref. 1655 was developed to provide a reliable, robust, and legible timekeeper to assist those in need. The orange 24-hour hand and fixed 24-hour bezel are there to keep track of the time of day for the person wearing the watch. This function was very niche, which is why the Explorer II ref. 1655 wasn’t exactly a best-seller when it debuted in the 1970s.
This particular example comes directly from the original owner, who purchased it in 1976 in Copenhagen. I was pleased to find out, once we got in touch, that he had kept all the original paperwork over the years, including the receipt. He also described to me the circumstances of when and why he originally acquired the watch. Long story short, there were some issues with the water resistance of another watch he owned, which is why he decided to save up and buy a Rolex where that would not be an issue. On February 2, 1976, he went to his local Authorized Dealer in Copenhagen to purchase an Explorer II. It was between a Submariner and this watch, which is when he decided he wanted to try something a little different, and voila – he unknowingly ended up with one of the more sought-after variants of the Explorer II with the straight seconds hand.
A 1960s Favre-Leuba ‘U.S. Divers’ Deep Blue Ref. 59973 With Full Set And A 1970s Omega Constellation Electroquartz Ref. 196.005 In 18k Yellow Gold
By Logan Baker
I always ask Brandon and Saori to keep a lookout for the funkiest, most offbeat watches each week to assign to me when we’re preparing for Wednesday’s vintage update. The sheer variety of designs produced by Swiss watch brands in the 1960s and ’70s is unbelievable and often clearly indicative of the period in which they were born. The colors are loud, the cases are big and chunky, and there’s just something so endearing to me about this unconventional period in watchmaking history. This week, we’ve got two pieces in particular that I can’t wait to share with you.
First up, we have a Deep Blue dive watch from Favre-Leuba released in the 1960s that comes complete as a full set and with the much sought-after “U.S. Divers Aqua Lung” logo on a bright orange dial. It not only comes with its entire original kit (including the hang tag!) but also comes in practically new-old-stock condition. And if you keep up with our Wednesday updates each week, you’ll know that’s something we don’t say lightly.
If you’ve even been intrigued by the esoteric world of 1960s dive watches but were perhaps scared off by condition or repetition in design, this Favre-Leuba Deep Blue might just be calling your name – I know I can hear it.
On a completely different spectrum of collectability – but just as irresistibly funky – this 1970s Omega Constellation balances a bold, gold case profile and the always intriguing Beta 21 caliber inside. For those unaware of the Beta 21’s significance in the history of Swiss watchmaking, it was the result of 20 of the country’s most influential watch brands coming together to create a Swiss-made quartz movement. That’s right, this 18k yellow gold Omega Constellation houses a battery-powered movement with a smooth, sweeping seconds hand.
It’s a watch that’s unmistakably authentic to its period of production, dripping with old-school, all-gold excess and the most innovative Swiss timekeeping solution of its era ticking inside. Plus, bonus points for the presence of a “destro” crown and the bright red six o’clock date aperture. If you can’t tell, I honestly can’t get enough of this Constellation. What about you? Take a closer look, right here.
To view the entire current selection of vintage watches available in the HODINKEE Shop, click here.