The post war era brought a resurgence of refined watchmaking to Europe. During the war, both the Axis and Allied watch manufactures were producing simple, reliable chronometers to support an array of military needs. But when the war ended, and these simple military timepieces were no longer in high demand, manufactures on both sides of the Atlantic returned to the craft of designing and producing beautiful timepieces.
The European luxury retailer E. Gübelin was no exception. During the post-war years, Gübelin, Switzerland's version of Tiffany, began working with small swiss manufactures to create gorgeous gentleman's pieces replete with form and function.
This particular timepiece was produced for Gübelin in the mid 50s, and features a manual-wound 14 ligne, Valjoux 22 movement. With its machined steel 38mm "tub" case design, this exceptional timepiece represents the quintessential union of elegance and wearability. The gorgeously patinated dial and gold-colored handset offset the steel case perfectly, making this watch ideal for formal and casual wear alike.
While we occasionally find pieces signed by Gübelin, it is a true rarity to find one manufactured for them!
We admit it, we do tend to get carried away pontificating about vintage watches. Whether it is the history of a particular piece or some oft-forgotten sidenote in the development of a particular case design or movement, there are numerous elements to vintage timepieces that make them so desirable. On the other hand, much like women, sometimes all it takes to get us excited about a particular timepiece are some killer looks.
Case in point: This sexy as all-hell Wittnauer gentleman's piece from the 1960s.
Although the name Wittnauer may be relatively unfamiliar to you, the brand dates back to 1885 and was involved in the development of precision instruments for the US Military in the early part of the 20th Century. They were also known for their aviation gauges, and saw use in the early days of the American space program (as well as being one of three contenders for the Apollo program watches, an honor that eventually went to Omega). The brand was purchased by Longines in 1950 and shared components and design cues with Longines and Omega during the golden age of mechanical sports timers.
Dating from the 1960s, this particular steel gentleman's wristwatch sized at an infinitely wearable 37.5mm, more substantial than many of its contemporaries and perfectly sized for the modern wrist. It features an uncommon and colorful dial with blue and silver elements and absolutely stunning warm caramel hands. But the cherry on top is the outer rotating bezel made of Bakelite, pairing brilliantly with the red visible on the date wheel.
Story? Not really. History? Who knows. Iconic design? Nah. So what's the endgame? Its just really fucking cool.
Military issued wristwatches are one of the coolest subsets of vintage timepiece collecting, if for no other reason that they were literally built to kick ass.
While military-issued Rolexes and the like can require a second mortgage (or the sale of several vital organs) to fund the purchase of, there are more affordable ways to enter into the realm of military watch ownership, such as with the Hamilton & Benrus Vietnam-era GI watches we so often curate for sale. But American-made military watches aren't the only point of entry into the field of military collectables, as is evidenced by pieces such as this: a British MoD-issued Omega WWW.
Ordered by Britain's Ministry of Defence during the Second World War, the WWW (Watch, Wrist, Waterproof) series timepiece was designed to be the general issue field watch for their military forces, and contracts to manufacture these pieces were picked up by twelve manufactures, including IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, and Cyma. Omega produced a small number of these pieces under contract, although none of them saw combat during WWII, as production wasn't completed until after the Nazis surrendered in 1945. The MoD continued to issue these pieces for many years after the war, and a great number likely saw action in conflicts around the globe.
Although manufactured by a dozen companies (known as the "Dirty Dozen" by military watch collectors), Omega's models have proven to be among the most desirable versions. Their relative abundance has kept their market values from skyrocketing, but as with any vintage watch, finding one in good condition is key. The best way to find one in good condition? Get it from its original owner!
And that's just what we did with this beauty. Originally obtained by a former British soldier in 1947, this watch was a single owner timepiece until just a few months ago. While he was hesitant to tell us where it has been, there is no question in our minds that this was a watch that served its previous owner in both times of peace and war. He wore it for decades after leaving the service, eventually opting to pair it with a leather strap instead of the issued one piece fabric NATO strap it once wore. As the WWWs all had fixed spring bars, he pried up the ends of a black leather strap and re-glued them to fit around the bars. Despite the years of wear that this strap now shows, we have left this layout intact - for some reason it just didn't seem right to remove it.
Conditionally speaking, this particular example is in excellent condition over all, with a nearly flawless case and stunning dial. The original luminescent radium plots on the hands loosened over time and were eventually removed and it has received a thorough mechanical sorting, but is otherwise just as it was when it was ordered up by the Brits: a tough as nails watch ready to wipe the floor with Jerry!
We are truly proud to offer such an incredible example of a genuine military-issued timepiece from the collection of its original owner, a true member of the Greatest Generation.
Mechanical alarm watches are just about the coolest thing you can strap to your wrist. Forget your electronic iPhone alarm, these things buzz and vibrate when they go off, all through the magic of mechanical watchmaking! And when it comes to vintage executions, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox is quite simply the most desirable of them all. With its unmistakable twin-crown case design and two-piece dial, the Memovox is a masterpiece of design and in recent years has attracted the attention of an ever-growing number of timepiece collectors.
Operation of the alarm function is controlled through the top crown. Winding it (as you would a manual movement), charges a spring and holds it in tension until the alarm goes off. Pulling the same crown out allows you to rotate the inner dial, and align the triangle on the inner ring to set the time you desire the alarm to activate. Totally, entirely, supremely cool!
Often sized in a small gold plated case with manually-winding movement, this particular example features the desirable Cal. 825 automatic unit housed in a "jumbo" sized steel case: a highly sought after combination!
This particular example is without question the single best example we have ever encountered, featuring a nearly flawless case with crisp, unblemished dial, perfect hands, and matching signed crowns. To top it all off, it has its original bracelet, which are about as rare as Jackalope antlers. This is a collector-grade piece that is almost too nice to wear and enjoy.
For more information on vintage Memovoxes, check out Hodinkee's "Week On The Wrist" Feature HERE.
We are a couple of guys based in New York City with a passion for bespoke style, substance, and authenticity. Admittedly, we appreciate ALL well-crafted and precious things, from fine single-malts to handmade cordovan bluchers, but we have a special and earnest love for the world of vintage goods, in particular, the world of vintage and luxury timepieces. We love the stories and histories vintage watches contain and the unparalleled craftsmanship with which they were made, often harkening back to an era when raw value was respected and a firm handshake was unflappable. Most importantly, we enjoy them for the works of wearable art that they are. We've had it with digital...we are 100% analog.
Our goal is to find and bring to market a small collection of exceptional vintage and contemporary timepieces. All of our items are hand-picked by our team, representing horologically interesting, important and desirable pieces. Essentially, we scour the market for the best available wristwatches, authenticate them and present them to you in an honest and straightforward manner.
We are here to help you buy a watch — not sell you one.