Fratello Classics: 5 Vintage Watches For the Budget-Minded Aficionado


Let’s say you are on a budget of $1,000 – $1,500 for a nice timepiece. If you care about things like warranty, water resistance, no maintenance for the next five years and so on, you may want to skip this week’s Fratello Friday article on vintage watches. If you are living your horological life a bit more on the edge, however, I encourage you to read on.

If you have unlimited funds to spend on a vintage timepiece, you can find that perfect Rolex Submariner or that interesting, early Omega Speedmaster. However, for those who do not, the team at Fratello Watches offers up some very interesting, alternative vintage watches — hidden gems, if you will — that can be bought for much less.There may be brands in here you’ve never heard of; after all, quite a few manufacturers of mechanical watches were swept away in the 1970s due to the so-called quartz crisis. Other brands will be more recognizable, either because they never went away or because a new company bought the name and started a whole new business.

1. Alpina Sea-Strong Startimer

Alpina is known today for its sporty and affordable watches, made at the Frédérique Constant manufacture in Geneva. Long before Frédérique Constant CEO Peter Stas revived it, Alpina was already making very cool watches. Exhibit A: this 1970s Alpina Sea-Strong Startimer. We’ve found one for sale for just over $1,100.  This is a Lemania-based chronograph; in fact, it contains almost the same Lemania movement that Omega used in some of its Speedmaster watches in the 1970s (Mark III, IV and ‘125‘). The only difference is the lack of a 24-hour indicator, and you can live with that, right? Why is it so cheap? Well, the current seller is not 100% sure about the case since he couldn’t find another identical watch. If you are a purist, this one might not be for you. If, however, you are looking for a nice vintage piece with a very solid movement, you might want to make an offer. More information can be found here.

Alpina Sea-Strong Startimer

2. Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer “Bullhead” 6138-0040

Vintage Seiko watches are booming. Just dive into this category and you will see how large the following is. For $999 (or a good offer) you can become the owner of this 1970s Seiko Speed-Timer “Bullhead.” (The “Bullhead” nickname comes from the look of the crown at 12 o’clock with chronograph pushers on either side.) Seiko might be still frowned upon by snobbier watch collectors, but the fact is that it does deliver superb-quality watches for the money. We have a lot of respect for this Japanese company, both for its historical timepieces as well as its modern pieces. Seiko watches are known for their simple-looking but reliable movements, as well as for funky 1970s designs. The size of this watch makes it a very easy timepiece to wear by modern standards. More information can be found here.

Seiko Speed-Timer "Bullhead"

3. Yema Chronograph

This company is probably unknown to most people nowadays, yet it actually still exists. It was founded in France and was owned by Seiko for before falling back into French hands. If you search for “vintage Yema watches” you will come across some pretty awesome-looking pieces, with unusual names such as Seaspider, Yachtingraf, and so on. We found this Yema Chronograph with a two-register chronograph movement (Valjoux 7734) and a date window at 6 o’clock. This 39-mm timepiece would fit most wrists and has a cool 1960s/early 1970s look. It comes with a plexi crystal and can be fitted to a leather strap but would probably look even more “military style” when worn on a NATO strap. At $1,050, this watch isn’t outstandingly cheap, but it might be an interesting purchase for those who want to own a cool vintage chronograph. More information can be found here.

Yema Chronograph

4. Omega Seamaster Chronostop

This is, of course, a brand we all know well. Although this watch pushes the limit of the stated budget constraints, and would need a new strap and perhaps a bit of cleaning, it is an awesome watch to own. This 1969 Omega Seamaster Chronostop has a hand-wound caliber 865 (yes, a variation of the famous Speedmaster Professional caliber 861 movement). The Chronostop name was used for various models in the Omega watch collection, and also for the Genève collection. This watch features one pusher to operate the chronograph seconds hand. The same pusher is used to start, stop and reset. The chronograph seconds hand can be used like a normal second hand as soon as you push start and just let it run, but you can also use it to time things within a minute. Of course, you can manually zero all hands by using the winding and setting crown, but if you’re doing this a lot, you might rather go for a proper chronograph. We’ve found this $1,200 watch for sale here. Again, it might need some work.

Omega Seamaster Chronostop

5. Enicar “Birks of Canada” Chronograph

The name Enicar should ring a bell for many watch lovers. This brand made a lot of nice watches in the past — including the Enicar Sherpa, one of its best-sellers — and had its own in-house-developed movements. Actually, Chronoswiss used the Enicar Caliber 165 movement in its Régulateur Automatique watch. The Enicar watch company still exists today, but doesn’t have much of a presence. This Enicar chronograph with “Birks” printed on the dial is a 1960s or early 1970s watch that was retailed by Birks of Canada, hence the name on the dial. It was more common in those days to have the name of a retailer printed on the dial. This particular Enicar watch has a 37-mm diameter — which is small — but perhaps the cool thing about it is that it has a Valjoux Caliber 72 movement inside. That’s right, the same caliber that was used on those early (Paul Newman) Rolex Daytona watches. The case of this Enicar has a C-shaped look that was quite common in those days as well. If you don’t mind the 37-mm size, and the fact that it has no “real” watch brand name on the dial, this could be an awesome watch to own. It is mainly the Valjoux 72 movement inside that makes this watch the most expensive one of the bunch. It is being offered for $1,599 or your best offer. We included it on this list because you can probably bargain your way down to below the $1,500 threshold.

More information can be found here.

Enicar "Birks of Canada" Chronograph

What are your favorite vintage watch picks in this price range? Please share yours in the comments below.

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6 Responses to “Fratello Classics: 5 Vintage Watches For the Budget-Minded Aficionado”

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  1. Wynajem Podnosnika Koszowego

    Very interesting subject , thanks for posting . “There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.” by Mark Twain.

    Reply
  2. I have a Gruen curvex given to me by my grandfather. Having a hard time having it repaired though. But its nice to look at.

    Reply
  3. How is that enicar company doing nowadays? Still exists?
    I live in Canada and I pass by the Birks jewelry store often on my way to work, I see in their Windows great watches as well as their own brand name, have you guys ever owned a watch “Birks” produced? Is it a good company with history and movements or am I better off from them?
    I want to start building my automatic watches collection and I’d prefer with brand new ones for now then move into vintage later on, once I posses a bit more of knowledge in the matter.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  4. Ahmed Sajeel

    Interestingly enough I own two from this list, the Omega Chronostop as well as the Seiko Bullhead. Fantastic watches both and I thoroughly enjoy them.
    Moreover I’d recommend these irrespective of the budget tag

    Reply
  5. You completed a number of fine points there. I did a search on the theme and found the majority of folks will agree with your blog. kddacekgdgfk

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  6. I have a 1960’s Bulova Astronaut GMT on coffin link bracelet with tuning fork movement that I am particularly fond of

    Reply
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