Green Rambles: Vintage Discoveries from the Rabbit Hole

This article was originally published in the spring of 2022.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the incredibly rich history of watchmaking. Whenever I have a spare moment, I like to go on sales platforms like eBay and simply browse. It often turns out to be a trip down the rabbit’s hole, as one search string leads to another, often discovering watches I have never seen before. I find it an excellent way to increase my knowledge and look further than the usual suspects. There are so many unique, even rare, vintage watches that can be found. Surprisingly, many can also be acquired with a relatively modest budget, as their rarity often goes hand in hand with unfortunate obscurity.

The latter also brings them into the vicious circle of the unknown, but people who don’t care about wearing an instantly recognizable timepiece can have a lot of fun with it. You might have to shed part of your ego because of this, but even that part of the process can be quite refreshing. One of my first discoveries this way was the Ernest Borel Cocktail many years ago. These so-called mystery watches have a disc in the middle, acting as its running seconds, that gives a kaleidoscopic effect. Powered by a manual wind movement, which in some models is even visible through a display back. They were quite popular back in the days as their wide variety of different sizes, case shapes, and kaleidoscopic discs testify. I would have never known if it wasn’t for a random search on eBay. I have deliberately not included a picture of an Ernest Borel Cocktail with this article as to invite you to the entrance of the rabbit’s hole by searching for one.

Image courtesy of Analog/Shift.

I am cherishing this ritual by now, also because it is a constant reminder that the watch world is larger and richer than we can even imagine. While I am not in a position to purchase all the cool and interesting watches I find on these searches, I do have a segment in my collection dedicated to them. Surprisingly, such vintage discoveries get a significant amount of wrist time, and the fun I get out of them is most certainly not less than of the more commonly desired timepieces in my collection.

What’s an interesting watch you found following the “rabbit hole?” Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Jay Bennett Stambler

    I Recently searched on eBay just as you described and I found 2 Vintage Extra Forte Chronographs by Eberhard & Co. Both very unique and attractive by most any standard.

  2. Gary D Sexton

    My first foray into watches was my love of the Rolex Submariner. 20 years since I have not bought one. Somehow I got locked into vintage watches. Of course as a novice I bought weird, unknown, and uncollectible watches. But somehow I loved them, especially old chronographs. I’m still into the vintage scene but a lot more careful. With a collection as large as mine some things have to sold off (I’m just a middle income guy). I’ve sold off a few but keep looking for more. I’m sort of sick. But love vintage watches too much to ignore.

  3. Chris R

    Great article! Vintage watches was actually how I got into this hobby in the first place. I started with trench watches, and worked up to more modern ones.
    Found lots of interesting pieces… a square Cartier tank, a left handed (crown on left side) Omega trench watch, one of the very first Omega watches made (serial number in the 1,000,000), a Rolex that fought in WW2.
    So many interesting pieces, for all budgets!

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