TYH: After the success of our two first guest editorials, one from Harry Elliot and the other from Christy Durell, we are back with another! One of our longer-standing friends in the hobby is Danny Matatov of Danny's Vintage Watches in New York. He is a young watch dealer and enthusiast who is now venturing into editorial with the help of his friend Joshua, who has given us the lowdown on Five Affordable Chronographs over Five Decades. This is a thoroughly interesting read, and we strongly advise you to click the link at the bottom of the article after you have read it and have a look at some of the wonderful watches he has for sale! Now over to Joshua...
If you haven’t yet reached vintage chronographs in your collecting journey, you will soon. Here are five great pieces to start looking at from five different decades of watch design.
The vintage Chrono bug bites us all, even if you don’t expect it. If you’re a diver person, dress watch person, even a digital watch person, you’ll eventually spot those pushers and that long chronograph hand and think, “Oh no.” Luckily, Chronos have been around since the mid-1800s and are still going strong today — and since you and I don’t have the budget to pick up Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, we’ve collected some relatively affordable options to look at from the 50s through the 90s.
The 1950's - Universal Geneve
Universal Geneve was a big name in the watch world for decades and still holds a ton of value and punch for collectors today, and some of their prices haven’t launched as high as those of other legacy brands. There’s a vast range of Chronos from the 1950s from Universal Geneve, and while many dials have been refinished and cases have been polished, there are untold gems hiding under the $2,000 mark.
Chronographs like the Compax from the 1950s use an aesthetically midcentury design that hadn’t yet moved into utilitarian territory, riding the line between dress and tool watch. It’s a harmony that we don’t really see much more of in future chronographs, and something undeniably beautiful to look at.
The 1960's - Wakmann
In the 1960s, many watches were becoming more tools than dress pieces, and this is evident in chronograph case designs. Wakmann chronographs exemplify the changing mood of the 1960s by retaining the subtle, thin lines of the 1950s on their dials, but move towards beefier and more hard-lined cases that were more easily mass-produced and much more robust.
Wakmann as a brand isn’t talked about much, but in the 1950s made several great watches including timepieces for the American Armed Forces, and was later bought by Breitling. This unnamed Chrono has all the appeal of the 1950s inside the strength and streamlines of the 1960s in an under-the-radar model, which is part of the reason we love them. You can find this one Danny's Vintage Watch Shop .
The 1970's - Seiko
We can’t talk about the 1970s without talking about Seiko. They almost single handedly obliterated the Swiss watch industry during this decade by creating the first mass-market quartz watch, the Astron. During this time — the “Quartz Crisis” — Seiko still produced some legendary mechanical watches, including the now famous Pogue, worn by Col. William Pogue, an astronaut and former Thunderbird pilot who went on the 1973 Skylab 4 mission.
The Seiko Pogue exemplifies both the beefy cases, tough-wearing tool watch design and the colorful extravagance of the decade brilliantly. The yellow dial and “Pepsi” bezel jump out from across a room and make the piece instantly recognizable, and the tell-tale “sugar cube” indices are both uncommon and extremely cool to look at. These watches and other vintage Seikos have become so coveted that Seiko master historian Nick from DC Vintage Watches has a whole hashtag on Instagram dedicated to exposing fakes (#feikofriday).
The 1980's - Casio
Is a Casio F-91W a chronograph? Technically, kind of — it does have a stopwatch function! But like Seiko, we can’t just breeze past the 80s without talking a bit about Casio. And since this article is about affordable watches, you can’t get any more bloody affordable than the Casio F-91W.
This Casio and its many siblings and iterations are true icons of the 1980s, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who lived in the 80s that didn’t have at least one. The F-91W even made it into Stranger Things, on the wrist of the character Dustin, everyone’s favorite Upside Down hero. Vintage versions of the F-91W are around, but you can also pick one of these up new at Walmart for like ten bucks.
The 1990's - Omega
Weren’t expecting to see Omega on this list? Think again! While Omega Speedmasters are absolutely incredible chronographs that have been around since the 1950s (and, I don’t know if you’ve heard this because Omega never mentions this, but they’ve been to the moon). While older models have rocketed up in price (get it?), models from the 1990s are beautiful and interesting pieces of complicated watchmaking.
This Speedmaster Reduced holds onto the vintage Speedmaster aesthetic, with a closer-to-original smaller size, but jumps into modern sensibilities with a deep blue dial (we’re suckers for those here) and a solid polished/brushed link bracelet. It’s 90s without being TOO 90s. Thank goodness. You can find this one in Danny's Vintage Watch Shop.