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.

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.

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

Fratello Classics: 5 Mechanical Watches Under $1,000

Call it a “budget” timepiece or an “entry-level luxury” affordable watch: for many, affordable watches are the first step into a lifelong passion. Fortunately, there are many affordable mechanical watches on the market priced under $1,000. I’ve reported on a number of affordable watch brands on my blog, Fratellowatches.com, and the affordable swiss watches presented here come from some of the most popular articles.

For this “Top 5 Watches under $1,000” list, I selected only timepieces with mechanical movements and disregarded the pre-owned and vintage market. (That’s a subject for another Fratello Friday.) Where possible, I used the average market prices for these watches, which might be a bit less than the official retail prices. To keep it interesting, I not only looked at watches from big brands, but also took the time to see if there were any independent brands that offer watches under $1,000. So, you might well ask, if companies can make a mechanical watch that sells for $1,000, why are so many of them so much more expensive? You can also turn this question around, of course: how is it possible that some brands can offer a mechanical watch under $1,000 while the average Rolex, Omega or IWC costs five or six times that amount?

The biggest differences between a watch under $1,000 and a watch that has a higher price tag include the level of finishing on the parts, type of movement, finishing of the movement, et cetera. Basically, the number of operations (be it manual or by machines) that are needed to finish a movement, case, bezel, dial, hands, bracelet, clasp and other elements have a large influence on the cost of a watch. Also, chances are quite high that cases or other parts of less expensive watches are manufactured in China. Perhaps the watch is partly (or completely) assembled in China as well. Even if a watch says “Swiss Made,” it is possible that a number of its parts have been manufactured in China. However, to be able to use “Swiss Made” the movement needs to be Swiss; the movement must be cased in Switzerland; and the final inspection by the manufacturer must be executed in Switzerland (source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry). I don’t feel there is anything wrong with a watch made (or partly made) in China, or with one with Chinese components that meets this definition of “Swiss Made.” That said, keep in mind that some watch brands are not completely transparent about where its parts have been manufactured. Now, to the watches I’ve chosen…

1. Seiko Scuba 200M Diver’s SBDC001 “Sumo”

Seiko has a collection that runs from battery-operated watches from $50 to the Grand Seiko and Credor top-of-the-bill collections with four- and sometimes even five-digit price tags. Keeping it all straight can be a bit of a maze but once you acquaint yourself with the different collections and models, there are really some interesting pieces among them. My absolute favorite at this moment is the Seiko SBDC001 divers’ watch, which has been nicknamed “Sumo” by enthusiasts of the genre. It is not for sale everywhere, so you might have to buy it overseas, but for around $500 you can have a watch that probably would cost $ 1,000 if the dial said “Swiss Made.” It has a nicely finished, big 44-mm case, a solid automatic movement (Caliber 6R15), a bracelet with divers’ extension, Seiko’s Hardlex crystal, and big, luminous markers and hands.

2. Longines HydroConquest

Longines is an important brand in the Swatch Group, positioned in a price range below Omega and above Tissot. The 43-mm Longines HydroConquest is a true diving watch. I selected the reference L3.642.4.96.6, which has a self-winding movement and a blue bezel and dial. The bracelet can be extended to wear over your diving suit, the bezel is unidirectional, and the crown is screw-down – features every divers’ watch should include. Although they retail a bit above $1,000, you can often find one with a slight discount bringing it just below that price.

Longines HydroConquest - blue dial

3. Victorinox Swiss Army AirBoss Mechanical

Victorinox is famous for its Swiss army knives, but the company is also big in manufacturing watches. Victorinox makes solid, sporty watches, available with both quartz and mechanical movements, that are perfect for daily use. However, our focus here is on mechanical watches under $1,000. This AirBoss watch with pilot-style bracelet in stainless steel has a retail price of only $995. You get a 42-mm stainless steel watch with a self-winding movement (ETA 2824) and a sapphire crystal. The bracelet has a folding clasp with a double lock for security. The military influence is obvious: the gray dial includes a 24-hour scale.

Victorinox Swiss Army AirBoss Mechanical

4. Tissot Heritage Visodate

Tissot, another Swatch Group brand in this overview, has a very interesting timepiece in this price range, one that will actually leave with some change from your $1,000. For approximately $650, you can buy the Tissot Heritage Visodate. I wrote an in-depth review about this watch a while ago (here) and I still think it is one of the best buys out there in this price range. If you like the looks of vintage 1950s timepieces, but with modern dimensions and a day-date feature, take a look at the Tissot Heritage Visodate. The self-winding movement (ETA 2836-2) can be viewed through its transparent caseback. A sapphire crystal protects the classical-looking dial.

Tissot Heritage VisoDate

5. Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic

Last but not least, we have a watch from a brand with a lot of history, the Jazzmaster from Hamilton. Sports watches take the first three positions in this Top 5, so I also included this dress watch for those who are not as into big, bulky sports- and diving watches. The Hamilton Jazzmaster is a simple yet elegant timepiece for those looking for a good mechanical watch below $ 1,000 with a proven movement (ETA 2824-2) and a nice sapphire caseback through which to admire it once in a while. A classic timepiece with modern features and up-to-date case diameter, it is definitely not your grandfather’s Hamilton watch.

Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic

What are some of your own favorite watches in this category? Let us know in the comments below. We value your feedback!

(This article was originally published on November 22, 2013, and has been updated with new text and photos.)

A $1,000 Casio G-Shock? Yes, the Casio G-Shock MT-G

Casio‘s celebration of the iconic Casio G-Shock watch’s 30th anniversary culminated in the U.S. launch of the Casio G-Shock MT-G, a collection of metal/resin G-Shock watches starting at the unusual G-Shock price $900. Although the launch was in 2013 the watch continues to be one of the most discussed Casio G-Shock watches even today.

The collection introduced at the anniversary event includes the Casio G-Shock Rangeman, an addition to the “Master of G” collection, a military-inspired watch for first-response professionals; the GDX6900, a larger version of the existing 6900 model; and the MT-G, the G-Shock model that Casio says is meant to reposition the brand for the premium collector market. Most notable among the “collaboration” pieces was the G-Shock Eminem limited edition, made in cooperation with the hip-hop star.

Eminem wears a G-Shock for his performance at Casio’s “Shock the World” event

The Casio G-Shock MT-G, where the “MT” stands for “Metal Twisted”, has a case constructed of a stainless steel covering melded to the G-Shock brand’s advanced “Core Guard Structure” of stainless steel, resin and a substance called “Alpha Gel.” The movement, which features a chronograph function, is Casio’s LED-infused “Tough Movement” with a Multi-Band 6 atomic timekeeping feature that receives radio-controlled time and date updates from global transmitting stations. The watch, whose case and movement components are all made in-house at Casio’s advanced factory in Yamagata, Japan, also features a quick-lock “Smart Access” electronic crown, which allows the wearer to access all the functions by unlocking the crown and turning it in the desired direction. The Casio G-Shock MT-G’s composite bracelet has stainless steel links layered on the underside with soft-touch, low-thermal-conductivity resin panels for optimal comfort on the skin. The Casio G-Shock MT-G comes in polished stainless steel and resin (Ref. MTGS1000D-1A), for $900; in black-ion-plated steel and resin (MTGS1000BD-1A) for $1,000; and a limited-edition 30th anniversary model in black ion-plated steel with gold highlights and and a red-paneled bracelet (MTGS1030BD-1A), for $1,100.

Casio G-Shock MTGS1000D-1A in steel - front
The MTGS1000D-1A, at $900, ushered in the first “premium” G-Shock collection.
Casio G-Shock MTGS1000BD-1A - black IP steel
The MTGS1000BD-1A ($1,000) is finished in black ion plating.
Casio G-Shock MTGS1000BD-1A - black/gold LE
The MTGS1030BD-1A is a limited edition commemorating G-Shock’s 30th anniversary
Casio G-Shock MTGS1000BD-1A - back
The engraved caseback is steel; the undersides of the steel bracelet links are made of heat-resistant resin.

The addition to the Casio G-Shock “Master of G” collection — which includes the Frogman, Mudman and Riseman models — is the GW9400 Rangeman, a “tactical” timepiece designed with military uses in mind. Like other Casio G-Shock models in the collection, the Rangeman is built to be exceptionally shock-resistant and mud-resistant, employs the Tough Solar Power system to charge the watch and the Multi-Band 6 atomic timekeeping system to receive radio signals for the time and date, and is equipped with numerous functions, including a chronograph, 48-city world time indicator, and a digital compass. The Rangeman also includes sunrise/sunset data, a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure , a thermometer to measure temperature, and an altimeter to measure altitude to within one-meter increments at one-second intervals. All the functions are controlled by a one-touch sensor button with a textured surface. The watch has a 200-meter-water-resistant urethane case with a steel caseback. The Casio G-Shock Master of G watch, available in either black or military green, retails for $300.

Casio G-Shock GW9400 Rangeman
The Rangeman’s LCD dial has three modes, for barometer/thermometer (pictured), compass, and altimeter

The Casio G-Shock GDX6900 has a case nearly 10 percent larger than its base model, the 6900. For Casio’s engineers, who pride themselves on the G-Shock’s legendary shock-resistance, accomplishing this was a challenge: increasing the size meant increasing the weight and along with that, the amount of shock it incurs when dropped. Their solution was to add “Alpha-Gel” to the case to absorb impacts and better protect the watch’s internal workings. The result was a bigger 6900 that passed a military-standard test for shock-resistance and also retained its water-resistance of 200 meters. The Casio G-Shock GDX6900 incorporates numerous functions, including a 48-city world timer, multi-home time for up to four cities, five alarms, chronograph, countdown timer, and 12/24-hour time configurations. The Casio G-Shock watch has a 10-year battery life and a “Super Illuminator” LED light. Four color versions will are available for $130.

Casio G-Shock GDX6900

The Casio G-Shock Eminem edition (which is officially designated GDX6900MNM-1) is based on the Casio G-Shock GDX6900, here with a matte black case and black-reverse LCD dial, and features an array of Eminem iconography. A stylized silhouette of the city of Detroit — where Marshall Mathers, the future Eminem, famously grew up — is printed in red on the upper side of the black strap. The reverse “E” from the Eminem logo appears on the dial and in the strap loop. The caseback and the lower part of the strap also feature an autograph of “Shady,” the singer’s alter ego. The limited edition G-Shock for Eminem retails at $180.

Casio G-Shock EMINEM edition
The Eminem special edition depicts the skyline of Detroit on the black strap.

What are your thoughts on Casio’s G-Shock moving into the premium market? Or on the watches above? Feel free to leave comments.