The vintage watch-buying process can end up costing the buyer both time and money, but it does not have to. We at Crown & Caliber, a premier seller of a broad range of pre-owned vintage watches, have used our knowledge to build recommendations for vintage watches that will deliver great value. These are top performing timepieces with great style and history. Here is a look at affordable vintage watches that fall under $1000 and a few that are worth a splurge.
Founded in 1848, Omega watches have become known for time-keeping precision. More recently, they have been used by both NASA and the Olympic games. Due to the association with NASA, the Omega Moon watch is commonly referenced, but there are many other vintage models that are equally interesting and often more affordable.
For a great bargain on a classic watch, look for a Vintage Omega Seamaster Deville or Constellation. These vintage watch styles have a classic dress watch appearance and are of high quality. You can find an Omega Seamaster Deville in steel, pristine condition, under $600. The same model in gold plated will typically be priced just above $600.
Another great option is a basic Chronostop, a chronograph watch originally intended for use in various sporting events. They continue to retain a sporty aesthetic and modern style. You can find many dial variations of this model for under $1000. For example, reference 145.009 with an exotic green dial can be found in the $800-900 range, and simple dial variations listed for under $600.
Omega also built more intricate chronographs and chronostops. When found in mint condition, they are true collectors’ items. Our favorite splurge worthy piece is the Omega Seamaster Soccer Timer Chronograph reference 145.016. Plain dials are priced around $1500, and exotic dials can range up to $3500. The Soccer dials are colorful and feature an additional “45” numerical marking under the minutes register to better time the halves of a soccer game. This watch is cool and functional, and tops our list of great vintage Omegas.
Breitling is credited for the invention of the first independent chronograph push piece. This patented innovation makes it possible to add several successive times without returning the hands to zero, thus making Breitling watches ideal for timing sports competitions and for calculating flight times.
Breitling became known for chronographs, so finding a nice chronograph at a bargain can be difficult. We suggest searching for a dual register chronograph with a mild patina (oxidation markings), which enhances the visual appeal to a true watch lover by providing character. Crown & Caliber recently consigned a yellow gold and steel dual register chronograph with a Venus movement just under $900. Other vintage Breitling watches with Venus movements can be found in the $750-900 range as well, particularly the steel models.
A classic Breitling that is worth the splurge is reference 806- the Breitling Navitimer with original AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) dial. As Breitling led in aviation time-keeping achievements, and they built this dial for the AOPA. This watch will appeal to those with interest in aeronautics, plus it is on trend with current military and aviation fashions, and even looks great with a nato strap. Difficult to find in mint condition, this watch will range from $2000 to mid $3000’s. Occasionally a bargain can be found (Hodinkee recently featured a great Chrono-matic to be auctioned off with an estimate of $1000-$2000). It is a unique piece that epitomizes the origins of Breitling. Be wary of auctions with low entry bids; the auction price of this watch frequently has a high acceleration.
Heuer, the predecessor of current Tag Heuer, is a great brand to find beautiful timepieces for great prices. There were six primary models introduced by Heuer for use in automobiles, leading to later models designed for aircraft and boats. These sporty watches can be found for reasonable prices, but these require a knowledgeable consumer since various generations or “executions” greatly impact the price.
Most Heuers start at $1000, yet occasionally a Heuer chronograph will fall below that price. Crown & Caliber recently sold a vintage Heuer Regatta for an incredible value at just under $800. This watch was designed to time boat racing events with a moving start. It is a great find for the sailing aficionado.
There are two noteworthy Heuer watches highly worth a splurge, a mint Seafarer Chronograph (marked Abercrombie & Fitch) and an Autavia GMT (or not GMT) with a Pepsi bezel. The Seafarer watch was designed to target the true adventurer, marketed towards the Abercrombie & Fitch’s outdoorsman (Abercrombie & Fitch originally offered high quality gear for hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities). The colorful dials can track lunar and tidal schedules. While rare, a mint condition vintage Seafarer is well worth the splurge. According to “On The Dash” – the screwback Seafarers from the 1950’s-1968 should range from $3500-4500 with occasional high sales for immaculate condition, and the Abercrombie Seafarer or Orvis Solunagraph (2446C case) should sell between $2200 and $2600. Another recommended model is the Autavia GMT 11630. These models are often priced around $5000 with a bezel in good condition. Since few original bezels have maintained their original condition, a mint condition timepiece will be priced upwards of $6000.
Longines, a brand that originally produced pocket watches, has historically been a brand to offer high quality and value. The brand has transformed its aesthetic into a modern look and is competitive with other luxury watch brands today.
For a bargain from Longines, look for a unique shape. For example, Longines offered a curved vintage art deco watch. This model features a curvex case which is still incorporated into modern day watches. You can find these vintage pieces for under $400.
If you are looking for a gold dress watch, Longines will allow you to find a solid gold watch for around $1000. You can find a vintage 18k gold “Classic” or “Classique” watch, very similar in style to the Patek Calatrava, for $1000-$1500. When purchasing, inquire to ensure the watch is solid gold, not simply gold plated for that price range. Additionally chronographs like the Conquest chronograph in great condition can also be worth a splurge.
Skip the splurge and locate a bargain with a vintage Zodiac chronograph. Zodiac, known for building the first automatic sports watch, has a look similar to Carerra or Heuer, and for a much lower price. They launched the Sea Wolf dive watch in 1953, and you can now find a Vintage Sea Wolf ranging from $200-$1000
Tissot is a sporting watch brand originating in the 1850’s which we recommend to find a bargain luxury watch for $350-$700. For example, you can find the Navigator Chronograph sold for just $350. These watches can be found at these price points in good condition. Mint condition models with original bracelets often start at $1000, but with a careful eye you can find a Vintage Tissot in the bargain range.
Other affordable vintage watches can be found in select brands, for example, Seiko, Universal Geneve, Girard Perregaux and Hamilton. Vintage watch buying requires a discerning eye and some flexibility. Price is always a function of both the brand/model, condition, originality, and style. Although the all-original vintage watch is very special, you can find great prices in watches featuring an aftermarket band or dial. For those watches, be confident in the trustworthiness of the seller, and ensure you are paying a lower price. We recommend patience when searching for vintage watches so you can find the ideal vintage watches for your budget.