In-Depth on Chronext and the Secondary Market

Anthony Bourdain's watch collection

In-Depth: Buying with Chronext

Note: This is not a paid placement in any way; it’s simply a write up about my buying experience with Chronext.

Towards the beginning of 2019, I set out to buy a new — or gently worn, pre-owned — watch. I had my eyes on a Nomos Club Campus, but knowing new watches like this tend to lose at least 25% of their retail value once you take them home from the authorized dealer, I was reticent to buy at full retail price.

Like any decent enthusiast, I set up my alerts and scoured the forums to find one at a pre-owned discount. I also checked the grey market and pre-owned websites that the watch community loves to hate: Watchbox, Crown and Caliber, Watchfinder, and so on.

But one site kept popping up that I’d never heard of before: Chronext. As I tried to dig into the company, it turns out not many others had heard of it either. They raised $34 million at the beginning of 2018 and the company was seeking another $25 million at the beginning of 2019, but I couldn’t find much on the actual customer experience. Most of all, one thing stood out about Chronext: The low prices.

While Nomos offers a brand-new Club Campus for $1,800 on its website (props to Nomos here, because unlike some brands, you can actually buy its watches on the company site), it was listed for a mere $950 on Chronext.

What Is Chronext?

Based in Germany, Chronext was founded in 2013 and has raised more than $50 million since it launched. At its last closed funding round in January 2018, Chronext said it saw $60 million transaction volume on its website in 2017 and expected that number to more than double in 2018. As of early 2019, the company said 23,500 customers had purchased a watch on its website, with an average order volume of about $5,000.

Chronext is a platform that allows authorized dealers to connect and do business with customers around the world. Even though it’s a marketplace, customers still buy directly from Chronext, and the company takes care of the customer service (every watch comes with a 24-month Chronext warranty), authentication, and logistics. In fact, Swatch Group authenticated its workshops just last year.

Both new and used watches can be found on Chronext. For example, anything from a modern, Rolex Submariner Reference 114060 to a vintage Submariner Reference 5513 can be found on the site now. Nowadays, this means that Chronext sources its watches from two places: first, from its network of authorized dealers, and second, by offering to buy pre-owned watches from anyone who’s willing to sell. This also means buying pre-owned watches from authorized dealers, giving these dealers an avenue to cash in on trade-ins made when customers come in for a new watch. This adds some much-needed liquidity to the pre-owned market, making it easier for customers to realize some cash for their watches so that they can put it towards their next purchase.

Nomos created waves when it appointed Chronext and Chrono24 as official retailers last year. So much so that Wempe cut ties in the wake of Nomos’ announcement. Of Nomos’ association with Chronext, Wempe CEO Kim-Eva Wempe said:

“Supplying products to Internet platforms that have not been licensed to date, and that primarily draw their product range from the gray market, is contrary to our marketing strategy,” says Wempe CEO Kim-Eva Wempe.

Chronext says it has 14 brands that have signed up to partner with the platform, but only Nomos has gone public with its partnership.

Buying from Chronext

Back to the website. When you click on a watch model, you’re shown all of Chronext’s buying options: new, used, and by year. This is unlike many other pre-owned markets, which makes shoppers sort through pages of listings to find the few watches of the same reference they’re interested in comparing.

This is basically the StockX model, and I think it’s the right one: it allows customers to see prices for all options on one page, offering a more seamless experience. Chronext could take this a step further, allowing shoppers to see historical prices as well. Unlike StockX, Chronext sells new and used pieces, which sets it up to take a larger slice of the pre-owned watch market.

Vintage Vibes

Chronext launched as a platform for authorized dealers to expand their reach, but they have made efforts to expand into the vintage market. There are plenty of dealers (including those you’ll find on Chrono24) selling vintage watches online, but there is too often a lack transparency into the quality and provenance of these pieces, and what the customer is getting for the quoted price.

In the pre-owned market, “buy the seller” is the common refrain heard from collectors; Chronext is trying to change that to “buy the platform.” Chronext’s willingness to take on the heavy lift of authenticating these pieces and also offering a two-year warranty is a position similar ecommerce companies have been reluctant to take on, especially in the vintage market.

Becoming a trusted marketplace and platform is the billion-dollar goal for technology startups: Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, and others have become global household names by pursuing this goal in larger industries. It starts with selection — Amazon wanted to become known as the “everything store” where customers could buy everything from dog food to Madagascar cockroaches from trusted retailers.

Chronext has the looks of a company with the goal of becoming the everything store, but for watches. I’d offer a word of caution here: selection isn’t everything in watches. There should also be curation. If eBay has too many watch offerings and Hodinkee’s vintage offerings are too few, the happy medium of selection and curation rests somewhere in the middle. Hopefully Chronext can strike this balance, offering a selection of watches for everyone’s taste without drowning shoppers in choice.

Conclusions on Chronext

The entire buying experience with Chronext just felt a little different compared to some of its ecommerce competitors. It starts with the price: almost across the board, Chronext’s prices seem fair, if not downright low, even compared to its secondary market competitors. Sure, forum prices on vintage pieces might still be lower, but play that game long enough and you’ll lose on one.

The pricing instills an initial sense of trust that Chronext isn’t another online dealer trying to fleece you by overcharging for a watch it acquired a few weeks back by low-balling some other poor schmuck.

Next — and it’s a little thing — the website is just cleaner than any of Chronext’s competitors. Apparently it took some German engineers and $60 million, but someone finally put some actual thought into designing a pre-owned watch marketplace. It’s clean, cohesive, and easy to navigate.

The after-purchase experience was similarly cohesive and easy-to-navigate, with a customer service representative in constant contact until my watch arrived, even checking in to make sure I received it. It’s a personalized, luxury experience on par with what you’d expect from a company you just spent $1,000+ with.

The pre-owned watch market is a better place with Chronext, and I’m excited to see where they head in the future with the significant investments they’ve taken on the past couple years.

Read about the entire Chronext experience and what’s next for the ecommerce startup here


Other News

Hodinkee Is Going Retail

Kind of. They’re looking to hire a retail sales director and sales people for their first retail location. But, the new location won’t be a first-level store front, it’ll be upstairs in their Soho office building. It’s a way to experiment-without-experimenting, and since everything the Dink touches turns to gold, it’ll probably work.

Timex X Huckberry. The brands released a dive watch collab, and it doesn’t look too bad. Kind of like a Casio Marlin at 3x the price and without the Bill Gates connection. Find it at Huckberry for $118.

Anthony Bourdain’s Collection Up For Auction. Through October 30, you can bid on 8 pieces from Bourdain’s collection that travelled the world with him. This little 9k rose gold Rolex, likely inherited from his father is a particular highlight for me. Current bids far surpass estimates for every piece in the collection, showing just how idolized the man has become in the year-plus since his untimely passing. For example, this Panerai Radiomir (which, if you look closely, you can see him sporting in any number of TV episodes) had an original estimate of $2,000 to $4,000. The current high bid sits at $12,000. If you can’t afford these, Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in the last couple years. You don’t need to spend 5 figures to honor the man’s legacy; just learn to live life like he did.

The 7 Vintage Watches That Changed How I See Movado. A decent intro to vintage Movado from publication that doesn’t do much vintage.


Ticks & Tocks

😡 The 5 most sought after Rolexes. 📡 Something new from Gruebel Forsey. 🤵Another handsome watch from the Longines Heritage collection. 🏢 Rolex is building a new HQ in Manhattan. 🕺 Wrist-checking Will Smith.

In Chicago: Don’t forget, this weekend is MicroLux Chicago at ArtSpace 8. Give me a shout if you’re there on Saturday, I’d love to say hey!

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

In-Depth with the Rolex Air-King

And auction season is here

For Your Reference: Rolex Air-King Reference 5500

I’ve given a brief history of the Rolex Air-King before, but today we’re going in-depth on the longest-running model in the Air-King’s history: the Air-King Reference 5500. Manufactured for over 30 years, the Ref. 5500 is one of the longest-running models in the entire history of Rolex. Introduced in 1957 and remaining in production until it was replaced by the Reference 14000 in 1989, it’s truly an iconic Rolex model.

The Ref. 5500 is a continuation of the Air-King name that Rolex first introduced with the Reference 4925 in the 1940s alongside names like Air-Giant, Air-Lion and Air-Tiger that flamed out. Rolex originally introduced the Air-King as a variation of the Oyster Perpetual, intended to honor RAF pilots who served during World War II.

While this particular Air-King may not drive the passion of collectors like some more popular Rolex models, there is still plenty here for a budding enthusiast to sink his or her teeth into. And, since the Air-King continues to fly under the radar, even the most rare of Air-Kings can typically be had at an affordable price.

Getting Familiar

The standard, catalog Air-King Ref. 5500 measures 34mm in diameter; petite, even by standards of its era. The entire Air-King lineup (until the modern version, that is) is notable for its simple, clean, time-only design.

There is often confusion about whether there was an Air-King reference 1002. There was not. The Reference 1002 was an Oyster Perpetual produced from the 1950s through the 1980s, with the same case size as the Ref. 5500, but featuring a COSC-certified caliber 1560 movement. Because they had the same case size, Rolex often used case backs stamped 1002 on Air-King 5500 models. In earlier years of production, you might find an Air-King with the inside case back stamped “5500”, but by the 1970s, they’re typically stamped “1002.” This is not a service case back and can be completely correct and original.

The Caliber

Due to U.S. import laws designed to protect fledgling domestic watch manufacturers at the time, the movement inside the Air-King Ref. 5500 varied. The caliber 1520 had either 17 or 26 jewels, while the caliber 1530 had 17, 25, or 26 jewels. The U.S. and Canadian markets suffered through the downgraded movement. For examples with the caliber 1520 inside, Rolex used the word “Precision”, or no text at all, at the 6 o’clock dial position. Those with the caliber 1530 used the words “Super Precision.” Neither were COSC-certified movements. These aren’t exactly top-of-the-line movements: you can often hear them rattling around on your wrist like a beat up Seiko 5, but the movements are also robust and known to be easy to service. This, along with the relative affordability of a vintage Ref. 5500, makes it the perfect daily wearer.

Going Gold

I have not found definitive statements on this, but it seems the material of the hour indices varied over the Ref. 5500’s production run. While earlier models have markers made of typical silvery metals, later runs — starting around the mid 1970s — seem to feature white gold markers that often have (or have developed) a yellow tint. I have also seen later versions that feature prominently gold indices and hands, giving the watch a more luxurious aesthetic.

Read the full For Your Reference for more on the Air-King, including:

  • Rare early variations, including when you’ll find radium lume

  • Correct colored dials

  • Co-branded (Domino’s!) dials

  • Middle East stamped dials (including the most expensive Air-King ever auctioned)

  • Other 5’ series Air-Kings produced alongside the Ref. 5500

Conclusions on the King

While anyone can get their hands on a Ref. 5500 Air-King if they’ve got a couple thousand bucks to spare — indeed, that’s part of this humble watch’s charm — truly rare and interesting examples are increasingly difficult to find. Royal crests, company logos and jeweler stamps, and rare early versions all provide interesting areas of exploration for collectors to pick up an affordable vintage Rolex with some character. The Air-King offers an affordable avenue to dive into vintage Rolex with limited risk and investment, though there are always land mines to be aware of.

For 2,500+ words and everything you could ever want to know about the Air-King Ref. 5500, read the entire For Your Reference: Rolex Air-King


Auction Season

📅 Fall Auction Season Calendar

With the 4 largest watch auction houses hosting nearly 20 auctions over the next 3 months (not to mention the plethora of small auctioneers), the number of “important” and exciting watches up for auction through the rest of the year is an order of magnitude larger than what one humble blogger can cover. As such, I’ve compiled a schedule with links to all the major auctions happening through the end of the year.

Up next: Sotheby’s Important Watches in Hong Kong this week, and Christie’s Online, with bidding open until October 15. Here are a few picks from Sotheby’s, leading off with an Explorer that has a special connection to the Rolex Air-King.

Rolex Explorer Ref. 5504

Before the Rolex Explorer got its own reference — 1016, which would go on to become an icon in its own right — the “Explorer” moniker appeared in a number of case references, including reference 5504. Sotheby’s has a particularly nice tropical example on offer in this week’s Important Watches Hong Kong auction.

You can also find an Air-King in a reference 5504 case on occasion; these were produced before the Ref. 5500 came into its own. The reference 5504 case measures 36mm, slightly bigger than the Air-King’s standard reference 5500 case, earning 5504 Air-Kings the “jumbo” nickname.

Transitional Rolex. If you really liked our primer on “transitional” Rolex a couple weeks back, this Comex Submariner Reference 16800 might be the watch for you. Estimate: $50,000 to $75,000.

Rolex GMT-Master Reference 1675. This example of a GMT-Master is everything you want: glossy gilt dial, radium lume (with an exclamation point at 6 o’clock), small GMT hand, sharp lugs, and “Cornino” crown. Estimate $60,000 to $75,000.

Two Reference 6538 Submariners. The Submariner, featured prominently on Sean Connery’s wrist in a number of Bond movies. It features an 8mm crown, differentiating it from the smaller crown Ref. 6536. Sotheby’s has both a four-line and two-line version of the “Big Crown” up for auction, and both are in superlative condition. Estimates: $200,000 to $400,000.

There are 392 lots on offer at Sotheby’s on October 8 — a ton of Rolex, Patek, and a lot of bling — check out the full list for more.

Hindman Auctions a Couple Pateks in Chicago

Who says you can have a decent watch auction in Chicago? While the rest of the world is gearing up for the fall watch auction season, Hindman Auctions hosted a watch auction of its own last week, headlined by a couple Pateks and some other modern gems. Here’s a look at just a few of the pieces that sold in the West Loop.

Patek Phillipe Ref. 5396G Annual Calendar in White Gold

Headlining Hindman’s Chicago watch auction was a Patek Phillipe Reference 5396 in 18k white gold. There’s nothing particular crazy about this watch: it’s just a great, modern, serially produced annual calendar with a moon phase. While it’ll cost you upwards of $50,000 at your local Patek dealer, they can be had at a significant discount on the secondary and auction market. Hindman put up a nice, clean example from the estate of the original owner.

Overall, the watch is a nice introduction to more complicated Patek, with all the design hallmarks of the brand’s more complicated perpetual calendar chronographs present — a gateway watch for sure. The caliber 324 inside is classic Patek: self-winding, 34 jewels, and 347 total parts. Lot 53 sale price: $25,000

Patek Phillipe Ref. 96 Calatrava in Steel

If modern calendar complications aren’t your speed, this little vintage Calatrava might be more your style. The Reference 96 is the first Calatrava, and thus often thought of as the Platonic ideal of the perfect dress watch. It’s simple and understated; Bauhaus but elegant; vintage but timeless.

Measuring just 31mm, they’re not as popular as some later Calatrava models, but perhaps that’s changing. This example from Hindman’s auction had an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. It shot past that range, hammering for $20,000. Vintage Patek in stainless steel always commands a premium, but it seems no one saw that result coming for this humble 31mm time-only piece. Lot 22 sale price: $20,000

Hindman Chicago Review


Business News

📉 Swiss Watch Exports Show Slow Growth in August

The Swiss watch industry reported an export value of 1.5 billion Swiss francs in August 2019, an increase of 1.5% compare to one year prior. This continues the slowing upward trend of 2019; through 8 months, export growth is at 1.9%. It’s not a bad showing considering the global political and economic challenges, but is substantially down from the industry’s strong 2018 which saw growth of 6.3%.


Ticks & Tocks

🤾‍♀️ The new luxury sports watches of 2019; we’ve got more choices than just the Royal Oak and Nautilus nowadays. 🏗 Patek’s got a new manufacturing facility, but it’s still limiting production growth to 2-3% per year (an interview with Thierry Stern). 🤦‍♂️ Bieber buys a “vintage rare watch” as a wedding gift … to himself. 👎 Which complications decrease your interest in watches?

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please refer us to your friends).

A Primer on 'Transitional' Rolex and More John Mayer

Hello, Australia

Feature

John Mayer’s Original Talking Watches: Where Are They Now?

We have a certain amount of new (mainly Australian) subscribers this week after Time + Tide featured one of our articles from earlier this year about John Mayer’s watch collection. As a thank you for subscribing, I’ve got a new John Mayer-focused article: analyzing John’s watches from his original Talking Watches episode, way back in 2013.

Like many others, this simple eight-minute video has had a profound impact on my life (some may consider this statement depressing). I was a senior in college when it was released, still thought John Mayer dropped bangers, and had always had a passing interest in watches. But this video made me feel like it was okay to go deep. And so I did.

Like we did for this year’s Talking Watches 2, we’re going to take a look at the watches Mayer put on display for his original Talking Watches and see what they’re worth. We’re talking present-day values here — many of these have skyrocketed in prices since Mayer first showed them off 6 years ago.

Patek 5164A (Travel Time Aquanaut)

In Talking Watches 2, Mayer had this Patek on his wrist. It was also his go-to back in 2013, as he led off with this piece and said this was the watch that typically accompanied him on stage. The MSRP is $34,020 for a standard 5164A From Patek. John’s is a Tiffany Dial, so is likely worth at least 15-20% more. Let’s just round up to an even $40,000. John describes this as his go-to when he “just wants to wear a watch.”

“Look closer; look closer still.” — one of the classic lines from this video.

Estimate: $40,000

IWC Big Pilot Reference 5002

From the family of watches that made Kanye speechless. This is a big watch — about 46mm — but it’s supposed to be that way. Mayer says he loved wearing it on stage because of how easy it was to quickly glance down and pick up the time. A modern tool watch indeed. While now discontinued, this is still a contemporary watch that is readily available on the secondary market, for prices in the range of $8,000 to$9,000.

“You take it off to go to bed — and it’s a clock!”

Estimate: $9,000

Rolex GMT-Master II Reference 116710 BLNR (Batman)

Sure, the introduction of the Batman on a Jubilee bracelet has gotten a ton of attention in 2019. But let’s not forget the original Batman on an Oyster bracelet, released back in 2013. Mayer had an immediate appreciation for the watch, saying it was competing for wrist time with the Aquanaut above. As a modern, but now discontinued model, there are plenty of examples available around the internet. For example, noted pre-owned Rolex dealer Bob’s Watches has a number of examples priced at $15,000.

“The best contemporary modern watch that Rolex makes.”

Estimate: $15,000

Rolex Daytona Reference 6263

Mayer goes on to show off a reverse panda, non-Paul Newman. He says there's nothing special or unique about this piece, it’s just a great, serially produced watch. Listen, I get where he’s coming from, but this is a cool ass watch. It’s perhaps the epitome of what conjures when someone says “Rolex Daytona”. Screw-down pushers, Valjoux 72 movement, black tachy bezel, Oyster bracelet — it’s just classic. You can probably walk into any auction this fall and come home with this watch, but it’ll cost you for a good, clean example. But, if the Paul Newman Daytonas steal the show that day, you might come home with a relative deal. See some auctioned examples here and here. This watch was clearly the start of a fascination for him, as he shows off a superlative Daytona collection in Talking Watches 2.

“It’s not unique, it’s not special, it’s just great.”

Estimate: $150,000

To see the rest of John’s collection from his original Talking Watches, read the full article.


Guides

‘Transitional’ Rolex: A Primer

With vintage Rolex prices continuing to skyrocket and showing no signs of slowing down, collectors have been looking for other places to invest their money. Most notably, this has meant an increased recognition of the importance of historic brands like Movado or Universal Geneve as collectors have come to appreciate the impact these companies had on the entire watch industry. But, it has also meant collectors are increasingly looking toward more modern Rolex references for the “next big thing.” Words like “transitional” and “neo-vintage” have become almost as common in collector parlance as “exotic” and “tropical” dial descriptions. But what do these terms actually mean, and what does a collector need to know if he or she is venturing into “transitional” Rolex?

I recently looked back at John Mayer’s 2014 article “5 Best Vintage Rolex Picks for under $8,000”. Consider this article something of a 2019 update of those recommendations, as most of John’s picks from 2014 will today set you back well over $8,000 .

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Rolex developed a number of now iconic models that established a certain design language that the brand continues to draw on to this day. During this era, Rolex released the first Daytona, Explorer, Explorer II, GMT-Master, and Submariner.

Transitional references bridge the gap between this vintage era and modern Rolex, allowing Rolex to use remaining parts from previous references while also introducing new technologies. For example, Rolex might have introduced a new movement into a model that otherwise remained the same as a previous model.

As we’ll detail with specific references below, this occurred with Rolex’s iconic models throughout the 1980s as it transitioned from building tool watches to becoming a full-fledged luxury brand. This can also be seen as a response to the quartz crisis set in motion after the introduction of the first quartz watch in 1969. With uber-cheap, electronic watches eating up the low-end and middle of the watch market, Rolex moved up market, confidently asserting itself as a luxury brand.

Throughout this time, Rolex also mechanized and automated more of its processes, meaning more watches were being pumped out, and those watches had less variation between examples (no more Bart Simpson crowns). The small dial details and other variations that vintage Rolex collectors obsess over are not as present in transitional references.

During this transitional time, Rolex also began moving from four-digit to five-digit reference numbers. Modern Rolex models have six-digit references (though they often hearken back to earlier references).

So while not a specific date range, the “transitional” period for Rolex roughly encompasses the 1980s, with models during this period blending the hallmarks of vintage and modern Rolex.

Let’s dive into the specifics by looking at perhaps the quintessential transitional Rolex.

Rolex Submariner Reference 16800

The Submariner Reference 16800 began to replace the iconic Ref. 1680 in the late 1970s and remained in production for a full decade. It was replaced by the Ref. 168000 (“triple zero”), a model that Rolex produced for just one year.

The Ref. 16800 underwent a series of modern upgrades: it was fitted with a sapphire crystal, the caliber 3035 (featuring a quickset date and increasing beats per hour), and upped the water resistance to 300m.

But, for the first few years of its production, the Ref. 16800 continued to use the same case and dial from the Ref. 1680. This means that earlier examples of the model feature a matte dial with luminous paint applied. By the early 1980s, Rolex had transitioned to glossy black dials with lume plots and white gold surroundings.

By 1981, the Submariner also became equipped with a uni-directional rotating bezel. Blancpain had held a patent on the mechanism, but Blancpain hadn’t weathered the quartz crisis as well as Rolex so was no longer a competitive concern.

Production: 1978 — 1987

Check out the full article for more on transitional Rolex models.

Transitional Rolex: A Primer


Ticks & Tocks

Blueberry GMTs and OBJ (Again)

💙 Did you catch the latest Talking Watches with Daniel Dae Kim? If you did, you might remember the mention of the so-called “Blueberry GMT” (and Ben Clymer’s subsequent nervous laughter when asked to comment on it). Well Jake’s Rolex World decided to take on the controversial GMT to see what they could find.

🏈 OBJ is the newest Daniel Wellington ‘Icon’. Watch nerds hate DW for a lot of reasons, but I think the main reason we hate them is this: they win.

🤬 Socializing at work has become … work. 🤩 G-Shock releases a new watch in titanium. 🕴️ The best dressed guys at the Emmys. 🗾 A couple of good-looking limited edition Seikos. 🎸 Ken Burns has a new documentary. The Tudor Black Bay Chrono Dark is slick. Who Would I Be Without Instagram? An Investigation (The Cut).

John Mayer finishes his first Talking Watches with a memorable quote that we’ll borrow here: “Yes, it’s excessive, but there’s an excessiveness to ambition as well.”

In Chicago: Performing the Double Triple

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

Meme of the Week:

from: @watchumor

Shopping in NYC: Watches of Switzerland and Analog Shift, Get it Together

A new microbrand showcase is coming to Chicago

News

No “feature” this week, just dispatches from the streets of NYC and Chicago.

Timex Q Sells Out, Again.

Based on a watch originally released in 1979, Timex first re-introduced the Q earlier this year to widespread applause. The watch quickly sold out, and enthusiasts had been eagerly awaiting a re-stock to get their hands on the rotating Pepsi-bezel, quartz-powered, $179 watch. Well, the day came and went, as Timex re-stocked the watch on Friday, but quickly sold out again in just a couple hours.

Update: For those who missed it, the Timex Q will be back in stock again on September 17.


I sold a watch for you guys

Watches of Switzerland and Analog Shift: Get it Together

I was in New York City this weekend; not for the RedBar International Meetup, but for non-watch reasons. Of course, I still had to get some watch shopping in. I was excited to visit the new Watches of Switzerland locations in both Hudson Yards and in Soho. These locations are unique because Watches of Switzerland has partnered with Analog Shift to present a few of A/S’s vintage offerings in stores. It’s not often you can just walk into a retail store and see some truly rare and desirable vintage pieces in the metal (and Analog Shift typically has a nice collection of watches on its site).

As a side note, let me take a moment to applaud the Watches of Switzerland retail experience: often, watch boutiques are intimating or have an aura of exclusivity that scares passerby from even walking in the store. Having walked through a few Watches of Switzerland locations in both London and New York over the past month, this is decidedly not the vibe they’ve created (heck, the two New York locations even have a bar, and people were actually drinking there).

Anyway, when I walked into the Hudson Yards location, I walked straight to the case of vintage watches, excited to talk watches with the sales representative for a few minutes. The case had two Rolex Submariners inside (here and here). Both are in excellent condition — the bezel of the first Submariner has ghosted more than the photos let on, and the gilt dial looks extremely rich in person.

As something of a test, I suppose, I asked the sales rep if she knew the reference numbers of the two Submariners (am I dick for asking a question I knew the answer to? Of course). Nothing but blank stares back.

Listen, I don’t expect any sales rep to know the nuances of vintage Rolex, or event vintage Submariners, but it would’ve been nice for her to have even a little knowledge. Especially here, when the first piece is a Reference 5513 Submariner, which, with its thirty-year production run, is one of the most iconic Submariners of all time. It’s a watch with history dripping off every bezel tooth; tell me that James Bond wore this watch. Something! Or, since this example on display was a rare, early production gilt-dial version, tell me how uncommon these are, and why you’re charging a handsome multiple of a typical Ref. 5513. Distraught and concerned for the state of vintage watches, I left.

I eventually headed down to the Watches of Switzerland in Soho. I immediately fell in love with an Omega Ranchero on display. This watch is one of my (and other collectors’) favorite vintage oddities from Omega. After Omega released its famed trilogy of watches in 1957 — the Railmaster, Seamaster, and Speedmaster — all targeted at specific professionals, it decided it needed an entry-level, sporty, do-it-all watch to appeal to the masses. Enter the Ranchero.

On the success of its trio of professional watches, Omega released the Ranchero in 1958. It’s a modest 35mm in diameter, featuring Omega’s hand-wound caliber 267 inside, making for a thinner case profile (this caliber is also the reason for the “30mm” on the dial). But, “Ranchero” literally translates to “ranch hand” in Spanish, so, in addition to cultural sensitivities around the use of the term, it turns out customers didn’t want their watch to imply they were of a different social class. Omega ended up selling the watch for just two years. So, if you know anything about vintage watch collecting, you know this story sets the stage for a watch that’s quite rare and valuable today.

Back to Watches of Switzerland. Not only was I smitten by the Ranchero, but another couple was as well. However, they were curious why the Ranchero cost $9,000, while another Omega Seamster they’d seen was just $1,600. “It’s a nice watch,” the sales rep simply replied. That’s it? I had to interject. I took a moment to explain the story and rarity of the Ranchero, and why this naive sales rep was demanding 5 times the price of some other vintage Seamaster.

The couple enjoyed the brief history; so much in fact, that if you looked at that link to the Ranchero above, you’ll notice it’s sold. That’s right, I sold a watch for you, Watches of Switzerland, and Analog Shift. You’re welcome.

In the past, I’ve wondered where all the vintage watch startups are. My experience at Watches of Switzerland confirms what vintage enthusiasts already know: these watches mean almost nothing without context. The stories that place these watches in history need to be told so that others can appreciate their history, rarity and value. Sure, Analog Shift is invested in selling these watches, but is it invested in telling the stories necessary to truly pass these heirlooms down to another generation? I didn’t get that impression this weekend.

By the way, I also saw some young rich kid that looked like he walked straight out of a page of Hypebeast and into the boutique, basically yell at a sales rep, and point at this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in the case. He proceeded to buy it, almost without trying it on his wrist. If that’s not an appreciation for the craft, I don’t know what is.


Sales Corner

An ‘Evil Nina’ and a Previously Auctioned Calatrava from Analog Shift

In an effort to help sell even more pieces for Watches of Switzerland and Analog Shift, here are a few more watches I saw in New York.

Patek Phillipe Calatrava Reference 2431

I immediately fell in love with this funky Calatrava. Don’t let the flame lugs scare you, they’re much more subtle in person. The gold dauphine hands are sharp and stand nicely in contrast to the aged silver dial.

I’m pretty sure this is the same example that sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for CHF $31,250 (at least, the production date is the exact same — October 13, 1948). The watch is an example of Patek at its avant-garde best, with the manual wind movement inside giving the case a slim profile. Compared to that Sotheby’s sale, the price here is a steal. Analog Shift is asking $25,000.

Universal Geneve ‘Evil Nina’ Compax

Like my experiences above, I was disappointed when the sales rep couldn’t tell me more about this famous ‘Evil Nina’, on display at Watches of Switzerland Hudson Yards. I’ve told the story of the Nina Rindt and ‘Evil Nina’ reverse-panda variation before, so I won’t bore you with the details. But, I was completely taken by this particular example in the metal. The twisted lugs are sharp, the crown is particularly wide, and it wears surprising small on the wrist (measuring 35.5mm, with a bezel making it feel smaller). Finally, the red sweep seconds really pops (you can see it across the room) and gives for a particularly “evil” feel. Analog Shift is asking $19,500.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in 18k Gold

If (when?) I buy a Royal Oak, this will be the one. It’s a “Midsize” version, measuring just 35mm, slightly smaller than its “Jumbo” predecessors. The gold-on-gold-on-gold-on-gold (that’s bracelet, case, dial, date wheel, respectively) is absolutely striking in person. And, it’s probably good this thing isn’t the Jumbo, because it’s freaking heavy. This particular reference, 14790BA, is from the 1990s, but never goes out of style. What more is there to say about an all-gold watch designed by Gerald Genta? Analog Shift is asking $18,500.


In Chicago

New Microbrand Showcase Coming to Chicago October 18-19

Back in April, watch enthusiast Rich Park (YouTube: whatsonthewrist) hosted a new microbrand-focused event in Los Angeles, LAmicroLux. The event was a resounding success, featuring 24 micro and boutique brands showcasing and selling their watches over a two-day period, in addition to a sold-out, RSVP-only keynote from the founder of aBlogtoWatch.

With demand clearly there, microLux quickly started looking for its follow up act. Looking around the country, they saw an opportunity to bring an event to Chicago — a city with a great watch community but with a noticeable like of an annual watch industry event.

The micrLux team quickly started gearing up for a fall Chicago event, which will be hosted October 18 and 19 at ArtSpace 8, a contemporary art gallery and event space located in the 900 N Michigan Avenue Shops. The event is free to all guests; just pick up free tickets on the website.

So far, about 35 brands (full list here) have been announced as exhibitors at microLux Chicago, but more announcements are on the way as the event approaches. These include larger brands like Oris, Perrelet, and Laco, all the way down to popular microbrands like Monta and Tsao.

In addition to showcasing watches from these brands, Park says that the “educational element is key.” That’s why, in addition to the exhibition space, microLux will be hosting a day-long AWCI Build a Watch Class, during which participants will be able to assemble a Swiss-made ETA 6497 movement. Like LA, the microLux team is also considering hosting a keynote speaker from the watch industry at the Chicago event.

microLux Chicago will be hosted at ArtSpace 8 at 900 N Michigan Avenue on October 18 and 19. For more information, visit the event’s website at lamicrolux.com. You can also check out video from LAmicroLux here.

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

Meme of the Week:

Smart move, John. Even GQ and Jonah Hill are picking up on the trend.

from @watchrookieememes

OBJ, Mario Andretti, and Solid Gold from Tiffany

I can't stop watching Kevin O'Leary videos

Feature

Fall Auctions and Sotheby’s Online Auction

It’s nearly fall auction season time, when the big auction houses will trot out their Daytonas, Pateks, and other expensive lots one last time. It’s set to be a big season: Phillips is leading the way with a thematic auction featuring Jack Nicklaus’ Rolex Day-Date and Marlon Brando’s GMT-Master. Phillips also recently opened its new boutique store, Phillips Perpetual in London. On opening day, Phillips said it had 40 timepieces and over £3 million worth of inventory. Big news for the biggest watch auctioneer.

But, before the bigger auctions of the season, Sotheby’s is hosting an online auction with bidding ending on September 10. There are over 100 lots on offer, mostly in the mid-priced to downright affordable range, so it’s an opportunity to pick up a new fall watch. New season, new watch, I always say. Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting lots.

Heuer Autavia Reference 3646 ‘Mario Andretti’

Being from Indianapolis, I love any watch with a connection to the city. And since we don’t have much going on in Naptown, that usually means a watch with a connection to the Indy 500. That’s exactly what this Heuer Autavia has, with a legit connection to legendary race car driver Mario Andretti.

This Heuer Autavia Reference 3646 has been nicknamed the ‘Mario Andretti’ by collectors because Andretti won two watches of this reference for being the fastest qualifier for the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and 1967. He’s been seen wearing them since, notably on his Talking Watches episode.

This is a particularly notable example, as Sotheby’s says it was sourced directly from a veteran of the Argentinian Air Force. According to the consignor, the watch was worn during operations by an Argentinian fighter pilot in the late 60s, with the logo of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina engraved on the back still visible.

It’s an earlier Autavia, so it’s got a round case instead of the later tonneau cases, which I think makes it an easier and more subtle wear. The watch is by no means in pristine condition, but to me, that just lends credence to the fact that a legit Argentinian fighter pilot was putting this thing through its paces on a daily basis.

The dial looks to be mostly de-lumed, as Sotheby’s says the hands only react in small sections when subject to UV light. The top of the chronograph hand is also missing. Lot 10 estimate: CHF 10,000 to 15,000

Rolex Daytona Reference 6239

We know the superlatives of a Daytona Reference 6239 by now. It’s the first Daytona reference from Rolex, debuting in 1963. Valjoux 72 movement. The case Paul Newman wore! Since it was the early years of the Daytona, Rolex was still experimenting with dial variations: this example features the “Daytona” at 12 o’clock. It wasn’t until a few years later that Rolex started printing the “Daytona” in the more familiar position above the 6 o’clock subdial.

The case of this example is in good overall condition and the Oyster bracelet is also matching and original. There’s an almost-gone lume plot at 3 o’clock, but otherwise the dial is in good overall condition.

The big problem with this watch is the hour and second hands. The condition report says nothing of the hands, except that the “subsidiary hands appear to be original.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the more important hands anchored to the central pinion. Without better photos, it’s hard to tell if these are replacement hands, or if the lume has simply been stripped away. Either way, it’s worth a pause.

That said, this lot has a lower estimate to match the replacement hands. Lot 5 estimate: CHF 30,000 to 50,000

Full Sotheby's Preview


Other News

OBJ, and Oris Goes Skeletonized

💦 Private-Label Bathyscapes, an Affordable Alternative to a Fifty Fathoms.

Private-label watches are the best (see Sales Corner for one example). They’re watches made for one brand, by another brand. Some of the most famous and available are the plethora of “Poor Man’s Heuers”, watches produced by Heuer for brands from Clebar, Hamilton, Baylor, and Abercrombie and Fitch (okay, the last isn’t exactly for a “poor man”). Private label watches were everywhere during the middle of the century, as pretty much every brand wanted to sell watches, but didn’t have the know-how or manufacturing capabilities to actually do so.

Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms model in 1953. It’s kind of the first dive watch, beating the Rolex Submariner to the market by one year. Measuring at least 40mm, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was a commercial success, and remains in high demand by collectors today.

But, the Fifty Fathoms was a serious, professional dive watch, worn by the likes of Jacquest Cousteau. So, in 1956, Blancpain introduced a smaller version for the masses, the Bathyscape. The original Bathyscape measured just 34mm. Its production run was much shorter than the Fifty Fathoms, meaning the Bathyscape is actually quite rare.

In addition to making Bathyscapes for itself, Blancpain also made private label Bathyscapes for brands like Waltham and Hamilton. Waltham went out of business in 1957, so the partnership was short lived but fruitful. They’re cool watches that meld the history of a legendary Swiss watch manufacturer and American manufacturing icons. And, they can be had at a fraction of the price of a Blancpain Bathyscape or Fifty Fathoms.

🧡 Odell Beckham Jr. Wore an RM in Week 1.

If you didn’t hear, Odell Beckham Jr. wore Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren in the Cleveland Browns’ week 1 loss to the Titans. It was a big day for Richard Mille, as Rafael Nadal was also sporting his signature timepiece during his U.S Open win, his 19th grand slam title. Unlike Beckham, Nadal is an official Richard Mille ambassador.

💀 Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot X.

Oris teased and then released the Big Crown Pro Pilot X, a 44mm model with a skeletonized movement and ten day power reserve. Super modern, technologically sophisticated, and priced at $7,000, it’s something different from Oris. While it’s received mixed reviews overall, I for one give the brand props for expanding beyond the already loved Diver 65 and traditional Big Crown.


Sales Corner

Vintage Gold from Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co by Movado Annual Calendar 14k Solid Gold.

This is a beautiful annual calendar for Tiffany & Co. from the 1950s, powered by a Movado movement. It’s small but mighty, measuring just 33mm. Movado made all kinds of watches for this historic retailer through the middle of the century, and picking one of these up is an affordable way to add a watch from the legendary retailer to your collection. As of this writing, the bidding sits at $820. Expect it to continue rise before the auction expires on Monday evening.

Mercury Flying Officer by Gallet.

Let me start by saying this: This watch isn’t perfect, but it’s a deal. It’s a Flying Officer with Mercury on the dial, but built by Gallet, the brand which made the Flying Officer famous in the 1950s and 1960s. The Flying Officer was Gallet’s continuation of its Clamshell line, the first series of waterproof chronographs, first introduced in 1936. The cities listed around the outer ring of the dial and the rotating bezel allow the wearer to track multiple time zones. A black dial stainless steel Gallet Flying Officer is a true grail worthy piece — Harry Truman, for example, wore one.

The example here isn’t necessarily grail worthy, but it’s fun nonetheless. The case is gold-plated steel (meh), and the dial is stamped with the name “Mercury,” which means pretty much nothing (remember the private label watches discussion above? Mercury was basically a made up private label. Like Amazon’s private label brands). So you’re paying for the form factor and the movement here. If you really love the history of the Flying Officer but only want to spend a quarter the money, this is the watch for you. Price: $1,200.


Ticks & Tocks

📦 Not just watches: The joys of collecting other horological ephemera. 🤾‍♂️ Like the new Oris, a lot of people had opinions about the new Bell & Ross BR-05, or Bell & Ross going “sports luxe”. 😆 Kevin O’Leary and Teddy Baldassarre talking about their colleciones (it’s like a car crash, I just can’t look away). 🍚 6 minimalist watch recommendations. 👩‍💻 5 of the most innovative dive watches introduced this year.

In New York: Saks is opening “The Vault”, a new watch and jewelry experience.

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

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