Editor’s Note: For all the shiny new watches we come across every week, nothing gets our hearts racing like a great vintage timepiece. These are watches with stories, some known, some lost to history. Watches from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s come from an era when a man’s timepiece was his everyday carry, a tool for the job that wasn’t put away when things got down and dirty. Many vintage watches bear the marks of use that we endearingly call “patina”, and remain that much more lovely in spite of (or because of) it.
The other appealing aspect of vintage watches is their rarity. Even the most common old timepieces are becoming harder to find in good shape. So while you can walk into a retailer and buy a brand new watch anytime, finding a good vintage piece requires patience, persistence, research and legwork. This leads us to the eighth installment of our ongoing series, Timekeeping Selects, a partnership with Analog/Shift, the New York-based purveyor of vintage watches. We’ve done the legwork for you, handpicking the coolest, most unique old watches, all of which have impeccable authenticity and are serviced and ready to wear.
When it comes to wristwatch complications, there are few more useful than a world timer. Sure, chronographs can time your pasta and a moonphase looks cool but a world time watch can tell you when to call the Hong Kong office at a glance and keep a jetlagged brain oriented. Even a 40-year-old mechanical world time watch like the Tissot we’re featuring today will beat any smartphone (or smartwatch) when it comes to quick reference. That outer rotating bezel lists major cities in 24 time zones. Set a city to 12:00 high and the others line up with their respective times along the dial. It’s that simple. Take that, Apple Watch.
Tissot, the venerable Le Locle-based company that is now a mainstay of the Swatch Group, has used the Navigator name to refer to its nautical-themed watches since the 1950s, most with some sort of second time zone or world time function for the round-alone sailor or jet-set businessman alike. These Navigators are favorites of collectors thanks to their useful complications, unique styling and relative affordability. World timers from more prestigious brands can add thousands to the price. This particular example features a 24-hour two-tone dial (dark for night, light for day) that leaves no doubt whether it’s AM or PM no matter which time zone you’re looking at. Just remember that the hour hand travels around only once a day, not twice like conventional 12-hour watches. Talk about a conversation starter on that long flight to Tokyo.
The Super Compressor case, with distinctive twin crowns (one for setting and winding, the other for turning the bezel) is a chunky 42 millimeters, huge in the 1970s, perfect now. And the case back features the classic sailing ship logo, a fitting trademark of the Navigator line. An original Tissot steel bracelet in all its loose, comfortable glory rounds out this gem of a sports watch and we’re throwing in a couple of spare Crown & Buckle nylon straps for variety. While your friends are scrambling to upgrade their smart watches in a year or two, you’re good for a few decades with this Navigator. Call it the “smarter” watch.