There are certainly a number of great watches out there under $1,000 that would make a great first mechanical watch. But what if you wanna really dig into this whole “Watch Idiot Savant” thing? Most of these affordable watches are strictly time-only, but if you really want to start collecting mechanical watches, it’s the complications you want to go after. For that, check out the vintage market, where mechanical complications abound, many falling well below the four-figure threshold. These three — an alarm watch, a GMT and a chronograph — are ideal for new collectors.
What we like: Introduced in 1966 and produced until 1978, the Bell-Matic was Seiko’s crack at an alarm wristwatch, and though the Vulcain Cricket and Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox came before it, this was the first alarm watch with a central automatic rotor. Neat.
Still, for just a bit over $500, you can get your hands on a relatively rare complication, and along with it a nicely proportioned cushion case and a handsome linen pattern dial.
From the seller: Stainless steel case is in very good condition overall showing minor signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Dial (including rotating bezel) is in very good condition with no major signs of discoloration or hand drag. Signed Seiko case back has some scratches and one deep tool mark but is in otherwise good condition.
Zodiac Aerospace GMT
What we like: Zodiac is one of those brands that always seeems to pride a lot of value for money on the vintage market, and this GMT is proof. The Aerospace GMT was an evolution of popular Sea Wolf from the ’60s, and takes the same basic case design and adds a second hour hand and a handsome, black and gray rotating 24-hour bezel. The little pop of forest green at the top is a nice touch, too.
From the seller: Bi-directional rotating GMT bezel has a small rub over the 12-hour marker. Watch is working just fine and keeping time.
What we like: Wakmann was the U.S. distributor for Breitling watches during the from the 1940s to the ’70s, though it did make some of its own watches, often using parts from Breitling. This classy chronograph features a Venus 188 chronograph movement — also used by Breitling — and has a clean case and dial not dissimilar to other dual-register Breitling chronographs of the same vintage.
From the seller: Case is in great condition over all, showing light signs of wear consistent with age and use. Silver dial shows very light discoloration on the outer edge but is otherwise in excellent condition with nicely patinated luminous elements.