At vintage auctions, you’ll often see chronographs garner some of the biggest bucks: Rolex Daytonas, Heuer Autavias, Universal Genéve Tri-Compaxes and the like. They’re loved for their design, their innovative movements and their use in fields like aviation, motorsports and space travel. You do not, however, have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get your hands on a handsome vintage chronograph with some provenance. You don’t even have to spend a grand. For just a few hundred dollars you can scoop up one of these three old-school chronos that seem unaffected by the vintage watch collecting bubble — for now, anyway.
Seiko 6139 “Helmet”
What we like: Seiko’s 6139 was part of a three-way race to produce the world’s first automatic chronograph in 1969 (it technically was the first to go on sale) and was the first automatic chronograph used in space. Yet despite these achievements, the 6139 remains absurdly affordable on the vintage market. This “helmet variant” — named for its tall, funky case design — is proof, and it comes with great splashes of yellow and green. Though the dial does seem a bit faded, you could argue that adds to the charm.
From the seller: The watch and stopwatch work but have not been tested for accuracy — needs to be serviced. This is a vintage piece, so water resistance has not been tested. Sold as is.
Sandro ‘Exotic Dial’ Chronongraph
What we like: The folks at Analog/Shift, who are selling this watch, couldn’t find any info on the brand Sandros. But really, what’s in a name? What’s in the watch is a Valjoux 7733 hand-winding chronograph movement, and what’s on the outside is a bright blue bezel and checker-pattern dial. Throw in the yellow accents and you have one groovy watch from a gloriously brash era of watch design.
From the seller: Case is in excellent condition with crisp bevels and virtually no signs of use aside from minor shelf wear. Dial is in fantastic untouched condition with crisp printing and lovely patinated luminescent elements on the hour plots and hands.
What we like: Vintage Tissots, much like modern ones, offer a great amount of watch for the money. This chronograph uses a hand-winding Lemania 873 (which served as a basis for the Omega 861 still in use in the Omega Speedmaster Professional) and comes with a handsome, angular case, a red tachymeter scale and a brilliant red-accented dial. It even has its original factory bracelet.
From the seller: The manual winding movement is keeping accurate time and the chronograph is operating perfectly. There is some aging to the vintage bezel. Any case marks are superficial and usual for the age of the watch.