Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova were among the most prolific, best-known American watch brands during much of the 20th century, making high-quality timepieces that competed with those of the Swiss companies that are well-known today. Many later moved production to Switzerland, but without much of the name recognition of comparable prestigious companies, they can remain somewhat overlooked on the vintage market. This is good for the bargain hunter, who can often find solid deals on interesting watches that are full of character. Below are three good examples, all well under $1,000.
Elgin Diver Day-Date
What We Like: A “vintage-sized” diver like this one at 37mm has a certain panache, and while modern companies are starting to agree and make modern tributes and reissues, this particular watch is the real deal. Its colorful, Rolex-like blue and red bezel goes nicely with the gray sunburst dial and blocky hands and indices. The movement, with an Elgin-signed rotor, features automatic winding and day/date displays.
From the Seller: Manufactured in the 1970s, the watch was fully serviced in March 2019.
What We Like: Thin black bezel, domed crystal, blocky hands and indices… this is the type of perfect ’60s diver with a monochromatic, serious look that oozes style — and it even comes on Tropic-style strap. With a manually wound Waltham movement inside and a steel case measuring 36mm, this is a watch that can slip under a cuff, but it’s most at home in casual summer situations.
From the Seller: The steel case with beveled lugs looks quite good — only superficial marks from normal use.
Bulova Snorkel “Devil Diver”
What We Like: The modern (Japanese-owned) Bulova brought back the Oceanographer “Devil Diver” — so named for its depth rating of 666ft — to much acclaim. And though the modern watch is based on a slightly different vintage model than the one pictured here, this one, with its 37mm case and Swiss automatic movement, is chock full of vintage charm.
From the Seller: Running and keeping time. It does have surface wear on the band and some surface scratches on the face.