Entering into the world of purchasing a vintage watch is a precarious trip. Apart from avoiding landmines such as fakes, over-pricing, or faulties, you want to be sure the investment you’re making is in a watch that you’re going to enjoy for years to come. Thinking long-term, a vintage watch should be an heirloom that can be passed onto future generations, so how do you know which watch is going to stand the test of time? We’ve done the research for you, and found our ultimates for the vintage watches we’re confident will look good forever. Better yet, we’ve also given you some starting points as to where you may even find them.
Eterna KonTiki: for adventurers only
The Eterna KonTiki was named after a raft used by Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, during a journey across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to the Polynesian Islands – while he was wearing an Eterna, of course. It’s arguably the company’s best-known watch and has been so coveted that the brand released a heritage collection with the Super KonTiki 1973, almost identical to its original predecessor.
The company itself was founded in 1856 and has since become known for its innovations in movement, becoming the first watchmaker to serially produce an alarm wristwatch. Then, in 1948, they introduced and patented the ball bearing mounted winding root, which is where the name Eterna Matic comes from, as well as the company’s logo, which consists of five ball bearings.
I’ve seen a few Eterna KonTiki’s (of varying models) around for around $800, but typically, you’re looking at around $1400 upwards for this handsome, sporty watch.
Search for an Eterna KonTiki on Chrono24
Rolex Submariners: for serious collectors
A Rolex Submariner is a hallmark when it comes to vintage watches and an essential for anyone that wants to become a serious collector. Launched in 1953, with its robust design and distinctive oyster casing, the watch almost instantaneously gathered a cult following. Worn by the likes of Sean Connery’s James Bond, the Submariner is a sports watch with a luxury appeal, that nods to both contemporary style and the brand’s incredible watchmaking heritage. Models from the late sixties have become increasingly difficult to find in good condition, so a good date to start the search is around the late 80’s and early 90’s models.
While all vintage Rolex’s sit up there with the ‘investment’ level price mark, a good place to start looking is Kalmar Antiques, in Sydney’s QVB. They’re experts in vintage and antique timepieces and are great to talk to about any type of vintage watch purchase.
Start your search at Kalmar Antiques.
Omega Constellation: for those who seek beauty
Timeless, beautiful, and incredibly well made, the Constellation was once the flagship for the Omega collection. With their distinctive gold bracelets wristbands, diamond shaped hour markers, and pie-pan shaped dials, these watches are richly decorated, but not without taste, and for those with a love for something truly stand-out. In fact, they were so sought after at one point, that forgers created an industry of their own, solely for trying to recreate the handsomely detailed watch. As a result, it serves to do some close research, and perhaps even rope in some expert help when purchasing an Omega Constellation.
These days, the Omega Constellation has stepped back from the main spotlight of the Omega collection, but it is, in itself, a homage to the masterful heritage of the brand and its foundations. If you’re looking for something a touch on the alternative side, a vintage constellation is a great place to start, and range from around $6000 upwards, though Constellations with a leather wristband can be found for around $2000.
Start your search at The Watch Gallery
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso: for those looking for individuality
A demonstration of Jaeger Le-Coultre’s technical mastery, the token rectangular watch was first designed in 1931 for British Army Polo Players stationed in India. The Reverso is named for its iconic pivoting face, designed to protect it from shocks and reveal a back that can be engraved to your taste. Utterly unique and individual, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso has maintained a cult following for nearly eighty years, an icon of the art deco period in which it emerged.
After World War 2, fashion trends moved away from square and rectangular faces, and it was only due to an Italian Watch dealer, Giorgio Corvo that the rectangular face would be revisited, after he found around 200 empty cases at the brand’s manufacturer, and convinced the brand to push the Reverso back into the spotlight.
These days early period Reverso’s are quite rare, but most 80’s models vary between the $5000 – $11000.
Start your search at Vintage Watch Co Sydney
Kari Voutilainen: for when you make CEO
We’re not going to kid around here – a Kari Voutilainen isn’t exactly a vintage watch yet, but rather, it’s a purchase that will become a vintage watch.
Kari Voutilainen is truly a master of his craft, a Finnish watchmaker, who strictly adheres to “the old way” when building his watches: by hand. A mechanical and visual work of art, each watch is made to order, down to the last detail.
For one of his current collections, Voutilainen has collaborated with Unryuan, one of the world’s greatest lacquer studios, in Wajima town in Japan. Under the guidance of Mr T. Kitamura, artisans give new life to an ancient craft, and describe the process as “exemplifying the passion to preserve the soul, spirit and identity of traditional Japanese culture as expressed in the Edo period.” Each face is hand lacquered into almost poetic works of art, drawing inspiration from the culture and beauty of ancient Japanese art.
The only place to find these beautiful, masterful works of art is from the gentleman himself. The watches range from around $120,000 AUD upwards, but in our minds, if you have the money to dispose of, they are worth every cent.
Start your search here.