Timekeeping
By Shane Griffin
on 10.8.13
Photo by Guinand / On the Dash

If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series “Want This, Get This” presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we’ve found a vintage Cold War-era military chronograph and a modern one that has the same milspec look.

Heuer Bundeswehr Flyback Chronograph

For a good chunk of the mid-20th century Heuer was known for making purpose-built chronographs. Though their heritage is deeply rooted in racing and aviation, when they acquired Leonidas in the 1960s they added the military chronograph to their catalog. The most famous example, the Bundeswehr Flyback (or simply “Bund”) was produced for the West German military during the late ’60s and early ’70s. Bunds carry either the Valjoux 22, 222, or 230, and feature a clean, horizontally arranged bi-compax flyback chronograph. The minimalist dial, large matte-finished case, and bi-directional rotating bezel endow the watch with a decidedly masculine vibe — and on an appropriate padded Bund-style leather strap, all the more so.

Finding a Bund on the vintage market can be a difficult task: replicas are commonplace, and authentic watches are relatively rare and are bought and sold quickly. Some Heuer enthusiasts have said that the Bund can be found in over 30 variations, all of which are highly sought after by collectors. The wide array of Bund variants brings with it a similarly wide price range. You can expect to pay in the mid to upper $3,000 range for an original Bund, while refurbished watches cost about $1,000 less. If you can find a good one and have the dough handy, snag it. It’s one of the best and most accessible vintage military watches around.

Guinand Series 40

For those who want the potent, rugged styling of the Bund without the price tag, all that’s needed is a quick game of “Six Degrees of Helmut Sinn”. After the Bund’s production run ended, Helmut Sinn, who had his own close ties with the German military, took over the servicing and refurbishing duties. In addition to Sinn’s Bund care-taking duties, his eponymous brand produced a couple of homage pieces, the 156 and the 103, that remain in Sinn’s catalog today. Prices for these watches aren’t exactly cheap (in fact, they’re about the same price as a vintage Heuer Bund), which is why we recommend looking one step further.

After Herr Sinn sold his share of his namesake company to Lothar Schmidt, Sinn acquired a majority stake of Guinand, another German watchmaker. The Guinand Series 40 (~$1,600) looks suspiciously like the Sinn 103, and that’s no mistake. Helmut Sinn sought to continue his philosophy of making affordable, quality timepieces that he felt Sinn — the brand — had lost sight of.

The Guinand Series 40, like the Sinn 103, houses the reliable Valjoux 7750. The difference in their movements comes down to the finishing; Guinand plates the 7750 in rose gold and adds handsome Geneva stripes and waves (precisely the opposite of what you expected from the cheaper option). While this movement necessitates a different chronograph layout than the Heuer Bund, the military spirit, and arguably a tangential bloodline, remains intact. And though many aspects of the Series 40 and the Sinn 103 are nearly identical, their prices are not. After removing the European Value Add Tax (VAT), a Guinand Series 40 can be had for close to $1,000, half the price of a Sinn 103 and a third of the price of a Bund. Not too shabby for such a quality timepiece.