Editor’s Note: For all the shiny new watches we come across every week, nothing gets our hearts racing like a great vintage timepiece. These are watches with stories, some known, some lost to history. Watches from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s come from an era when a man’s timepiece was his everyday carry, a tool for the job that wasn’t put away when things got down and dirty. Many vintage watches bear the marks of use that we endearingly call “patina”, and remain that much more lovely in spite of (or because of) it.
The other appealing aspect of vintage watches is their rarity. Even the most common old timepieces are becoming harder to find in good shape. So while you can walk into a retailer and buy a brand new watch anytime, finding a good vintage piece requires patience, persistence, research and legwork. This leads us to our new series, Timekeeping Selects, a partnership with Analog/Shift, the New York-based purveyor of vintage watches. We’ve done the legwork for you, handpicking the coolest, most unique old watches, all of which have impeccable authenticity and are serviced and ready to wear.
While many of the chronographs from the 1960s can command top dollar, there are a few brands that remain affordable, despite using the same movements as the more prestigious marques. One of those brands is Wittnauer, an American company founded by a Swiss immigrant in the late 1800s. Wittnauer had an illustrious history in aviation, from wristwatches to cockpit instrumentation; a Wittnauer chronograph was even in contention to be NASA’s Moonwatch but was beaten out by the OMEGA Speedmaster. One wonders what might have become of the brand if Buzz Aldrin was wearing a Wittnauer on Apollo 11. Instead, the company fell into irrelevance and faded away during the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s.
The Wittnauer Professional Chronograph (
$1,495, sold) we have this week is classic ’60s style: widely spaced contrasting colors, “Panda” style, subdials for running seconds and elapsed minutes, blocky hands and a bold red sweep hand. The applied markers and stylized “W” logo are a nice touch, and the combination of a tachymeter scale and a rotating external bezel means you can time two events at once, from 400km/hour for up to an hour. The movement in this watch is a handwound Valjoux 7733, a precursor to today’s self-winding 7750 descendent. It is a sturdy, reliable motor and one that commands respect among collectors, many of whom will have paid a lot more for their version.
This Wittnauer chronograph is 40 millimeters in diameter, big for its day but perfect now. It has been recently serviced and features original parts including its original steel bracelet, a nicely domed acrylic crystal and an unfaded red bezel. The watch will be sold with an assortment of nylon and leather straps and carries a one-year warrantee.