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 the seventh installment of our ongoing 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.
The name Autavia, which sounds something like a long-forgotten eastern European principality, is a mashup of the words “Automotive” and “Aviation”, and indeed it was first used for Heuer’s airplane and car gauges. In the mid ’60s, the name was applied to a chronograph. While most casual collectors know the Autavia as the tonneau-cased self winder made famous by racing driver Jo Siffert, the earlier, hand-cranked versions are more special to us. These ‘60s chronos bear the characteristic lines of their decade — narrow, angular lugs and classic mushroom-shaped pushers — and they house a very special movement.
The Valjoux 72 handwound caliber was used in many legendary chronographs in the ’60s, such as the Breitling Navitimer, Rolex Daytona and Heuer’s own Carrera. Its precise column-wheel-actuated functioning, three-counter layout and 12-hour timing is reason enough for owning this Autavia. The movement was abandoned in the heady days of the first self-winding Calibre 11; but despite the significance of that milestone, the Valjoux 72 is still the one to own.
The Autavia we’re offering today with our friends at Analog/Shift is in wonderful vintage condition; not surprising since it was acquired from its original owner and had lain dormant for the past 25 years in a desk drawer. This piece is the watch equivalent of a “barn find”; given its years of inactivity, it was due for a thorough servicing, and it now runs as it would have in the late ’60s. It’s being offered with a selection of 20-millimeter leather and nylon Crown & Buckle straps, ready to wear whether you’re flying or driving.