What self-respecting watch nerd hasn’t spent countless hours trolling eBay for that elusive vintage treasure that no one has discovered? The Pre-Moon Omega Speedmaster, the MilSub, the Cosmonaute — the names alone are enough to get palms sweating and the heart racing. While the thrill of watch collecting is in the hunt, enough foiled plans and missed auctions will make anyone gun shy. We feel your pain. The best salve is this guide to vintage watches on eBay, featuring a strong mix of underdogs — those timepieces that fly under a lot of collectors’ radars. Not only do you stand a better chance of scoring one of these collectible tickers, once you do make the final bid, you’ll end up with a legitimate piece of horological history.
To the casual observer, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with its tidy towns and the waft of manure from plowed fields on the spring breeze, is a far cry from the vaunted watchmaking regions of Europe. But there are similarities between this rolling farmland and the mountain valleys of Switzerland and Germany: a history of rural isolation, strong Puritan work ethic, cold winters, and a history of fine timepieces. Lancaster was home to the Hamilton Watch Company from 1892 until the mid-1980s and was, at one time, producer of some of the finest timepieces in the world. Today it is still a treasure trove of American watchmaking.