Chronographs are awesome. I know that. Watch nerds know that. And if you clicked on this story odds are you already knew it, too. Chronographs are so awesome that now if you want to buy a vintage one you’re very, very likely looking at paying thousands for one. For example, at Phillip’s Stop-Start-Reset auction last year (which was specifically comprised of stainless steel chronographs) the cheapest watch sold went for over $11,000; the most expensive went for nearly $1 million.
Granted, those were some exceptionally iconic and hard-to-find watches, but it’s indicative of the vintage market’s lust for the function. You could buy a brand new one, but if you crave vintage you can find a few lesser-known chronographs from the 20th century for less than the cost of something new. As proof, here are three options under $1,650.
Wakmann Valjoux 7730
What we like: Wakmann is something of a still-undiscovered brand in the vintage market, meaning you can get a lot of watch for your money. Originally founded in New York in the 1940s, the brand was an importer of Breitlings (though it did make some of its own watches using Breitling parts). The watch you see here uses Valjoux hand-winding 7730 movement and comes in a lovely 34.5mm gold-plated case.
From the seller: The gold plated case with square pushers and stainless steel case back shows only minor plating loss. The dial and hands are exceptionally nice and show virtually no aging. All watch functions tested and operable.
Tissot Navigator Automatic
What we like: The Tissot Navigator was a short-lived chronograph from the early 1970s. Inside is a Lamania 1341 automatic chronograph that, interestingly enough, displays the chronograph seconds and minutes on the main dial (the two sub-dials are for running seconds and chrono hours). It has the same rounded cushion case other tool watches from the era had, and at under $1,000, it’s a complete steal.
From the seller: The chronograph function is working as it should with all counters resetting back to 12. The watch comes on a nice 20mm strap and a vintage Tissot box.
Zodiac Valjoux 7733
What we like: A “poor man’s Heuer” of sorts, this Zodiac has the same Valjoux chronograph movement and basic look as Heuer’s highly popular racing chronographs from the ’60s but comes in at a significantly lower price. The reverse-panda color scheme is handsome (made better by the accent of the red seconds hand) and the watch comes with a nicely sized 36mm case.
From the seller: Chrome-plated case is in very good condition with minor signs of use and wear including scratches and tool marks and a small amount of plating loss on the underside. Dial is in very good condition with fine, even patina throughout.