Everyone loves a good Tri-Compax, and I’m no different. The watch first came to market after its introduction at the Basel fair of 1944, commemorating 50 years of Universal Genève with a liberally complicated chronograph. Since then it has achieved legendary horological status, despite other manufacturers producing similarly complicated pieces. In other words, UG got it right with their various Tri-Compax references, thanks to the power of lasting design informed by largely reserved aesthetics.
This is undoubtedly one of the more special Tri-Compax executions I’ve come across in a long while, for two main reasons. First is the condition that it’s offered in, which is about as good as it gets, with what would appear to be a near perfect dial, mostly free of the usual blemishes, and second is the connection it holds to a notable Swiss retailer. If you focus on the hour-tracking sub-dial found at the six o’clock position, you’ll see it’s signed “EISENHART.” This jeweler and watch dealer was founded on the 19th of January in 1926, in Bern. They would later go on to open a location in the town of Interlaken in the fall of 1933.
Retailer signatures can often be grounds for raised eyebrows, especially when they start with “Tiff” and end with “any,” given the premiums that these dials command and the understandable albeit dishonest motivation one would have to fake such a signature. With that said, I have no doubts regarding the originality of the signature in the case of the watch in question, again for two reasons.
First off, Eisenhart isn’t a prominent enough name in the watch world to make one inclined to add it to a dial, and ultimately it doesn’t warrant that much of a premium. Don’t get me wrong, I love its presence, but it’s not affording this piece a two times multiple any time soon. Then there’s the fact that this piece is accompanied by an original certificate, confirming it was originally sold at Eisenhart in Interlaken on August 23, 1958. As a bit of a completist, this is what I love to see, and I think you might as well.
Hess Fine Auctions out of Saint Petersburg, Florida, has this piece listed for sale on their eBay account, and the bidding is already off to a strong start, with a high bid of $3,200 at the time of publishing. Find the full listing here.
As previously mentioned, I’m a completist when it comes to vintage watches. If it has papers, sales receipts, boxes, original whatever, I’m game – and you should be too. It all comes back to the concept of buying the best possible example of a watch that you can find, both for your own satisfaction and the overall liquidity of your watch.
On one of my daily eBay hunts, I found this piece from Movado that exemplifies the beauty of a more complete example. This is what’s known as a Sub-Sea Kingmatic, which was one of the earlier pieces from Movado to feature an integrated-style bracelet. While it’s not exactly a watch you see pop up for sale everyday, the bulk I’ve seen are usually fitted with a modified bracelet of sorts that doesn’t quite look like it belongs, making them seem somewhat uninteresting. With the original Movado bracelet produced by JB Champion however, it’s another story. This bracelet gives the watch an admittedly modern appearance that I imagine would’ve been quite a sight back in the 1960s.
The watch is signed four times, with Movado branding found on the self-winding movement, caseback, bracelet, and dial. Also note the engraving of Movado’s early “watch in hand” logo on the inside of the caseback – I strongly believe this to be one of the greatest insignias in watchmaking. The watch in great shape as well, with a decently clean dial, save for some minor burn marks which would have been caused by the luminous compound found in the hands.
An eBay seller based out of Chicago has this piece listed with a starting bid of $299. Get in on the action here.
There’s always something to be said for a great time-only watch. In addition to encapsulating timekeeping in its most basic form, it’s a great way to gauge the design chops of a particular brand. I might’ve said this before, but it’s something I wholeheartedly believe to be the truest test of a watchmaker’s ability to tap into the exclusive club of icon status. There’s simply less leniency for error when you distill something down to its basics.
Omega’s history is chock full of time-only pieces, and what many regard to be some of the most important time-only pieces in watchmaking history. This can be attributed to their extensive back catalog of aesthetically and mechanically genius calibers, of which the cal. 30T2 is certainly one. While scrolling through the inventory of a newly launched dealer outfit, I came across an example of one of my favorite references to house the aforementioned movement, the Ref. 2383-4, with those oh so good luminous Arabic indices and matching syringe-style hands.
When I said oh so good, I meant it, as the condition of this example is top notch. Its case remains thick, all luminous applications are original, and while the dial has aged, it has achieved a pleasing warm tone, free of any large flaws. There’s a line between patina and damage, and this dial falls into the camp of the former without a doubt. Should you have a decent handle on the concept of restraint, you could easily make this the one and only watch you’ll ever wear.
Golden Hour Time has this Omega listed on their site for $2,250, which is more than reasonable for an example in this state. Find more photos and details here.
Here’s a chronograph I’ve always liked: the Sea-Chron from Zodiac. It’s one of the few chronographs I know to be fitted with a near-white metallic grey bezel, which contrasts rather nicely with the black dial. The dial also features a noticeably smaller sub-dial at the six o’clock position, which I’ve always found interesting.
What’s more is the fact this thing has a Valjoux 72 inside. This is the same movement you’ll find in far more expensive chronographs of the same era, including the Rolex Daytona, but you already knew that. Condition wise, there’s little to not like about this example, thanks to the unpolished case, flawless dial, and period-correct beads-of-rice style bracelet that ties the whole thing together like a nice rug.
Yes, the hands are believed to be relumed, which the seller has stated, but between you and me, there are a ridiculous number of re-lumed watches sold every single day as original and untouched. In this case, the owner is being honest about what they've got. So if you take issue with this piece, I challenge you to get scientific and put what’s already in your collection to the test. Unfortunately that’s just the nature of the beast that is vintage watch collecting in 2019, which in part explains the premiums that are paid for true one-owner watches with documented provenance.
A collector located in Norway has listed their watch for sale on the ChronoTrader forum and is asking $4,100. Check it out here.
To return for a moment to time-only watches, I think it's worth making mention of another piece I came across this week. This one again comes from Universal Genève, but is a touch later than the previously featured Tri-Compax. Don’t fear, because great design at UG continued long after the end of the 1950s, as this conservative piece would surely confirm. Just look at it!
This piece really sums up Universal Geèeve’s continuous commitment to quality, even when it came to the production of what were ultimately their lower-end pieces. Despite not being illustriously complicated, the attention to detail is still more than noticeable. Note the use of an applied logo and an unconventionally wide bezel that almost has a Disco Volante-esque quality about it. The screw-back waterproof case design is also quite interesting to see.
There’s a lot to love with regards to condition, thanks to the razor sharp case with well defined chamfered edges on the lugs, along with the luminous compound found on both the dial and hands, which have both aged to a pleasing warm tone. My only gripe with this one is how the color of the dial is described as “eggshell,” but that’s a non-issue more or less.
Those Watch Guys have this Universal Genève listed for $2,690, which means you get a lot of watch for the money. Follow this link for more photos and details.
The importance of Lemania in the history of chronograph production is hard to overstate. While they might not be recognized for any single reference that put them on the map, so to speak, their manufacture birthed one of single most revered calibers of all time, which has found its way into the cases of countless notable timepieces over the years. The movement I speak of is of course the venerable cal. CH27, which emerged in the early 1940s after being developed by Albert Piguet and Jacques Reymond. Those that know their stuff will know this to be the caliber upon which Omega’s cal. 321 (that has since gone back into production) and Patek Philippe’s CH27-70 are based, among others from top-tier manufactures.
While browsing through the catalog of an upcoming sale at a smaller New York auction house, I came across a Lemania branded piece powered by the aforementioned caliber in stunning shape, that’s ever so reminiscent of many early chronograph references from Patek Philippe. Its dial is the main attraction here, with its several multi-colored scales and luminous indices matched with luminous hands. Pro tip: If you ever want to quickly check if a vintage chronograph dial has been refinished with decent accuracy, see if the scales bleed into one another. You’ll notice that on this Lemania they’re applied perfectly with Swiss precision, indicating the originality of this dial’s finish.
The case is a highlight as well, seeing as it measures 35mm across and remains unpolished, with sharp defined lines and deep hallmarks on its backside. All in all, it’s an excellent looking watch, in terrific condition, which would look more than at home inside any collection of vintage chronographs.
While this piece will go up for auction in an estate sale on Sunday at New York City’s Showplace Antique + Design Center, bidding has already begun online and currently stands at $425. Find it here.
To end things off this week, we’ve got a fun watch, though a significant and innovative one at that. What you’re looking at is one of the earlier mechanical watches to be cased in plastic, and the very first watch to feature a mechanical movement crafted out of plastic components. It also just so happens to have one of the most futuristic names of any watch I’ve ever heard of – IDEA 2001 Astrolon – which was perhaps inspired by the Stanley Kubrick film that was released just a few years earlier. This example is in new-old-stock condition, which is always nice to see.
After quietly experimenting with new materials, Tissot introduced this piece back in 1971, and it would pave the way for Swatch’s more recent smash hit, the Sistem51. The Astrolon 2250 caliber was produced primarily out of plastic, which made it made it not only antimagnetic, but also free from requiring lubrication. It consisted of just 52 parts, making a case for it being the future of watchmaking at the time, given the simpler production process.
While the IDEA 2001 Astrolon was not the success Tissot had hoped it would be, I see it having a massive impact on the future of watchmaking, as it broadened material horizons in an industry that remains to this day, set in its ways. To see the use of composite materials and plastics in high end watches today isn’t exactly uncommon, and perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today without watches like this.
Ax4060 Needle Roller Bearing
An eBay seller located in North Liberty, Iowa, has this trailblazing Tissot listed with an asking price of $1,499.99. You also have the option to make an offer. Check out the listing here.
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