The vintage watch market can be a little overwhelming at times, even to those of us who have been buying, selling and trading for years. While some watches (Heuers, Omegas, etc.) have long been safe bets in terms of appreciation, more and more lesser-known brands have been coming out of the woodwork in recent years, and have gained some decent traction amongst enthusiasts and collectors — especially in the online watch community. While this list is by no means complete (as it would be never-ending), here are a few of my favorite affordable vintage chronos you should be keeping an eye out for.
(Image: STR8BYT @ watchuseek.com)
Bulova made a ton of cool chronographs throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, but these funky diver chronographs are at the top of our list (in particular the surfboard dial variant, seen in the above photo). Originally rated to 666 feet (just over 202 meters), powered by the usual bulletproof Valjoux 7733, and occasionally boasting acrylic bezels — those are a bit tougher to come by — these guys are a great way to look after your funky diver chronograph fix. Word to the wise though; you’re obviously best off to get the thing serviced and have fresh gaskets installed before even remotely considering getting one of these near water.
Yema & LeJour
(Image: docwatch @ uhrforum.de)
Already on a bit of an uptick, Yema (and their U.S. Distributor LeJour) chronographs are just the right kind of weird. Yema had a great run in France from the late ‘40s into the quartz crisis, building a mix of regatta chronographs (the Yachtingraf), the chunky Flygraf seen above, as well as a number of “Rallye” chronographs with a slight motorsport twist. Three-register units such as this one frequently used a Valjoux 7736, and of course two-register units are yet again powered by either the 7733, or 7734 when a date complication was required.
Nivada Grenchen & Croton
(Image: dddmmm8 @ chronocentric.com)
Much like LeJour was Yema’s US distribution, Croton played the same role for Nivada Grenchen through the glory days of casual chronographs. The Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver (it’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) has been slowly and steadily rising in value over the last couple of years, but even now a respectably clean example can be tracked down for just north of $1,000. Strangely, these chronographs came with a wide variety of movements fitted in them including the Valjoux 92, 7733, Landeron 248 and Venus 210, so don’t be thrown if the one you find looks slightly different than others you’ve seen online.
(Image: Ghentwatch @ watchuseek.com)
Of the “big name” watch brands out there, I’m still shocked at how undervalued these Tissot chronographs really are. The Seastar (and Seastar Navigator) went through a series of iterations over the years, ranging from the two-register model seen above, through to a very cool Lemania-powered version (and even a very funky regatta timer). Considering the current state of collectability of vintage Heuers, Omegas, and many other brands who’ve stood the test of time, we can only suspect that these chronos will be commanding a higher price of entry before too long.
With all these great budget-friendly options to choose from, we’re curious to know which ones are your personal favorites — let us know in the comments section down below!
I have to agree – Bulova chronographs, especially on a cool strap, are a requirement for every collector. Thanks for the great article and introduction to other brands like Yema.
I collect Tissot Seastars and Navigators. Great watches. But my choice for every-day chrono is a Wakmann with a V7734 movement made in the 1970s. Great looking watch. Well maintained and adjusted properly, it works within COSC specs.