The world of luxury horology is a bountiful world indeed. Full to bursting with desirable timepieces and more iridescent dials, delicate hour markers and sophisticated bezels than you could shake a watch strap at, it’s a world in which we could happily wander for weeks on end.
And when it comes to vintage watches, it’s luxury horology of an elevated variety: because vintage watches tell a story. They have hearts, and they have souls. They’ve seen things, these watches; and they come with their own slice of history. To own a vintage watch is to own a piece of heritage; and the more unscrupulous gentleman (an oxymoron if ever there was one) may well sell his own grandmother to get his hands on one.
That’s certainly not a course of action we’d endorse; but we do understand the allure, fascination and mystique that surrounds these elegant timepieces — so let’s take a look at the five vintage watches that we want right now.
Rolex: Ref. 1016 Explorer (Circa 1969)
Whether to the deepest depths of the ocean or the top of the highest mountain, Rolex has long equipped the most adventurous among us with suave, trusty timepieces built to weather the toughest storms; and that’s in addition to being world renowned for the luxury, elegance and sheer style of their jaw-dropping watches.
But you know all that. You presumably know, too, that the Explorer is famous for being present at the scene at the first successful climb of Mount Everest; an exploratory watch, indeed. And whether you plan on scaling Mount Everest or not, Ref. 1o16 — with its stainless steel Rolex rivet bracelet and matte black dial — would be a worthy addition to any gentleman’s collection.
Rolex Ref. 1016 Explorer
Patek Philippe: Ref. 3940 'First Series' (Circa 1987)
You’ll be no stranger to Patek Philippe, of course; but when this watch first launched in 1985, it was a stranger in and of itself. It burst into the watch market sporting (what was then) a bold, innovative new look wholly different to the Swiss manufacturer’s earlier perpetual calendars.
With its sunken registers and signature font (which, as we’re sure you’ll agree, has a distinctly vintage aura about it), it remains one of the most famous watches ever to bear the name Patek Philippe; and if it wasn’t already rare enough, the first series dial is in German. If you can resist its yellow gold allure, you’re a stronger man than most.
Patek Philippe Ref. 3940 'First Series'
Vacheron Constantin: Ref. 6351 (Circa 1980)
We’ve long been proponents of the phrase ‘less is more’. It doesn’t always apply, of course; but there are a great many instances in which simplistic style and understated elegance are just the thing — and this truth is neatly encapsulated in Vacheron Constantin’s yellow gold wristwatch.
It almost makes us heave a sigh of relief. It transports us to a simpler time: a time before Fitbits, social media and the all-encompassing, ever-pressing need that we all have, these days, to know everything as soon as we want to know it. There’s something inherently calming about a watch that simply tells the time; a little like a telephone whose only function is to make calls. And with its champagne dial and 18k yellow gold, snap on case back, it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is blissfully soothing.
Vacheron Constantin Ref. 6351
Omega: Ref. 168010 Constellation (Circa 1967)
Ah, Omega. Elvis Presley’s legacy is part immortalised in the Seamaster, while Bond had a penchant for the Seamaster Professional 300M. And should the mood (and the bank balance) take you, the Constellation can bring its own glittering style, unique heritage and glossy, glimmering aesthetics to your ensemble.
As dress watches go, the Constellation is about as refined as they come. Can’t you see yourself now: perhaps giving a toast at a wedding, or striding down Savile Row, with the Constellation twinkling away on your wrist? And Ref. 168010, with its silvered dial and stainless steel case, will be the perfect touch to your effortlessly suave ensemble.
Omega Ref. 168010 Constellation
Jaeger LeCoultre: Ref. 140.2.80 Master Control (Circa 1997)
If we were prone to swooning, we’d swoon over this watch. A perpetual calendar wristwatch, sporting moon phases and clad in pink gold, was always going to be right up our street: and this particular timekeeper is so far up our street that it may as well come in for tea.
Jaeger LeCoultre has long created striking, ineffably elegant watches (its Master Ultra Thin range rises irresistibly to mind…); and this particular 1997 iteration of the famous Master Control is just as functional as you’d expect from the famous Swiss manufacturer (and somewhat more functional than one would generally expect from a vintage watch). It bears a silvered dial, and clocks in at 37mm in diameter; and if you can resist its timekeeping wiles, we take our hat off to you.
Jaeger LeCoultre Ref. 140.2.80 Master Control
All five watches are currently available in the Sotheby’s New York Fine Watches auction. Bidding closes 2nd September 2021.
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