Vintage Vulcain

Vintage watches are still my passion and perhaps more so today than ever, simply because many are from an age where “style” and “elegance” were as importance as the watch function itself.  And I have to admit I like that.

Neat but good sized Ladies 1920’s 18K Vulcain manual wind in original condition

This example is a 1920’s Ladies 18ct Gold Vulcain which has survived in very good condition and is being worn today, keeping good time and looking as elegant as when it was made.  I guess it was produced just after WW1 when Vulcain moved to their new factory, so possibly around 1923 or so, once the new premises was fully up and running.

This model is a bit of a rarity with this case shape, though checking through the Vulcain “Book” I found this very similar model from around 1930.  Note the early Vulcain logo in a simple font without underlining etc.

1930’s Vulcain with diamond decoration – from the Vulcain “book”.

Another reference I found is from the  Watch Book – “Wristwatches – A Handbook and Price Guide” 6th Edition of Gisbert L. Brunner & Christian Pfeiffer-Belli, printed by Schiffer, which although listed as anonymous, could indeed be a Vulcain such is the similarity.

Similar cased & dial look of the 1920’s

My Vulcain 18K Gold cased is also complimented by the expandable bracelet (marked DV, which denotes a Vulcain parts or accessory) which suits it perfectly with no degradation to the sprung action or the fastening clip with safety chain.  (note the Trademark DV with the V on top shown is prior to the rectangular form, which appeared in 1934).

Original Vulcain accessories (DV) 18k Gold expandable bracelet

The case back is numbered and hinged with a snap closure and the movement is in very good condition considering this watch is not water resistant.

Vulcain of course is a very old established Watch Company formed back in 1858 and still producing high quality watches today.  Famous amongst other things for producing the 1st practical mechanical Alarm watch, the Cricket” – which could be heard over 30 metres away and operated without disturbing the time keeping of the watch, both features thought impossible. After many years of research it finally was introduced commercially in 1947.

So all in all very pleased with this purchase as once again it is relatively rare, both in shape and style and is in excellent running condition.  What’s more it appears that the original bracelet is attached and the watch has obviously been kept for special occasions as it has worn exceptionally well over the best part of the last 100 years.

The last image shows a Gents Vulcain from around the same vintage, again with the original Vulcain logo on the dial and very similar font applications on the dial.  Note too the hands and dial colour are virtually identical, which were obviously the parts of choice at this period.

I’ll keep a look out for this particular Gents model and if it comes up at any time – I’ll be very interested in adding it to my collection.  You never know!

Gents 18ct Gold 1925 model (Illustration – from the Vulcain “Book”)

Colour Swatch

Every so often I feel I want to brighten up my watch wardrobe, especially if I’m out for dinner and maybe even dressed for the occasion.  Something that maybe we don’t do often enough these days and certainly something I don’t do enough, being retired.  Years of going to the day job, dressed up, tends to make one “dress down” when in retirement and maybe even to forget the odd shave – very remiss.

What to wear?  Well this will do nicely ‘cos it’ll go with anything . . . .

But with age comes a certain freedom, where that silly old soul can wear an outrageous bow tie with a blazer or have an overly elaborate walking cane (never had one before, but what the heck!).  Maybe you can make some amazing, amusing or cutting comment that could well be in the category of – “You can’t say that!” – that’s awful . . . . !  And get away with it.

And so it is with the choice of watch on your wrist, which neatly brings me to this model – the Swatch “Rounds & Squares” SUON122.

Swatch “Rounds & Squares” model – for geeks.

An ultra modernist Quartz in silicon, plastic, with an abstract style with a blue case and multi-colour strap and an every colour dial.   The ultra lightweight case will manage a 3bar Water Resistance, so should withstand the odd glass of bubbly thrown at it, or even if the wearer might accidentally (or was he pushed?) fall in the pool.  Now OK the watch survivability might be around 50%, which oddly enough is probablyabout the same (or better) as the old wearer  . . .
It has a center seconds hand and a neat little screw (coin) hatch at the back to access the battery and the strap as seen here is just fab’ and amazingly flexible.
Did I just use the F word?  Goodness, is that sad or what . . . .  I mean I was old when they started using that!

Coin battery entry hatch – easy fit even for me!

Anyway as watches go it’s a pretty decent size at 41 mm diameter and commendably just under 10 mm thick, AND it’s plastic, but without the over size silly “ooh is that a watch then?” look, a style that frankly has lost it’s charm for me – but this is different AND it looks good!

Yes this Swiss offering actually looks great – it’s bright, it’s colourful and OK, perhaps a little OTT (did I mention the second hand is “pastel blue?) but despite all that unbelievably I can think of lots of old guy eccentric clothing to go with it.  I’ll look some out later . . . .

So being in a sort of dark mood the other day, I went and bought it, sad I know, but that’s what happens when faced with a hypnotic strap such as this.

How could you do it, I hear you ask?

Swatch that goes with – everything!

Well it was like this.  I spotted it when having lunch with a friend – a friend who is an Ex geek.  I know the ex idea seems bizarre but there he was, wearing believe it or not one of those ghastly Hawaii style Miami Vice era multi-colour, but long sleeved, shirts (the rest of his attire was no less incongruous – long shorts and hiking boots – and this is March in Scotland!).

Anyway it happened as my companion asked him the time and as a result I sort of did a double take, as my ex geek pal pulled up his shirt cuff and looked at this continuation of his – “shirt”?

But NO – he was actually looking at his nice new Swatch watch, which was virtually indistinguishable from his  riotously bright outfit, in almost every way!  And as I say – I was hooked . . . . . It was a lousy day, wet, dark and utterly miserable and there he was – a riot of colour, watch and all!

Well when I got home I looked it up, loved the colour, price OK and ordered one on the spot – and would you believe it – I was already starting to feel much brighter myself.

It came directly from Swatch in tick tock land, so took a couple of days.

Now perhaps it’s a cheap (relatively) and definitely cheerful watch of course, but it’s also absolutely a bit of fun to wear and it will do me nicely, oh yes, it’ll do me just fine.

Square Blancpain?

Yes it is square or almost so and here was I thinking that Blancpain produced only round case watches.  I checked around however and with some difficulty it has to be said I did find an image example in my old No 30 Edition Gilbert, Engle & Schugart  “Complete Price Guide to Watches” on page 677 right at the foot of the page, an image of almost the very same model.  It too has hooded lugs, though shown complete rather than the part hooded ones of my version.

Gilbert, Engle 2010 Watch Catalogue – illustration of vintage Blancpain model

However the dial is exactly the same, stick hands dot markers and the tiny sub-dial seconds, plus the 4 cardinal numerals.  The glass is unscratched and domed and the solid 14k Gold case is in great condition.  A degree of re-finish is evident and why not as this watch is from around the 1940-45 era.  The strap is not a Blancpain but a modern Italian leather Rosario 18 mm that looks just fine.  As always with any watch I collect – it has to be worn on the wrist regularly and Rosario straps are always comfortable.

Blancpain vintage rectangular c 1945

The movement which is in superb condition is signed Blancpain 17 jewel unadjusted with the Rayville SA import mark clearly shown (KXO).  I’m not sure if Blancpain even made their own movements in this period and the movement looks very similar to an Anton Schild.  It does look as if it could be related to the AS 970 for example, though I’m no expert on these and there were so many AS movement variations, I can’t definitely put a number to it, but they were of very decent quality for the period.

1940s Blancpain signed 17 jewel – perhaps Anton Schild.

The case has been cleaned up at some point in the past, but the Case Maker marks show up clearly to be Katz & Ogush Inc of New York, who were registered in 17th January 1921, and denotes the 14k Gold motif.  K&O had two different motifs – the other was simply plain text with their initials, so this is a nice bonus for me as I have a thing about Watch Case Maker marks.

Katz & Ogush Case Maker for Blancpain c 1945

When I first saw the images on Auction I thought perhaps this was a Ladies model, but the watch overall size at 26 mm x 35 mm lug to lug, is definitely for a Gent.
It was also produced at the time when the “formed” watch style was coming in to fashion, as they moved away from the traditional round pocket watch style of earlier times.  Of all the shapes around at the time and into the fifties, the square and rectangular became the most popular and are still with us today.

So overall I’m pleased with my vintage find this month.  It’s not often you find a rectangular Blancpain and movement wise it is in great condition, the case is clearly marked with a known Case Maker and it’s in good condition – it also keeps excellent time which is another bonus.

The question of absolute original condition and refinished condition always comes up when collecting vintage watches.  It is a fact that to find watches in “perfect” condition of this age is becoming almost impossible now.  More often than not the watch is in various stages of poor condition, corroded movements, spotted dials, mechanical damage, scratches and dents and certainly not looking at all as it was when made.  The question you have to ask is – Do I want it looking like that?  And in my case – Do I want to wear it?

Personally as a “wearing” watch collector, I prefer the watch to look more or less as it was.  And I don’t mean completely refinished in such a way as to look false, but rather cleaned up sympathetically, basically to show the attributes of the original watch.
I also don’t mean to replace everything on it, but where possible to refurbish the existing elements to best advantage.

Rectangular 14k Gold Blancpain c1945

The only time I would tend to accept the absolute original, would be for very much older pieces, such as a few pre-1900 models.  I have some and these 1800’s models are about as original as you can get and “as found” and are the only watches I own that I don’t wear.

They are (unfortunately) for display purposes only.  I suppose I got these when I first started collecting and had this exciting “purist” idea, but I soon found that firstly it was a VERY expensive and perhaps over-optimistic collecting idea.  Secondly I realized that wearing watches was my real passion so had to revise my strategy and not look too far back – and of course it’s cheaper!

But for me, more fun . . . . .

NoteOne of the problems with vintage watches is the degree of uncertainty when checking them out.  You have to be a bit of a detective and maybe a skeptic too, which is a pity.  It would be so nice to accept things at face value, but that would be unrealistic.
There are some things on this model that could make you wonder, one of which is evidence of machine holes/marks on the rear of the dial.  Are they related to the fitted movement and dial?  Or maybe my skepticism is clouding reality and these actually the reverse of the dot markers positions on the dial.  If you look closely at the markers they don’t seem just “applied” markers, but look to me as if they are punched through the dial itself.

So maybe after all this is me being too Sherlock Holmesy, but this sort of thing does makes you question – because if these marks had no connection to the watch, could it be the movement or dial a case of fitting what’s available at the time.  And oddly enough there may not be anything actually wrong with that. Remember it’s the middle/end period of the 2nd World war, watch cases and parts may not be easy to get and to assemble a complete watch might well involve a certain degree of “mix and match”.
At the end of the day unless a watch is manufactured in-house completely by the Brand Maker, then almost by default the watch will be an amalgam of different parts, combined to form a finished item.  And nothing wrong in that (look at a car for example, which comprises bits from all sorts of manufacturers, then badged collectively).

As I say – not easy and when you come across a watch you like the look of – you do have to consider everything you see – but within reason.  However after close examination I think I’ve got myself a very nice and genuine example of quite a rare watch – AND I can wear it – so I’m happy.

Conquest quartz

One of the nice things I like about Longines, is their trick of producing high quality watches at affordable prices.  And that’s what we’ve got here with this vintage Auction find for under a £100.  I say value for money as I spotted a pre-owned one, co-incidentally just the other day from a Retailer, for £450 and this one is in far better condition.

Very neat Longines Conquest quartz Date watch – c 1992?

This is the Longines 1992-4 Conquest Date model in stainless steel, with the Longines L1.614.4 ETA quartz movement.  Slipped into a sleek well finished stainless case that’s only at around 5.5 mm thick is what I call neat.  In fact the entire watch is neat at just around 33.6 mm in diameter.  This version has an original Longines French made leather strap, with the proprietary Longines deployment clasp with twin button release.  Note this is a bespoke strap as it has to fit the lug case design with the centre cut out.  I also noted when searching this model on Google, it’s actually rare indeed to find a strapped version, as almost every one I’ve seen comes fitted to the Longines bracelet.

Neat Longines with 5.6mm thick stainless case & original deployment fitting.

Anyway this watch is in pretty much perfect condition with no marks or scratches at all (I hasten to add that the images shown are as I bought it, uncleaned), the crystal is perfect and there are no intrusion marks on the back, which is also pristine.  The fact there are no intervention marks is a real bonus, as so often ex Auction pieces have had a few over zealous buyers poking around them with their penknives! (something that really annoys me!).
The strap is not frayed but is a little oily with some accumulation of crud from been worn perhaps 24/7 by the previous owner, so a bit of simple cleaning is needed.

Original Longines deployment fit – with quick release adjuster.

I would note the Longines Deployment Clasp does have not your typical friction fit clamp adjustment.  It is more subtle than that.  To alter the fit length simply means you have to push in one of the pushers (it’s marked with a little arrow) which allows the small push-button assembly to lift out.  Once out, simply re-position the deployment over the strap hole you want, then pop it back in – job done.

Now whilst I am a great believer in deployment clasps and this Longines one is rather a good one, on this model it just seems unnecessary.  Basically as this is such a neat, super thin and almost delicate watch.   So I’m of a mind to go back to basics and fit a standard Longines buckle instead.  Fortunately I have an original stainless one of the correct size (18 mm) sitting in my spares drawer which will be ideal.
Note – now fitted with photograph at Post end.

Uncleaned as yet, but showing no scratches or marks – perfect!

So an excellent Auction buy, and whilst it may be for a Quartz everyday watch, it is a high quality one and great value.  Longines watches are still and always have been undervalued in my opinion, which fortunately makes them a good choice when looking for a pre-owned watch.  And I mean this for both quartz and mechanical models.  Part of the reason is that they are not sold at inflated prices and even new they represent good value as the quality is really good and the closer you get to one, the better they look.

Looks good on the wrist at just under 34 mm diameter.

This particular model is from the early 1990s and as good today as when it was made and I have to say there is a certain “comfortable quality” about it.  What I mean is it’s just that everything about the watch feels right.  The smoothness of the case finish, the rounded non sharp edges, the elegantly designed dial, subtle luminous markers and hands.  In fact the case has a softness about it that appeals to me or perhaps it’s just that the watch has worn well, in every sense of the word.
As for today’s fashion I suppose the model can be considered unisex owing to it’s small size, so certainly a good choice if out present hunting and on a budget.  Of course that’s always assuming the receiver of the gift doesn’t mind pre-owned.

OK not like it was an old dirty pre-owned Patek Philippe, but it’s the thought that counts – right?

Longines stainless buckle alternative to deployment.

Now you see it, now you don’t!

The title says it all really.  One of the troubles with the digital age is that the images of these new watches on screen and on-line are in fact enhanced artistic license images and NOT often the reality.

Ladies Calvin Klein Future Alarm Watch

Ladies Calvin Klein Future Alarm Watch

And this phenomenon isn’t just a Gents prerogative either – it also affects those modern women and ladies who have embraced the larger masculine style of watch today.  You buy the super watch you saw on-line and when you get it, you can’t make out the time.  It has no contrast or the light is shining at it in the wrong direction and so on.

So it’s nice to spot a watch for the Ladies – and the men as it happens, the only difference basically is the color set up from Calvin Klein, that appears to me to maybe overcome the clarity issue.  I say maybe as I too have only seen them on-line, but at least the retailer I spotted shows a video.  So maybe a more accurate representation and possibly worth a look.

The Calvin Klein Future Alarm model as it’s called for ladies has a nice color way and isn’t very large by todays standards, but actually a nice size for anyone with sensible wrists.  It measures 38 mm diameter and is only 9 mm depth, so neat on the wrist, ladies or gent.  The Ladies version has a white rubber strap and rather stylish colored LCD with blue numerals, which appear to have really decent contrast. The watch has two pushers on the right side a Date feature and an Alarm.  It also has a nice smooth case set up with a decent 30m Water Resistance.

It comes with the Calvin Klein 2 yr Warranty and costs around £160, which is reasonably affordable today.  The colour combination I think works for ladies and IF the contrast and legibility is as I would hope, then this is a pretty good buy.

Gents Calvin Klein Future Alarm Watch

Gents Calvin Klein Future Alarm Watch

The Gents model is only different in the colour and is slightly thicker at 10 mm, so it is said, but the same otherwise.
The Gents version also has the usual macho dark dial job, though in this case I might prefer the Ladies one – as I have a feeling the color set up just might be better clarity wise, though would I dare wear it?

Come to think of it – I probably would!  Unisex is Unisex – right?

Oops! My son has just cried out, “You can’t be serious Dad, you can’t!”  “You got to be kidding me – Yikes!”

You see that’s the trouble with this new generation – they have no sense of humour!   😉

Christofle dress watch

One thing I like about Design Houses is when they turn their hand to watches.  Mostly dress watches it has to be said, but these are often great looking pieces, produced not by watch trade people, but by designers of different products and what is their take on a watch to express their particular Company or philosophy.

Christofle Swiss 21 jewel Automatic

Christofle Swiss 21 jewel Automatic

This is a neat and rather stylish model from Christofle of Paris and a particularly handsome piece it is too – well to my mind it is, as I bought it just the other day at auction.  And at a VERY reasonable two digit price.  Now considering this model cost in 1999 approximately £1300 and it’s in perfect condition (box, papers etc) – I’m well pleased.

It is a decent specified model too with a 21 jewel Swiss ETA 2892-2 automatic movement, Sapphire Crystal and (possible) 18ct gold bezel on a rather elegant stainless steel case, plus articulated “fancy” lugs connecting to the Swiss original green colored Lizard leather strap with signed Christofle stainless buckle.

Readability for me is a basic buying principle and I do like the jet black polished color of the hour and minute hands, which gives excellent contrast against the textured inner dial.

The outer track is on a broad gold colored band with black Roman numerals.  The Date aperture is @3 with contrasting black date numbers against white. The sweep second hand is in gold.

Dial lettering features the Christofle logo and Paris and below shows Automatic with Swiss Made at the foot of the dial.

Note the fluted stainless steel case shaping - plus articulated lugs.

Note the fluted stainless steel case shaping – plus articulated lugs.

The stainless steel case is highly polished with a triple molding feature which pairs up with the strap lug ends.  The crown is @3 and part recessed. The Date is a quick set type and of standard ETA 2892-2 configuration.  The watch also manages a decent Water resistance of 30 m (100 ft) with it’s neat 4 screw stainless steel back

It sits very well on the wrist and at just 37 mm diameter and quite thin at 8.5 mm, it looks neat and the dial color combination with the green Lizard strap lends itself very well to the dress occasion.

As watches go it is a good mid range model, though for me I would balk at paying the new price, which reflects the design house premium.  But for the price I paid and as this watch is in perfect, as new, condition, it is a really good buy.  One of the reasons why Designer watches in general can be excellent pre-owned purchases, is that the new designer inflated price disappears in the second hand market.  And unlike previous times, today many of the designer outlets produce some very, very good watches indeed and well worth a look at Auction price.

Auction vintage Gruen

Managed to get to a watch auction the other day and purchased this nice 1929 vintage Ladies Gruen model in 14ct white filled Gold.

Ladies 1929 vintage Gruen 14ct White Gold Filled - Auction find.

Ladies 1929 vintage Gruen 14ct White Gold Filled – Auction find.

Gruen02True Art Deco example with excellent condition enamel and engraved case by Wadsworth (14ct with reinforced extra Gold).  A signed 15 jewel movement with 4 adjustments with Gruen Guild Switzerland markings. The dial is in good condition and the movement keeps very good time indeed.

Original strap and slide clasp.

Original strap and slide clasp.

15 Jewels 4 adjustments (Serial No. obscured for this image)

15 Jewels 4 adjustments
(Serial No. obscured for this image)

No signs of corrosion within the movement.  The original ribbon strap and slide/clip clasp was too short for my Wife, so I replaced the strap with a high quality German leather 11 mm wide taper spring open/end strap which is ideal.  I have of course kept the original fittings as I hope to obtain a ribbon replacement soon. However the practicality of the new replacement strap will probably suit my Wife’s needs better at this time.

I always get a real kick out of finding very old watches that are still in amazing condition, with movements working just as efficiently as they did when first manufactured.  It is a true testament to the wonders of the clockwork watch movement, which will probably outlast any of the quartz or digital efforts around today.

Original 1929 set.

Original 1929 set.

This Gruen watch does keep amazing time and note the adjuster is still in it’s central position which is quite unusual I have to say after all this time.

I like the fact this watch was looked after properly and bears the signatures marks of quite a few Servicings – always a bonus when considering watches of this age.  So there’s no reason to doubt that it will keep going long after we’ve gone ( morbid I know), but what can you get these days for such a small outlay that can give you such service?

Not a lot – I can tell you – not a lot.