Vintage watches are back this Friday, with some pretty amazing pieces, including one of the rarest Breitling chronographs you can find. The first execution of the the 765 AVI comes with a unique aperture at three o’clock that shows the elapsed minutes, rather than displaying the date, as you’d ordinarily expect. Speaking of chronographs, we have also included a really nice Universal Genève Compax, and an Excelsior Park Monte Carlo, both listed on Ebay right now. You’ll also find a double-signed pocket watch and a military Omega 2777-1 in our selection. This is your Bring A Loupe for March 31, 2017.
Universal Geneve Compax Ref. 22704/1, With Caliber Valjoux 72
This Compax reminds us why we love Universal Genève chronographs: the proportions and legibility are just perfect, if I may say so. The reference 22704/1 is a later version, from the 1960s; as such, it does not come with an in-house movement. However, you still get the well-respected Valjoux 72, which Universal Genève rebadged as the caliber 130. It has a 38mm case, with a well-balanced silver dial, and the characteristic combination of sharp dauphine hands, with blued small hands in the sub-registers.
But the true reason to focus on this listing is related to the really sweet condition of this UG. The case looks amazingly crisp, with sharp lugs and visibly unpolished caseback. The dial itself does not show any imperfections, and all the tiny lume plots are accounted for. The seller also indicates that the chronograph complication works well, so there is not much to dislike about this chrono (heck, even the crown is signed).
This Universal Geneve Compax is currently listed on Ebay with bidding just above $5,000.
Breitling AVI Reference 765, With Digital Minutes Counter
Generally speaking, the first iteration of any vintage model is always the most coveted, at least if you leave aside things like incredible provenance, or rare configurations such as a double-signed dial. In the case of the Breitling 765 AVI, I think this does not solely explain why this watch is the holy grail for any Breitling collector (and you can count me in on that). Indeed, this watch proves once again that Breitling was not joking around when it comes to chronographs: it simply looks like no other, in a very good way. What you might assume to be a "regular" date aperture at 3 o’clock is actually an indication of the elapsed minutes of the chronograph. This peculiar display makes total sense, since this AVI was particularly designed to time the 15-minute pre-flight check of an airplane, where every minute counts.
Though the 765 AVI is a very contemporary-looking piece, this watch was actually released in 1953, ahead of its competitor the Breguet Type 20, which features a fairly similar chronograph seconds hand. Here, we actually get the very first iteration of the 765 AVI, as you can tell by the absence of the "Genève" line under the Breitling name. The chronograph indication is obtained from modifying a standard Venus 178, something Breitling was not shy about doing. The case and dial are in fairly spectacular condition themselves; even the smooth bezel does not exhibit many signs of aging.
Matthew Bain just introduced this Breitling AVI 765 with a selling price of $25,000.
Omega Reference 2777-1, Originally Made For The British Army
There’s no mistaking the military roots of this Omega; from the broad arrow on the dial, to the engravings on the caseback, all the telltales are there. The Omega reference 2777 was indeed engineered for the British Royal Air Force after World War II, with 5,900 pieces delivered from 1953 onwards. Therefore, its lume was originally radium, which was eventually replaced by the RAF with the less harmful tritium (hence the circled T on the dial). As you might expect for a military watch, the 37mm case comes with fixed lugs, and its double caseback offers protection against magnetism (as does the thicker dial).
The engravings on the caseback are extremely precious, and not only attest to the military provenance; they really tell the story of each watch. For this specific example, we can see that it was number 790 of the 1953 delivery, while the long "6645 101000" indicates the NATO stock number for that type of watch. "6B/542" marks the service number within the RAF Service Management. Inside, the manual wound caliber 283 is said to have been recently serviced, and one can expect excellent time-keeping, as it is part of the famous Omega 30mm family of hand-wound movements.
You can find this military Omega reference 2777-1 offered by the dealer Cars and Watches for 3,350 Euros (or around $3,600)
Excelsior Park Monte-Carlo, With White Dial
The Monte Carlo from Excelsior Park shares a lot of design cues with the Zenith Cairelli, and given that it was produced later, it would be fair to guess that the Monte Carlo might have been inspired by the Cairelli directly. Yet, it comes with a noticeable difference: a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock, courtesy of its chronograph caliber Valjoux 7740. This is essentially a modified caliber 12, which trades automatic winding for a 12-hour sub-counter. But there is another thing very distinctive about the Monte Carlo; it can come with a white dial, and in this case, it sports a different bezel (the dots do not stop at the 20-minute mark on the black version).
The case of the Monte Carlo is distinctively large at 43mm, in line with the dimensions of the Zenith Cairelli. The short lugs are the key feature, they really make the watch work on the wrist. Interestingly, this watch comes with a sales receipt which documents a sale in 1990, although the watch was likely bought second-hand. The theory is that these Excelsior Park Monte Carlos were produced in the 1980s, after the manufacturing of their own movements ceased in 1983. Lastly, the caseback presents the correct engravings, while the watch comes with an Oyster bracelet, with Breitling-signed clasp.
This Excelsior Park Monte Carlo can be found on Ebay with bidding nearing $1,000.
Audemars Piguet Ultra-Thin Pocket Watch, With Tiffany-Signed Dial
Thinness was one of the biggest challenges faced by pocket watch manufacturers – a thin watch was considered desirable so as to not ruin the lines of a suit. This makes this Audemars Piguet quite an accomplishment; it was made in 1959, at a time where Piaget was a serious contender with its 9P caliber (used in pocket and wrist-watches). The dial shows the coveted Tiffany & Co provenance, and therefore the movement exhibits the AYP import code as it should for any AP watch sold in the US at the time.
The condition of the case and dial is consistent with a watch that spent the 40 last years in a safe. Indeed, there are no noticeable aging marks on the dial at all, and the 46mm yellow gold case shows only light oxidation that could be easily polished out (but I would not recommend it). As you might expect, the finishing of the movement is absolutely stunning, although it is described as being in need of a service. My favorite feature still remains the elegant design of the bow to which you would attach the chain connecting the watch to your jacket – a reminder of a bygone era.
The proceeds of this Audemars Piguet pocket watch will go to the Horological Society of New-York (of which Hodinkee is a sponsor); bidding on the Heritage Auction website were at $1,200 at the time of publishing.