This week we’re focusing on some memorable watches from the 1970s, starting with the iconic stainless steel Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet – a watch which, with an original price tag higher than that of contemporary gold dress watches, truly created the sport-luxury category. We’ve also found a Beta 21, the very first Swiss quartz caliber, here housed in a Piaget reference 14101 with a striking tiger’s eye dial. The Zenith A3637 shows how it earned its "Big Lemon" nickname, while the Favre-Leuba Deep-Blue proves again that bright colors can really work in a diving watch. This is your Bring A Loupe for April 14, 2017.
Favre-Leuba Deep-Blue, With Orange Dial
Strictly speaking, the Favre-Leuba Deep-Blue is not a watch from the 1970s since it was launched in 1966, but its aesthetics announce the next decade in many ways. The bright orange color scheme might be one such indication, but it is truly the squarish 43mm case that’s the biggest hint of the ’70s. The use of orange is common in many divers as it is a very legible color underwater, and the 500-meter water resistance also explains the Aqualung logo on the dial.
The Deep-Blue relies on the high-beat automatic caliber FL1164, which offers the day-date complication highlighted by the black date discs that keep to the color scheme of the minute track. The black hands maintain the same legibility against the orange dial, and their distinctive shape is designed to avoid any confusion in reading the elapsed time on the rotating bezel during a dive. Originally, the watch came on a bracelet, which is not included here.
You can find this this Favre-Leuba Deep-Blue offered on Instagram for $4,000 or best offer.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref. 5402 ‘A-Series’
Launched in 1972, the Royal Oak remains one the most emblematic watches of the decade, if not of the century. This lasting legacy testifies to the talent of its designer, Gerald Genta, who was hired to come up with a watch that would bring new attention to Audemars Piguet at a time when quartz was the cool newcomer. And the Royal Oak definitely succeeded; the watch has had great success, right down to today. It also introduced the idea of a luxury (and very expensive) sports watch in steel, a category that Patek Philippe would join in 1976 with the Nautilus, which was born from the very same designer.
As can be seen on the caseback, the watch here belongs to the A-series, which is the first batch of 2,000 watches produced, and the most coveted by collectors. These can also be recognized by the AP logo placed at six o’clock; the logo would eventually be moved to 12 o’clock in the later C-series. The crown is correctly unsigned; an AP logo there would have indicated a service part. The case and dial show a bit of aging but this is to be expected, and wear is even throughout. Similarly, you should expect some stretch from the original integrated bracelet. It is photographed in the listing in an Audemars Piguet box, but this is not the original box.
The Keystone just listed this A-Series Royal Oak for $39,500.
Piaget Reference 14101, With Beta 21 Caliber
You might remember the history of the Beta 21 movement from our previous Quartz Week. It was the first commercial quartz caliber made in Switzerland, developed and adopted by all the big names in watchmaking, from Rolex to Audemars Piguet to IWC. Piaget was of course included, as the company was involved extremely early on with the CEH (Centre Electronique Horloger), which was in charge of the research. Beta 21 movements offered great accuracy but they were definitely on the chubby side, which explains the big profile of the cases housing them, as can be seen on this Piaget – far from the thin dress watches that the company produced in the previous decade.
The reference 14101 is undoubtedly the most common Piaget to feature the Beta 21 (it was the one presented in Basel in 1970) but other shapes existed, as a watch formerly owned by Andy Warhol testifies. The multi-stepped case aims at giving a more dressy feel to the massive case (measuring 41mm x 33mm) in 18kt gold as you would expect from Piaget (the brand had sworn to only use precious materials for its cases since the mid-1950s). The tiger eye dial is very much in line with the vibrant designs of the time, and seems free of any cracks or fractures. Note that the quartz caliber was recently serviced, and is said to work flawlessly (here it is often called the XP4 following Piaget denomination but it is indeed a Beta 21). Last but not least, the box and papers accompanying the watch are described as original, which would make for a nice full set.
A German dealer presents this this Beta 21 Piaget for €6,995 (approximately $7,430 at time of publishing) on Ebay; he will also consider lower offers.
Gallet MultiChron Calendar, With Yellow Gold Case
This MultiChron is everything we love in Gallet chronographs, and more. It has the stylish simplicity that means great legibility, even considering the addition of a triple date complication. This watch is powered by the caliber Valjoux 72C, the C standing here for calendrier (calendar in English) indicated in the two small apertures, and on the periphery of the dial.
Initially introduced in 1946, the MultiChron Calendar was produced through the 1970s, the current piece belonging to the early production from the 1950s. True to its elegant style, the case is made from solid yellow gold, and seems extremely well preserved (the lugs are still thick and sharp, and the hallmarks on the caseback deep). The dial is equally nice, without any noticeable imperfection, and a very bright date track. The provenance is also great, as it is said to have come from a former executive at Gallet USA, who definitely knew how to take care of his watches.
Vesper & Co has this beautiful Gallet MultiChron Calendar for $7,950.
Zenith Diver Reference A3637, ‘Big Lemon’
The bright yellow of the Zenith reference A3637 puts the orange of many other divers to shame, including all the other configurations that Zenith came up with for this reference. Its bold looks easily earned it the catchy "Big Lemon" nickname, another reason to love this watch. However, this 43mm piece is not only about looks; it was guaranteed to be water-resistant up t0 1,000 meters.
It relies on the automatic caliber 2542PC, which is known for its reliability. The date was placed between four and five o’clock, a characteristic of the Zenith watches of that time, as is the triangular minute hand, which is found in many other contemporary sport Zeniths. It comes with the original Gay Frères bracelet, which shows a production date sometime in 1970. It seems this diver always came with a GF bracelet – either the ladder one found on the El Primero or the fully folded one included here.
The dealers Davidoff Brothers posted this this Zenith Diver A3637 on their website for 4,800 CHF (approximately 4,770).