Chronographs are the big focus of this week, but a gilt Submariner 5512 reminds us how amazing a time-only vintage Rolex can be. This example was made in 1962, and comes with its original guarantee papers, documenting a sale two years later. Our selection also features an early Breitling Navitimer, as well as an Eterna chronograph with a distinctive “Spillmann” case.
Eterna Chronograph With ‘Spillmann’ Case
Proper water-resistance has always been a challenge for chronographs, which have obvious weak points at the pushers (as well as the fact that vintage chronographs often have snap-back cases). This is why the company C. R. Spillmann came up with a case that would eventually bear its name, with thick pusher tubes and a screw-down caseback. Those cases are easily identifiable by their oversized (for the time) 38mm diameter, and distinctively angular lugs. Truly innovative for the 1940s, Spillmann cases were adopted by a multitude of watchmakers (Universal Genève, Doxa, and Eterna among others).
The present Eterna chronograph offers more than an interesting case in sharp condition, as its dial remains exceptionally well preserved (this is one upside of an increased water-resistance; the dial and movement have less risk of showing water damage). The telemeter and tachometer scales kept their distinctive colors, while the sub-registers are easily legible, including the 3-minute intervals on the right counter that used to time billing intervals during international long-distance phone calls. The chronograph complication relies on the proven caliber Valjoux 22, also by many other manufacturers, including Rolex.
The Italian dealer CasoWatches offers this Eterna with Spillmann case for €6,000 (approximately $6,540 at time of publishing).
Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512 With Gilt Dial
Initially launched in 1959, the Rolex Submariner reference 5512 can be considered the first modern design for the Sub, since it introduced crown guards and came in a 40mm diameter, replacing the 38mm diameter of the previous references. The 5512 went through a couple of esthetic changes over its 15-year production, especially after the 5513 was released in 1962. The difference between the two models was the chronometer certification of the 5512, which was eventually displayed on its dial, and this is the version that Steve McQueen famously wore.
The 5512 we have here is undoubtedly part of the early production as its dial only sports two lines above six o’clock, while mention of the chronometer certification would add another two lines on later models. The pointed crown guards are also an unmistakable sign of early production, also known as 2nd generation, since the first offered square guards. Their unaltered lines, the thick lugs and the crisp bevels all point towards an unpolished case. The stellar gilt dial lets you admire all the other features of the early 5512, such as the so-called “exclamation point” at six o’clock (from the small dot placed there) and the chapter ring for the minute track. All this indicates a 1962 production, and this is indeed the year that can be found engraved on the caseback, and on the riveted Oyster bracelet, while the included papers document a later sale in 1964.
Matthew Bain has this outstanding Rolex Submariner reference 5512 listed for $75,000.
Lemania Chronograph 15TL
Lemania is mostly remembered for its production of chronograph movements, notably used by Omega. Yet, the manufacture also offered its own line of chronograph wristwatches, and they have begun to get more and more attention from collectors. They often come with relatively large stainless steel cases and very balanced dials – and of course, the movements are obviously top-notch.
The example here is no exception, with a 37mm diameter and a nice black dial with luminous painted indexes. The cathedral handset and oval pushers are characteristic of Lemania production in the 1940s, and its 15TL caliber is also known as the Omega caliber 33.3. Note that the minute track seems to have faded between 12 and two o’clock, but the external base 1,000 track does not show the same fading.
Vesper & Co has this steel Lemania 15TL priced at $6,250.
Breitling Navitimer Reference 806, With Early All-Black Dial
Vintage Breitling chronographs often obey the following rule: early on they came with an all black dial, and later with a reverse panda dial. This is at least true for two of the most important families: the AVI, and the Navitimer. The Navitimer was, of course, developed with pilots in mind, in collaboration with the AOPA (Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association) which explains the golden wing logo on the dial.
The present Navitimer reference 806 offers a Venus 178 caliber, which is consistent with its 1956 birth, while examples from 1954 and 1955 came with the iconic Valjoux 72 (and those are getting very expensive). Cosmetically, all the early birds look pretty much alike, with the very same black registers, which later were replaced by silver counters of varying dimensions. The lumed numerals here are in stunning condition; they are obviously radium (tritium only came in the early 1960s), which explains why the seller mentions the results from his Geiger counter. The strap retains the look of the original lizard strap, but is of recent production, and it goes extremely well with the all-black dial.
An Italian collector wishes to get €9,000 (approximately $9,820) for this 1956 Breitling Navitimer reference 806.
Longines With Two-Tone Sector Dial
The sentence “It is the watch from the book” is always a convincing way to describe a timepiece; this Longines is indeed featured in the reference book about Longines that former Talking Watches guest John Goldberger wrote. And it is easy to understand why, given the stunning two-tone sector dial, and the flat bezel that makes it look like an early Patek Philippe reference 96, only bigger, with a 36mm diameter.
The case of this Longines is made of 18k yellow gold, and shows the same lug shape as a Spillmann case, with fixed bars. The watch is documented in Longines’ archives through its serial number, and movement number; it was manufactured in 1938, and delivered to Longines’ agent in Italy in early 1939. The movement is Longines caliber 27.0, running in 17 jewels with gilt finishing, and a bimetallic temperature compensation balance. The crown is said to be original, while the dial shows some homogeneous aging marks, fully disclosed in the listing.
An English collector listed this Longines sector dial for €14,500 Euros on Instagram (approximately $15,760) but will consider lower offers.