For my two-year anniversary of writing Bring A Loupe, I’ve chosen to feature some rare vintage watches that we seldom see in this column. It starts with an oversized sector dial Longines, and also includes a fair share of chronographs, from the unusual Speedmaster "Holy Grail" to a colorful Breitling Top Time. It does not stop there, as you will also find a stunning Movado with M95 caliber, and a Tudor "Mini Sub."
Longines 12.68Z, With Sector Dial
Sector dials enjoyed their heyday in the 1930s, before recently coming back into vogue on modern wristwatches. This configuration, favored by Omega and Longines, offers outstanding legibility and a very pleasing look. This explains how this very watch reached three times its high estimate at auction back in 2015, when it sold for close to $19,000 at Christies. Its unusual case size needs to be pointed out – standing at 37mm, it is definitely oversized for a 1930s wristwatches (30 to 33mm was the standard for men’s watches then).
Interestingly, this watch features soldered lugs, as frequently seen on many military timepieces. From the Longines archives, we know that it was delivered to Longines’s agent in Poland in March 1938. As expected with a snap caseback, the dial shows a bit of aging, but the attractive second and hour rings are well preserved. The contrast between the blued handset and the red seconds hand on the two-tone sector dial is to me the winning argument of this rare Longines.
The Davidoff Brothers are offering this 1930s Longines with sector dial for 17,500 CHF (approximately $18,300).
Omega Speedmaster Ref. 378.0822, The ‘Holy Grail’
The Speedmaster reference 378.0822 is mostly known as the "Holy Grail," a term coined by Speedmaster collector Chuck Maddox. It testifies of the rarity of this model, produced for only two years after its launch in 1987. As opposed to the manual-winding calibers of the "regular" Speedmasters, this version relies on the automatic Lemania 5100, which provides a central display for the minute and seconds chronograph hands. It achieves a prodigious legibility, considering that it also offers a day and date indication, as well as a 24-hour sub-register at 12 o’clock.
Here, the "Holy Grail" comes on the correct bracelet, the reference 1450 used in the 1980s and resembling to some extent to the Rolex President bracelet. The painted indexes on the dial shows the light patina that we were expecting from a watch of that period, but the thickness and length of the minute and hour hands likely indicate that those are replacement parts.
Casowatches has this Omega Speedmaster "Holy Grail" for €13,500 (approximately $15,500).
Movado Sub-Sea M95
There are many reasons to love vintage Movado chronographs. First, their movements M90 and M95 (two- and three-register) are in-house and quirky: they start and stop with the lower pusher and are reset with the upper one, the opposite of most other chronographs. The cases are more often than not manufactured by Francois Borgel (later called Taubert Frères); this case maker supplied some of the best waterproof cases to no less than Patek Philippe for its illustrious reference 1463. Lastly, the "snake hands" represent another clear differentiating point, while providing some visual edge.
Here, this chronograph comes with a nicely brushed dial, which tritium lume allows to date to the 1960s. The tritium shows the same patina on the hands and the dial, which is always a reassuring sign. The seller mentions some lume loss on the dial, and a couple of dings on the case, most notably on the bezel and the upper left lug. The "Sub-Sea" engravings on the caseback confirm the original waterproofness of the Borgel case (its distinctive marking can of course be found on the inner side of the caseback).
MentaWatches has this Movado M95 for $4,750.
Tudor Submariner Date ‘Mini-Sub’ Ref. 75090
For more than 40 consecutive years, Tudor produced its own Submariners, which were very close to their Rolex sisters since they shared most components, except for the movement (in-house for Rolex, and sourced at Fleurier and ETA for Tudor). This explains why so many vintage Tudor Submariners can be found with multiple Rolex logos on the caseback, crown, and often bracelet. However, Tudor actually offered a wide range of Submariners, both in size and color. The 36mm diameter of the Tudor reference 75090 is a good example, as is the blue color of many coveted Tudor Snowflake.
The serial number of this Tudor dates its production to 1992; it still features a plexiglass crystal while Rolex had already added sapphire crystals to the Submariner Date by the end of the 1970s. The 9315 bracelet here is signed Tudor, although it is virtually identical to its Rolex counterpart, offering the same clasp comprising a diver’s extension. The 36mm case exhibits thick lugs, and the caseback testifies about where this solid diver comes from.
You can find this small and cute Tudor Submariner 75090 for $2,000.
Bidder Beware – Breitling Top Time With Many Issues
The Breitling Top Time is one of my favorite chronographs, especially the earlier round versions (like the one worn by James Bond in Thunderball), but this horrendous one deserves to be flagged for what it is: a complete frankenwatch. The signed crown, buckle, dial, and movement might be one thing, but the case was never used in the Top Time family. In addition, the pitting on the bezel and the "stainless steel back" show that the case is chrome plated, and not actaully stainless steel.
The blued handset is absolutely incorrect; one good clue of this mismatch comes from the presence of lume on the dial, and not on the handset. The same applies to the bright red chronograph hands, and the seconds hands, never found on any other Top Time. The lack of proper reference number on the caseback and the incorrect serial number engraved there complete this sour assessment.
You can find this troublesome Breitling on Ebay for €2,790 (approximately $3,200); it would have been a strong ask for a real one, but in this instance it is completely ludicrous.