Updated with some auction values at the end of the article 23.06.21
These are good questions, and for those who don’t know Sicura let me summarise by saying they are the watch company that bought Breitling and rescued the brand name from oblivion when the quartz crisis wreaked havoc in Switzerland during the 1970s. Here’s a brief history lesson;
Sicura in the mid-70s were sitting pretty, selling about 1 million units a year and still mainly using mechanical movements. They offered basic pin-pallet watches for the everyday person, plus some fancier looking divers watches, again with fairly average Swiss movements inside, and then some top of the range items with Valjoux/Venus movements in their cases.
Sicura got on the quartz train in the late 70s, with a `something for everyone’ approach, that saw basic battery powered quartz watches, alongside things like the solar powered VIP2000 model, which promised eternal power from the sun! As any Eco-Drive owner knows only too well, the power cells cannot defeat physics and they don’t last forever. Nothing does, except Remainer tears.
When Breitling hit financial hard times in the late 70s and finally closed their factory in 1979, Sicura’s boss Mr Ernest Schneider bought the brand. Schneider was a pilot and admired Breitling models like the Navitimer, and he wanted to keep that Swiss name alive. It says a great deal about Schneider that he stopped selling Sicra watches and switched to Breitling a short time after striking the deal – he could see that Breitling had a greater long term profit potential. In fact Ernest’s son, Teddy Schneider sold Breitling to CVO venture capital for $790 million in 2018.
SO, ARE SICURA WATCHES WORTH COLLECTING?
The best models featuring movements like the Valjoux 7734 definitely are. These are just as well built as a Cauny, Gruen, Oriosa, GHC, Atlantic, Tressa, Lip, Wakmann and dare we say it, Breitling too? Maybe a Breitling or a Heuer had an build quality edge on a Sicura 7734 back in the 70s, but after 45 years of wear n tear, it comes down to servicing, owner care and luck as regards condition and accuracy.
Consider this though; you can’t go far wrong with any Valjoux 7734 powered wristwatch, as there still plenty of spare movements around, which means that repairing a vintage model on a reasonable budget of say under £250 is a possibility. Pushers and crowns are the things that need checking above all else – that’s where cack-handed owners do the damage, and water can get in too of course.
The budget independent watchmaker repairs that you can spend on a Sicura cannot be carried out a vintage Breitling – not if you want to retain its auction value. So in that regard, a Sicura is arguably a cheaper way to collect a watch with the same Valjoux 7733 movement as a Breitling Top Time.
There’s also a bullhead variant Sicura Pilot style model, plus a four crown model, which has a bezel release crown set on the left side of the case, so you can click-stop the tachymetre around. All the Sicura chrono watches are pretty looking, not too big, but still have visual impact even today. Good examples are fetching £500-£950 depending on condition, dial colour, original box etc. Tropical dials seem very in demand right now – that could change in a year or two.
Things get trickier when it comes to models like the Sicura Submarine 400. This homage to the Rolex Submariner certainly looks the part, but inside the case there is a fairly budget movement. It proudly states that it’s been vacuum tested and can dive up to 400 metres, which was pretty unlikely, even when the thing was brand new, given the overall build quality of the watch.
Inside the Sicura Submarine there’s a 23 jewel movement, which has a basic pin pallet fork, rather than a jewelled type of pallet lever clipping the escapement wheel. Even the balance wheel itself looks like something from a Josmar, a real flat lump of metal – unpolished and unloved.
That bit of cost-cutting by Sicura shows how the company stayed afloat when many rivals went bust in the 70s. It also makes the Submarine 400 something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing. A nice looking example can fetch £170-£220 online and for that money you could buy a mint Tissot Seastar Seven, which is arguably a much better watch. It just doesn’t look as chunky and James Bond-ish.
When you get down to models like the Sicura jump hour watches from the late 60s and early 70s, these are really on par with an entry level 17 jewel Rotary, Montine, Hudson, Lucerne, Omax etc model. Perfectly durable movements, but nothing special inside that funky 70s chunky case, so don’t pay more than £50 for a mint example, as it’s never really going to be worth a fortune. Buy one because you love the New Avengers styling of it, not the technology inside.
The solar powered Sicura is arguably as collectible as many other early Swiss – or Japanese – quartz watches. The sheer rarity of working examples makes them true museum pieces.
The big problem is of course that any quartz movement eventually packs in, the crystal stops vibrating, condensation works its way inside, and the result is a dead movement. Where do you get NOS spare movements for such watches? All the independent jewellers who took these hi-tech quartz watches on as brands back in the 1970s are either retired, or long since closed up shop.
The best advice is if you find a working example of a VIP2000, then hide it away in a cool, dry, dark place – and remove the solar cell just in case it starts to oxidise inside the case.
We came back to this article and added some recent auction prices just FYI;
A Sicura Submarine Tritium, looking a bit battered but working made 440 euros on Catwiki recently, which is fairly impressive. A nicely preserved Jump Hour mpdel from teh 70s was at 113 euros with justa few hours to go – higher than we thought.
Over on Chrono24 we found the cheapest Sicura was a Submarine model at £425 asking price. Next up was a Chrono Computer at £719, plus £95 shipping and import duties from the USA. So you are looking at over a grand in total.
Fact is, you could buy a really nice Swiss watch for that sort of money – new!
On eBay we found a 17 jewel Sicura auto, with a blue dial, in fairly decent nick at £155 – that was in Kiev, Ukraine, so form your own view on the guarantee on that one. The other model we thought was interesting on eBay was a digital Melody Alarm model, which a UK antiques dealer had on offer at £185. Fully working, vgc.
That has got investment potential and we think it’s worth an offer, as you only have to look at Bulova Accutron prices over the last two or three years to see how they have rocketed upwards.