Like a nice cheap runabout car, everyone wants an affordable vintage watch. Preferably a Rolex. Only joking, even the old 1940s Rolex models are now getting expensive and given that spare parts for them can ONLY be sourced by breaking up similar examples, that isn’t a great option if you’ve got a few hundred pounds to spend on old tickers.
So here are some relatively cheap vintage watches for blokes. Plus, a few reasons as to why we rate them so highly.
- Accurist 21 jewel 1950s/60 slimline style
The main reason we rate the older Accurist watches is that they all feature Swiss movements. Some have ETA, some AS, and there were a few high end divers watches with Landeron chronograph movements inside. Those Landeron powered Accurist models tend to go for silly money now, about £700-£1000, which compared to a Landeron powered Chronograph Suisse for around £400 seems expensive to us.
But the humble, elegantly simple, Accurist Shockmaster series, do a great job of timekeeping if you find a cherished example, and can be found on ebay from aorund £50 upwards. It’s worth paying £100 for a really superb example in our view, expect to pay £300 plus a for a 9ct gold case version.
2. Lanco 1970s mechanicals
Now lots of watch collectors know Lanco was absorbed into the Omega-Tissot empire in the 1960s as the Swiss watch industry began to contract from its 1950s heyday. It became a sister brand to Tissot, with models like the Lanco Astrolon being a rebadged Tissot Actualis Autolub – the plastic movement experiment that began as IDEA 2001.
The 1970s Lanco models were built to a price of course, but they were still sharing movements and build tech with Tissot-Omega. There was cost-cutting in the industry as the Swiss coped with an onslaught of Japanese digital watches, but Lanco watches can make sturdy reliable vintage watches, with some nice retro 70s touches in terms of styling. You can find a clunker for £40-£60, or pay £100 for something that bears very few marks from the last 40-49 years of use.
3. Sekonda 1970s/80s Mechanicals and Automatics
There’s a great deal of snobbery regarding vintage wind-up Sekonda watches. These watches were built to last, in a Soviet era when people had to wait in line to buy outdated groceries and be grateful for whatever consumer goods they were allowed to purchase. Bit like Huddersfield under lockdown today.
The thing that Sekonda watch movements offer is tractor-like reliability and strength. You can bash these watches up, submerge them briefly, or simply not service the movement for about 40 years. Take it apart, clean everything, add some watch oil to a few jewels and generally speaking, away it goes. Just tremendously durable, tough watches. Given that you can buy runners foir £25 on ebay, Sekonda makes a great entry level watch for collectors.
They also made a nice alarm function Sekonda in the 70s, plus a succession of chunky case automatics. Budget £70-£80 for a nice example. You also see some late 70s and 1980s UK Sekonda watches, complete with their distinctive red watch boxes for sale sometimes. Always worth considering as an everyday vintage watch.
4. Seiko 5 Auto
The new Seiko 5 automatics are a better watch. There we said it, but it’s true. Modern machine tools and robot quality control on parts production all help to make a new Seiko 5 at £220-ish a bargain, compared to older models.
That said, if you want a vintage Japanese watch with a variety of eye-catching coloured dials, plus relaibility, then the vintage Seiko 5 models deliver. True, they need that mad shaking from side-to-side for 20 times or so to get going – you can’t wind them. But once running they tend to ekep going – and spare parts are plentiful and cheap.
So if you want to learn a little bit about watch repair, then the Seiko 5 is another great choice. Buy a job lot of non-runners and you’ll probably figure out how to get something working again. Even if it does just tick over for 3 hours or so before stopping.
There are some crazy prices being asked on ebay for some nice Seiko 5 watches. It’s also wise to steer clear of refurbished dial Indian models – these often have suffered a hard life, and a new lick of paint doesn’t mean that the movement has been thoroughly cleaned and oiled properly. The typical price of £16 is a clue as to the quality of these watches.
So spend £50-£75 and get yourself a nice, looked after Seiko 5. You’ll find it’s light on the wrist, takes abuse all day long, and just keeps ticking.
Have fun – be lucky!