The Blackbird SR-71 is one of the huge leaps in engineering that blows your mind. In the early part of the jet age, it was impressive that an English Electric Lightning could hit Mach 2 in the mid-50s. But just a decade later the Americans were building a project that could crack 2000mph – basically outrun, or catch up to, an intercontinental missile.
To celebrate that engineering and the bravery of the test pilots Ball Watch is putting a new Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT on pre-order at £2770. It has the multi-lume dial that you expect from Ball, plus GMT hand, 100m water resistance and a very cool SR-71 logo at the 6pm position.
Inside there is a Ball in-house, COSC level movement, so you are buying a quality Swiss product.
I’m going out on a limb with a controversial take on this one; the Ball watches in general are better value watches than most of the Bremont Pilo/Chronometer range, as they do the same job – with more lume – for about 2 grand less. The only thing I don’t like about Ball watches is the name, as Ball is just too basic somehow – illogical I know, but there you go.
French brand Yema have a good looking GMT model on pre-order right now, with a typically vivid blue dial.
The Marine Nationale model is also a tool watch, with a 990 foot depth rating, in-house calibre movement and stainless steel case and bracelet. That cool anchor logo is on the winding crown as well as the dial. It also has a canvas webbing type strap, which is basically a tougher version of a traditional NATO strap.
Here’s the word from Yema – the GMT retails at EUR1049, plus import duty and VAT.
The YEMA Navygraf is the first GMT Official Watch in the history of the Marine Nationale. Designed by French Navy personnel for marine professionals, the Navygraf Marine Nationale GMT is military-grade, rugged and resistant, able to withstand the harshest conditions and travel across the most unforgiving seas.
The notion of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT/Zulu Time) being essential for sailors sent out to the world’s oceans on military missions, this collector’s tool watch is equipped with our GMT In-house Caliber YEMA3000 so as to display up to 3 different time zones.
For decades Swiss watch factories were totally uninterested in the pre-owned market. Many, like Rolex, would offer you a 5-10% discount on a new watch rather than repair your older model. They wanted their dealers to sell new watches, not pre-owned and often took action against smaller jewellers who had a secondhand section, such as removing the franchise.
But the rise of Watchfinder, Chrono24and other sites has proved that there is huge demand for secondhand Swiss watches, from a classic Omega pie-pan Constellation, to a more recent Breitling Superocean. That’s why Richemont bought Watchfinder a few years ago – they can see there’s money in it. Of course, the rise in values for brands like Omega, Rolex, AP and Ptek ahas also prompted fakers to start selling replicas of older watches, complete with fading lume on the hands, patina on the dials and other tricks, simply to fool buyers online.
So Omega launching its own Certificate of Authenticity is perfectly timed. Collectors and watch dealers can bid on as watch knowing that it’s been verified by Omega as the real deal. As in-person auctions seem unlikely to ever happen again, due to the Plandemic hysteria and climate agenda zealots seeking to ban non-essential travel full stop, the only way that online watch reselling can go is down the verified, money back guarantee route, surely?
The Omega cert ONLY applies to models that have passed their 30th birthday by the way, so this doesn’t really address much of the fakery that poisons the pre-owned luxury watch market. But at the modern end, ideas like Breitling and Vacheron’s Blockchain digital certificates can do the same job of offering a guarantee that this is the real watch, as sold in Dubai 2019 etc.
But for collectors of older Omega bumper automatics, Constellations, Chronstops, Seamasters and more, this is a useful feature to look out for. Plus, watch dealers with something truly rare can get it checked out and certified. You can also order an extract from the Omega archive on the development and production run of watches that are a decade older or more – handy.
Some vintage style recreation watches look perfect, some less so, but the Hamilton Intra-Matic is one that we put in the first category. It has a 1960s vibe that pleases the eye, especially for petrolheads as this chrono looks pure motorsports. No date window, no gadgets, just a pure stopwatch lap-timer for the wrist. We like that purity, not gonna lie.
Ideal for a weekend at Goodwood’s Revival we think, or maybe a dream trip to Bonneville for Speed Week – if Covid rules and the Climate Agenda zealots ever let us mere mortals travel again of course.
With a 40mm case size this is arguably a watch that will suit most blokey wrists, not too big but big enough to catch the eye. Another detail we love are the vintage chrono pushers. Big n meaty, like a pitlane stopwatch from Le Mans. The cream dial option, with reversed out black sub-dials also looks the business, although the black dial is our top choice, even though it’s a little bit extra. Ah yeah, price. At £1870 or so this is a not-too-expensive Swiss watch, especially when you conside it has the H51 movement inside the case. It is based on the old Valjoux 7753 engine, with the auto function removed so the Hamilton needs to be wound up.
It has a sort of yellowed, or faded lume on the markers and hands, which is a nice vintage touch. Best UK price deal on the new Mechanical variant of the Intra-Matic was £1870 at CW Sellors, here by the way. Many other big name jewellers were asking just under 2K sterling, which is unfair given that the Swiss price is CHF1995. No wonder Swatch sales were down by about 30% last year.
You can find a 7753 movement inside a Tissot Heritage 1973, a Sinn, or a Longines Master series chrono or even more left field chpices like the Dutch Van Der Gang Chronograf, which is a hefty 8600 euros. You do get some bespoke features on the Van Der Gang, so think of it as the AMG Merc variant of the ETA 7753 if you like.
So the Hamilton is actually decent value if you compare it to other ETA/Valjoux equipped 7753 watches. Now that we like. The downside with any Hamilton is that they seen very much as a starter brand in the Swatch family, along with Tissot and Longines. That has an effect on future values for sure, but if you love motorsport chronographs then we think your alternatives are the Sinn 144, Tissot 1973, or maybe a Yema Andretti Chronograph, which is currently on some end-of-line deals at the French brand’s website.
We think so because Explorer values have been heading up a decent pace of late, as demand for GMT II, new Oyster and Subs becomes a feeding frenzy. There is something to be said the classic Explorer, especially one like this, which we spotted on a watch auction site. It’s in Italy, which often sets off alarm bells, but the period box and booklet looks good, plus there is a certificate of verification with it.
Then there’s the general wear. It’s been used, with big scratches on the crystal and quite a bit on the bracelet. That’s a good thing, because fakes tend to be much more minty, and we love that bold, big orange GMT hand too. This watch stands out, even if it is just 39mm. Yes, the bezel is non-original and those hands could be replacements fitted sometime in the early 2000s perhaps. They look too clean somehow, not a trace of fading over 40 years of sunshine – which you do get in Milan, has to be said.
But taken all round, yeah, well worth considering as an investment. There are still 13 days left on this one and we are going to guess it makes £6100.
Can you believe that actual radioactive paint was applied to watches in the past? Yep, and watchmakers plus watch factory workers died prematurely because of it. But that was just one of several hundred industrial risks that affected European and North American people in the past, for times were harsher and life was cheap. Yep, even white lives.
Now Blancpain has released a watch to celebrate the end of the radioactive dials, much loved by armed forces procurement officers during WWII and the Cold War. Here’s the press info from Blancpain on this latest limited edition dive watch, which is a tribute to an age of enlightenment as regards tool watches.
Blancpain reinterprets one of its emblematic historical timepieces, the Fifty Fathoms “no radiations”. This mid-1960s diving instrument, of which one version was used by the German Navy’s Combat Swimmers, had the characteristic feature of being stamped with a “no radiations” logo indicating that Blancpain was not using luminescent materials
composed of radium. This distinctive symbol on the watch dial has forged its success; the timepiece and its variants are now among the most iconic Fifty Fathoms models, which
the new Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad intends to honour. Collectors take note: this watch is issued in a 500-piece limited series.
The Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad watch revisits the historical model that inspired it. Its matt deep black dial is punctuated by geometrical hour-markers, combining traditional round dots as well as rectangles and a diamond-shaped mark at 12 o’clock. The chapter ring, the hands and the time scale on the bezel all feature “old radium”-coloured Super-LumiNova® reprising the beige-orange hue of vintage indicators bearing the patina of time. At 3 o’clock sits a date aperture highlighted by a white rim, as seen on one of the 1960s models. The yellow and red “no radiations” logo remains the dominant element on the dial, adding to the already strong character of this timepiece.
FOUR DAY RESERVE
The unidirectional rotating bezel, featuring a graduation typical of the initial Fifty Fathoms models, is fitted with a sapphire insert, a distinctive feature of the contemporary collection. Its domed profile contributes to the depth effect of the watch face, already enhanced by the use of a glassbox-type sapphire crystal. Water-resistant to 300 metres,
the steel case measures 40.3 mm, a diameter exclusive to limited-edition Fifty Fathoms watches. It houses Blancpain Calibre 1151, a self-winding movement equipped with a silicon balance spring and endowed with a four-day power reserve. Its two barrels are wound by means of a rotor with a cartouche-shaped aperture, a nod to some of the historic timepieces in the collection, including the very first Fifty Fathoms. This now atypical detail was formerly used to increase the suppleness of the oscillating weight in order to safeguard the movement in the event of impacts. The watch comes with a strap in “Tropic”-type rubber, a material very popular with divers back in the day because of its durability and wearer comfort.
With this limited series, Blancpain is restoring a cult instrument from its past as a supplier to the navies of numerous armed forces worldwide. In 1953, French Combat Swimmers were the first to use the Fifty Fathoms for their underwater missions. Thanks to its watertightness, legibility, safety and robustness, the watch immediately became an indispensable component of their equipment. Others were to follow, including the German military, which in the mid1960s acquired the Fifty Fathoms RPG 1 model, now better known as “BUND No Rad”. This name refers to the term “Bundeswehr” (armed forces), engraved on the back of the watches that equipped the “Kampfschwimmer”, the elite German frogman commando unit, until the early 1970s. The distinguishing attribute of the RPG 1 model was the “no radiations” logo, featured for the first time on the dial of a Fifty Fathoms.
In the early 1960s, radium – a radioactive element used in watchmaking for its luminescent properties – was declared harmful to health. To reassure professional divers, as well as experienced amateurs who purchased their Fifty Fathoms watches from specialist equipment providers, Blancpain thus decided to clearly indicate that its timepieces were radium-free – and hence harmless. The special symbol consisting of three red segments on a yellow background with a black cross was accompanied by the words “no radiations” designed to ensure that the message was easily understood. The same logo subsequently appeared on the Fifty Fathoms RPGA 1 model, a calendar-based variant of the “BUND No Rad”, for which it would remain the main criterion. These diver’s watches, whose dial indicated the absence of radium through the “no radiations” logo, have become particularly sought-after collector’s items. They now form part of the Fifty Fathoms’ legendary heritage spanning almost 70 years.
UK Price is £11,800, which is kinda tasty but you get a watch that has undeniable credentials underwater, and might just be a collectable item in 25 years’ time.
Ball Watches has a new twist on their Engineer III, the Marvelight Chronometer. Now we love the bright lights of Vegas here, but the rainbow tubes dial just isn’t dinging our bell, and we are big fans of Saturday Night Fever. The power reserve feature is very cool though, we love it and you can choose a conventional gas tube lighting variant. Here’s the word from Ball;
Superior corrosion resistance, virtually indestructible strength and brilliant polish. The new Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer is forged from 904L stainless steel – a material unlike any other in watchmaking, resulting in the ultimate explorer’s watch built to withstand extreme conditions. Design ingenuity is the name of the game.
Not only have we employed a unique technique to set the micro gas tubes, the incomparable luminosity also comes in 2 different colorways: a classic glow or a rainbow motif. Inside, the C.O.S.C. certified movement with 42-hour power reserve has been expertly modified by our watchmakers, the power reserve hand is seamlessly integrated into the central pivot, while the indication scale is located at the six o’clock position. With patented protection guarantees flawless performance, the watch that once ran America’s railroads now empowers world explorers to live freely and fearlessly.
Encased in toughness, the movement and its precision ensure that exploration never stops. And thanks to testing by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (C.O.S.C.), the timepiece is a certified mechanical chronometer built to deliver perfect time keeping in the most imperfect conditions.
Featuring a 42-hour power reserve when the watch is unworn, the in-house modification of the movement allows all 4 watch hands originating from the center, creating a wider angle perspective and ensuring easy readability of the power reserve hours.
Available exclusively online, the latest addition to the Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer series is limited to 1,000 pieces each.
It’s on pre-order until 21 April 2021 at an exclusive price.
Consider Tissot for a minute; once a prestige watch brand, that commanded a high price, it’s now an entry level name in the Swatch empire, with the great value Powermatic 80 and models like this PRX quartz re-issue. Well, not strictly a replica of the old 1970s PR100 or Seastar quartz models of course, although the bracelet on the modern one has the same graduated links, which smoothly shrink to a narrow point at the clasp.
It’s a very elegant watch and bears a passing resemblance to the AP Royal Oak, although it hasn’t got the angular case design of the Oak. But for £295 this classic everyday gents watch has a perfect balance between case size at 40mm, functional quartz movement (Ronda) and that slimline, 70s style that is arguably one of the best things about the entire decade. While Casio, Seiko and others were making digital watches that looked like baby computers, Tissot made quartz watches that looked exactly like an automatic model, but had the new tech inside.
The original Tissot quartz watches had a sort of hybrid movement in them, with mechanical gear wheels driven by a quartz engine. Lanco shared the movements, and I seem to recall fitting huge 301 size batteries inside them to get them going again. This modern PRX has a durable ETA 115 series quartz, which features three jewels and takes the 371 battery, very slim and easy to fit yourself. Assuming you have the right case knife and a steady hand of course. One thing worth noting with Tissot watches is that they often have a very slim, red plastic seal ring inside the caseback. This sits in a groove and if damaged, the caseback will not go on properly, no matter how many times you screw down the case press.
There are lots of quartz watches around the 300 quid mark but the Tissot name still has a little bit of kudos compared to some micro brands, or fashionista watches like Armani, Boss or Kors. Also better built than stuff like Boss or Armani which often have mediocre Miyota movements inside. Currently, the Tissot PRX is sold out, which just goes to prove that if you make something that looks like a Royal Oak for under £500 you cannot go wrong in 2021. Just saying.
Edox have a new dive watch which salutes the North Sea exploration of the late 1970s and makes a little payback to the oceans too. This 43mm dive watch has a real vintage feel about it, with a plain black dial, superluminova and a 320mm depth rating. At 1490 euros it isn’t too expensive either.
1978 was a big year for North Sea oil, although the first test wells were drilled back in the 60s. It took the oil price shock of 1973 to spur on the UK and Norwegian governments to drill faster and deeper, plus build the pipelines to get it ashore. All that required brave divers to work at serious depth to help with construction, testing and make sure rigs kept on pumping. Divers in those days could make over £300 a week, which was an astonishing wage compared to a typical farm worker on about £25 per week, although the conditions in the North Sea were a bit bleaker than a turnip field in Lincolnshire. Much of the work on the UK side was undertaken by US oil specialist companies, plus the big oil companies and huge investment from the UK governments of the mid-70s.
Crude oil began to come ashore to Scotland in 1975, and although the Tartan Army, a sort of SNP-inspired IRA faction, threatened to blow up the pipeline, it has continued to flow ever since.
Here’s the word from the press office;
The North Sea 1978 timepiece from boutique Swiss watchmaker Edox marks this amazing achievement and pays homage to the classic, vintage Edox dive watches of the 1960s and 70s such as the legendary Delfin. These divers helped unlock undersea riches for Norway that paved the way for the country to invest in socially and environmentally friendly projects in a Sovereign wealth fund.
Edox is proud to be the official watch partner of these heroic North Sea Divers and the 43mm North Sea 1978 is a rugged, feature-packed sports timepiece that can be worn anytime, anywhere.
Naturally, it is exceptionally water-resistant; to 320m in fact, matching that epic 1978 dive to the metre. A stainless-steel case, coated in black Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) for extra toughness, houses the Calibre 80 automatic movement. The hands and indices are coated with Superluminova for enhanced visibility at night or in the water and the case back features the North Sea Divers’ official logo – a stylised dive helmet – and the words ‘The Inverse Moon Landing’.
Everyone who loves Rolex knows that 2020 was a great year with new Oyster, GMT and Sub models proving to be immensely popular. So much so that flippers have managed to buy Subs and add another 7K to the list price to sell them on. Even Lord Sugar tweeted last year that he could not buy a GMT Batman for love or money. But has it sent buyers to other brands, and how has the demand for new Rolex models affected the prices of older pre-2020 Subs and GMTs?
Rolex watches carry a value of between £2,000 to £1,000,000 and within this vast range of models, there are some timepieces that people often argue are overvalued because they trade on the secondary market for thousands over their retail price. A much less common view is that some Rolex watches are undervalued. Arfan Mohammed explains which Rolex model he feels is under appreciated:
“There are several Rolex watches that when examined in absolute terms, are incredibly good value. You can buy a fantastic condition vintage 36mm Datejust for £4,000, and a vintage 36mm Explorer ref. 14270 for less than £4,500. When compared to the retail prices of their modern counterparts, they are great value and relatively attainable. However, these price points are a result of the long production periods and relatively quenchable demand given their second-rate construction and smaller sizes, when compared to modern Rolex watches. So they’re great value but it’s hard to argue that they are undervalued.
To truly appreciate when a watch is actually undervalued, we must compare it to models at a similar price point to see what else you can get for the same money. A budget of up to £27,000 is enough to buy the vast majority of Rolex watches and so is a good sum to determine which Rolex is undervalued.
The stainless steel Rolex Daytona has always been the one Rolex to always carry a waiting list. Long before the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Sky-Dweller ever had waiting lists of their own, the Daytona was the one watch nobody could get, and everyone wanted. This timepiece has almost always traded on the secondary market for roughly double its retail value, so this is absolutely not an undervalued watch. The modern stainless steel Daytona is now trading from between £20,000 to £23,000, depending on whether you buy new or not. With decades-long pandemonium engulfing the stainless steel Daytona, one gem has slipped through the net undetected and has become, in my opinion, the most undervalued Rolex; the white gold Daytona.
The retail price for the stainless steel Daytona was around £7,000 compared to £23,000 for the more precious metal. Trading for anywhere between £20,000 and £27,000, the white gold Rolex Daytona ref. 116509 is selling for around the same price as its stainless steel sibling, offering outstanding value for money. Given that the cal. 4130 movement still hasn’t changed since its introduction in 2000, there is nothing fundamentally different between this Daytona and a modern model. Therefore, for a relatively similar price to the modern stainless steel Rolex Daytona, you can get a white gold model with an up-to-date in-house movement, a more exclusive dial option offered only on the white gold variants and a watch made of a rarer metal with intrinsic value. To my mind, the white gold Daytona will always hold its value at the very least and it illustrates that there is such a thing as an undervalued Rolex.”
BUYERS FRUSTRATED, BUT FEW DEFECT TO RIVAL BRANDS
We took a rough n ready poll on Twitter and found that there was a general sense that Rolex were now milking the waiting game for all it was worth. Worse still, some Rolex fans who bought from authorised dealers in the past, were finding that they were still not getting a sniff of a 2020 Sub/GMT.
GrammarGuy tweeted that he was waiting for a Milgauss for a year.’ But he was looking for a pre-owned example instead. Meanwhile Shaw2Damian said that having bought Rolex watches before he was on a supposed waiting list for over a year at Goldsmiths. CryptoVinnie says he won’t buy a Rolex because the waiting list is ` a scam’ but Tuukka Pastrnak reckons that authorised dealers and flippers are using the Rolex shortages to inflate their profits. He also vowed to buy an Omega instead.
Northern Watch Co spoke to one independent Manchester watch dealer who has seen demand for GMTs and Subs rocket in the last few months;
Off the record he said;
“People are fed up waiting for the new models so they contact us – and other dealers and pawnbrokers – looking for particular models, references, even particular details like original hands because Rolex will often change the hands when they service the watch. You tend to find that Rolex GMT Hulk or Batman fans will not buy anything else but a pristine example of the watch they really want, with a full set of box n paperwork. Most of my regular customers are generally looking to own Swiss watches to make money long term, keep them in a safe at home or work, not wear them every day – it’s too dangerous now to go anywhere wearing a 10 grand watch.
Sometimes a buyer just wants a Rolex as a retirement present to themselves but it’s mainly an investment, with the idea being you sell the watch one day and make 2K profit or so. That demand won’t go away because people are getting f*** all interest in banks, so really clean used Rolexes are going to rise in value, except the knackered old 34 mil Oysters, they’ll never creep much above three grand or so because they look like a girl’s watch now.
Would they buy a different brand? Not often. The only alternatives for most Rolex buyers are AP or Patek, maybe a Breitling…they aren’t interested in anything else unless it’s a giveaway price. The lockdown has spoiled the game for me, because it’s gone brutal out there now. People can’t come in and chat, you can’t get to know them as collectors or investors. I miss the old buying signals that you used to get watching someone handle a Rolex, and of course that stuff never happens online. It’s all just low bid offers and “can you find me this?” emails. Annoying.”