Coronavirus; Market Meltdown Sends Investors into Gold & Watches

As UK TV viewers will have noticed, Watchfinder is busy advertising right now, as more people with money look for safer investments that stocks – or even property. As the government effectively gives all tenants three months rent free accommodation, many buy-to-let landlords will seek to exit this business later this year. As yet, there is little real financial support for the 5 million self-employed in the UK and this is storing up rent and utility arrears for the remainder of 2020.

Of course investing in Swiss watches is a higher risk than property. There are still overheads; insurance and servicing on high value watches from Rolex, Audemars, Patek, Vacheron, Omega, Cartier etc. There is no monthly income, you gamble that a Royal Oak or Submariner will double in value in say five years. Fact is, some models HAVE done that, without a global pandemic.

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You absolutely need a strong safe, anchored to the ground. If you own over 50K worth of watches we suggest a strong/panic room. You need to escape from pro thieves quickly, as they may well use brutal methods to extract the safe code from you. Same approach if you buy physical gold – people will want to steal it from you, and insurers dislike covering gold and diamonds worth over 30K, except within commercial premises.

NO GOLDIE LOOKING CHAINS, BUY VIRTUAL GOLD INSTEAD?

Alternative investment options are many of course, food distribution or food delivery being a hot one right now. But gold and watches might also offer some growth. Here’s the latest press info from Glint Pay Services Limited, the fintech company that makes gold an alternative global currency.

How? Well by enabling clients to buy, sell, save and spend their physical gold instantly through Glint’s prepaid debit card (Mastercard) and multi-currency app. Glint announced today that it has experienced a several hundred percent increase in its clients buying gold during the recent turmoil effecting global equity markets.

Glint’s clients have been the big winners as they flocked to gold, the traditional safe haven currency of last resort, as the markets swung violently over the last few weeks on fears of a global economic downturn.

HOW DOES GLINT WORK?

Glint offer an innovative multi-currency payments solution that provides instantaneous ownership of physically allocated gold and the ability to use it as money digitally through an app and prepaid debit Mastercard (gold is converted into e-money for transactions).

Physically allocated gold belongs outright to its owner, as opposed to unallocated gold, “exposure to gold” such as when the gold is owned by a FinTech company (e.g. Revolut) or a capital markets instrument such as an exchanged traded fund (“ETF”). By offering access to gold Glint helps shield clients them from the destructive effects of inflation and protects them from the systemic risk of future global financial crises

Glint enables you to save, spend, and exchange between USD, EUR, GBP and gold wallets. Glint’s clients know their gold is securely held in a Brinks Vault in Switzerland. Brinks is insured with Lloyds of London.

In the next few months, Glint will launch Person to Person (P2P) payments, giving clients the ability to send gold and currencies to fellow Glint clients as easily and instantly as you might send a text message.

Fees are transparent and simple with Glint when buying or selling gold or spending in foreign currencies. There are no hidden fees and Glint uses the best available market rates with no Glint margin added, when transacting in 150 currencies around the word.

You should be aware that Glint’s gold offering is not subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). Always speak to an independent financial adviser if you have any questions or concerns. Northern Watch Co certainly advises anyone to think carefully before investing in gold, as the price can fluctuate rapidly within the space of one week.

 

New Breitling Premier Bentley, Mulliner Edition, Captures Retromobile Mood

Latest press info from Breitling, who have launched a new Bentley model. These are big, chunky and fairly heavy watches, but many collectors love the Breitling for Bentley models. Now featuring the B01 In-house Breitling movement, the Premier models combine retro chrono dial/case designs with the latest Breitling movement tech. Winning combo as regards long term value some might say.

To celebrate its extraordinary partnership with Bentley Motors, Breitling reveals a special limited edition watch, the Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition.

The new Breitling watch commemorates 17 years of collaboration – the longest-ever partnership between a watch brand and an automobile manufacturer – and focuses attention on Bentley’s Mulliner bespoke department which, since 1959, has crafted the world’s leading luxury car maker’s most unique tailor-made models.

Bentley’s partnership with Breitling can be traced back to 2002, when the iconic automotive brand was designing its legendary Continental GT. Bentley commissioned Breitling to create an onboard clock that would reflect the unparalleled luxury, peerless quality, and extraordinary performance of the new grand tourer, which was debuted in 2003.

breitling bentley mulliner model watch white dial

Adrian Hallmark, Bentley Chairman and CEO, commented “The long-standing relationship between Bentley and Breitling is a reflection of the values we both share and our dedication to world-leading performance, luxury, innovation and refinement. The links between the new Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition watch and Bentley’s Continental GT Mulliner Convertible can be seen in the exquisite engraving detail of the watch and the design features that reference the Breitling clock in the GT’s dashboard – a perfect display of Bentley Mulliner product craftsmanship.”

Georges Kern, Breitling’s CEO, says that the new chronograph underscores one of his brand’s most important partnerships: “The Premier Bentley Centenary Edition that we launched a year ago was warmly received, both by Bentley and Breitling fans. The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition, with its clear links between Bentley’s and our DNA, is a logical next step in our shared story and it is also a testimony to Bentley Mulliner, whose name is synonymous with heritage, craftsmanship and outstanding performance.”

The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition
A Breitling watch worthy of the Bentley and Mulliner names is a very special fusion between two brands attuned to the distinctive needs of their customers. The new chronograph has close links to the interior of the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible, the most luxurious GT ever designed, and particularly to the Breitling clock in the luxury automobile’s dashboard.

The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition is limited to 1,000 pieces. It features a 42-mm stainless steel case presented on a blue alligator leather strap echoing the Imperial Blue leather interior of the car. Its elegant silver dial recalls the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible’s dashboard clock. The watch boasts blue subdials – a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock – an indication of the Breitling Manufacturer Caliber 01, with an impressive power reserve of approximately 70 hours.

breitling bentley mulliner special edition

The dial features a white tachymeter scale on a blue inner bezel around the dial, with a red tachymeter inscription. The red second hand and centered 60-minute scale mirror the red stitching found throughout the interior cabin of the Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible. The links between the watch and the Continental GT Mulliner Convertible clock are further strengthened by their complementary sets of Arabic numerals: the dashboard clock features the numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9, while the watch has them at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11. Sharing these numerals across these two pieces is a nod to the design DNA they share.

On the left side of the case is a plate with an engraved “Bentley” inscription, whose design is based on the engine spin dashboard found in historic Bentleys. Around the watch’s transparent sapphire caseback is an inscription saying “MULLINER EDITION – BREITLING – ONE OF 1000”. The Breitling Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition is a COSC-certified chronometer.

How to Spot a Fake Jaeger le Coultre Vintage Watch

You may be new to vintage watch collecting and totally baffled by the wide range of models and limited editions, different dial colours, hands, winding crowns, case designs, straps etc. There can sometimes be over 100 variations on a basic design like a Seiko 5, or an Omega De Ville can have an extended family of models, that evolve over 40 years.

But there are often fairly obvious clues to spot a fake from a genuine old Swiss watch and it’s worth carrying a loupe around, or enlarging photos online to see details.

Take this JLC automatic on ebay recently. Looks like the real JLC logo on the dial, nice script, although the scratched glass obscures it somewhat? But look again at the header image above – specifically at where the number 6 is located compared to 12 and 9 – bit wonky eh?

You think JLC would have let a watch with those dial errors out of the factory? No way.

Take a gander at this pic, which shows the back.

fake jlc 2

See thru casebacks are rare on older JLC watches, but the giveaway here is the crude oscillating weight, with JL stamped in it. It doesn’t even sit straight on the mounting screw, there’s a bigger gap on the left side. The finishing on the screws looks too cheap, too low rent for a JLC watch.

If you look at a real JLC see-thru watch, you will also notice how beautiful the finishing on the metal is, plus the engraved script on the rear of the watch.

It is often the same story with fake Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Cartier, TAG or other watches. The logo script, the dial lettering and the second had sweep are all perfect. Fakers know that people look at what’s right in front of them.

JLC genuine see thru
Genuine JLC – compare this to the heap of rubbish above.

But feel the metal, the fit and finish. Does the metal bracelet feel loose, easy twist? Not good, although older Rolex bracelets are poorly made in my view and so a genuine one can feel like a 20 year old Sekonda sometimes. But check the pins that secure the buckle, the strap to the case etc – are they all identical, or do some look messed with? Does the winding crown look a perfect flush fit on the case? Because it should be, even on a 50 year old watch, that’s how the Swiss made them.

Look inside at the movement and you should see well finished components, plenty of rubis there – unless it’s some budget built watch like a Josmar or basic Sicura. Screws and automatic rotors should look well polished and fitted to a mere micron or two of clearance.

In older Omegas the movements often have a beautiful burnished, coppery tone, so anything that’s a different shade, like a balance bridge, could indicate that a part or two has been replaced.

Study pictures online, read watch books. Knowledge is power baby.

 

Covid-19 Cancellations Hit Watch Shows & Fairs – What’s On in 2020?

OK, Baselworld and Watches & Wonders have both been scratched from the calendar, with all the losses to manufacturers, stand builders, hotels, caterers, media outlets, security staff etc. Quite a lot of jobs are going to be lost this year in the luxury watch industry if the media panic over CoronaVirus continues.

Yes it’s serious, people have died. But the truth is more people die of regular flu every winter, and that doesn’t stop us going about our everyday business. This is a huge blow to the Swiss industry, albeit that Swatch Group and some other brands gave up on Baselworld a few years ago.

sicura chrono valjoux 7734

Assuming the hype subsides in a month or so, will we see any watch shows later in 2020?

Well the London Watch Show is scheduled to go ahead on Friday 3rd April – Sat April 4th at the Intercontinental Hotel, near the 02 Arena. Even if the government passes temporary laws banning large gatherings of say 5000 plus people, this is unlikely to affect a smaller, ticket only show like this one.

The Midland Watch and Clock Fair is scheduled to go ahead this Sunday 8th March, at the National Motorcycle Museum, which is located just south of Birmingham, quite well signed from the M42/M6. Having attended this fair a few times to buy vintage watches, I can say it is good for picking up project watches, straps and tools, books etc. The really nice watches tend to be priced high, but you can always make an offer – traders can always harrumph and retire behind their Sunday Express.

phantom-caleuche watch specs prices

The Watch It fair on June 27th, held at Brownsover Hall Rugby looks like something very different indeed. There are lots of small scale manufactuers popping up all over USA and Europe, all sourcing Seiko/Citizen and Swiss movements, then finding cases, hands, straps etc from the thousands of parts suppliers worldwide. Hey presto – you’re a watchmaker!

OK, some of these new brands look very well assembled, such as Farer for example, others slightly less so. But if you’re in the market for a chunky divers style, or classic aviator, dress or field watch, with £200-£2000 to spend, then you’ll find something at this fair. There are also some beautiful vintage watches from traders such as Watches of Lancashire, plus things like framed prints of famous watch dials and movements to feed your passion.

The only downside is that this event is on for just five hours, so it probably will be a bit hectic around the stands. Great to see something unique in watch shows however, with a mix of new start-ups, accessories, vintage and modern Swiss all in the mix.

 

Yes, Russian Watches Are Worth Collecting. Chrono Values Rising

Russian watches? Cheap and cheerful, that’s what you’re thinking. Well, you are right, but they’re also very reliable and built to last like a T34 tank or an AK47. Many of these watches make perfect starter collection material, and fantastic value daily watches you can wear and enjoy. Yes, they aren’t Swiss level COSC certified chrono models that are going to fetch thousands at auction, but let me give you three good reasons to buy a used Sekonda, Poljot, Bostok/Vostok or Molnija.

  1. Good Examples Start at £25

Yep, you can get a very nice Vostok Komandirskie model on ebay or Gumtree, often including the original box and leaflet for £25 or so. This watch is still being manufactured brand new today by the way, costing about £60 or so online.

It has a few interesting features, such as the `wobbly’ crown, which is designed to bend like a tree, rather than break under pressure from cack-handed attempts at screwing down the crown. You’ll also notice the crystal is dome shaped, this is for water resistance – yep, you can dive down to attach a small IED to your enemies submarine or ship, whilst wearing this watch. Handy for all you Putin sponsored freelance asssasins.

The Komandirskie also has an automatic movement inside its sturdy case, which I’ve tested over 24 hours and is accurate to within 30 seconds. Not Rolex standard, but hey, what do you want for £25 quid Comrade Corbyn?

vostok flat 1

2. Ultra reliable

Here is another factoid for you. First watch I ever fixed was a dead Sekonda – TV dial model similar to the Raketa – which was clogged with dirt and fully wound up. All that was needed was a basic clean with the back off, no movement removal, a drop of oil on the end of the balance staff and off it went. Still running OK today five years later, which just shows how you can abuse these watches with no proper servicing and they still work. That non-runner cost a mere fiver at a watch fair by the way.

3. Good Original Chronographs Are Set to Rocket in Value

Sturmanskie and Poljot made some excellent chronograph models, many of which have movements inside that closely resemble Valjoux or Glashutte originals. Glashutte watch factory was captured by the Russians in the late stages of WWII, so just as the Russians took the second division scientists from the V2/V3 rocket programme, materials and expertise was taken back to Moscow.

poljot valjoux movement
Poljot chrono movement

Gagarin apparently wore a Sturmanskie in space, and the Poljot Strela is another model with astronaut connections. If you can find a good example of a 50s/60s chronograph that hasn’t been movement-swapped, bodged up with non-original parts etc then that could be a good investment.

I say could because considering you can buy a 1960s Valjoux 7733 powered Swiss watch, running nicely, for about £300-£500, paying well over £1000 for a Russian chrono with essentially the SAME movement inside doesn’t seem like a bargain to me. Having said that people pay £1000 for Sicura models based on the Breitling connection, which is of course complete nonsense.

The upside with a Poljot chrono watch is that any decent watchmaker will be able to service your watch for years to come, as there are still plenty of Valjoux 7733 movements available as spares and the stripdown and re-assembly will be bread n butter work for your local watch fettler.

 

 

 

Auction News: Omega Classics Dominate Gardiner Houlgate Sale

The latest auction held by Gardiner Houlgate was definitely of interest to Omega collectors, with the majority of watches sold being from the famous Swiss brand. Omega remains a popular choice and it’s interesting to see how some models are rapidly appreciating in value, whilst more basic models like the Geneve watches from the 60s and 70s are basically treading water.

omega constellation values

Fact is, you can still pick up a nice Geneve, working order, for about £250-£300, plus buyers premium on top and those prices haven’t really changed in the last five years. A De Ville only made £160, which shows how collectors and dealers are shunning the 70s Omegas to an extent. The older Omega models with sub-second dials are also stuck in the doldrums, with the black dial models fetching a bit extra, but nothing special.

Even a price of £400 for a 1969 Constellation in working order, which looked like it had been serviced recently, is nothing to write home about, assuming you paid £200-£300 to buy it a decade ago when prices were relatively cheap. After auction costs you’re perhaps looking at a profit of £50, depending on how much the service cost of course – you might have lost £200. This all goes to show that watch collecting isn’t a guranteed investment.

omega speedmaster values

The stand out watches included a Speedmaster Ultraman which made £18,000, and another Speedmaster presented to the Shah of Iran in the early 70s, complete with moon landing paperwork, box, cert etc. Genuine piece of horological history and I bet the story of how that watch escaped the Shah’s family and found its way to an auction in the UK is a fascinating one.

An entry level Rolex Oyster, Cal 1570 with Jubilee bracelet (early 80s model?) made £2300, no box or paperwork on that one which has held the price down a bit – few dealers want to sell them on now without some extras – people expect it.

rolex batman gmt 2 values

A very handsome GMT II Batman Rolex, complete with papers and box, made dead on £9000, which is pretty close to new UK retail. Just shows how a waiting list for a current model can drive up demand for decent quality used examples, with some jewellers now asking 15K for a nice used Batman. How long will the waiting list bubble last?

Who knows? But Rolex are annoying a great many of their loyal customers with this childish game of `wait in line please, but hand over your cash now.’ It’s a bit like BMW or Audi dealerships – you get to a point where people feel like cash machines for the dealerships’ ever expanding empires and that’s when you lose some of them.

 

 

Are Car Branded Watches a Good Investment?

The world of watches and motor sport go hand in racing glove. You only have to look at the auction prices being realised for watches owned by movie star drivers like Paul Newman or Steve McQueen at the stratospheric end. But even lower down the millionaire collector market, 60s motorcycle champion Mike Hailwood’s Heuer Carrera Chronograph made £56,000 at auction last year.

But let’s assume you can’t afford a racing driver or bike racer’s original watch. You mightr be tempted by a limited edition motor themed wristwatch, especially one that is produced in association with your fave car manufacturer. If you own a BMW, Merc, Alfa, Bentley, Audi or Maserati then why not buy the factory-approved watch?

Well, the short answer is that some of them are fashion statements, not great watches. If you really want long term investment value, then weigh up all the pros and cons.

The Breitling Bentley is a good example of how an automotive branding exercise adds very little in terms of collector appeal. Bentley commissioned Breitling back in 2002 to create an onboard clock that would enhance the new GT model. Since then there have Bentley themed watches every year, but some enthusists feel the Breitling Bentleys don’t really offer a great deal of interest, given that many have the ETA 2892 movement – or modded variants – inside the cases. I mean, you could just buy a Navitimer right?

Premier B01 Chronograph Bentley watch large

The only exceptions I would say are limited edition Bentley models, like the 2019 Premier B01 model pictured, which has a bit of genuine old Bentley Blower dasboard as the dial plate. These MIGHT fetch considerably more money in the future, plus they have the in-house B01 movement inside, so arguably a superior timepiece than a humble ETA powered Bentley watch.

IMHO some motor company watches are very decent value. The Mercedes automatic chronograph in black PVD, featuring a Valjoux 7750 movement costs £1299, which is cheap compared to other Valjoux powered watches like the TAG Monaco, (£4250 approx new) although the Monaco looks fantastic set against the rather utilitarian Merc watch.

mercedes valjoux automatic watch

The downside with the Mercedes, like any branded watch, is that when it comes to selling it on, your potential market is generally limited to Mercedes owners, or wannabe owners. But still, you should be able to get £500-£700 for any modern era Valjoux automatic with box and papers, even from Cash Converters. In the great scheme of things that isn’t huge depreciation for say 5-10 years of ownership and enjoyment.

A nice alternative to the handsome Gulf Racing stled TAG Monaco, is the Baume & Mercier Clifton, Shelby Cobra edition. OK, it just has an ETA Valjoux 7750 inside and it costs £6500, but it is never going to sell in volume and the stunning looks should attract collectors for decades to come, especially when V8 cars are banned and the Cobra becomes a mythical museum piece.

Baume__Mercier_CliftonClubCobra

For me, it is the Peter Brock inspirfed design details, like the Cobra shaped second hand, and the wheel shaped see-through caseback, that set the special edition model apart. It sums up what makes all petrrolheads tick; obsessive attention to originality and detail, improving performance and looks by customising something. Getting envious looks down the Ace Cafe or the local hang-out.

In the end, buy a Swiss watch because you love the way it looks on the wrist, not just the resale value. Otherwise you’re just another trader.

 

 

 

Basic Clean Up on a Regency Vintage Swiss Watch

Is it worth servicing older watches made by the lesser known Swiss brands? That is a question that every jeweller, watch trader and antique dealer should ask themselves, because generally the answer is a firm No. Given that a decent watchmaker will charge about £150 as a minimum for a stripdown of a mechanical movement, plus cleaning, oiling and re-assembly then you’re looking at spending three times the resale value of an old Montine, Regency, Lucerne, Hudson, Precimax, Superoma etc.

So what is the solution when you buy a 60s/70s watch on ebay, Gumtree or at a watch fair and then find it starts/stops, or simply runs for a few seconds and then freezes? Well quite often all that watch needs is a basic clean, bit of an overnight soak for the movement perhaps and some TLC with an oiler to get it running again. It may not run a full 30 hours and keep time to within 1 minute, but you will have a running watch to wear and enjoy. Or sell on/swap if you’re a budget level collector.

OK then, here’s a little run through the typical problems with this non-ticking, fully wound-up, Regency watch, and how I got it running again;

First off, remove the dreadful, dirt-encrusted expander bracelet and bin it. Don’t think you can pick the skin and filth out from the links, or toothbrush it. Just not worth it. Buy a basic leather strap from ebay for £5 instead.

regency mech 2 used ebay watch

Two, remove most of the dirt around the caseback before opening the case. You don’t want more crud falling in. Note that there is hair around the winding crown and stem by the way.

Depress the release button and carefully remove the stem. Get this in a chemical bath to loosen the decades of grime.

Having taken some movement photos, I image matched the pics on google to find out which movement with the ETA1080 being the most similar looking. Good news. Next step, use the crystal grabber to remove the scratched glass, then tease off the hands using the correct tools and the dial protector.

regency mech hair in ebay watch
Yes, old wrist hair wrapped around the stem will not do your vintage watch any damn good at all.

Store the hands carefully in a plastic tray, and add the two movement holding screws in another compartment. Prise off the bezel and pop the movement forward like a pocket watch. This was a difficult job, as dirt had seized the bezel on tight. I used some ether and a brush to loosen it – protecting the dial from the excess ether by the way – then dribbled some watch oil onto a super thin screwdriver to work my way into the tiny gap.

Next remove the balance cock and hairspring, and put this delicate part in a separate chemical bath away from the main movement. Why you ask? The reason I do that is my watch repair tutor, Ernie, told me years ago that when you bathe the entire movement bits of crud go all over the show and some can stick to the hairspring. If the hairspring’s coils stick together then there’s a good chance the watch will not run properly, so it is worth cleaning it separately.

Be ultra careful with the hairspring, so easy to twist or break it free from the screw-in pin, and while the balance bridge is out clean the bottom jewel with a blower, once it has had a nice overnight soak in the bath.

regency mech stem crown watch
Years of neglect, not easy to remove.

Now add a tiny smidge of oil to the pallet stones, and to the end jewel on the base plate before putting the balance back in. If you can reach in to place a little oil between the hour wheel and the back of the dial, plus lube any exposed, non jewel staffs, then it is worth doing. Don’t go mad with oil, less is more.

Use the blower gently on the hairspring before re-assembly. Inspect all the parts and the movement carefully with your magnifying glass or loupe. Take your time, it is easy to damage these parts and as this is where the watch has the LEAST power, and so it is where it requires the most attention to ensure all is clean, dust-free, lightly lubed and in perfect symmetry.

Clean the stem and crown and place a dab of oil on the stem, before sliding that back in. Now check the movement winds before doing anything else. Does the hairspring move side-to-side with a nice beat? If there’s a problem, it’s time to strip it right down, or bin the watch in the parts drawer. Assuming all feels fine, remove the stem again, put the movement back in the watch case and screw down the two retaining screws. Clamp the movement securely while you do all this.

OK, refit the bezel, now that it’s been cleaned up. Should press on, you may need a polybag and a caseback press to align it and press it on properly. Take your time to make sure all is 100% straight before screwing down the caseback press and applying pressure. The polythene bag protects the dial a bit if the thing slips. Sometimes.

Now you can fit the hands again. Generally the hour hand needs the most pressure, but you’ll know everything is sitting well if the second hand goes on the cannon pinion nicely. Turn the movement upside down to make sure the hands stay on OK. If not, keep trying. Then test the hands clear each other by pulling the crown out and setting the time.

regency mech movt watch
Very sturdy ETA movement- they built them to last in the 50s/60s.

Use the blower on the dial, maybe a soft brush to get rid of dust. Don’t try to clean the dial using any solvents. It will strip the paint. Replace the caseback and measure your old crystal. This Regency had a 308 fitted and I didn’t have one in my spares stock, but I used extra pressure on a 320 and made it fit on. Occasionally that causes a crack and goodbye crystal, but this Regency, like many 60s/70s watches has  shallow bezel, so an oversized crystal stays in under extra tension. I went for a high dome too – may as well with low value watches. Just my preference.

regency mech new crystal strap watch
Some gold plate loss, discoloured crown too. But still looks fairly good with a new 320 sized crystal squeezed on board.

Now clean the holes in the lugs with a cocktail stick, then fit new pins plus a strap. Voila, you have a half decent vintage watch, which when fully wound, ran for 26 hours on the bench. Result. On the down side, this all took about two hours of work, plus overnight chemical baths. It is a fair bit of work for something that still might NOT cure all the ills within a 50 year old watch, but altogether more affordable.

So, total parts budget? £5 strap and a £1 crystal – only because I bought a joblot of 50 crystals for £45 a few years back. Labour costs? Well if I was charging a trade price that would be £30 for 2 hours. That’s still a total of £36, which is roughly the resale value of the watch at an antique fair, so like many things classic and vintage, you do this work for love, not money!

 

Vintage Orient Watches – Are They Any Good? Yes and No

I have dismantled quite a few Orient watches in the six years or so that I’ve been fettling old timepieces. Many online sellers will big up the Seiko connection when it comes to Orient, but although the modern Orients are on par with a Seiko 5, the older models definitely are not.

One glance inside the typical Orient 3 Star auto movement shows you why. You will find quite crude, almost unfinished metal parts there, with basic bridge work and automatic rotors that look stamped out by a factory making washers, not watch parts.

That said, many Orient watches can run perfectly well, even ones from the 1970s. But in my experience the good ones account for about 50% of the available stock out there at watch shows and online auctions. Many Orient autos can be stripped down, cleaned three or four times and still keep stopping after say three or four hours. The better Orient models tend to be ones with the date quickset button on the case, and this feature is definitely worth testing before you buy as getting to day/date wheels, then dealing with any spring clip/stiction problems is no easy task.

vintage orient watch 1970s day date

My feeling is that, just like a 1960s/70s Timex, these watches were not built to run forever with no maintenance. They come from a time when there was a watchmaker on every street, and you could get a budget watch like this cleaned and adjusted for just a few pounds.

The Worldtimers are arguably the best Orients to collect, certainly they fetch higher prices pre-owned and they look better built inside.

Buying one? My advice is shake an Orient gently before you buy it, and see if the second hand moves for 30 seconds or so. That’s a good sign of a well balanced movement. Do the hands set nicely, does the watch feel like it has the movement sitting securely in the case – no looseness at all, or noisy whirring from the automatic winding rotor? Most importantly, how dirty or dusty does it look under the crystal?

A gradual accumulation of dust, coupled with no proper cleaning and oiling is what produces a grinding paste that wears out staffs and clogs jewel holes with crud. On a vintage Jaeger Le Coultre it is well worth a day long stripdown to clean it, oil the correct parts and check the timekeeping. But on a £30-£50 Orient? Nope.

There are better watches out there that deserve your attention, even if they don’t have funky 1970s purple dials! Be lucky.

 

orient 3

Are Sicura Watches Worth Collecting, Will They Rise in Value?

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.

sicura jump hour 70s

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.

sicura chrono valjoux 7734

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.

sicura submarine collectable values

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.

sicura submarine movement

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.

sicura quartz no battery solar

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.

AUCTION PRICES

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.