There are more 38mm watches breaking cover right now than we can keep up with, so let’s have a look at some we missed over 2021. By the way is 38mm your preferred case diameter, or are still on the 2020 42mm wavelength?
Maybe both? Whatever, your preference post a comment if you like. Here are three random 38mm case watches we spotted online and you know what, they have a symmetry, a balance, that every watch fan can enjoy for years.
MAEN GREENWICH 38
The Swedish brand have a handsome 38mm watch called the Greenwich, which is let’s face it, the perfect name for a wristwatch. Or a clock.
“The Greenwich is the perfect travel watch with its GMT function and comfortable rubber Tropic strap. A custom integrated rubber strap is also available,” says Maen.
This model has superluminova and an oversized crown too, which is handy on a smaller watch.
ZENITH CHRONOMASTER 38
For us, the black/white Chronomaster 38mm is the pick of the bunch, as we find the green Poker thingie too gaudy and the blue/silver variations are kinda samey. Zenith have been mining their El Primero heritage far too long in our view, but this punchy, classic monochrome contrast dial ticks the right vintage boxes.
It just looks right, bit like the original El Primero. Not too pricey at £7100 compared to other special editions at 10K or more.
OMEGA SPEEDMASTER 38 ORBIS EDITION
This is a stand-out model in the 38mm Speedmaster range we think. The beige/brown models are kinda wishy-washy for us and the green/gold editions are a sort of 1970s throwback in the same way a green dralon settee is; fun for five minutes and then you wish you hadn’t wasted your money.
But this deep, rich blue dial watch, with its date window and 6pm looking like a card sharp shuffling the deck, and that wonderful poker style second hand – yeah, the business. It’s a mere trifle at £4,360 which is way cheaper than many other Speedmaster watches in the Omega Pantheon – can we say it’s a Pantheon? Probably.
OK, it’s easy to answer, any Rolex except the really old 1930s gents models that now look like ladies watches. But watch collecting from an investment point of view isn’t that simple and there are options beyond the usual suspects, such as Subs, Daytonas, GMTs etc.
Let’s start with the affordable Rolex, Tudor, which is of course part of the Rolex empire and shares many common features technically.
From the Black Bay range sold over the last few years, you have to say the Bucherer bronze case editions from 2016-18 look like a safe bet for future price rises. That blue-on-blue dial and bezel combo is satisfying to look at and the bronze case gives it character over time. Definitely one to stash in the safe and wait until it appears in a retro movie or Netflix show in the 2030s.
Limited editions are always good, so if you can pick up one of the 2,010 Vancouver Winter Games Omega Seamasters, then I reckon you are onto a winner. It has a striking, bright red bezel, unusual for any Omega and the unique caseback sesign too.
Hard to find, which is always a good indicator of a watch keeping pace with inflation, even if it doesn’t quite race ahead.
THE F1 EFFECT
The TAG Formula 1 quartz is a budget choice, but bear with me. Yes, you won’t ever make a fortune collecting the 1980s/90s TAG F1 watches, even if you get them with box and papers. TAG made millions of them, in a variety of colours and bezel designs.
But they are durable for a quartz watch, battery changes are very easy to accomplish, and you can sometimes find straps or spare bracelet links at reasonable prices. For an investment of say 2K, a trio of TAG F1s makes an appealing mini collection – even better if you can pick `em off online from the same year.
Almost any triple day/date watch from the 40s-60s is going to appreciate in value, but the superstar brand for rising values is surely the Movado Triple Date. Consider this; in 2012 you could buy one from Bonhams for £350, now they fetching £2000 and above, depending on condition of course.
You need to make sure that the month, day and date indicator hand are all worrking of course. It’s debatable whether some fading of the dial is a good thing, as super clean dials tend to make collectors wary – has it been re-dialled or refurbished? Original is best and if you can buy a working example under £1000 we think it’s a safe bet. Not a watch to wear and use though, like anything 60-70 years old, it’s for looking at, not winding.
St Anns Square in Manchester is one of the best places that watch fans can shop this Christmas. Within a few hundred metres you have nearly all the authorised big name Swiss dealers, plus independent watch shops and pawnbrokers.
Bremont has just set up a shop-within-a-shop franchise with Signet, better known as H Samuel and Ernest Jones to UK shoppers. You can also find official dealers for Duckworth Prestex, Ikepod, Junghans, Norqain and QlockTwo – and that’s just at Mappin & Webb.
If you like the luxury watches then Watches of Switzerland’s amazing shop on the main square is a good starting point. Here you’ll find Patek, Rolex, Omega, IWC, Cartier, Vacheron and Zenith. There is usually a burly security guy on the door by the way, checking people in and out, which is good to know if you have just bought a 40K watch.
If you love Rolex then official dealer David Robinson is across the way on the corner and they also have a wide range of pre-owned Rolex models. Very well trained staff in my experience, which is something worth your time if you like collecting a particular genre of Rolex, such as Subs, Daytonas or Sea Dwellers etc.
Walk towards Deansgate and you’ll see the separate Omega and TAG boutiques, plus a large Goldsmiths, multi-brand store. If you duck down that alleyway you will find Boodles on your left at the end as it joins King Street. Not my cup of tea, but undeniable high end watches and jewellery if that’s your thing.
On the way back along Police Street to St Anns Square, you might want to check out Rockefellers jewellers, which has a selection of pre-owned Rolex, Cartier, Breitling etc. Before you do, check Harrington & Hallworth on the corner of King St/Police St as they sometimes have some vintage pre-owned watches under 2K that are really nice quality. Very strong on knowledge at this shop, they know watch history which is a rare thing.
OK, now cross the square and head to the Exchange Arcade, where you will find Mays Pawnbrokers and Jewellers. This has about 15-20 watches in store but it’s part of a bigger chain of shops so they can search their database for you. All pre-owned stuff, they don’t stock new brands.
Neither does the Swiss Watch Shop opposite Mays, which has a big selection of pre-owned Swiss watches, with Rolex, Omega, TAG, Breitling etc being well represented. They will look at PX watches too.
Further along the arcade you’ll find Jenny Jones, who sometimes has the odd ladies vintage watch in store. They don’t really know much about watches tbh there, so skip it imho.
The Chronoscope range is something different and that news from Omega has to be good for watch fans. There are arguably too many variations on the Seamaster/Moonwatch theme on sale as it is, so yeah, let’s have some technical tour-de-force stuff. Even if it costs seven grand or 12K for the bronzey-gold cased model.
The 9908 movement inside is beautifully finished and on view, via a see-thru caseback. 60 hours of reserve is plenty, although it’s nothing remarkable these days, you can buy a 400 quid Tissot that manages 80 hours.
But look at it, I mean, it’s quality. The thing looks like the vanes inside a Pratt & Whitney jet engine. You’re not going to be disappointed.
PLOT TWIST, IT’S A TOOL WATCH
The dial is where the action is with the Chronoscope model. Imagine you want to calculate various lap times at an air race, or some such Talented Mr Ripley soiree. You have tachymeter markings like concentric tree rings on the inside of the dial, not the outside a la Breitling Navitimer. So it’s a time X distance calculator, but there’s more.
You get a Pulsometer ring, so you can measure someone’s pulse, when the effects of the midday sun, plus 6 pack of Coors Light at the Reno Air Races kicks in. Handy.
Then, you have a track that helps you measure the sound of approaching thunderstorms. Or any loud noise really; volcanic eruption, trigger-happy Aussie quarantine cops, or a backfiring custom VW Golf GTi on a Friday night Cruise.
So instead of just counting one-elephant etc. you can calculate how many seconds, or tenths of a second, pass by between banging noises.
I’m not saying any of this stuff is useful everyday, unless you’re a storm-chaser, Council noise inspector, or other specialist trade. But it looks cool. Plus, there are white, blue and even a red/white dial option in the range to choose from.
The bronze-gold range-topper has a fab brown dial by the way. That’s got a special patina finish, with gold hands and it really has that Edwardian clock appeal about it. At over 12 grand it’s always gonna be a rarity as regards collectibility in the future too.
There’s a waiting list thing going on, availability in November.
There are lots of Chinese watches on Ali Express that bear an uncanny resemblence to famous models from Switzerland, like this Paulareis blue and orange number. It retails for just under £20 including postage, which is super cheap – but is it any good?
This is a big watch at some 44mm across, it has a fairly thick case too at 16.5mm, with a slightly domed and an AR coated crystal. It adds something having that blue tint when you move the watch dial across the light.
With a basic auto movement, it needs a little winding action, plus a fair bit of shaking to get going. Unlike some DG movement watches NWC has bought for review, this one doesn’t have a nice spinny-spinny rotor to build up some reserve. The rotor slowly tips from one side to the other, meaning you have to work harder to get some power in the mainspring. You get some gold effect on the rotor, which is visible via the see-thru caseback.
Handy little date window too.
The strap is silicone and the blue/orange colour theme continues. There’s a unidirectional click-stop bezel, which is a little bit stiff, but works OK. All round, it really does look and feel like a solid dive style watch, even though it isn’t. So far, so good.
The watch arrived from the Timerunner store with a smashed caseback crystal, which had left dozens of fragments inside the movement. Not good.
I emailed and they sent three new screw down casebacks. Which is good, except it means I had to remove the movement from the watch and try to clean out the caseback crystal pieces to make the watch work.
That took two baths in petroleum ether and a poke about near the stem/crown access hole, with tweezers. Delicate job, as one wrong move and the keyless works would move out of alignment and then the movement needs stripping.
Some lubricant inside the movement was washed out during this rescue mission, which left an oily patch inside the crystal, but that cleaned off.
DUMMY RELEASE VALVE
The second crown at 10pm is a dummy – it doesn’t move a chapter ring and it certainly doesn’t release helium. What do you want to 20 notes? But other cost-cutting measures were revealed on this watch as I continued to repair it.
As it was washed in ether, a little glue was seeping out from the back of the dial plate. Yes glue.
It was then clear that the movement did NOT have dial feet inside the movement, secured by dial screws – as most watch movements do. In fact, the dial pins are clearly visible on the outside of the movement.
There were still glass fragments under the rotor, stopping it from moving around and charging the mainspring. So off it came, which meant the dial plate was pretty wobbly. On the upside, that allowed me to clean glass from under the dial plate without removing the hands.
Luckily when everything was re-assembled and the rotor screwed back on, the watch worked – and continues to do so. But let’s move onto the next problem.
SHALLOW LUG PIN HOLES
Trying to re-fit the silicone strap proved to be a frustrating experience. One pin end in, then gently press the spring-loaded pin at the other end..and ping. Off it goes into the workshop somewhere.
New set of pins, and I used the crimper tool to give the pins a chance of sliding into the lub holes each side. Still no joy, and the thin paint also began to scratch off as I fought with the thing.
Finally I gave up and put a blue leather strap on instead. It is too narrow, but at least it went on. The reason for the pin problem is simple; the holes aren’t deep enough, so the slightest touch releases the pin.
There is a limit to what you get for twenty quid, so bear that in mInd when choosing Ali Express bargains. Sometimes you win and get a lovely watch that just works spot-on and looks very nice, like the Paulareis turquiose dial watch I reviewed last week, also twenty pounds and it’s been no trouble at all, same retailer on Ali Express too.
This one would probably be fine for a while if it arrived undamaged, but that pesky pin problem will come back one day, as you put on/take off the watch, and twist the strap slightly. Then the pin will ping out and your fun half hour begins…
Omega has refreshed its Aqua Terra model this summer, with a great choice in 38mm and 41mm diameter cases. It’s a model that’s often overlooked by collectors, who prefer the Speedmaster, Planet Ocean or Constellation models, but it has an everyday wearability that makes it a winner for many watch buyers.
Yeah, not everyone buys with an eye to make money in the future – sometimes, it’s because you like the watch. Radical huh? Here’s the press kit blurb from Omega.
As the name suggests, Aqua Terra is all about versatility. An OMEGA timepiece designed for adventurous individuals equally at ease in the central city as they are in the middle of the ocean. In keeping with the lifestyle of its intended wearers, the Swiss brand has taken the Aqua Terra into exciting new territory, by introducing a seconds hand that’s an absolute first.
The 2021 collection consists of ten 38mm models, two of which are luxury editions; as well as nine new 41mm models, including four luxury versions.
Small Seconds and other big changes
The standout feature on all new models is a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, encircled by an applied subdial ring: many in 18K Sedna™ gold – some even set with diamonds.
The collection features new dials in subtle sun-brushed shades and two-tone teak patterns with eye-catching hour markers, including diamonds arranged incrementally from 6 to 12 o’clock and sailboat hull-shaped indexes with iridescent mother-of-pearl inlay.
To fix the new watches firmly to the wrist there are bracelets in matching metals, rubber straps in beige and blue – and leather straps in red, burgundy, beige and green.
Of the four mighty movements driving the Small Seconds watches, there are two luxury calibres (8803/8917), each distinguished by an 18K Sedna™ gold rotor and balance-bridge.
At the sportier end of the 38 mm spectrum are eight watches in either stainless steel, or a blend of steel and 18K Sedna™ gold, powered by OMEGA’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 8802, with new dials in dark green, light green, linen and extra white mother-of-pearl. The latest 38 mm OMEGA’s sport matching bracelets or beautifully coloured leather straps, depending on the model.
For lovers of luxury there are also two 18K Sedna™ gold models with diamond-set bezels, powered by OMEGA’s exquisite Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 8803 with 18K Sedna™ gold rotor and balance-bridge. Fans can choose an Aqua Terra with purple jade dial and 18K Sedna™ gold bracelet, or a model with extra white mother-of-pearl dial and red leather strap.
The 41 mm range includes four stainless steel editions and one in stainless steel and 18K Sedna™ gold, all powered by OMEGA’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 8916. Two-tone dials in blue-grey, silvery-blue and silvery-beige, add depth to the displays and contrast beautifully with the new subdials. Watches are fitted with either a matching bracelet, or an integrated structured rubber strap in a complementary colour.
The larger-sized editions also include four models in 18K Sedna™ gold, all powered by a movement as luxurious as the watch’s exterior: OMEGA’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 8917. Aqua Terra aficionados can select either a two-tone blue-grey dial, or a two-tone silvery beige dial. Both options come with a choice of matching bracelet or integrated rubber strap.
Tested at the highest level
In addition to enjoying a new way to track the seconds, Aqua Terra owners can be sure their new OMEGA will perform perfectly every hour of the day. Each watch comes with a 5-year warranty and Master Chronometer certification card, ensuring that the watch has passed the tests certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).
One way you can transform the look and feel of a Seiko or Orient watch is by upgrading the strap. Whether it has a steel bracelet or a silicone rubber factory fitted, it’s a quick Mod that can really add some Swiss style to your watch.
Here’s the word from Strapcode on the Orient Kamasu bracelet, which has the classic beads of rice design.
The new Goma BOR watch band with curved end link was designed for Orient Kamasu Green diver watch RA-AA0004E19A and its variants. Goma BOR is the contemporary and hi-tech version of the classic “Beads of Rice Bracelet,” with a remarkable soft drape and smooth bending characteristics.
The ovally shaped links of the Goma watch band is echoing the classic Beads of Rice Bracelet and the actual shape of the rice grain. Goma stainless steel watch bands have solid links; five small staggered well rounded polished beads in the middle and two brushed outer beads, the very iconic “beads-of-rice.” Making the links in the best proportion, the exquisite shape of a rice grain, tighter with a solid feel but still bent softly, was the most challenging.
This well-built replacement watch band was assembled using screw-in adjustable pins instead of push-in link pins. Watch band is tapering to 18mm buckle width. Accompany with V-Clasp double lock buttoned diver’s clasp.
V-Clasp was made from solid 316L stainless steel with extra 6 micro holes for flexible fine tune length adjustment. Featured in V shape safety lock, streamlined form & chamfer edged design to giving a more massive look.
Chamfer double locks diver’s buckle is ideal for a watch band with thickness approximately 3.5 – 5.0mm thickness. This isn’t a cheap option at US$99 but it really looks the biz.
There are some early quartz watches that fetch incredible prices. If you have an original Bulova Accurton, a Seiko Astron from the late 60s or a Casio calculator watch from the early 80s, then you’ll be happy to know that values are rising.
Of course these are ground-breaking watches of their time, and deserve respect from collectors. Seiko, more than any brand, revolutionised watch sales with their cheaper quartz watches. They were still expensive mond you, I recall buying a basic black Casio digital for £20 back in the early 80s – which was almost half a week’s wages – because the Seiko digital was too fancy at £29.99.
Naturally, that Casio went to the bin decades ago, just like all the digital watches I bought in the 1980s and the quartz watches I bought in the 1990s too. But recently I have bought a few old quartz models, generally the Lanco, Timex and Seiko SQ models, plus a brand new, big 43mm Pulsar I liked just because it had a groovy teal coloured chronograph.
Apart from Seiko SQ50/100 models, I always suggest people avoid the older quartz watches because they aren’t so reliable, or so easy to revive from their comatose state when people leave them in drawers and the batteries split open, then leak that green oxide shit all over the place.
I did buy a running Lanco from the early 70s, which has the Tissot 7067 movement in it, last year. This actually went OK after a little clean of the contacts and a new Renata 301 battery inside. But the time-setting malarkey on this watch is franly a bit silly.
You pull the crown out and it moves the hour hand, like many older Omega quartz watches by the way. But there is no second pull-out position to move the minute hand.
I googled the problem and found that you have to hold the crown down for 5 seconds, then release, then tap it again to make the minute hand twirl around.
Nope. No joy. The most likely cause is that the stepper motor isn’t engaging with the gear wheel to make that magic happen, but considering the Lanco is probably worth under £75 at auction, I cannot be bothered taking it apart.
Another annoyance with this Lance is the usual Tissot/Omega/Lanco tension ring holding the crytal in, and it is a front-loader diassembly routine. So crystal off, hands off, crown n stem out etc and then release the movement. I will be blunt, I hate that obtuse thinking by the Tissot/Lanco group. Timex did the same thing for decades.
Basically it was a ploy to create work for their authorised repair network by making life difficult for the amateur watch fettler. The more you mess with old crystals held in by thin rings of metal, the more likely you are to scratch dials or break the tension rings or hands.
So yep, messing with old quartz watches is a good way to end up hunting for rare spare crystals, hands and tension rings too. All these delicate parts often rust into position after 50 years, or simply get brittle and begin to crumble away.
My solution to the hand-setting problem was to disconnect the battery and wait until exactly 2.41pm to re-fit and slide the connector tab across it, since that was where the minute hand had stopped at.
So I have a running Lanco quartz, kinda nice looking, new battery in place and a neat sort of Tiger’s Eye effect on the dial as well. Like many old watches, it isn’t perfect and it will probably never be worth more than £100 even if I live to be 90. By that time everyone will have a chip inserted in their arm that tells the time, reads your bad thoughts and automatically emails the Solyent Green factory when your fridge is out of vegan ping meals.
Enjoy your watches I say, it’s later than you think.