Famous Vintage Watches

Best Famous Vintage Watches with Prices

Getting into vintage watches has become a pretty big deal lately. It’s not like collectors didn’t exist before, but there’s this new buzz around second-hand watches. Maybe it’s because auctions are all the rage now, and our favorite models are getting harder to find. Most of us, the watch enthusiasts, have at least one vintage piece in our collections. It could be a hand-me-down Seiko or a cool Rolex or Patek Philippe with a story. Collecting vintage watches is just plain fun.

Whether it’s a watch passed down from family or a legendary Rolex or Patek Philippe, we, at Wrist Enthusiast, love both the old and the new. Today, we want to share some of our favorite vintage watches and why we’re into them. We’re not claiming to be vintage watch gurus, but we’re excited to show off the ones that catch our eye. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

 
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ROLEX “PAUL NEWMAN” DAYTONA – One of the most famous vintage watches

When it comes to vintage watches, Rolex stands tall as the undisputed king (crown and all). While we could easily compile a lengthy list solely dedicated to the best vintage Rolex watches, we’ve decided to keep it concise to make room for other exciting options. Let’s shine the spotlight on the legendary “Paul Newman” Daytona, a timepiece that’s not just rare but has also become synonymous with extraordinary tales.

The “Paul Newman” configuration of the Daytona is considered one of the rarest, and its presence in the headlines has been nothing short of extraordinary. There’s the captivating story of a woman stumbling upon one of these coveted watches tucked away in a thrifted couch – a discovery that ignited the vintage watch community. Adding to its allure, Paul Newman’s personally engraved Daytona went under the hammer at an auction, fetching an astonishing $17,700,000. At the time, it claimed the title of the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, a testament to its unparalleled significance in the world of horology.

Beyond the monetary value, the Daytona itself is a legendary timepiece. Its sleek design and precision craftsmanship have secured its place at the pinnacle of vintage watch appreciation. The intricate details of the dial, the distinctive subdials, and the iconic tachymeter bezel all contribute to its timeless appeal.

Beyond the monetary value, the Daytona itself is a legendary timepiece. Its sleek design and precision craftsmanship have secured its place at the pinnacle of vintage watch appreciation. The intricate details of the dial, the distinctive subdials, and the iconic tachymeter bezel all contribute to its timeless appeal.

 

 

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Famous Vintage Watches: Rolex Submarine(REF. 6538)

Ah, the Rolex Submariner Big Crown (Ref. 6538) – a true icon in the world of vintage watches. This particular timepiece holds a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts, not just for its remarkable design but also for the significant role it played in the evolution of dive watches.

The Big Crown, as its name suggests, is notable for its oversized winding crown, which was designed to be easily manipulated by divers wearing gloves. Launched in the 1950s, this reference quickly gained favor among professional divers and watch aficionados alike.

One of the most distinctive features of the Ref. 6538 is its lack of crown guards. Unlike modern Submariners, the absence of these guards adds a touch of vintage charm and harks back to an era when tool watches were practical, no-nonsense instruments.

The dial of the Ref. 6538 is a study in simplicity and functionality. The large, luminescent hour markers and hands provide excellent legibility in low-light conditions, a crucial feature for divers exploring the depths. The iconic “Mercedes” hands and the red triangle at the 12 o’clock position on the bezel are characteristic elements that have become synonymous with the Submariner line.

It’s worth noting that this particular Submariner gained additional fame when it graced the wrist of none other than James Bond, portrayed by Sean Connery in the early Bond films. The rugged elegance of the Ref. 6538 became an integral part of the Bond image, further cementing its place in pop culture.

Collectors are drawn to the Submariner Big Crown not only for its historical significance but also for its scarcity. Finding one in good condition, with its original parts intact, is a pursuit that many enthusiasts undertake with a sense of adventure.

Prices often reflect both its historical significance and the rarity associated with this iconic reference.

Depending on the condition and provenance, these vintage treasures can range anywhere from $50,000 to well into the six-figure range. For those seeking a tangible piece of watchmaking history, the investment in a Rolex Submariner Big Crown becomes not just a financial transaction but a connection to a legacy that continues to captivate discerning collectors worldwide.

For this exact model, f you manage to find it, be prepared to shell out upwards of $250,000 USD.

It’s an affirmation of the enduring appeal and lasting value of a true horological masterpiece.

 

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ROLEX EXPLORER II 1655 “STEVE MCQUEEN”: One of the most famous vintage watches

When Rolex introduced the Explorer reference 1655, it didn’t immediately capture the hearts of watch enthusiasts. The dial was deemed cluttered and challenging to read, leading to a lukewarm reception. However, over time, this model has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving into one of the most coveted vintage Rolex timepieces in today’s market.

The initial purpose behind the creation of the first 1655 was pragmatic—it was designed for cave divers and explorers who needed to discern between day and night in environments with minimal natural light. The distinctive 24-hour hand and fixed bezel were functional features tailored to these specific needs.

The initial purpose behind the creation of the first 1655 was pragmatic—it was designed for cave divers and explorers who needed to discern between day and night in environments with minimal natural light. The distinctive 24-hour hand and fixed bezel were functional features tailored to these specific needs.

The initial purpose behind the creation of the first 1655 was pragmatic—it was designed for cave divers and explorers who needed to discern between day and night in environments with minimal natural light. The distinctive 24-hour hand and fixed bezel were functional features tailored to these specific needs.

 

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ROLEX DATE 1503: Vintage Watch worth investing

The Rolex Date 1503 is a classic timepiece that has stood the test of time, maintaining its timeless elegance since its introduction. This particular model, part of the Rolex Date collection, offers a perfect blend of style, functionality, and craftsmanship.

Released as part of Rolex’s extensive Date series, the reference 1503 is characterised by its clean and refined design. The famous vintage watch features a classic date window at the 3 o’clock position, enhancing its practicality without compromising on its overall aesthetic appeal.

On a bit more attainable end, we have the Rolex Date 1503 – The famous vintage  watch back in the 70’s. The all gold date is simply a really clean watch to look at, and considering that even on the secondary market the watch is both attainable, and not terribly expensived gives the watch a leg up in out book of vintage Rolex. The watch comes on a gold bracelet, but we do find that putting it on leather helps the brownish gold mosaic dial shine.

Overall, we love it and the Rolex Date 1503 can be found for around $10,000 USD on a bracelet or even cheaper at around $7,000 USD on a leather strap.

 

The Tag Heuer Autavia GMT Mark 1 is a total standout in Tag Heuer’s lineup. It’s got that groovy 70s vibe when the brand was really letting loose with designs. Picture this – the bezel is like a Pepsi can, half red and half blue. They kept the dial black, so you can actually tell the time. But here’s the fun part: white and red accents everywhere, and there’s this bold yellow hand with green glow-in-the-dark stuff.

It’s like a blast from the past with its vibrant colors. You’d think finding one would be a quest, but surprisingly, it’s not that hard. Still, if you want to grab this piece of 70s history, be ready to drop around $10,000 USD. It’s not your everyday watch, but that’s what makes it so cool.

 

Certina Famous Vintage Watches

Certina has created a number of fan favorites over the years. But what the brand has arguably been know for over the course of time is their affordable dress watches. The hand-wind Certina 410 is one of the rare  famous vintage watches from the 1960’s that you can still get for a reasonable price. The watchers are timeless with an art-deco swag. 

Many brands have created many watches similar to it, but it’s to argue the value of Certina’s stape offering on the secondary. You can usually find the Certina 410 for around $400 USD.

 

IWC PILOT CAL. 83 – Another Vintage Watch we have loved

When it comes to Pilot famous vintage watches, IWC stands tall as the king – and that’s been the case for quite some time. Enter the IWC Pilot Cal. 83, making its debut in the early 1930s and boasting an array of configurations that can leave you a bit dazzled. The Caliber 83 movement was originally crafted with inspiration from the brand’s pocket watches but had to undergo some serious slimming down to snugly fit into a wristwatch – a real challenge. As time marched on, the Caliber 89 took over the spotlight, enjoying a longer run in various pilot models, while the 83 took a backseat, only gracing a few pieces from the 30s and 40s. This scarcity adds a touch of rarity to the Cal. 83, making it a bit more elusive but, in our eyes, quintessential to the brand’s history.

Finding these vintage Cal. 83 pieces can be a bit of a hunt, but thankfully, vintage dealers often have some pristine examples. Quality matters, especially with watches this old, and you can start your search for a well-preserved piece at around $2800 USD. The price might climb higher depending on the condition and specific details of the watch, but it’s a small price to pay for a slice of IWC’s historical charm.

BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS NO RADIATION

Blancpain secured its place in watchmaking history with the introduction of the Fifty Fathoms, widely recognized as the first true dive watch. Among the vintage models, one that stands out is the Fifty Fathoms No Radiation. This timepiece has a distinctive feature: a prominent red and yellow radiation symbol Xed out above the six o’clock hour marker.

The significance of this design element dates back to the early days of the Fifty Fathoms when radium paint was used to illuminate the dial in the dark. Keep in mind, this was a time before modern SuperLuminova existed. However, as awareness of the radioactive nature of radium increased, especially during the Cold War and heightened concerns about nuclear threats, Blancpain decided to make a change. The brand transitioned to Tritium for illuminating their watches, a safer alternative.

To reassure the public about the safety of their timepieces, Blancpain incorporated a bold “No Radiation” decal on the dial. This served as a clear indicator that the watch no longer used radium, providing peace of mind to those who wore these iconic dive watches. The Fifty Fathoms No Radiation model thus encapsulates a fascinating chapter in watchmaking history, combining functionality with a response to evolving safety standards and public concerns.

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