Before I could bear the expense of a pre-Daytona--or any "costly" vintage Rolex for that matter--I formulated a guide for those in search of an easily-attainable, moderately-priced vintage watch. Looking back, I realize that this guide was actually incredibly helpful, based on the multitude of responses I received from readers, many of whom acquired the watches mentioned in this article. For the second and final time, I bring to you our most popular write-up (with over 3,500 views on the day of publishing): Best Five Vintage Buys Under $500.
I spend my mornings studying Pateks, my afternoons advising collectors as they deliberate over their next purchases, and my nights writing about literally superlative Rolexes. Oh, and my grail watch just happens to be a Patek Philippe 1518 in steel. But through all of this, my budget is still limited to $500, and not a penny more. So lately I’ve been scouring the web for something cool, collectible, and worth my while. I’ve got to tell you, this has been one heck of a search so far, and it won’t get any easier, but that’s where all the fun is in acquiring a watch.
Let’s get down to business: Here’s my list of the best five vintage buys under $500.
The Zodiac Seawolf
In 1953, Zodiac released the Seawolf, a utilitarian watch that simply helped hardcore divers get stuff done. The movement is ETA. The bezel is steel (occasionally bakelite). The case is steel. The Seawolf is an exemplary dive watch, that I can assuredly say will fall into this price point.
The Seiko 6309
This cushion-shaped, hefty, and nearly infrangible diver is far under $500 (more like $150) and gives a whole new meaning to the term "beater watch." Finding it isn't a challenge and servicing it isn't either...well, if it really needs servicing just buy another one. We're not talking Patek-quality watchmaking here, but the Japanese do a fine job.
The Vulcain Cricket
Robert Ditisheim, a well-trained watchmaker, inventor, and founder of “Fabrique de Montres Vulcain,” devoted five years to designing and developing an alarm wristwatch. His venture was successful, the result: The Vulcain Cricket. Aside from being the very first alarm wristwatch, the Vulcain Cricket is the undisputed king of presidents' watches (worn by LBJ, Eisenhower, Truman, and many more). For further info on the Cricket, you can refer to my video review from earlier this year [below].
The Benrus MIL-W-46374A
Though I wouldn't recommend it, this watch is made to be thrown away. Yep, it's 100% true. These Vietnam-era military watches produced by Benrus were composed of an uber-durable plastic and housed simplistic seven jewel, automatic movements. When fitted with an army green NATO, you can easily out-watch everyone else in the room--even if the guy sitting next to you is sporting a Paul Newman.
The Omega Seamaster
You can't go wrong with a vintage Seamaster. Without my Seamaster, I wouldn't even be writing this article, bringing you the most informative "wristwatch news and reviews" out there :), and probably wouldn't have a clue what Omega is. What you get when you're buying a Seamaster is a quality movement, a sturdy case, and a clean look that's hard to find in most other affordable vintage watches.