To view the entire current selection of vintage watches available in the HODINKEE Shop, click here.
This Week’s Vintage Watches
We do our best to diversify the Vintage Watches selection here at HODINKEE. Watches like an early Zenith El Primero ref. A384 are offered as many times as we can source them, last week we offered a 1980s Sinn, and the week before that someone picked up a Heuer Yacht-Timer wrist-worn stopwatch that doesn’t even keep the time of day. That all being said, Rolex is undeniable. The Crown will always have a place in watch collections of all kinds and, with that, our offerings here on Wednesdays. The classics are the classics for a reason.
The crowd may be close to split between the ref. 6263 and 6265, but there is no denying that the “Big Red” dial variants are king in these references. Iconic at this point, that single line of red text changes the whole look of these watches in all the right ways. Our example features a silver dial with, of course, “Big Red” Daytona text wrapped around the upper half of the six o’clock register. In this particular variant, the Daytona text is slightly higher than others making it a “Floating Big Red.” In silver, the red really seems to pop off the wrist even more – breaking up a somewhat simple color scheme. The condition here is really honest with a great sunburst finish to the dial, a remarkably strong case, the correct “Mark 2” pushers, and a nice overall patina – it has a vintage look to it, exactly how I like them. Check out this excellent example of a ref. 6263 “Big Red” right here in the H Shop.
1991 Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 16700
By Sean Egan
What separates a GMT-Master from a GMT-Master II? I’ve answered that question more than a few times from friends and customers who are newer to their watch enthusiasm. I’m always happy to field questions such as these as it means that folks are really starting to dig in, read, and most importantly to me, think about vintage watches. This particular reference from Rolex is an interesting way to get started being nerdy about the Crown. I find that this era, and particularly this watch, show us how to start thinking about all the ways Rolex models shift and change. It can also be a good way to learn a lesson, one that sometimes doesn’t make much sense at all. The 16700 is sometimes referred to as a ‘transitional’ reference – I argue it’s not, it’s the end of its line. There are no pure GMT-Masters after it, only GMT-Master IIs; even the movement used in this watch only ever existed in this reference, this watch is the last of its kind.
That’s not to demerit this piece, it’s really the final form of all the Rolex GMTs before it, where the second timezone was only to be adjusted by rotating the bezel. Also, for my money, this might be the simpler watch to operate and read. First of all, reading the time in a 24-hour format off of the bezel has always been easier for me than guesstimating the time from the GMT hands position on the dial. Also, a proper quickset date makes setting the watch a breeze in comparison to even the modern GMTs, where you have to send the hour hand round n’ round the dial should you not wind the watch for a couple of days. Lastly, only once in my life have I found myself wanting to track three time zones, and I found doing so on a three-time zone GMT watch unmanageable. That’s all to say, this is my ideal GMT reference, old enough to show patina on the lume and bezel, but not so old that it can be prohibitive to find movement parts to repair. Get all the details, right here.
1991 Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610
By Saori Omura
The Rolex Submariner has always delivered for me. It has always followed through on what it promises to deliver: It’s accurate, it’s consistent, it’s reliable, and it just so happens that it looks great, as well. That’s the magic of Rolex. Whether it’s a Daytona, GMT, or a Sub, they all deliver on the fundamentals of what a “good” watch ought to be. Rain or shine, I wore my 5513 constantly and it ran beautifully. Even though the crown dug into the top of my hand and left a scar for a while, I still loved it and was willing to tolerate that little bit of pain because it never disappointed me otherwise. When it came time for me to say goodbye, it delivered financially, as well. As much as I don’t believe in buying a watch strictly for financial reasons, it is reassuring that it came through with a payout of double the amount I had paid for originally. And that’s about 10 years ago now, and the prices have steadily climbed up since then. There are many other great watches out there, but I can say with confidence, from my own personal experience, that Subs are just such an all-around solid watch.
The more I look at this watch, the ref. 16610, it feels more compelling. I used to be a strict “non-date, no white gold surrounds” person. I thought the date window with the cyclops created too much asymmetry. And the white gold surrounds seemed too shiny. The combination of the two felt too modern and somehow too sterile to me, like a fluorescent lightbulb. However, specific preferences change over time (hopefully, because I’ve become wiser). It’s at a point in the watch’s life that it’s showing some softness and character, especially with the warm patina on the lume it has gained over time. With the patina that has developed, the white gold surround doesn’t look too jarring. Instead, the silver-colored frame further accentuates the warm patina and brings it to the forefront. The case and the bracelet lean more compact compared to today’s counterpart, which to me makes it more wearable. For someone like me who likes a nice vintage watch, I appreciate how you can tell it’s not a brand-new Sub. I’d say the watch has taken on a nice balance of vintage and modern, and it has a promising potential to become even better in the future. Click here to shop this “neo-vintage” Submariner.
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