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This Week’s Vintage Watches
Watch nicknames have been covered on HODINKEE and we even ran a poll to find the H Community’s favorite – spoiler alert, “Pepsi” won, a bit obvious, don’t you think? Nicknames are simply a part of what we call the watch world whether we like it or not. From “Batman” to “John Mayer” and “Paul Newman,” some are implicit and come from colors or materials while others reference a well-known wearer of that, well, reference, model, or dial variant. This week’s Vintage Watches selection in the H Shop is full of nicknames, at least in the highlights.
Now back to original programming…
I have been obsessed with hunting down a nice vintage Rolex Day-Date for a while now. There are so many dial variations, ranging from classic champagne to the rare and colorful “Stella” dials. And when this wood dial variant came to our desk, I had to try it on. The Crown did not disappoint me.
The notable “interesting” dial variants from this reference also include a black onyx, tiger’s eye, green malachite, and blue lapis lazuli, to name a few. They are all beautiful in their own right, and what’s special is that because of the nature of the material each dial looks a little different. The uniqueness comes out stronger on this wood dial variant because wood grains are like fingerprints. The pattern of colors and the swirls of the wood grain is far more noticeable than the “stone” dial variety, for the most part. Some wood dials tend to be darker and brownish red and some a little lighter brown, like the one you see here. I’m especially smitten by this particular dial since it has the perfect shades of brown which blend in very well with the gold elements of the watch. Overall, it feels seamless, from the gold case to the wood dial all the way to the gold bracelet. And the single-quickset for the date keeps me away from getting a callus on the side of my fingers from turning the crown so many times.
It’s a cherry on the top that this watch comes with a special presentation box and the original guarantee paper. As I mentioned at the top, I wish Rolex still made a whimsical presentation box like this one which has a leather belt-buckle like design with the coronet on the buckle. Note to the buyer: Keep in mind that the buckle is decorative and not a functioning one, because everyone I know who tries to open the box tries to undo the buckle first! Check it out right here.
1960s Universal Genève Tri-Compax ‘Evil Clapton’ Ref. 88101/02
By Rich Fordon
From a historical standpoint, Universal Genève is one of the most compelling brands in all of vintage watches. From its rich brand heritage to its unfortunate demise, UG consistently created some of the best Swiss watches and really pushed the watch world forward. Particularly in terms of chronograph manufacturing, few brands were as innovative on a serial production level from the 1930s through the 1960s. In that last decade, Universal’s chronograph catalog is nearly unmatched in my opinion. Possibly only Heuer can hold a candle to a lineup that includes the “Nina Rindt” Compax, “Big Eye” Uni-Compax, and, of course, the “Clapton” Tri-Compax. Ten or so years later, UG had been crushed by the Quartz Crisis and forced to sell off – the brand peaked right near the end.
Of these three nicknamed 1960s Universals, the “Clapton” is where my allegiance lies (and that’s not just because we have one here). Eric Clapton is, of course, one of the greatest guitarists of all time but he is notorious in our world for being a watch collector of extremely fine taste, having owned some of the most important Patek Philippes ever made, such as a 2499 in platinum. What I find special about the “Clapton” UG is that the musician owned and wore this model in period rather than many years after it was produced, like the 2499P or some of his 1463s. That matters to me. The “Clapton” UG almost pre-dates him as a watch collector and rather signals the guitarist’s watch interest decades before his Patek and Rolex obsession.
As a watch, the UG Tri-Compax – and particularly the “Clapton” references – combine complication and sport better than just about any other watch ever. The four sub-dial layout is elegant, with day and month apertures expertly framing the 12 o’clock register. While Eric chose to wear a white dial ref. 881101/01 while snarling at a photographer in 1967, alongside Jimi Hendrix, I am personally drawn to black dial watches. The “Evil Clapton” is therefore my pick.
The example we have here is in true collector-grade condition. Sourced from the family of the original owner, the watch has a real untouched vibe to it in the metal thanks to a case that is, in our opinion, unpolished and full lume plots on the dial with a warm, inviting shade of patina. This one is going to be hard to let go of but that is the cross I bear. I know, boo-hoo, how awful that must be for me. Get all the details in the HODINKEE Shop.
1960s Heuer Carrera ’12’ Ref. 2447T With Red Tachymeter Scale
By Sean Egan
I’ve said before that if I were forced to pick one watch to be my only watch, I’d pick a manually-wound Heuer Carrera. With that being said, and surprisingly enough, I don’t own a Heuer. I have a LeJour-branded chronograph, most likely made by Heuer but nothing that says Heuer on the dial. For a while, I used to excuse myself by saying that I just wasn’t ready to spend vintage Heuer money yet. Recent purchases have proved that I’m ready to get into that range, so why hadn’t I picked up the Heuer I’d been so hyped on? There’s the cop-out answer that I couldn’t find the right example, which is always an easy out. Really though, I don’t think I’d decided quite yet which manually-wound Carrera (or “Pre-Carrera” for that matter) I’m truly after. Do I want a silver dial, a black dial, a two-tone, or even a panda dial? Do I prefer the cleanliness of two-register layouts or the slightly more functional three-register counter? Do I want to fight with a date complication on a manually-wound watch? I had choice paralysis in a Carrera case.
That is until this watch turned up. It’s a funny thing how much watches, or any other physical good, can live and die by seeing them in person. Countless times, I have lost interest in watches after seeing them “in the metal” as we often say. This was not the case when this particular Reference 2447T came across my desk, the full sunburst with the light red tachymeter scale made me immediately grab a loupe. I wanted to be closer, I wanted to live in that dial, I wanted the dial furniture to be my living room set. I couldn’t get enough. When Rich handed me the watch fresh from a FedEx box, it was “head only” or strapless, I couldn’t help myself but slap it on a NATO-style strap and give it a test drive. I can confirm, it’s great, and even better on the red strap we put it on. However, despite the love at first sight, no amount of arguing with my bank account will make that number go up, so go get yourself the perfect mid-century chrono, right here.