If you prefer dress watches like Rolex Cellini, Omega De Ville Tresor, or Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Alarm watches, you will notice that the prices for these watches are increasing every year. However, thanks to the ‘vintage-inspired’ trend, you may consider purchasing a Swiss vintage dress watch as an alternative. Some vintage pieces can look as modern (or as dated) to modern styling. Though you shouldn’t expect advanced material like carbon case or ceramic bezels like production; but steel or gold is good enough. In this article, we will look at affordable vintage Swiss watches that are under $4,000.
Omega Constellation Vintage Watches from the 1950s or 1960s
The Omega Constellation watch was once the best in the Omega collection. The Omega Constellation models were richly decorated and one of the distinct features are on their dials. The first Constellation collections had bumper movements and unique diamond shaped hour hands. The Dauphin hands were used till the late 1960s. Their in-house copper-coloured movements are excellent performers and should run very well for years to come.
This Omega Constellation WX110 is a 1960s Chronometer and measures at 34mm. It has automatic movement, 562 Caliber gold capped watch. The case comes in either steel or gold, and has Plexiglass to give it a warmer feel. It is one of the more desired and affordable vintage Swiss Watches. You should be able to find one in good condition for less than $2,500.
The Omega Seamaster 30 is also a good alternative and is the first waterproof watch Omega launched in 1948.
IWC Caliber 89 Vintage Watches
IWC’s Caliber 89 was developed in 1946 as the British Ministry of Defense needed a new watch for their military. These new watches requires stringent standard of WWW (Watch, Wrist, Waterproof), and are usually referred to as Mark X or XI by collectors. The Mark X carried the Caliber 83, while Mark XI carried the 89. At first glance, the movement seems very basic, but it withstood the test of time because of this simple, reliable and accurate 3-hand movement.
Mark XI was the exhibit for the Caliber 89, and predecessor to Schaffhausen’s long line of pilot’s and military watches. However, Mark XI cost slightly more to be classified as ‘affordable Swiss vintage watch’, but then again ‘affordable’ can be quite subjective. MK XI with original dials and hands with circled can cost around $6,000 to $8,000.
However, there are other affordable vintage Calibre 89 watches that cost less than $4,000. A Caliber 89-powered IWC would be a great addition to anyone’s collection, be it a Mark XI, or any number of civilian watches carrying the movement.
Vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Alarm Watch
Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox alarm watch first produced in 1950/51 with the manually wound Calibre 489. Though they come in both self-winding and manual versions, and a wide range of cases and dials. The two separate crowns allowed you to manually wind and set the alarm and timekeeping parts of the movement separately. These Memovox timepieces are about as good a deal you can find in vintage watches.
For a vintage self-winding Memovox watch, you are looking at a price around $2,500 to $3,000, base on which movement and the general condition.
5 Things to Consider for Affordable Vintage Swiss Watches
Condition of the Vintage Watch
This is definitely the most important consideration as you want to avoid taking the watch to expensive repairs. So be sure to examine the watch upfront before making the purchase. Also, post questions on forums to determine if all the parts are original. It is possible that parts like the crystal and crown might have been replaced for these old watches. Although this is not uncommon, but at least check that they are replaced by original parts.
Factor in servicing fee in your budget
This is another point to note especially when these vintage watches are old. For example, if your budget is $2,500 ensure that you buffer in $300 – $400 for servicing. If there are no warranty, ask for proof of service / invoices etc.
Note on Warranty
It is noted that most professional dealers are generally able to provide a 6 month warranty on your purchase. However, private sellers may not be able to give any warranty. Therefore it is important that you ensure the watch is in working condition before the purchase.
Vintage watches are smaller in size
Most vintage dress watches from 50 years ago are generally between the size of 34mm – 36mm. Do try these watches on your wrist to see if you like it.
Boxes and Papers are uncommon
You may be disappointed if you are expecting boxes and papers for these vintage watches. It was unusual back in those days to keep either.
Take a look at the Complete Price Guide to Watches. A price guide to vintage mechanical watches from more than 40 historically significant brands. It is also a mini encyclopedia with over 10,000 watches priced and over 8,000 images provided for education and identification.