Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*
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  1. #1
    Member Noam the Newt's Avatar
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    Question Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Greetings all,

    I have over the course of the past year begun a collection of vintage watches, such as my 1940s 'Limit III' and 1980s SLAVA. For each of these pieces, I have been lucky to acquire them quite cheaply off eBay, ranging from £15-60, so I understand that they are not horological gems. Looking at my collection from afar, I have come to the conclusion that I want a chronograph, a vintage chrono of sorts. I just want to ask about their reliability:

    • Does a chronograph complication greatly increase the risk of faults/problems emerging? I know with a simple manual wind w/o complications there is *relatively* little to go wrong.

    • Is it reasonable to expect to buy a vintage (hopefully 1940s-1980s) chronograph at a low price point (i.e. £30-60) and expect it to work well?

    • Is this a futile and foolish search? I could always wait 15 years after I finish my education and get a job to save for a nice 1950s Strela 3133

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    Thanks for your time and efforts. I hope these questions are not already answered elsewhere.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    What sort of style do you prefer? If you like chunky funky 70s style chronos the seiko 6139 variants are great. It takes time to find good examples at a good price though. I recently picked up this beauty for $10 in a junk shop. Name:  ImageUploadedByTapatalk1370951457.761662.jpg
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  3. #3
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Chronographs are a lot more complicated... so they are more expensive to service. Chronographs are a lot rarer... so they are harder to find. And they tend to be more expensive.

    On the other hand, I have found they tend to be in better condition as chronograph owners do not usually beat their watches to death. But if they are a wreck they are usually too difficult to salvage.

    If you ever find a decent chrono at the prices you are looking at, and if there are two, PM ME IMMEDIATELY! I'll take the other one.

    What you have collected so far is very nice. Good taste you have.
    Noam the Newt likes this.
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

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  5. #4
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Service on my 1972 6139 is almost triple what I paid for the watch.

  6. #5
    Member DaBaeker's Avatar
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Quote Originally Posted by Eeeb View Post
    What you have collected so far is very nice. Good taste you have.
    agree
    :ROLEX OMEGA LONGiNES ♦ SEIKO Aquadive ♦ ELGIN ♦ hamilton O&W imexZodiac......

  7. #6
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Seiko chronographs suffer the same problem that most Japanese movements suffer from; they're designed to be run into the ground, so once they stop working, it's usually because they're beyond (economical) saving. It also means that there aren't a lot of spare parts around, since the design philosophy is geared towards replacement, not repair. Plus, I've found that Seiko's are also harder to service then their Swiss counterparts.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

  8. #7
    Member HOROLOGIST007's Avatar
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Hi
    I agree your 'Limit iii' is very nice, I checked this morning but could NOT find it in Pritchard's Book
    Your top centre watch also looks interesting. Is it a button on crown for chrono? Is it a Borgel case? Its a very nice looking watch

    Regards
    NEVER ARGUE WITH AN IDIOT. FIRST THEY WILL DRAG YOU DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL. THEN, THEY WILL BEAT YOU WITH EXPERIENCE.

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    "Owning a vintage watch is great, understanding where it sits in Horology is magnificent"
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  9. #8
    Member skapig's Avatar
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    The Alpha (Venus 210) that I posted a few days ago was something I stumbled across on eBay by accident last year. I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be quite nice. With that, I decided to keep my eyes open for another budget vintage chrono. The prices (on eBay at least) turned out to be so high that I gave up.

    From my limited experience a rough eBay pricing guide is as follows:

    Frankened Citizen bullhead ~$100
    Beat to hell Seiko: ~$200
    Poljot 3133: ~$200 for a frankened gaudy one, >$300 for a "stylish" or military themed one

    For Swiss:
    Valjoux 7733: $300 and up
    anything else: $500 with a beat to hell case/dial; no limit if it's in great shape!

    The price inflation over just the last six months has caused me to quit looking for more and just enjoy the watches I have. Good luck to you!
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  10. #9
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    Quote Originally Posted by AbslomRob View Post
    Seiko chronographs suffer the same problem that most Japanese movements suffer from; they're designed to be run into the ground, so once they stop working, it's usually because they're beyond (economical) saving. It also means that there aren't a lot of spare parts around, since the design philosophy is geared towards replacement, not repair. Plus, I've found that Seiko's are also harder to service then their Swiss counterparts.
    Sure, Seikos may be designed to be run into the ground, but as a result they're quite robust (sorry, I'm not a watchmaker so thats a subjective comment). New parts are impossible to get, but there are millions out there so donor movements can be found easily - unlike many Swiss chronos. As for servicing costs, my watchmaker charges about the same for an auto chrono service as for an auto service - about $100. As with any low cost vintage, service costs are often greater than the upfront cost of the watch. However, on serviced you get an auto chrono for a couple of hundred, instead of upwards of $1000 that watch cos will charge you for a new model with the same features (or similarly high prices for vintage Swiss chronos).

    The trick is to be patient until you find a good example (perfect dial and hands and running movement) at a good price
    - there's plenty of chaff to sift through.

    In have two very nice 6139 examples sourced for $85 and $10 respectively. Sure, I'd like a Lemania based hand wind or similar, but they don't come up for those sort of prices.

    Out of interest can anybody suggest any alternatives that might fit the OPs criteria?

  11. #10
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Question about acquiring vintage chronographs on a *budget*

    I'd have to imagine that a watchmaker who charges the same to service a chronograph as an automatic is the exception rather then the norm. You don't show where you're from, but the OP is from Vancouver; not the cheapest place to have anything done.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

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