Great Vintage Watches Under $5,000
Many of the most expensive watches on this planet happen to be older timepieces; however collecting vintage wristwatches does not need to be an exorbitantly expensive hobby. There are still a number of excellent vintage watches that can be had for well below the $5,000 price point, which will always be able to occupy a respectable place in your collection, regardless of how large or prestigious it may become.
The Rolex DateJust, Reference 1601
The secret may be out on vintage Rolex sports watches, and most will likely never again be in the realm of what could even remotely be considered “budget friendly.” However, many great vintage Rolex references can still be purchased for under $5,000 (although some may require a little diligent searching).
One of the most classic and recognizable vintage Rolex watches is the reference 1601 Datejust. While some examples of the reference 1601 will exceed the $5,000 price point, many can still be purchased for significantly less, leaving cash to spare for extra straps and accessories. Measuring 36 mm in diameter, and fitted with a “pie-pan” dial, fluted bezel, and Cyclops magnification lens above the date display, the reference 1601 Datejust is a tried-and-true design that fully embodies the quintessential Rolex wristwatch.
Universal Genève Polerouter
Although the company is not nearly as well known as it was in decades past, Universal Genève has regained a fair amount of popularity in recent years, particularly among vintage collectors for their Compax chronograph watches. Although much of the attention gets paid to their modestly sized vintage chronographs, the Polerouter is another excellent watch that can frequently be secured for less than $5,000.
Designed by prolific watch designed Gérald Genta, the Polerouter was first released in 1954 to commemorate Scandinavian Airlines Systems polar flights. Over the years, the Polerouter expanded into a complete line of watches, with numerous different configurations and complications making an appearance. Despite its noteworthy history, legendary designer, and vintage good looks, the Polerouter is still relatively affordable, and most examples can be had for well under $5,000.
Today, Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the more prestigious names in the world of high-end watchmaking; however despite their contemporary market positioning, certain vintage examples of their watches can still be found for shockingly reasonable prices. One of the best values among vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces is their Memovox, which features a programmable, mechanical alarm.
First released in 1950, the Memovox features two crowns, which allow its owners to wind and set the alarm and timekeeping parts of the movement separately. The twin crowns and concentric dial disc give the watch a unique appearance, while simultaneously facilitating a quick and straightforward alarm setting procedure. Due to the large number of Memovox watches that were manufactured and the wide range of variations that took place within the line, certain vintage examples can be found for astonishingly affordable prices that come in well below the $5,000 mark.
Rolex Air-King, Reference 5500
For those who want a vintage Rolex, but who would like something a little bit smaller and more understated than a Datejust, the reference 5500 Air-King is an excellent option that delivers in both departments and also happens to rank among the most affordable vintage Rolex references currently available.
Measuring 34 mm in diameter, and lacking the date complication and chronometer certification text of the Datejust, the reference 5500 Air-King has one of the cleanest and most simple dials of any Rolex watch. Additionally, despite is svelte dimensions and elegant appearance, the reference 5500 Air-King is still equipped with all the usual Rolex features, such as a self-winding movement and water-resistant Oyster case.
Almost Any Grand Seiko
Grand Seiko is one of the names that often gets left out of luxury watch discussions; however their products are home to some of the best finishing available on timepieces at any price point. Despite the increased popularity of vintage watches in recent years, many Grand Seiko models can still be found for very reasonable prices.
The vast majority of vintage Grand Seiko references can be purchased for under $5,000 (some more readily than others), and nearly every single one looks just as good today as it did when it first left the factory all those years ago. While their designs may be overall somewhat understated, they are never going to be out of style or look outdated. Timeless looks combined with expertly-finished mechanical movements, makes vintage Grand Seiko watches some of the best values in the under $5,000 price category.