What are the best vintage watches under $1,000?
From classic Omega watches that won’t break the bank, to timeless designs from Seiko, the best vintage watches don’t have to cost a fortune.
Read on, and we’ll cover the great vintage watches, so you can build a fantastic collection that pays tribute to the history of horology.
The Best Vintage Watches Under $1,000
This article covers the manufacturers and styles of these iconic vintage watches, to help you to build your collection of dress, sports, and dive watches.
Here’s our list of the 10 best vintage watches under $1,000:
10. Hamilton W10 – $425+
There are plenty of vintage military-style watches available on the second-hand market that deliver an iconic, authentic look, for instance, the Hamilton W10.
One of Hamilton’s most enduring watch designs, the Hamilton W10 was initially designed in the mid-1970s for the British Ministry of Defense.
They can be a little tricky to hunt down today on account of their heritage and age, but if you dig through eBay and other second-hand watch sellers, you’ll be able to find one for under $1,000.
As you’d expect for a military watch, the Hamilton W10 is a sturdy, well-constructed timepiece that featured Hamilton’s manual winding caliber 649 movement, making it reliable and accurate.
Later versions of the Hamilton W10 offered a rebadged ETA 2750 movement, with hack seconds, and in a tonneau-shaped case.
The case was a monocoque design, improving the watch’s resistance to water, while the movement is only accessible by removing the glass from the watch’s face.
At the time of writing, you can pick up a Hamilton watch for under $500 on eBay, about the same price as a meal in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world.
There’s a great selection of similar military watches from the period also available on the second-hand market, so it’s worth shopping around to see what you can find.
9. Mechanical Timex – $50+
Timex has been producing quality watches for decades, with their focus primarily on quartz watches in recent years, but their mechanical Timex range was also extensive.
Their mechanical watches were produced between the 1950s and 1970s in a broad variety of designs, and finding them on places like eBay and Etsy is very easy.
Because so many versions of the mechanical Timex were produced, there’s a great selection of styles and designs to choose from, including the sporty Sprite and their iconic Marlin dress watch.
The Marlin collection in particular is a popular collection for vintage watch collectors, typically pairing stainless steel with domed crystal and mechanical movements.
What sets a mechanical watch apart from its quartz competitors is the clockwork mechanism that powers the watch, as opposed to the small battery used in quartz watches.
This winding mechanism gives these Timex watches a truly authentic old-world feel, since the wearer has to wind them by hand to keep the hands in motion.
Expect to find plenty of the mechanical Timex watches online for under $100, making them a highly affordable entry-level watch to start your collection.
8. Zodiac Sea Wolf – $200+
If you’re interested in starting your vintage watch collection with a classic dive watch, but can’t afford to shell out for a Rolex Submariner, there’s the Zodiac Sea Wolf watch.
The original Zodiac Sea Wolf first debuted in 1953, the same year as the aforementioned Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms.
It comes in a beautiful slim 35mm case, with illuminated hands and a thick and durable rubber strap for secure wearing while underwater.
Shop around and you might be fortunate enough to snag one of these vintage dive watches for under $200, although they tend to start at a little over this price point.
For roughly the same price as one of the world’s most expensive cigars, you’ll have a slice of horological history on your wrist, and one which is known to be able to withstand some serious diving.
The Sea Wolf uses automatic movements, along with iconic triangular tritium markers and domed acrylic crystals.
While Zodiac’s modern versions of the Sea Wolf will set you back at least a thousand dollars, their vintage timepieces offer interesting designs at a fraction of the price.
7. Omega Seamaster – $400+
When you think of the Omega Seamaster, affordability isn’t the first thing that comes to mind; their current watches aren’t cheap and sell for several thousand dollars in watch retailers and boutiques.
Their vintage watches, however, are on the more affordable end of the spectrum, and you can pick up a nice vintage Omega Seamaster for well under $1,000 if you dig deep enough into the vintage market.
The Omega Seamaster was perfected by the company between 1948 and 1957, and at the time was an exclusively water-resistant dress watch.
It’s these dress watches you’ll be able to find on the second-hand vintage watch market, and you can expect one to set you back in the region of $400.
One of the most popular budget vintage watches you can buy, it’s a solidly built timepiece with reliable movements, and earned its reputation as one of the most iconic watches you can get.
With Omega’s longstanding collaborations with the James Bond franchise giving them additional kudos, the Seamaster is an instantly recognizable vintage watch to add to your collection.
6. Skin Diver – $500+
If you’re interested in an alternative to vintage dive watches, skin divers are a great choice, with a wide variety of models available on the second-hand market.
A great example of a classic skin diver watch is the Accutron Deep Sea 66 “Devil Diver”, which comes in a steel case measuring 40mm in diameter.
The clean, simple hands are illuminated with a tritium lume, and there’s also an acrylic “Coke” bezel with black and red markings, along with a plexiglass crystal.
It also features a tuning fork electric movement, which was truly innovative at the time of its initial release, making this an important vintage watch from a technical standpoint.
There are plenty of other great vintage skin divers available too, for example, the Wittnauer skin diver, the Elgin skin diver, and the Waltham skin diver that comes with a manually-wound Waltham-signed movement.
They’re a fantastic – and much more affordable – alternative to some of the most expensive watches you can buy and can bring a degree of diversity to your vintage collecting hobby.
5. Bulova – $100+
Bulova is an established watch manufacturer with an extensive back catalog of excellent watches that appeal to vintage watch collectors.
The 1960s and 1970s were particularly important for the company, and there’s a huge selection of Bulova watches from this era that are sought after by classic horology enthusiasts.
For example, their 666 Diver range comes in a variety of designs and configurations, from the slim 35mm time-only models, to the bulkier Valjoux-powered vintage chronograph.
There are also more obscure designs such as the Spinnaker, which is an automatic watch the company made available in a series of striking and original colors, including straps painted to match the dials.
If you have a little more money to spend, there’s the Bulova Accutron Spaveview vintage watch, with an open face revealing the inner workings of this vintage timepiece.
One of these will likely set you back around $500 on the vintage market, giving you one of the world’s first electronic watches and pre-dating the quartz watch by nearly ten years.
These watches are regulated by a fast-vibrating tuning fork and retain what would have been a futuristic look at the time they were released.
4. Tissot – $100+
Tissot has earned a reputation for affordable watches covering a range of styles, from sports watches and dive watches to automatic chronograph watches with several complications.
While you won’t pick up high-end Tissots that use the most expensive precious metals available for under $1,000, there are plenty of cool choices from their vintage watch archives.
The designs you choose to invest in will be down to your personal preference, and Tissot’s vintage watches range from divers such as the Seastar, to dress watches such as the Antimagnetique.
You can also pick up more funky-looking watches, with some vintage Tissots coming in a range of vibrant colors and designs that stand out from the crowd.
A vintage Tissot dress watch can be found for around £100, making them a great option for vintage collectors who are working on a tight budget.
If you’re prepared to spend a little more money, expect to pay upwards of $200 for a vintage Tissot diver watch, while a vintage chronograph will cost you from around $300.
3. Seiko Sports Watch – $50+
Seiko watches are ubiquitous among watch collectors, offering great quality mechanisms at affordable prices, and covering every style of watch imaginable.
A vintage Seiko sports watch is a perfect addition to any watch collector’s range of timepieces and can be picked up for around $50.
Iconic designs including the 6138 “John Player Special”, the 6139 “Pogue”, and the 6309 “Turle” are all easy to track down on the second-hand market and will bring some color and panache to your collection.
Another great alternative is the Seiko 6138-0040 “Bullhead” watch, which dates back to the 1970s and is one of the most collectible chronographs you can buy.
It features two pushers at the top of the case, rather than the traditional positioning on the right-hand side, which prevents their accidental actuation.
These flanking pushers give the watch the appearance of having two horns, hence the name “Bullhead”, making them truly distinctive when compared to other chronographs.
It’s a thick and durable watch with a 45mm diameter case, and you can find them in brown dial with gold subdials, or black dial with blue subdials.
2. Three-Hand Omega – $800+
On the more expensive end of the vintage watches, scale are the three-hand Omega vintage watches, which start around $800 but are still significantly cheaper than their current models.
While the prices are comparable to some of the world’s most expensive coffees, these vintage Omega watches are likely to hold their value as long as you take good care of them.
Buying vintage watches can be a minefield, but there are dozens of three-hand Omega models to choose from, including the Geneve Dynamic and the Jahre 041.
One of the most popular vintage watches in this category is the Geneve Dynamic ST 166.0039, which is an obscure but beautiful watch created in 1969.
A playfully designed watch, it features a unique “uni-shell” case measuring 41.5mm x 36.4mm in diameter and is 10.5mm thick, giving it a nice, chunky feel on the wrist.
It also comes with an automatic 565 Calibre movement, which delivers smooth performance and is also very easy to repair should you need to.
You can pick one of these up with a rally-style leather strap or a three-link steel bracelet, making this an effortlessly cool and sporty vintage watch worth adding to your collection.
1. Vulcain Cricket – $550+
The Vulcain Cricket first debuted on the watch market in 1947 and was the first-ever mechanical alarm wristwatch you could buy.
Also known as the “President’s Watch” on account of its long-standing association with American presidents including Harry S. Truman, the Vulcain Cricket is a Swiss-made iconic watch well worth hunting down.
As you might expect, the endorsement of presidents made these watches extremely popular, which makes them more commonplace among vintage watch sellers than some of the other timepieces you can buy.
In fact, they’re easier to track down than modern mechanical alarm watches, which are rarely produced in the modern era.
Starting at around the same price as the most expensive pizzas you can buy, you can pick up a Vulcain Cricket starting at around $550.
That wraps up this guide to the best vintage watches for under $1,000, and we hope it has inspired you to start your own collecting journey with some great vintage timepieces.
Since the vintage watch market is constantly changing, we’ll update this article to reflect the best options as the models and prices change.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best vintage watches under $1,000:
- Vulcain Cricket – $550+
- Three-Hand Omega – $800+
- Seiko Sports Watch – $50+
- Tissot – $100+
- Bulova – $100+
- Skin Diver – $500+
- Omega Seamaster – $400+
- Zodiac Sea Wolf – $200+
- Mechanical Timex – $50+
- Hamilton W10 – $425+