Vintage Watches under 2,5k
The 3 best -and affordable- vintage watches you can buy on a budget: 3 watches under €2500,-.
By Thomas van Straaten on 14 September 2021
Vintage watch prices have seen an upward trend for several decades now. We are at a point where cost of ownership can be quite intimidating. Still, there are those sweet spots in the market of more affordable watch brands and models. Today we will look at the best watches under 2500 euros you will find in the vintage world.
These are more affordable vintage watches without compromising on quality and heritage. Models you will find in the watch boxes of seasoned collectors, among counterparts several times more expensive. Of course, 2500 euros is still a very serious amount of money, so we have set the bar high. These are the very best that carry the AWCo seal of approval!
Best vintage watches under 2500: Seamasters
1950s & 1960s Omega Seamaster
King of the affordable vintage watches category is undoubtedly the Omega Seamaster. While it turned into a more archetypical dive watch in 1957, as part of the Omega tool watch trinity (Seamaster, Speedmaster, Railmaster), it is the slightly smaller variant without dive-time bezel of the 50s and 60s that we are looking at here.
The Seamaster line was launched in 1948. Its major innovation was the use of a rubber gasket between the case and case back. Previously, watches would feature shellac or lead gaskets, which were much more prone to leakage. The rubber O-ring was an idea taken from submarine innovations during WWII.
While we would consider the aesthetics of these early Seamasters to be rather dressy today, they were designed as true tool watches. A point proven by diver Gordon Mclean, when he took one down to a record depth of 62,5 meters in 1955. You would, therefore, be excused to call this one of the best dive watches under 2500 euros!
The Seamaster line is one of those icons of the watch industry, lasting until today. It gained major popularity when it was featured as James Bond’s watch of choice in 1995’s hit movie Goldeneye. The smooth-talking spy has worn several different Seamasters in every Bond film since. And it makes a lot of sense since the Seamaster is the gentleman’s dive watch. Equally at home when covertly zip-lining off of a hydropower dam as when discreetly tucked under your tux sleeve at a Monte Carlo Casino.
There have been tons of variations of these earlier Seamasters. Different case shapes, dial colors, materials, bracelets and more. So there is likely something to suit your personal taste perfectly. Their modest case size is offset by the more sporty design, making these the perfect do-it-all affordable luxury watches for both male and female aficionados.
While these can be had in pretty much all price brackets, it is good to know that a great deal of them have been messed with over time. You will find a lot of Franken-watches (unoriginal combinations of original parts), refinished dials, incorrect configurations and poor restoration jobs here. So it pays to do your homework and, as you would expect us to say, buy from a reputable dealer.
Vintage military watches under 2500
WWII and later military field watches
Our second recommendation for the best vintage watches under 2500 euros comes with a lot of historical significance. These are affordable watches on which lives depended. Watches that were never designed to be attractive, but have turned out as such precisely because they were pure function-over-form. These are watches that were never babied and kept in safes and leather pouches. These affordable watches were banged around. Dragged through the mud. They went through hell and came out in one piece.
We are talking about military field watches from both WWII and the post-war era.
A prime example is the “Dirty dozen” range of WWII field watches. Towards the end of the war, the British Ministry of Defense commissioned thirteen watchmakers to deliver watches for the troops. These were Omega, Buren, Cyma, Timor, Jaeger LeCoultre, Lemania, Enicar, Longines, IWC, Eterna, Record, Grana, and Vertex. All but Enicar actually supplied the MoD with watches. Perhaps a good thing, as we would otherwise maybe have the Thorough Thirteen, rather than the Dirty Dozen today. Less catchy, right?
The design brief was simple. The watches needed to be waterproof (a term that is no longer used today, as watches are at best water-resistant to a degree), feature a black dial with contrasting white numerals, a minute track, and strong luminescent material (Radium) for low-light readability. Furthermore, a seconds-hand was required in the shape of a sub-dial at six o’clock.
As affordable vintage watches go, the Dirty Dozen is an amazing contender. Granted, not all can be had in decent shape under 2,5k, but you will certainly find a good example of one of the more common ones below or just over the 2k mark.
After WWII, we see a number of similar watches being issued to armed forces. The Smiths W10 jumps out as a favorite. It shares the same functional design as the Dirty Dozen, but with a central seconds hand.
The Vietnam era is another source of mil-spec watches with great reputation. Particularly Benrus and Hamilton (also W10) jump out. Many American soldiers bought alternatives to their issued watches in the local PX stores (shops for American soldiers in Vietnam). The famous Seiko Ref. 6105 is a great example, made famous by being featured on Captain Willard’s (played by Martin Sheen) wrist in Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece Apocalypse now.
Divers watches under 2500
1960s & 1970s (skin)divers
After Blancpain drew the template for the modern dive watch with the Fifty Fathoms in 1953, many legendary and highly sought-after watches followed. As much as we would all like to wear an early Fifty Fathoms or Rolex Submariner, prices have reached astronomical levels.
Luckily, there is a lot of that early aquatic-explorer spirit available if you are willing to go off the beaten tracks. There are numerous much more affordable vintage dive watches.
There are a couple of ways you could do that. One is to go for a size that is a little less mainstream. There are tons of stunning 34 to 36mm divers out there that are being overlooked by the masses. The Zodiac Sea-wolf is a great option we have every now and then. Another amazing example is the Squale limiteds in vintage NOS Blancpain cases we recently launched, which have unfortunately all sold out.
But there are other divers with historical significance that make for great affordable vintage watches. Especially if you are into seventies flair, the Bulova Snorkel is a whole lot of watch, easily within the budget. These have fantastic details such as a cross-hair dial, see-through indices, and a cool red and black color scheme, packed in a smooth cushion-case design. Paired with a retro rubber tropic strap, you have a real sense of early sports diving heritage on your wrist.
Every now and then we have one of these charmers in stock. The “other” dive watches, such as Zodiac, Doxa, Squale, Yema, Favre-Leuba and many more. These are some of the best dive watches under 2500 euros if vintage is your jam.
And then there are the dozens of white label divers from the era. Affordable watches produced for retailers, agents or distributors under alternative branding. A cool example is the Tradition diver we recently acquired and sold. You are probably familiar with Sears department stores in the US. While they sell plenty of well-known watch brands, they also commissioned Swiss power-house watchmakers such as Heuer and others to build them watches under their own label Tradition.
We pride ourselves in not limiting our collection to the big icons. We love having being able to offer both the familiar as well as the exotic. So whenever you visit our website or our boutique, you will surely spot a couple of these lesser-known divers. If you have the patience to wait for the right one to come by, you can have an absolute dream watch within the price range.
Stay tuned for our explorations of the best vintage watches under 5.000 and 10.000. And if you cannot get enough, let us know. We might drop a version with a 100.000 euro limit as a big finale to the series!