In our #TBT series this year, we featured a quartz Breitling Colt, a unique design by Tian Harlan, and pleasingly original names like Telefoot. We highlighted never-before-seen complications like a Medana with a rotating day crystal, rare pieces like the Heuer Autavia with rounded numbers, and even virtually unknown models like the Gallet Big Date Chrono. It’s time to take a look back at the top 10 vintage watches that inhabited our #TBT column in 2023.

best vintage watches #TBT 2023 Breitling Colt 80180

The surprising Breitling Colt ref. 80180

It was never on my radar, but since I first put it on my wrist during a random visit from my friend, it felt like it was made for me. It is adventurous and masculine but also quite sleek and decent to wear. The Breitling Colt Military PVD ref. 80180 is intriguing, and its black PVD finish makes it look cool. Chips on the case only add to the charisma, and the large, lumed numbers ensure perfect legibility. It’s one of the best daily beaters that you can imagine.

Perfecta Big Date best vintage watches #TBT 2023

The mysterious Perfecta Big Date

Very few watches leave me clueless. I spent hours searching for this one online and in books and could find no info whatsoever. None of my highly educated, silver-haired collector friends who have seen the impossible could help. We had never seen such a movement before. It’s not signed, which didn’t help. It’s very close to the fascinating Venus big-date movement family, but it comes with a twist in the day/date disc arrangement. The discs do rotate against each other, as they do in Venus movements, but in this Perfecta, they also overlap! If you like big-date watches, it’s worth reading the story.

best vintage watches #TBT 2023 Gallet Big Date Chronograph

The puzzling Gallet Big Date Chronograph

Speaking of big-date pieces, in 2023, I also featured one of my most significant discoveries in the realm of vintage watches. To find a rare but known timepiece is satisfying. This time, however, I discovered something that even the most educated Gallet collectors had no clue about. Big-date Gallet dials puzzled me for seven years. I passed on them three times when these dials popped on eBay. I thought they were all fake. That was until I bought a page from a 1958 merchandise catalog and found shocking proof that they existed…

The eye-popping Derby Swissonic

Perhaps I should call it the “eye-rolling Derby” because, instead of via traditional hands, the time is displayed through the arrangement of multiple rotating discs. It reminds me of an old bedside flip clock, but in reality, it is an ingenious plastic speedometer “drum machine” powered by a seven-jewel transistorized electromagnetic module. It has a mind-boggling case, which will gladly serve as a desk clock. Introduced at the Basel Fair in 1974, this novelty is fragile and tricky to purchase. But once fully functional, it’s a lot of fun and a great example of outside-the-box thinking.

best vintage watches #TBT 2023 Medana Special Calendar

The silencing day/date Medana

When I saw it, my mind stopped. I could not process what I was looking at. The Medana Special Calendar has a one-in-a-galaxy rotating crystal and never-before-seen day/date display. So here you go. Seven sets of five numbers are printed on an outer track in bright blue and matched with seven weekdays printed in bright red…on the crystal! How the heck does it work? Well, by firmly pressing your fingers against the crystal and rotating it gently to align the day with that month’s corresponding dates. I have never seen anything so simultaneously naive, genuine, and crazy. The best part is that I bought it for a few hundred euros. But honestly, this Medana is priceless to me. I love to acquire such precious gems. All rare Patek or Rolex watches fade away with the scarcity of this Medana. There is just one piece in the world that I know of, and it’s mine.

The hidden no-pusher Nicolet chronograph

It took me years to find it, but the way I finally got it was grandioso. It was in pretty rough condition and hidden in an auction lot of five watches — exactly how we like it. The auction passed under the radar, and I scored the lot for a fraction of its value. The potential was high, but the result after 10 minutes of Plexi polishing was astonishing, revealing natural beauty in terms of both visuals and operation. No pushers are necessary; this genuine Landeron 251 allows you to start, stop, and reset the chronograph via the crown. Yes, the crown you wind it with. Oh, and did I mention that in the very same lot, I also found a rare Rolex WAB bracelet that I almost threw in the trash?

A pleasing unicorn named Telefoot

This was one of my luckiest catches in 2023. I opened Instagram at the right moment, and it smiled right at me from the feed of an Italian dealer that I like. If I’d opened the Instagram app 15 minutes later, I guess it would have been sold already. This watch had been on my wish list for a while but had never popped up. This one is super special because we consider it to be the only known example with lume. And what an example it is! The condition is phenomenal, and the lume has aged in the best way possible. The Telefoot’s central chrono hand makes just one revolution per hour. Technically, it’s not a chronograph as the central hand is always moving. However, with the pusher integrated into the crown, you can reset it to zero. The dial marks three minutes to time calls and 45 minutes to track football games. This watch is a true miracle from the late ’40s.

best vintage watches #TBT 2023 Breitling AVI 765 Lucy Digital

The scarce Breitling AVI 765 “Lucy Digital”

This year, I got lucky and scored my grail Breitling. I like watches with a twist, and a 15-minute counter disguised as a date at 3 o’clock deserves a standing ovation. And if I remind myself that the Lucy Digital is 40mm in diameter, I’ll salute it as well. Since I landed this watch, I have barely worn any other Breitling. That’s no surprise, I guess, as the condition is perfect, and the lume is aged as we like it best. I think that only a vintage Breitling rattrapante could dethrone it…

The dreamy round-typeface Heuer Autavia 2446M

If there is something I remember from my early collecting days, it is how I always dreamt about the Heuer Autavia 2446. The model I liked most had a spacious hour bezel. My dream version didn’t have a round typeface because I had no clue it even existed in those days. It was brought to my attention by my Scandinavian friend, who also gave me a basic story. We then investigated more deeply with the help of Jeff Stein, founder of OnTheDash and one of the foremost experts on vintage Heuer chronographs.

The bizarre St. Blaise Alertic Key-Watch

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spice up things with something that tears down all the stereotypes. About six years ago, I brought you the Marvin Tyre watch; in 2023, it was a special St. Blaise Key-Watch with the patented joint. It’s not the most practical invention, that’s for sure. But it’s pretty romantic. And if you have a classic car that you pamper, the St. Blaise Key-Watch will be a great addition to your miniature flat car key.

Tian Harlan Chromachron color-time watch

The colorful Chromachron by Tian Harlan

What started as an oversized Olympic clock placed on a square found its way to the wrist. Tian Harlan’s Chromachron color-time watch looks suspicious, especially in terms of functionality. Instead of hour indexes, it has a dial background divided into 12 triangles, each representing one hour. On top of it, there is a “negative” cutout of a singular triangle into a black disc. With this look and description, it seems like a pretty fuzzy concept, but the opposite is true. Give it a chance too!

How did you like the #TBT lineup in 2023?

I wanted this to be a list of the 10 best vintage watches we featured in 2023. Well, in the end, I couldn’t help myself, and I smuggled in one more piece, bringing the total to 11. I hope you don’t mind because when I look back at the 2023 #TBT lineup, I am pretty impressed with the mix we got together. The variety is pleasantly overwhelming. Did you enjoy it too?

Thank you for all the support you have shown us through the years. #TBT is one of Fratello’s longest-lasting series, and we look forward to featuring a new batch of outstanding pieces lined up for 2024. Stay tuned.