#TBT The Watches That Got My Wife Into Vintage — Prim, Elves, And Elgin
Before we met, my wife had one modern quartz Cartier Tank from 2010. I think she wore it exactly zero times over the last 12 months. Who is to blame? Today’s suspects: the vibrant rectangular Elves, the 1920s Parisienne fashion wonder by Elgin, and a couple of indestructable Prim workhorses from Czechoslovakia. All vintage!
My wife recently described her vintage watch renaissance with the sentence, “A mechanical vintage watch is a mechanical vintage watch.” Even though she often forgets to set the time and wind them up before she leaves the house. She doesn’t need to. “The experience is the same,” she objects with confidence. I can’t argue with that. I just like to tease her every time I see her pulling out my Omega Seamaster CK-2918 or the Breitling Chronomat ref. 769. I guess we will get to winding watches in the years to come.
If you don’t feel like your Omega “Ed White“ or your “Meters First“ Rolex Submariner are the best candidates for a vintage-watch trial for your wife, here are a couple of watches that my wife loves to rotate for your consideration.
Artistic sector vintage watch Elves
During one of my nightly auction raids, I spotted this unusual Elves watch for €19. It instantly grabbed my attention since I was sure my wife would love the unusual elongated shape and artistic sector dial with blue and orange tones. I took it to my watchmaker and after cleaning up the movement and dial, my wife received this quite extraordinary timepiece from the 1960s or 1970s as a gift.
Honestly, I had never heard of Elves watches before that. If you try to google the brand, you will find other solid examples, including some interesting dive watches. This particular piece astonishes me with its 4.6cm case length, making it quite the statement. Yet thanks to the curved case back and sides of the case, it sits perfectly on my wife’s tiny wrist. It almost looks like it’s embracing her hand. I paired it with a shiny orange textile strap that perfectly matches the orange framing at six and twelve o’clock.
Function and form on the dial
It is the thick blue frame printed on the brushed silver dial that creates the base for the hour indexes. Six thin black lines divide the dial into 12 sectors. Not only is it visually interesting, but it also helps when it comes to reading the time. Without those black lines, it would be much harder to correctly locate the extremely short black baton hands.
And watches like this needn’t break the bank. All that beauty combined with a basic mechanical movement for under €20 — that’s what I call the bargain of the year. Don’t forget, keeping your eyes open to anything can pay off big time.
Vintage Elgine Parisienne
If you want to acquire something with a great story, this late 1920s watch designed for Elgin by Lelong would do the trick. Monsieur Lucien Lelong was a fashion genius, that employed almost 1,200 people in his time and his prominent clientele included names such as Greta Garbo and Rose Kennedy. His line for the Elgin watch company consisted of six designs. This particular one seems very modern and appealing even by today’s standards.
This 14k white gold fill case is one of the two Parisiennes that my wife has. It is cut in half in the front with red and blue enamel. Both the straight and arc enamel finishes are complete, perfectly flat, and have kept their rich tones till this day.
If you tend to swing toward the more elegant side of things, there is an Elgin Parisienne with all black detailing. My wife is very fond of both of them. She likes the vibrant tones on the blue and red version, but particularly enjoys the thin vintage bracelet on the other one. If you like them, look into Elgin Pariesenne’s full review we explored in #TBT last year.
Unlimited vintage Prim selection
In 1949 there were only seven countries in the world that could produce watches — Switzerland, Germany, the US, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and Japan. Do you know what the eighth country to join that group was? Believe it or not, it was Czechoslovakia. Prim watches have been in production since then and the variety of women’s watches throughout the brand’s portfolio is actually quite spectacular.
Indestructible and easy to fix
The Czechoslovak designer experimented a lot with colors, fonts, and dial compositions. It developed its own caliber, which is reliable and easy to fix. For local watchmakers, the Prim was like a Valjoux — an indestructible workhorse. In my experience, when it comes to my wife, a certain level of durability comes in handy.
These three 28mm Prim pieces are some of my wife’s most beloved. Each one is different and entered our collection as a celebration of a smaller or bigger event, like our first mortgage or our first wedding (I believe couples should re-marry now and then). The deep blue dial with its characteristic numbers and striking orange hands appears in multiple sizes. The no-date piece on the left side with a recessed middle dial disc is quite unusual and seldom seen. Both watches have a distinct CSSR marking that stands for the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
The piece on the right side is also 28mm in diameter. It’s a very sought after piece among local collectors and resurfaces very rarely. The Prim Aeskulap ref. 664431 that reminds me of more famous vintage Longines models, was first introduced in 1981. It was specially designed for nurses to measure a patient‘s pulse. A decent Prim Aeskulap full set can easily go above €600. That’s quite steep considering the watch’s diameter and humble origin.
Are there any other original vintage watches your partners love to wear? Or even better, the female watch collectors reading this #TBT, come let yourselves be known. Please, share your beloved pieces with us in the comments below.