The Seven Best Vintage Watches Under 1,000 Euros — Grand Seiko, Omega, Tissot, And More…
Over these last couple of months, I have written a series of articles on vintage watches. The primary theme of the series is to find the very best watches of some of the bigger brands from every decade. It has been an absolute joy to write these articles and delve deeper into the brands’ offerings — and I am far from being done. Along the way, we have even seen quite a few vintage watches that turned out to be great affordable options. It’s safe to say that there are also a ton of fantastic alternative options that have not been featured in the series. With an ever-growing interest in vintage watches and many options available, it’s time to have a look at some of the best vintage options under €1,000.
If writing this series of articles has taught me anything, it’s that the breadth of choice, when it comes to great value vintage watches, is vast. The price for some is not so surprising, as the offerings from Seiko and Citizen tend to be affordable, for the most part. The fun doesn’t stop there, however, because €1,000 will give you access to great vintage watches from some of the best luxury brands like Grand Seiko and even Omega. There are so many great options that could have been on this list. It’s tough to narrow it down, but I tried to mix things up and come up with a list of vintage watches with great movements in a number of styles. The bottom line is that all seven of these watches would make a fine addition to any collection.
Seiko 6139-6040 Chronograph
The first pick for this list was an easy one. As most of you will undoubtedly know, Seiko was one of three parties involved in developing the first automatic chronograph movement. The fruit of Seiko’s labor came in 1969, in the form of the now legendary caliber 6139. It has become part of watch industry history, and Seiko equipped many of their late ’60s and early ’70s chronographs with the caliber 6139. The obvious option here would be the iconic Seiko 6139-600x “Pogue” with its yellow dial and blue and red Pepsi bezel. It’s still often available well under the €1,000 mark. But you have to remember these watches were worn as tool watches back in the 1970s, so often the wear and tear present tells the watch’s story. Prices go up to €2K for one in great condition.
I personally prefer the Seiko 6139-6040 you see pictured above. I love the round case, which is less defined by the era it was released in, and also that the overall look is slightly more subdued, making it more suited for a variety of situations. These go for anywhere between €500–€1,500 depending on their condition. But have a look at any of the other options that feature the same movement. The most fun part is that you can own a piece of watch history without breaking the bank. This is quite rare nowadays. While you’re at it, have a look at all the different Seiko options under €1,000. The brand has many great vintage pieces that are great potential additions to any collection, and all that without costing you an arm and a leg.
Benrus DTU-2A / MIL-W-3818B specifications
My second pick for this list was going to be the Benrus ref. 3061, better known as the Benrus “Bullitt”. The watch famously got its nickname from the 1968 movie Bullitt, featuring Steve McQueen as San Francisco cop Frank Bullitt. But the vintage craze has made this watch a lot more expensive over the years. Until recently you would be able to find it for well under €1,000. Nowadays, the civilian version of the military watch is quite hard to find, and if you do, they go for crazy amounts of money. Asking prices between €1.5K–€2K are not uncommon, which now seems rather steep, especially for a watch that until recently sold for €1,000 less. As the Benrus Bullitt is no longer an option, the best way to go is the military version of that same watch. Those are often available for under €1,000.
Benrus had been supplying the U.S. military with watches under both the Mil-W-3818B and GG-W-113 specifications. The watches earned their reputation as the watches worn by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War. The Benrus DTU-2A features a modest size 34.3mm case that is 11.3mm high. As a result, these watches are very pleasant to wear. Inside the frontloading case, you will find the Benrus DR 2F2 movement. It is essentially a Benrus-signed ETA 2372. It’s a reliable 17-jewel, hand-wound (hacking) movement. Another great feature is obviously its iconic dial design, free from the logo of the multiple watch manufacturers that produced them. It gives the watches their character, and combined with the case and a great NATO strap; this is one I would love to someday add to my own collection.
King Seiko Vanac 5626-7140
When it comes to King Seiko, you have so many great options. In the 1960s and ’70s, Grand Seiko and King Seiko were on a quest to create the best wristwatches in the world. The results were many brilliant watches that are worth checking out today — even outside this budget. I featured some of these in my articles about the best King Seiko and Grand Seiko watches from both the 1960s and the 1970s, so check them out if you are interested. An absolute great pick is the KS 4420-9990. It’s the watch that resulted in the famous Grand Seiko 4420-9000. But the King Seiko is living proof that the quality level of these watches was on par with Grand Seiko, and the KS 4420-9990 tends to sell for a lot less. You will have to search a little longer for one under €1,000 though, but finding one is possible.
Most of you will know vintage Grand Seiko and King Seiko for their dress watches, but there’s another side to King Seiko. My pick is the King Seiko Vanac 5626-7140. The Vanac line holds a select number of models that were produced between 1972 and 1974. They all feature angular cases, colorful dials, gold bezels, facetted crystals and came with very well-designed, high-quality bracelets. Many enthusiasts claim that the quality level is on par with the Grand Seiko models of that time. The angular case of the 5626-7140 measures 38×42mm, so its size remains modern, even almost five decades later. The watch is powered by the automatic King Seiko Caliber 5626. Prices for one can range from roughly €600–€1,000 depending on the dial execution and the condition. But what you get in return in terms of funky ’70s style is priceless!
Tissot Seastar Chronograph
The next watch on the list is one of those watches that you can just about get within the budget. But I wouldn’t want to leave the Tissot Seastar Chronograph out of this list. This is one of the coolest watches that you can find for the money. This particular Seastar Chronograph was part of the Tissot collection in the late 1960s. The watch features a 36mm tonneau-shaped case that measures 43mm lug-to-lug. If you look closely, you will see that the bezel is partially recessed into the case at 3 and 9 o’clock. A spectacular feature that you do not see often. The matte black dial features two contrasting white subdials—the left displays the running seconds, and the right displays the chronograph’s minutes.
The first five minutes on the right subdial are blue to highlight the five-minute period after the starting gun is fired during regattas. This helps sailors visualize the time they have to reach the starting line before the second gun is fired. The orange central chronograph hand and the little orange 15-minute mark in the right subdial provide nice hints of color. Inside the case, Tissot used the manual wound Caliber 872, essentially a Lemania 1277 movement. This movement has 17 jewels, runs at 18.000bph, and has a power reserve of 39 hours. It’s an extremely rare movement that was only produced in 1969 for a small number of Tissot chronographs. You can find this Tissot Seastar Chronograph starting at roughly €900, and pieces in great condition go for roughly €1.5K–€2K. So you might have to look around a bit to find one within the set budget.
Grand Seiko 5645-7010
Finding a Grand Seiko under €1,000 nowadays is becoming increasingly more difficult. There are only a handful of models that go for less than €1K. Your best bet is probably the brilliant Grand Seiko 5645-7010. The watch is part of Grand Seiko’s 56GS line that was produced from 1970 until 1974. The 56GS line of one of the brand’s most diverse lines, as there were 35 different case shapes available. The 5645-7010 features a stylish case developed with Tanaka’s famous Grammar Of Design in mind. The watch came in two dial variations. The most common is the white dial version, which is quite easy to find. The blue dial version is a lot rarer and therefore tends to fetch a higher price.
For the 5645-7010, Grand Seiko used two of the three movements that they produced for the 56GS line. The first was the time-only 5641A, and The second was the time-and-date 5645A, and the third was the 5646A that featured both day and date indication. Grand Seiko used the last two for these watches. The movement has 25 jewels, a power reserve of 46 hours, and an automatic Hi-Beat movement that operates at 28,800vph. At the time, that number was higher than most of the movements available and why Grand Seiko labeled it Hi-Beat. If you are looking to find a true piece of affordable Grand Seiko history, this is your best bet. You can typically find a Grand Seiko 5645-7010 between €500–€1,000. As there are plenty to choose from, it should be easy to find one in good condition.
Omega Constellation Manhattan
The first thing that pops up when discussing vintage Omega watches for under €1,000 is the Seamaster line. There are plenty of great Seamaster options from the 1960s and ’70s that could provide a perfect entry into the world of vintage watches. My dad bought his Omega Seamaster De Ville in 1966, so for me, that’s the first watch I think of when discussing affordable vintage Omega watches. Overall, there is a great number of Seamaster models that offer plenty of vintage charm with great movements for a great price. But I decided to go for something a bit more different and chose the Omega Constellation Manhattan. The Constellation Manhattan was Omega’s flagship collection, introduced in 1982. The characteristic design featured several great elements that made it a true 1980s icon.
Omega designer Carol Didisheim designed the watch with the help of (then) Omega product director Pierre-Andre Aellen. He came up with the idea of the “claws”, so the bezel could be printed on the underside of the glass. The result is a very slim design that almost wears like a bracelet. The watch is small, with its size just under 33mm. But it wears bigger with its tonneau-shaped case and integrated bracelet. You can choose from steel or two-tone steel and gold models that, in turn, come with gold, champagne, or black dials. The Constellation Manhattan was powered by the ultra-thin quartz Caliber 1422 or the later Caliber 1431. I love this first series of Constellation Manhattan models as they represent the 1980s in the purest form. Finding one for under €1,000 has recently become more complicated. But you can still sometimes find them for sale between €750–€1,000.
Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver
The last watch on the list is a brilliant 1970s dive watch from Citizen. If you are in the market for a sporty vintage watch but want something other than a Seiko diver, this is the perfect option. Plus, as many of the vintage Seiko diving watches from the 1960s and ’70s have become much more expensive over the last couple of years, many of them would not fit the budget anymore. But the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is the perfect option. Fratello’s own Mike actually owns two out of the three variations that were produced. He wrote a great in-depth piece about these watches, explaining what makes them so great and what the differences between the variants are. All three come in a 40mm stainless steel case that is 13mm thick and features a 20mm lug width. This makes it the perfect size for a daily wearer, even today.
The watch features a black dial with oversized hour markers. They are filled with green lume to create a bold contrast. Furthermore, it features a black bezel and Mercedes-style hands. While the overall look might come across as somewhat generic, you will be surprised just how quickly your eye will jump to the unique elements combined in this specific 150-meter Citizen. Inside the case, Citizen equipped the watch with its in-house 21-jewel caliber 6000 automatic. It’s a reliable movement that operates at 21,600vph, can be hand-wound, and features a quick set date. The Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver was introduced in the early seventies and remained in production until 1977. During that time, many were produced, so finding one is not all that difficult. Prices have gone up quite a lot over these last couple of years, but you should still be able to find one well under €1,000.
As mentioned in my intro, there are so many more great vintage watches that could be on this list. The whole Seiko universe offers so many great options that mentioning three is not doing the brand justice. And obviously, I have only discussed two of the many options that Omega offers for the budget. And if you are into proper vintage chronographs, check out some of the Leonidas chronographs from the 1940s and 1950s. Or you can look for vintage chronographs from obscure brands that feature some of the iconic Venus and Valjoux chronograph movements. The options are endless, and the fun unlimited. But I would also like to hear your opinion when it comes to some of the best options for under €1,000. So let me know in the comment section what your picks would be within the set budget.