VINTAGE IS BETTER
It’s all About the Cushion Shape
Beautifully designed watches have long been loved by devoted vintage watch collectors. For the longest time it was mostly them that vied for them, but new and exciting times are upon us. The watch market soared during the pandemic years bringing in a fresh new wave of young and astute collectors who were able to see beyond the Daytona and Nautilus craze. These new collectors saw something far more important than a quick ﬂip, they saw a watch market ripe with beautifully designed vintage watches that had ﬂown under the radar for many years.
Many of the most remarkable watches have one thing in common: a cushion shape case. These are just quite literally square case watches with rounded corners. Nothing more, nothing less. While the design is simple to explain, the subsequent feeling of having one on the wrist is not. Here’s a watch design that has remained unchanged for over 100 years. Some of the most beautiful modern day watches are cushion cased watches.
Probably one of the most beautiful watches on the site. The cushion case Tavannes is a fantastic example. Starting with the fact that it's in wonderful condition. That slim sterling silver case and oversized “onion” crown is thick and feels sturdy on the wrist. Its dial adds to how fantastic the watch is. The base is composed of a ﬂawless enamel coating and is adorned by black Roman numerals demarcating the hours and fantastic gold dot indices demarcating the minutes. All in all the combination of the white enamel with the black and gold detailing is truly phenomenal. The watch is 100 years and still feels wearable in 2022. The true deﬁnition of timeless.
It is ﬁtting this Cyma Cushion is alongside the Tavannes Cushion. Here’s the why as told by a vintage watch nerd. The relationship between both companies was incredibly close. Tavannes supplied Cyma with movements while Cyma churned out remarkably designed watches that would sometimes bear the “Cyma Tavannes” brand on the dial. The companies were intertwined and often seen as one unit.
The Elgin departs from the Cyma and Tavannes in the sense that this example though a cushion case was likely used as a tool watch by its former owner “FSF” (peak the case back engraving). What we mean is the examples above exude luxury. The Tavannes is outﬁtted with an enamel dial and the Cyma is cased in gold. The Elgin however is outﬁtted with a straightforward steel case and a silver dial which incorporates radium heavy Arabic numerals and hour hands. With that said we could surmise that FSF was someone who relied heavily on his watch to conduct his day to day.
The mix of a gold case and an enamel dial plays along beautifully. The white of the dial and black roman numeral indices really pops making this Waltham an incredibly charismatic watch. Here is a watch that’s not large in size but it’s the kind that will mold perfectly to any environment. Want it to ﬁt under your suit shirt? Done it ﬁts. Want to wear it with a denim shirt over a weekend barbecue? done it ﬁts. Though not exclusive to cushion case watches one of the many reasons why we love vintage watches is that you can mold them to ﬁt any environment.
Diving watches are symbols of extreme resilience. You can put them through any situation knowing that not only will they survive but will also thrive and come back with a few battle scars to show for it! It is often said that watches are a man’s most personal material item. This notion rings true particularly with diving watches.
The “mini diver” is a fun sub-category of the hard core diver watch segment. These are watches that can still take a beating and can still tag along on a casual immersion in shallow waters. They are remarkably fun to wear and are usually smaller in size. The Champion Diver is the perfect example of a mini-diver. It features an understated dial, measures 37mm is ﬁtted with a rotating bezel and is powered by an automatic movement.
Arguably one of the most charismatic mini-divers we have seen in a while. That extraordinary sun-burst blue dial and rotating bakelite bezel make for a fantastic watch. Though hailing from the 1970’s the Constantina diver remains as relevant as ever. From its beads of rice bracelet to its automatic movement to its oversized crown and sturdy steel case this watch simply ticks all the boxes of why we love a good vintage diving watch.
With a 40mm steel case the Le Gran diver is technically not a mini diver but it’s not a full blown diver either. It’s however a perfect weekend watch. Powered by an automatic movement housed within a slim case that molds beautifully to the wrist. However, the dial is the winner here. The combination of creamy oversized hour markers and its silver rail-like minute demarkations oﬀer quite a fantastic sight.
Every category has its M.V.P. watch. Though it might have seemed like we were rooting for the Constantina we actually like this one here just as much! The Vantage Sport Skin Diver is perfect for both the aesthetic collector and nerdy collector. From an aesthetic point of view this watch just works. From its design, to its bracelet, to its roaring bezel it all comes together perfectly. From a nerdy point of view the dial layout is absolutely killer! Look at that matte dial with tritium everywhere and those sword hands and indices! And all within a very well proportioned 38mm case. How cool is that! Disclaimer: we love all our watches equally! If we could keep them all we would!
Mini divers step aside. The diver king is here, enter the Seiko Scuba Diver! Honestly the cult following behind Seiko is fascinating and for good reason. These watches are absolute work horses. They are aﬀordable, will undoubtedly outlive you, and are impeccably designed. What else could you want for $500 bucks?
Down in the Trenches
The history of the trench watch is as fascinating as it is dramatic. These watches rose to fame during the 1910’s as World War I raged on. Soldiers headed to conﬂict needed time keepers and carrying around pocket watches was no longer ideal. The solution came in the form of the wristwatch. Much like their pocket watch predecessors these trench watches were ﬁtted with enamel or porcelain dials, this made for a beautiful but delicate watch. Crazy to think many survived unscathed.
What makes this watch distinctive is not its size, movement, nor aesthetic. What stands out here is its yellowish plastic crystal. You see, at night during war time the radium luminescence emanating from the dial would prove to be a hazard. Lurking around the trenches the enemy could spot the hunkered down solider, and in a result giving away the entire squadron’s position. Watch manufacturers would try to darken the dial luminosity by outﬁtting the watch with a dark crystal. In this case a yellow one.
Enter the M.V.P. of the Trench Watch category. A stunning Anonymous Trench watch ﬁtted with what is called a “sterile” dial. These dials were common amongst tool watches as they were meant to be just that. Nothing more and nothing less. If it’s already diﬃcult to ﬁnd a good Trench Watch it’s near impossible to ﬁnd an exceptional “sterile” dial Trench.
What we have here is an early watch made for race car driving. Elgin was a promoter of watches destined for race car drivers. This is marvelous considering this watch hails from the 1910’s. Its enamel dial is in phenomenal condition but what stands out the most are its oversized graphics on the dial and its oversized winding crown, which aided the racers legibility as they sped away.