Vintage wristwatches: some forgotten names worth remembering

For those who don't wish to join the hunt for Rolex tool watches or Heuer sports chronometers there are plenty of good timekeepers at auction that won’t break the bank.

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Sicura chronograph (detail) - £100-150 at Mellors & Kirk.

For every Rolex or Omega sold there were countless watches made by now forgotten Swiss firms. Not all were inferior imitations. Some even shared the same movements and case elements as their more expensive contemporaries.

Many of these brands were casualties of what has become known as the ‘quartz crisis’ when countless makers of good quality mechanical watches (and their suppliers) went to the wall as consumers embraced a new and cheaper technology. Others with histories as long as Cartier or Patek Philippe have simply faded from prominence.

If you don't want to ‘pay for the brand’ here are a selection of five names to consider.

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Sicura chronograph - £100-150 at Mellors & Kirk.


Sicura is best known as the firm which bought the rights to the defunct Breitling label as the quartz crisis wreaked its havoc. It was also a maker of more than a million everyday watches a year in the 1960s and 70s.

The early 1970s ‘jump hour’ with propeller seconds is probably the most known model. However the firm also made a series of chronographs, many of them powered by the deluxe Valjoux 7734 movement used by better known firms such as Breitling, IWC and Panerai.

This mono chrono with its chunky 1970s styling is guided at £100-150 at Mellors & Kirk on March 10. View the catalogue entry for this Sicura watch on


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Bulova Accutron - £40-60 at Reeman Dansie.


Introduced in 1960, the Bulova Accutron was among the first commercially successful electronic watch.

Rather than a typical balance wheel it used a tuning fork powered by a one-transistor electronic oscillator and a 1.55 volt batter - delivering an oscillating rate nearly 150 times faster than that of a typical mechanical watch.

The best known and most desirable of these is the so-called Spaceview for its green colour scheme and ‘circuit board’ dial. 

However, watches in different cases are very affordable. This one in a tonneau shape gold plated case is guided at £40-60 at Reeman Dansie in Colchester on March 10-11.

View the catalogue entry for this Bulova watch on

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Avia Special aviator watch - £60-£80 at Dix Noonan Webb.


A company with a history dating back to the end of the 19th century, Avia made good mechanical lever movement watches under their own brand name and provided watches and movements for other brands. 

This ‘aviator’s watch’ from the late 1930s-early 1940s labelled the Avia Special is a type also made by Zenith, Movado and Omega. The moveable bezel marker allowed pilots and navigators to easily log the passing of time - vital for calculating distances and fuel consumption in early aircraft.

Estimate £60-£80 at Dix Noonan Webb on March 16. 

View the catalogue entry for this Avia watch on

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Dodane French army officer chronograph - €3300-4200 at Lucas Aste.


Made to exacting standards, many Dodane chronographs have French military associations.

This two-button chronograph wristwatch powered by a Valjoux 23 with black enamel dial and rose gold case is a type made for officers of the French army in the 1940s.

Equivalent watches by better-known makers would today command five-figure sums. This one has a guide of €3300-4200 at Lucas Aste in Milan on March 5.

View the catalogue entry for this Dodane watch on



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Tissot Seastar automatic - £50-70 at David Duggleby.


Tissot, a brand with a history dating back 1853, was acquired by Omega in the wake of the Great Depression and is today part of the Swatch Group.

Between 1920 and 1977 the firm made its own movements for its popular range of Seastar watches - this one powered by the automatic calibre 783-1.

The serial number 9100651 dates it to the mid 1960s. Estimate £50-70 at David Duggleby in Scarborough on March 11. 

View the catalogue entry for this Tissot watch on


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