Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

5 Cool Finds – Aviation Chronographs and Vintage Diver

| By Ilias Giannopoulos | 11 min read |

We continue this week with the seventh instalment of our market finds, in collaboration with auctioneer Catawiki. By now, you already know the story. Uber cool watches that deserve our (and your) interest. This week, we look a bit at the past than previously, with more vintage (but still very cool) watches, as we have an extremely rare and vintage NOS diver from French company LIP, a highly technical titanium chronograph designed by Butzi Porsche, a tool aviation chronograph by Fortis, a Sinn 903 chronograph and finally a vintage Chronomatic Navitimer by Breitling.

Porsche Design by Eterna Titanium Chronograph, 2000

As we have already mentioned, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was one of the greatest industrial designers of the 20th Century. Optimal readability, technical perfection, the highest quality materials and a puristic design with an absolute focus on functionality were his and Porsche’s Design driving values when they designed watches. His famous design office cooperated from the start with Orfina, however, this ended in 1978 when another chapter started in the history of watch design, this time with IWC. After many legendary watches being born, the IWC chapter ended as well in 1995. In the autumn of that year, the Porsche family had acquired the Eterna brand. When the agreement with the Schaffhausen Company ended in March 1998, ‘Porsche Design made by IWC’ was a thing of the past. It was now ‘Porsche Design manufactured by Eterna’.

Porsche Design Titanium - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 2

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This cool chronograph we have today comes from that period, however all the design elements that Porsche used in his designs are there. Functionality, readability, and technical perfection are qualities that this watch has in spades, and most importantly is quite affordable. The case size is at 41mm without the crown, the height is at 15,5mm while the weight is at 135 grams. It has a sapphire crystal, a tachymeter bezel with 120 clicks, screw-down caseback and crown, while the dial is black with luminous markers and hands. The all titanium bracelet is approx. 15 cm (closed without additional link), however it comes with an additional link.

Porsche Design Titanium - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 1

The chronograph’s heart is the Valjoux cal.7750. It uses an automatic-winding module attached to the top of the movement. It has 42 hours of power reserve while its layout is straightforward and offers great legibility. This legendary caliber runs at 28,800 bpm and it has a great reputation, being nearly indestructible.

This cool tool chronograph is in great condition and comes with box. If you are looking for an extremely well made titanium watch that was designed by one of the true greats for a relative great price, please do check it out here.

Sinn ref. 903 Chronograph

The second watch in these week’s 5 cool finds is yet again a chronograph – yes, we do love chronographs here at Monochrome, especially ones that have a peculiar history like this one, the Sinn ref. 903. The funny thing is that if someone sees that for the first time, he might think that the company from Frankfurt simply ripped of a famous design by Breitling, but this is not how the story goes.

Sinn ref. 903 chronograaf - Lemania 1873 - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 3

In 1952 the Swiss company Breitling released the well-known Navitimer. During Breitling’s 1979 downturn, Mr Helmut Sinn, founder of Sinn Watches, bought the rights to use the dial layout of Breitling’s 806 and 809 Navitimer watches, as well as acquiring the tools to produce the Lemania hand wound movements used within these watches. When Breitling restarted production in 1986, a court case was initiated between Breitling and Mr Sinn to establish ownership and production rights for the Navitimer. The outcome was that both companies could build this timepiece, but only Breitling under the Navitimer name. This didn’t stop Sinn to develop and to produce a “better Breitling” i.e. a navigation chrono to Sinn standards. This explains the resemblance of Sinn’s timepiece with the Navitimer. Thus, the 903 is not an illegal copy of Breitling and in fact Sinn still owns the rights to produce these watches today.

This chronograph encapsulates all the design qualities of a legendary chronograph, a great calibre and, last but not least, a very competitive price, especially in relation to genuine Navitimers. In this particular example, that dates from the 1980s, the Lemania 1873 is used (used also as the base for the Omega Speedmaster Professional), and it is the perfect movement for this kind of aviation watch.

This Sinn 903 chronograph is 41mm in diameter while the height is at 14,5mm. It has antimagnetic protection, a rotating bezel with logarithmic scale, slide-rule functions for aviators and antireflective sapphire crystal case front and back to expose the movement. The watch runs accurately and the chronograph function works perfectly. The watch looks very good but has some signs of wear – including a nice patina of the dial. It comes with the original box. If someone wants a true classic, which in parallel is perfectly executed and constructed, without a hefty price tag, this is the perfect suggestion, and can be bought here.

Lip Nautic. New old stock 1966

This watch belongs to those great vintage timepieces of the past that have so much charisma and history behind them. Surely, it is one of the coolest finds up until now. What makes it uber cool is that it is completely New Old Stock – together with being extremely rare. If you are French, there’s a good chance that someone you know closely wore a watch made by Lip, which isn’t surprising when you consider they are estimated to have produced some 10 million watches, the vast majority of which were sold in France.

Lip Nautic Super Compressor 1966 - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 1

From small beginnings in the 1860s, Lip went on to become the biggest watch manufacturer in France, and the only French watch company able to play a role outside France. They had an excellent reputation for quality, reliability and accuracy, and supplied movements to companies such as Bulova, Waltham and Elgin. They were innovative, producing Europe’s first electric watch, and the first French quartz watch, and had some of the most modern production facilities at the time in Europe, if the not the world. But none of this could save them, and in the 1970s, in the midst of union action and nationwide press coverage, Lip collapsed.

For the “serious” watch collector, the most collectable Lips are probably the Breitling and Blancpain watches Lip marketed in the 1950s and late 1960s, and also the Nautic watches. The Nautic series were initially released by Lip in 1938 with mechanical movements. They were sports watches but were far from being waterproof. However, in the late 1960’s the company produced a more updated version of the Nautic, based on a Super compressor, two-crown case by “EPSA”. E. Piquerez SA was a Swiss company specialized in manufacturing dive watch cases. In the 60’s they had 3 types of cases called the “Compressor”, “Compressor 2” and “Super-Compressor.” EPSA sold their cases to the most prestigious brands and manufactures as Enicar, IWC, Bulova, Hamilton, Omega Longines Universal, Tissot, Eterna, Jaeger Le Coultre, Zenith, Zodiac and many others.

The iconic Nautic we present here produced in 1966 and transformed this line of divers watches for the company. With its water resistance of 200 meters and its internal rotating bezel, the Nautic was superb. The first batch produced in small quantities and used the 16-jewel R17 mechanical movement with date function, which was produced from 1964 and had extremely small thickness (2,9mm) for a calibre of that type. A year later (1967) the line had the –Ski version, which had the R184 electro-mechanical movement for improved accuracy, and much later we also had an automatic version.

This watch is truly NOS. The black dial is like new. Its signed Lip Nautic and these inscriptions are in silver. The interior bezel is in superb condition and perfect working order. The baton hour markers are silver with tritium; the hands are silver and luminous as well, as is the second hand. The date display is black on a white background; the acrylic glass dome is like new while the stainless steel case is perfect. The case measures 36.5 mm, and the two crowns are in working order. The movement has been fully serviced before sale. Great find, great price, great look, listed here.

Fortis B-42 Chronograph

Undoubtedly, Fortis is a great company that produces very well made tool watches. Walter Vogt founded fortis in 1912. Twelve years after its establishment, Vogt set up production with John Harwood, inventor of the automatic wristwatch. In 1926, Fortis released the patented Harwood Automatic, the first self-winding wristwatch, at Baselword. In 1937, Fortis commemorated the company’s 25th anniversary by manufacturing and marketing its first chronographs, including the Rolls and the Autorist.

Fortis B-42 Chronograph - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 1

Since the early 1990’s the development has been consistently oriented towards sports instrument watches, similar to for instance Sinn. Fortis has developed a clear design style, which allows anyone to identify the watches immediately. A style that is based upon characteristics we find in classic pilot watches. Particularly distinctive is the striking clarity of their displays: the dials are mostly black, with bright white numerals, clean-cut indexes and bright-white hands really that stand out.

Fortis B-42 Chronograph - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 2

The watch in question today encompasses all of the above qualities. It is extremely well made with a 42mm diameter case, while thickness is 15mm and lug-to-lug size is 54mm. It is constructed from high quality stainless steel with a screw down caseback with mineral crystal. On the front, we find an anti-glare coated crystal on both sides for increased visibility. The crown and the pushers are oversized for ease of use. The dial is a study in minimal design. It has an instrument-like black face with high contrast hands and markers, while we find a tachymeter-scale. The movement is a classic Swiss workhorse (cal. 7750) which is customized in order to display split day and date. The watch, despite its aviation character, is water resistant to 200 meters. It comes with a rubber OEM strap with butterfly clasp, tailor made for a wrist circumference up to 20cm. It is in good condition with minimal signs of wear and also comes complete with box, outer box and receipt. If you want the perfect hybrid sports chronograph, you might have to consider this, by looking at the auction here.

Breitling Navitimer Chrono-Matic. 1970

The Navitimer from Breitling belongs to an elite group of watches that transcend time and fashion. It will always be a relevant, timeless and classic chronograph. In its long history, it simply created a market segment for aviation chronographs, while it took many forms in order to be able to conform to current trends and standards. Its transformation however was not radical. There were always elements from the archetypal models.

Breitling Navitimer 1970s Chronomatic - 5 Cool Finds Catawiki - 1

Leon Breitling founded the company in 1884 in Saint-Imier, in the Bernese Jura, and right from the start, they specialized in chronographs. After a few years, in 1915, the company introduced the first wrist-chronograph watch, while in 1923 they perfected its design by separating the stop / start functions from the reset function (combination of a pusher in the crown and a single pusher at 2). In 1934, this design went a step further by adding a second pusher at 4, to reset the chronograph – the norm for actual chronographs.

The innovations continued, and in 1936, the Royal Air Force became affiliated with the company by using its chronographs. In 1942 Breitling introduced the first watch with a circular slide rule, the Chronomat; and the identification of the company with aviation had become more than obvious. The legendary Navitimer was introduced in 1954, contrary to popular belief (and official Breitling statements.) This iconic chronograph was the result of a request made by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (A.O.P.A) to have a “wearable chronograph with Navigation Computer” (slide rule).

In 1969, the Swiss industry changed forever, with the introduction of the automatic chronograph: the legendary Calibre 11 was born. One unique feature of this movement is its left-positioned crown (the pushers are, as usual, located on the right side of the case). The introduction of this movement changed massively the face of the Navitimer that moved from a three-register layout to a two register one with date at 6. During the 1970s, the brand introduced the present example, a massive 48mm watch (reference 1806). Hopefully, the iconic and so practical slide rule bezel was always part of the package.

This automatic chronograph, which is a member of the illustrious Navitimer family, is in excellent condition with no considerable signs of wear, no scratches or any damage. It runs well and keeps proper time. The price is very competitive and it is in excellent shape. What more can you possibly want from a vintage chronograph that was manufactured in the 1970s, but which has a fresh design, it left from Breitling’s factory a few months ago? Listed here.

To see more watch auctions, keep an eye on Catawiki. Every week a few new auctions start and mainly the “men’s luxury watches auction” comprises the most interesting lots. We would really appreciate it if you fill out the questionnaire about Catawiki here, in order to understand how you like this relatively young online auctioneers.

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