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Vintage Watches A 1959 Audemars Piguet, A 1970s Eterna Kontiki 20, And A 1954 Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'Bubbleback'

Something out of the ordinary for the final vintage drop of 2021.


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This Week's Vintage Watches

Today is the day we round out a remarkable year for vintage watches in the HODINKEE Shop. The vintage team is going to take a bit of a listing break around the turn of the new year. If you have an alarm set for 11 AM EST every Wednesday, feel free to keep it on. We will still bring a vintage-themed article to your HODINKEE Apps and in the coming weeks. Get them while they are hot, this will be our last vintage listing until January 19th, 2022.

Click through the slideshow below or to the Shop for this week's selection and do not think we are simply taking a vacation for a few weeks. Rather, Saori, Rich, and Sean will be working to source the best vintage watches possible, just as they have the whole of 2021. Just imagine what they will bring with three weeks of lead time! As of January 19th, we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming with vintage hitting the Shop each and every Wednesday.

Read on for the team's picks from this well-rounded and heavy-hitting final drop of the year. While a 1978 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph 'Daytona' Sigma Dial hides behind the curtain, Rich was drawn to a simple dress watch from AP, Saori picked an Eterna Kontiki 20, and Sean, a true old soul, picks out a 1954 Rolex "Bubbleback."

1959 Audemars Piguet Ref. 5043BA In 18k Yellow Gold
By Rich Fordon

New Year's Eve celebrations are right around the corner and to celebrate an excellent 2021, I picked this – a champagne and caviar watch. While looking at a new Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache chronograph evokes some sense of aspirational sophistication, nothing compares to the feeling of holding a vintage dress watch like this one from Audemars Piguet. To me, knowing that someone else bought this watch, wore this watch, and (hopefully) cherished this watch evokes an even greater sense of elegance.

Yes, this AP is cased in 18k yellow gold with a very chic and understated dial design but, most importantly, the ultra-thin case is just 3.75mm thick! On my 7.25 inch wrist, judging the fit of this 31mm case diameter watch is not a matter of small or large but rather comfort. The dial, bezel, and lugs take up most of the flat, top part of my wrist and I have no trouble seeing the time thanks to the simplicity of the design. Best of all, the watch is barely there unless I look at it. This AP slips under and out from even the closest cuffs without a single snag.

We offered a similar example of this same ultra-thin dress watch from Audemars a few months ago. That one was very difficult to see go and I have a hard time not keeping this one for myself but, hey, after some time at HODINKEE I really have learned restraint. Comparing the two, our previous watch featured black printing on the hour markers while this week's are in a case-matching gold tone. For me, the gold really pops off of the surface more, especially when the light hits it. Furthermore, the case of the one we have here has developed a great patina that our previous watch sadly did not have. I think this is what I am most drawn to, here. The patina tells me of the life this watch has lived, the nights of black-tie dressing and dancing the watch has accompanied. Make up your own fantastical history of this Audemars Piguet or begin a new champagne-and-caviar story right here in the HODINKEE Shop.

1970s Eterna Kontiki 20 Ref. 130-FTT With Gay Frères Bracelet
By Saori Omura

Who can ignore a watch called "KonTiki"? It already sounds like a promising fun adventure ahead of us without having any idea what it means. Maybe I'm a bit more conscious of names in general because my name is unusual name by American standards and people are always asking me where it comes from and what it means. (For those people who are not aware, Saori is a Japanese name, but from what I've been told, it's just a name. As there is a wealth of knowledge in the watch community, if anyone knows the origin of my name, please let me know.) I digress … 

The name "KonTiki '' comes from the Sun God (also referred to as "Viracocha") from the ancient Incan myths. In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian writer and explorer ventured out on a mission from Peru's Pacific Coast to Polynesia. The purpose was to prove the migration of humans to Polynesia happened from South America and not from Asia as it was theorized. Mr. Heyerdahl must have been a purist, and he decided to create a wooden raft made of balsa wood – which would've been used by the ancient explorers – to recreate the voyage, and the raft was named "KonTiki." During this exploration, six crew members wore the watches produced by Eterna, and the crewmembers and the watches survived. After this successful voyage, the Eterna-matic "KonTiki'' was born.

Aside from the fantastic background story of where this Eterna-matic "KonTiki" came from, the watch we have here is one cool watch. First off, how cool is the dial color? The color gradation is almost similar to the feel of Rolex's "vignette" dial. It has a burgundy color in gradation with a lacquered finish which is so rare for a dive watch category but someone thought about looking chic underwater. The "20" on the dial refers to the depth rating of 20 atmospheres, which is equivalent to 600 ft. underwater. And the medallion with the KonTiki boat motif on the back is a neat detail, as well. Also, it comes with a handsome steel Gay Frères bracelet which ties this KonTiki back to its vintage roots.

I always love finding out the history of how certain watches came to be, and this model has an amazing real adventure story behind it. With a memorable funky name and a stunning vintage burgundy dial, you won't come across one like this too often. You can find this stunning watch here.

1954 Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'Bubbleback' Ref. 2940
By Sean Egan

Like with almost anything even closely related to watches, there is some healthy debate as to what a sport watch is. Do they need to be made of steel? Do they need a screw-down crown? Is there or should there be a requirement for shock resistance? This definition has clearly shifted over the years, and can even vary from enthusiast to enthusiast. In any case, it's Hans Wilsdorf's watches that have come to define the category. Hans himself put in a lot of work to make his watches the most durable, and adventure-worthy timepieces out there. He made it a point to gift watches to people who were set to accomplish great feats. Which is how Rolex accompanied Mercedes Gleitze across the English Channel, and how one flew over Everest 20 years before Edmond Hillary ascended its summit. Ringling Brothers-level marketing genius aside, this cemented Rolex as the sport watch company. 

More specifically the bubble back is the earliest of their watches that are, to me, identifiably Rolex watches. Sure, they have the screw-down case backs and crowns and luminescent hands that we all recognize but it's something about the bubble back case shape that communicates that it's ready to accompany you, no matter what. For this particular example, we have a spectacular set of Arabic numerals that once glowed with radium painted on a salmon copper dial and the now-signature Mercedes hour hand. Go get yourself the original Rolex steel watch, right here.

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