Every vintage chronograph tells not just the time, but a story of the era and place it came from. Collecting chronographs is collecting history. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have some impressive timepieces in your collection already, but are looking to expand both your collection and your knowledge of vintage watches.
In this article, I’m going to share some striking chronographs with you from brands with which you may not be all that familiar. Some of these you may have heard of; others may be completely new to you.
Along with growing your vintage watch knowledge, another advantage of collecting chronographs from unknown brands is that oftentimes, they are more affordable than the iconic pieces from legendary watchmakers.
So, whatever your budget and level of knowledge, this article should point you in the direction of some chronographs which are as attainable as they are beautiful. Let’s get started!
Golana Rainbow Rallye Chronograph (Valjoux 7734)
Apparently Golana is a Swiss watch brand. Aside from that, it is hard to find any information about the company, but most buyers report that their Golana watches run reliably and tend to be affordable.
This chronograph comes in a large steel case that measures 36mm without the crown and 45.3mm from lug to lug. If it looks familiar to you with its large, squarish design framing the dial, it may be because you have spotted it on Nivada chronographs.
Like the case, the watch face commands attention. The black dial makes for a high-contrast effect that really makes the yellow, orange and blue segments around the perimeter “pop.” Aside from “12,” all the other hours are simple white markers to keep the display as clean and readable as possible.
André Bouchard 1950s Chronograph (Valjoux 7730)
André Bouchard was apparently the house brand of the now-defunct E.J. Korvette department store, also known as Korvette’s. Timepieces by this brand usually were inexpensive, and thus are generally not all that high in monetary value today either. Nevertheless, some of them are stylish and attainable, as exemplified by this chronograph from the 1950s.
Measuring 35.5mm, it is a decently-sized watch contained in a chrome-plated case, and is powered by the Swiss Valjoux 7730 movement. There are no markings for 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock so as to make room for the sub-dials. The numbers 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 are written out in beautiful script, while markers are used for the remaining hours. The hour and minute hands on this watch are particularly striking with their tapered shape. This is a watch that is sure to catch attention anywhere you wear it, but is not too expensive to acquire.
Jungfrau (Valjoux 7736)
Jungfrau is another brand which seems to be virtually unknown today. The company shared its name with a mountain in Switzerland. While the Jungfrau never ascended to great heights of renown, the beautiful Chronograph 7736 is perhaps among their peak achievements.
The watch features a 40mm case, not including the crown, and a 20mm lug width. The watch face is black with white sub-dials. There are markers instead of numerals for the hours for a clean, simple look, and wide hands with a style which complements the hour markers.
Duval Rallye Reverse Panda (Valjoux 7733)
Research suggests that the Duval that made this watch was a UK distributor for Tag Heuer. In 1997, Tag bought out the company. The dials of Duval chronographs seem to bear a resemblance to those by Movado.
This watch measures 37.25mm, not including the crown, and 40.5mm from lug to lug. So, it is a pretty hefty chronograph. The dial is incredibly stylish in black with white sub-dials. The minute track has a cool “checkerboard” design with the hour markers in bright red and yellow. The white hands have red stripes running down them.
Clebar Chronodiver (Landeron 248)
Clebar is a name which is a little bit better known than some of the others in this list, but there is still not a lot of info regarding the brand. We do know the Clebar name was around as early as 1925, and that it was formally registered over two decades later in 1948. We also know that chronographs were Clebar’s main contribution to the world of watches.
Some of Clebar’s chronographs looked similar to Heuer Carreras, but were not as expensive to buy, making them accessible collectors’ items for those on a budget.
Here we have the Clebar Chronodiver, containing the Landeron 248 manual-winding movement. Its diameter without the crown measures 36mm, and the lug width is 19mm. The watch face and the rotating bezel are black, and the two sub-dials are white. In order to keep the chronograph function readable, markers are used for the hours instead of numbers.
Waltham Surfboard (Valjoux 7733)
Among the most well-known brands to make our list of forgotten chronograph makers is the Waltham Watch Company, also called the American Waltham Watch Co. as well as the American Watch Co.
This company operated as early as 1850, and manufactured consumer timepieces through 1957. The next year, a shift was made toward manufacturing instruments for aircraft control panels, and the company became known as Waltham Precision Instruments Company. After it sold in 1994, it became the Waltham Aircraft Clock Corporation.
During the re-organization in 1957-58, however, a subsidiary split off called Waltham International SA, which still makes and sells Waltham watches for consumers. Nevertheless, Waltham watches past and present are not as prominent as those manufactured by some competing companies.
Among the most distinctive vintage chronographs you can collect from Waltham is the Surfboard Dial from late 1960s. It is powered by the manual-winding Valjoux 7733 movement and is contained in a stainless steel screw-back case or in a gold-plated case (like on the picture above).
But what makes it stand out is, of course, its dial, which contains a black “surfboard” shape in the center of the white face. This surfboard shape surrounds and connects the two sub-dials. Simple markers for the hours and striped hour and minute hands accent the geometric effect, while a red second hand offers another startling contrast and a pop of color. As this brand is quite prominent, there are often several Waltham vintage chrono’s for sale on eBay.
Sandoz/Tradition Chronograph (Valjoux 7733)
This Swiss watch brand originated in the 19th century, named for its founder, Henri Frédéric Sandoz. The company also was known at times in the past as Tavannes-Cyma, Tacy Watch Co., Bijou Watch Co., and Lisca. This particular watch was manufactured by Sandoz under the brand “Tradition” and was sold in Sears department stores in the US.
The name Sandoz today may be associated with Sandoz Hong Kong, Sandoz Singapore, Sandoz Swiss or Sandoz Spain, all of which formed in 1971 when the company leased and sold various licenses. As you might guess, the Sandoz Swiss brand produces a luxury line, while those manufactured by the other production houses are more economical.
The chronograph you are looking at here is a 70s vintage watch measuring 39mm excluding the crown and 43mm lug to lug. It runs on the Valjoux 7733 17J Chrongraph Movement. The large steel case frames a dark blue face with simple markers for the hours and hour and minute hands with a similar design. The second hand in bright red stands out from the blue backdrop. At the time of writing, this watch is available for $999 from retrowatchguy.com.
Luz Prestige Panda Chronograph (Valjoux 23)
Luz vintage watches were made by a Swiss brand about which there is little surviving information. But some exemplary Luz chronographs still sometimes appear on the market.
This particular chronograph is from the 70s. It features a classic panda dial in light gray with black sub-dials for an eye-catching contrast. The hands are made of steel, and there are raised markers for all of the hours except for 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, so as not to make it hard to read the sub-dials.
A similar Luz timepiece was also produced with the same overall layout, but with black-on-black for the dial and sub-dials, gold hands, and numbers written out for 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.
Maty Skin-Diver Chronograph (Valjoux 7765)
Gérard and Elyane Mantion launched the French brand Maty in 1951, offering a mail order catalogue with a small selection of watches. Sometimes, you may see the name “Mati,” which was the spelling that Mantion was going to go with at first, but he thought the US market might prefer “Maty.” The company still exists, but over time, it shifted focus from watches to jewelry.
Here is an example of a Maty chronograph from the 70s. It measures 40.5mm without the crown and 45mm from lug to lug, so it is a pretty large piece. It is hard to tell, but the bezel is actually dark blue, not black. The dial is light blue in the middle, transitioning to gray around the edges. The sub-dials have a distinct squarish shape, and are concentrated in the upper left, leaving the lower right wide open.
Technos Sportsgraph (Landeron 248)
The Technos brand name dates back to 1924, when it was registered in Switzerland. The height of Technos popularity was during the post-war period starting in the 50s. If you are in the USA or Europe, you may not know Technos all that well, but if you are in Brazil or Japan, there’s a good chance you’re more familiar with the name.
The Technos chronograph you are looking at here is from the 60s. The steel case is a large one, measuring 37.25mm without the crown and 42mm lug to lug. Features include a recessed black bezel with large, clear numbers, and a silver metallic dial with two sub-dials. Simplicity and legibility make for an elegant statement.
Helbros 1950s Chronograph (Landeron 148)
Even though not a lot of people know the Helbros name today, you can actually find out quite a bit about this watch brand if you do some research. The founder was William Helbein, who immigrated to America in 1911 from Russia. The watch company he created actually did very well for itself. Alas, it fell into obscurity by the 70s and never made a resurgence.
This chronograph dates back to the 50s. It measures 36.5mm and has a thickness of 12.75mm, and is powered by the Landeron manual-winding 148 movement contained in a stainless steel case. Both the watch face and the sub-dials are black for an elegant look. While the hours are numbered, they are clean and un-distracting, and all of the information on the dial is easy to read at a glance. At the time of writing, this watch is available for sale at watchestobuy.com for $795.
Iaxa Bow-Tie Dive Chronograph (Valjoux 7734)
Iaxa watches are apparently Swiss made, but there do not seem to be any records which confirm officially that such is the case. Nevertheless, the watches seem to be reputable, as they were big sellers back in the 70s in Belgium.
One really cool-looking chronograph by Iaxa is this Bow-Tie Dive model. It is a hefty (for a vintage watch) 38mm without the crown, and 42.5mm lug to lug. It takes its name from the “bow-tie” design in black and gray across the center of the watch which encompasses the sub-dials. The bow-tie shape makes a subtle contrast against the blue backdrop, while red accents on the sub-dials create additional visual appeal. Metallic markers for the hours and steel hands stand out beautifully. All in all, it has a very “balanced” appearance.
Le Phare Skin-Diver Chronograph (Valjoux 92)
Le Phare originally was a manufacturer of movements before branching out into making wristwatches. The brand’s history dates back to the 19th century.
What is a “skin-diver”? When diving watches were first introduced, they used to be quite thick, large and heavy. In order to create watches more suitable for casual use, the concept of “skin-diver” watch was introduced. These watches offer a dressier approach and usually feature less water resistance than a true diver watch.
This watch measures 36.5mm and 45mm from lug to lug. It comes in a steel case and features a black dial with two sub-dials. There are stylized numbers at “6” and “12,” with tapered markers for the remaining hours. The thick ladder hands for hours and minutes really stand out.
LeJour “Poor Man’s Pasadena” (Valjoux 7750)
LeJour is a watch brand established in the 1960s. Besides making their own watches, LeJour also distributed the French watch brand Yema in the United States. LeJour is known for their private-label arrangement with Heuer, which resulted in a line of beautiful chronographs branded LeJour but manufactured by Heuer. Some of them had the exact same cases and designs as famous Heuer models. At the time, LeJour watches were priced some 10% lower than their Heuer counterparts… Today, the situation in terms of price is very different, while the quality level remains comparable.
This particular specimen has a similar design to the Heuer Pasadena and is equipped with the legendary automatic chronograph movement Valjoux 7750. With its 40mm case, it’s suitable even for smaller wrists, which is not often the case with chronographs using this movement.
Dugena Automatic Chronograph (Tenor Dorly 1369)
Dugena stands for “Deutsche Uhrmacher-Genossenschaft Alpina.” It formed in Germany in 1917, with its goal being “the sale of high-quality watches at a moderate price” (according to the info on the company’s website). The company also claims that during the 60s and 70s, it was Germany’s most successful watch brand.
The chronograph we are looking at features a rectangular design with a measurement of 36.25mm without the crown across the case, and a 46mm lug to lug measurement. It is not only large, but heavy, thanks to a 14mm thickness.
The dial is a very dark gray, nearly black, with a sunburst pattern. The sub-dials are matte black. The watch is powered by the Tenor Dorly (TDBK) 1369 automatic caliber, which you won’t come across too often. So both inside and out, this chronograph makes for an interesting acquisition for your collection.
Croton 3-Register Chronograph (Valjoux 7738)
Croton was founded in the 19th century on the Swiss-Italian border. As a result of its location, influences from both countries worked their way into the company’s watches. It was a major brand after the turn of the century, but today is not as famous as it once was. Currently, it is owned by Nationwide Time, and still makes watches.
This vintage chronograph from Croton instantly grabs attention with its unusual appearance. It measures 39mm vertically and 44.5mm horizontally. It contains a manual-winding Valjoux 7738 movement.
Despite there being no bezel, the stainless steel case makes a wide perimeter around the dial, which is interesting. The watch face itself is a grayish color, with the black sub-dials having squarish rather than round shapes. The 5-minute countdown register in yellow stands out, providing another unique visual accent, while also offering great readability.
Imperial Yachting Chronograph (Valjoux 7730)
As best we can tell, “Imperial” is not the name of manufacturer of watch parts, but rather an assembly house. Reportedly, their history dates back to the 19th century, but the ownership of the company may have gone through a number of transitions over the decades since.
This particular chronograph from the 60s measures 36mm without the crown and 43mm lug to lug. It is housed in a chrome case featuring a steel back. There are two sub-dials which contrast with the silver sunburst dial. One is all black, while the other is black, pink and blue. The hours 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 all feature stylized script, and there are markers for the other hours.
Actually, the dial for this watch appears to be almost identical to the dial for the Andre Bouchard chronograph I shared earlier. This watch features thicker stick hands, however, instead of the curved, tapered hands featured on that chronograph. And the subdials are obviously different.
Conclusion: There Are Many Stunning Vintage Chronographs to Collect from Unknown Brands
You’ve had a chance to discover some beautiful vintage chronographs from unknown watch brands.
Some of these brands have always been relatively obscure, while others had their heyday but have since faded into the mists of time.
Nevertheless, their vintage chronographs remain on the market. And because they were not made by companies which are well-known today, quite a few of them are more affordable than some of their more illustrious counterparts. Where to find them? I suggest checking the bay for terms such as “vintage chronograph” or “vintage chronograph valjoux” / “vintage chronograph landeron”. This way, you are sure to disover even more obscure brands and some nice gems. There are also some specialized vintage watch retailers that carry a lot of nice chronographs.
Whatever your budget, you can own a piece of watch-making history in the form of one of these amazing chronographs. Enjoy collecting vintage watches from unknown brands!
PS Do you have a vintage chronograph that deserves to be added to this list? Mention it in the comments below and send us some photographs!
Vintage Watch Inc
Dennis is the founder and editor of Vintage Watch Inc. Passionate about Soviet and Japanese vintage timepieces and a finance professional by day, he proudly wears a Seiko Pogue with his suit.