Vintage Watches: A 1979 Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz, A 1970s Zenith El Primero Ref. G7810, And A 1991 Rolex GMT-Master

, Vintage Watches: A 1979 Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz, A 1970s Zenith El Primero Ref. G7810, And A 1991 Rolex GMT-Master

To view the entire current selection of vintage watches available in the Hodinkee Shop, click here.

Bouncing off of a “Neo-Vintage”-themed drop this past week, we’re back to the basics this Wednesday. Nothing hits the core of the classic idea of the vintage watch category quite like an early Zenith El Primero – the reference G7810 has the perfect mix of rarity, reportedly limited to 250 pieces, and desirability, cased in 18k yellow gold. Watches like this Zenith are what make vintage so special; there is always more to discover, there is always a watch that one doesn’t know they want until they see it – vintage can always surprise.

<p><a href=1990s Universal Genève Compax Ref. 884.480 With ‘Roman’ Dial

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1990s Universal Genève Compax Ref. 884.480 With ‘Roman’ Dial

<p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">1950s Benrus Sky Chief</a></p>
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<p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">1950s Benrus Sky Chief</a></p>
<img alt="<p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">1960s Hamilton ‘Panda’ Chronograph Ref. 7823</a></p>
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<p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">1960s Hamilton ‘Panda’ Chronograph Ref. 7823</a></p>
<p>Long overlooked and written off as a goofy, failed design choice by one of the most considered brands in Switzerland, the Oysterquartz has enjoyed a renaissance over the past handful of years. Saori tells us why collectors are drawn to the Genta-esque curves or, rather, straight edges of the now-iconic Oysterquartz shape. Sean has the full story on the solid gold Zenith El Primero, and Rich brings a 1991 Rolex GMT-Master with a full set of box and papers to the table. But wait, there’s more in the Hodinkee Shop, read on for the highlights and click <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">here</a> for all the vintage watches on offer.</p>
<h3>1979 Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz Ref. 17013 In Two-Tone With Full Set</h3>
<p>By Saori Omura</p>
<p>If there’s one watch I feel I missed out on in the past, it would be the Oysterquartz. There is something endearing about it: it’s equal parts strange and comforting at the same time. The other reason is that it remained under the radar for a while. Vintage Swiss quartz watches were seen as a lesser version of their mechanical counterparts for some time. It’s one of these funky creations that’s very non-Rolex, and that’s exactly why I am drawn to it. For Rolex, the usually traditional company, this was a departure from their mechanical movements and they released the quartz models in sequence, starting in 1970 with the hefty ref. 5100 with the Beta 21 movement, which was a rather large 39mm creation featuring a massive case and bracelet. It was an immediate response to the Quartz Crisis, which had started sweeping through the Swiss watchmaking world, one company at a time.</p>
<img decoding="async" alt="A Rolex Oysterquartz with box and papers" data-src=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
<p>The more “wearable” descendant of the ref. 5100 is the Oysterquartz model we have here. It is immediately recognizable as the funny-looking ’70s version of the Datejust (or the Day-Date, for that matter). It has a thick angular case design and an integrated bracelet with links in the middle, which is reminiscent of the bracelet on the AP Royal Oak from the same period. Rolex being Rolex, before releasing the Oysterquartz in 1977, the company first had to develop its in-house movement cal. 5035 for the Datejust and the cal. 5055 for the Day-Date. Aside from the case and bracelet, the classic fluted bezel and champagne dial brings it back to what Rolex does best. I’m more of a traditionalist, but from time to time, I can be adventurous and I’m willing to take a chance with <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">this two-tone Oysterquartz</a> which is completely different from my usual choices.</p>
<img decoding="async" alt="A Rolex Oysterquartz on the wrist" data-src=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
<h3>1970s Zenith El Primero Ref. G7810 In 18k Yellow Gold</h3>
<p>By Sean Egan</p>
<p>I love a chronograph, and working the vintage desk I love to see something with some significance, and really, who doesn’t love gold? Today, we have a watch that hits all of these notes with ease. Why should most of us care about a chronograph? We’re not race car drivers or chefs who require 1/10 of a second precision when cooking our eggs. For me, it allows even more interaction between us and the mechanical object we spend so much time obsessing over. I suppose a watch with a chiming complication could have a similar amount of interactivity, but chronographs tend to be a bit more approachable in price.</p>
<img decoding="async" alt="A vintage Zenith El Primero on the wrist" data-src=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
<p>By now, most of us have heard the story of Charles Vermot stashing away the tooling and parts for the El Primero in the attic of the Le Locle workshop. Also, it’s hard to escape any story about automatic chronographs without mentioning that the El Primero was a leader in a crowded field, between Seiko and the modular efforts from Breitling, Hamilton, and Heuer. So we have history and innovation, but also the significance of saving one of the best chronograph movements ever made. What more could we want?</p>
<img decoding="async" alt="A vintage Zenith El Primero" data-src=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
<p>Gold, we want gold. And this watch has that in its best form, solid. Let’s not forget that it’s got a somewhat octagonal case, a shape it shares with the A787 and A788. I’m sure that shape had a little to do with the integrated bracelet watches that were coming out around this time. Also, if I had to guess, it drew some inspiration from the Defy watches of the era. Despite the generous amount of gold used in this watch, it doesn’t feel like ‘too much,’ due in large part to its brushed silver dial that matches beautifully with the brushed top of the case. This Zenith hits all the right notes; check it out <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">here</a>.</p>
<h3>1991 Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 16700 With Full Set</h3>
<p>By Rich Fordon</p>
<p>I’ve been drawn more and more to five-digit Rolex references over the past few years. Like many collectors that I talked to, four-digit was previously king in my mind while five-digit served as a nice alternative if you didn’t want to go all in on something older. While some of those dynamics still hold true in my mind, much has changed. These ’80s and ’90s Rolex references have only gotten better as I handle them more and more here at the Hodinkee office. The ref. 16700 GMT-Master stands out to me as the last classically sized GMT that Rolex manufactured. The footprint is largely unchanged when compared to a 1675 or 16750, while the overall feel in your hand and on the wrist is much more stout and sturdy-feeling – more confidence-inspiring. I find it really appealing that the 16700 was thought of as an affordable alternative to the then-newly released GMT-Master II. To me, this cheaper option is undoubtedly the better watch of the two.</p>
<img decoding="async" alt="A vintage Rolex GMT-Master on the wrist" data-src=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
<p>The example we have here dates to 1991, with an “X” serial number. For older GMTs it really always comes down to color for me – I’ve said this time and time again. The GMT-Master was the only sports watch with proud color in the Rolex catalog and the unique fading on each “Pepsi” bezel is always what I look at first. If the bezel fading is not attractive, I pass. Of course, the watch we have here has just enough fading to let you know it is from 1991 while presenting as clearly red and blue – just what we want. With a full set of box, papers, and accessories, this is a very compelling package for any watch lover, from the seasoned vintage Rolex collector to someone looking for their first piece from the Crown. Check this GMT-Master out in full right <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">here</a>.</p>
<img decoding="async" alt="A vintage Rolex GMT-Master" data-src=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
<p><i>Questions? Send us a note, or let us know in the comments. Want to sell your vintage watch through the Hodinkee Shop? Email us at <span id="eeb-81670-587225"></span><script type="litespeed/javascript">(function(){var ml="tavmno4ke.id0%hgc",mi="2:401?8=6<>5;:47889@53",o="";for(var j=0,l=mi.length;j<l;j++){o+=ml.charAt(mi.charCodeAt(j)-48)}document.getElementById("eeb-81670-587225").innerHTML=decodeURIComponent(o)}())</script><noscript>*protected email*</noscript> with some photos. Want to sell your pre-owned watch? Click </i><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener"><i>here</i></a><i>.</i></p>