The stereotype about Swiss watches being of the highest quality and value in the industry is not just an urban myth. Take the Wittnauer watch and clock company, for example. Founded in 1885 by Swiss immigrant Albert Wittnauer, the company quickly rose to fame for its precision timepieces and innovative design choices.
In addition to their exceptional craftsmanship and accuracy, Wittnauer watches also have a rich history of being worn by important figures in politics and pop culture. President Eisenhower was know to wear a Wittnauer as his every day watch, and the company even famously made a gold watch for Marilyn Monroe as a gift from then-husband Arthur Miller.
The combination of history and quality make Wittnauer watches highly sought after by collectors and fans alike, often fetching high prices at auction. But don’t fret if you don’t have a big budget – there are still plenty of affordable vintage Wittnauer watches available on the market.
In this article, you are going to learn more about Wittnauer’s history, tips on how to spot authentic Wittnauers, and a guide to determining the value of your own Wittnauer timepiece. So strap on your finest Wittnauer – it’s time to dive into the world of Swiss excellence.
The History of Wittnauer Watches
The history begins with a young Albert Wittnauer, a Swiss immigrant who moved to the United States at the age of 16. While importing businesses for Swiss watches already existed at the time, they only focused on the high-end market. Wittnauer saw an opportunity in catering to the middle class, and thus the company was born.
Wittnauer’s roots can be traced back to 1885, when Albert Wittnauer founded a clock making business in New York City. However, it wasn’t until 1908 that the company would become a household name for their precision timepieces. The brand was responsible for numerous innovations, including being one of the first watch companies to mass produce water resistant watches (they patented the first water resistant wristwatch case in 1899) and creating the very first wristwatch with a calendar function.
This innovation continued with their creation of shock absorbing mechanisms, anti-magnetic features, and even watches specifically designed for pilots during World War II.
In addition to their technological advancements, Wittnauer also became well-known for their stylish designs and celebrity endorsements. The company’s watches were frequently featured in Hollywood films, and famous wearers included President Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, and even Darth Vader (the latter wearing a Wittnauer in the original Star Wars).
Unfortunately, like all stories, even Wittnauer’s got to an end. Though, to be fair, the company is still around. It is, however, a far cry from its glory days.
The Decline of Wittnauer
In 1950, Wittnauer was acquired by the Longines Watch Company, and continued to produce timepieces until the 1970s under the name Longines-Wittnauer. Eventually, in 1995, Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group (who also owns luxury watch brands like Omega and Breguet) took over Longines but left the Wittnauer brand behind.
Wittnauer struggled to regain its footing in the watch industry, changing ownership numerous times and even filing for bankruptcy in 2001. It wasn’t until 2010 that Wittnauer was purchased by Bulova Corporation – but even then, it was immediately clear that the brand would never be what it once was.
Today, Wittnauer watches are produced as a sub-brand of Bulova, focusing on lower price points and mainstream designs. Though they still offer some attractive timepieces, they are lightyears away from the innovation and prestige of their heyday.
Determining the Value of Seth Thomas Clocks
While vintage Wittnauer watches may not fetch the same prices as a Rolex or Patek Philippe, they still have value – both in collectability and quality.
The first distinction is between antique and vintage. Antique Wittnauer watches are from before the 1940s, and often fetch higher prices. But even vintage Wittnauers from the 1950s or 1960s can still be valuable – especially if they have unique designs or rare features.
When determining a Wittnauer’s value, there are several things to consider:
- Condition — is the watch in good working order, with minimal wear and tear on the case and bracelet? Is it all original, including the movement and dial? Any repairs or replacements can significantly affect value.
- Rarity — certain styles or features may make a Wittnauer more desirable to collectors. Limited edition models or those with unique designs can fetch higher prices. And obviously, if a watch was owned by a celebrity or historical figure, that adds another layer of collectability.
- Age — Somewhat related to rarity, the age of the watch can also impact its value. Generally speaking, older Wittnauers will be more valuable than newer models. The reason is that the older a watch is, the less likely it is to have survived in good condition, making it a rare find. For example, the oldest Wittenauer watches have survived two World Wars, as well as the Great Depression – which saw many watch companies go out of business or cease production entirely.
- Demand — As with any collectible item, Wittnauer watches are only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for them. Keep an eye on recent auction results and sales to get a sense of current demand and pricing.
While all of this can help determine a Wittnauer’s value, ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Some may be drawn to the historical significance and technical innovations of antique Wittnauers, while others may prefer the sleek designs of mid-century models.
If you’ve found an old Wittnauer watch and are unsure about its value, it’s best to consult a professional appraiser. And even if it’s not worth as much as you’d hoped, don’t forget the sentimental value – after all, you’ve got a piece of history on your wrist.
Evaluating a Wittnauer Watch’s Conditions and Features
When researching Wittnauer watch values, it’s important to consider the condition and features of your timepiece.
Since Wittnauer mostly focused on wristwatches, here’s what you should be looking for when evaluating one:
- The case — check for scratches, dents, or discoloration. While some wear is to be expected with vintage watches, significant damage can decrease value.
- The bracelet or strap — similarly, any wear or tears on the strap can affect value. Look for original pieces – replacements may bring down the price.
- The dial — check for cracks, discoloration, or missing elements like hour markers. Again, some wear is expected, but major damage can affect value.
- The movement — ideally, the watch should have its original Wittnauer movement. Replacements can decrease value, although a high-quality replacement may still be desirable to some collectors.
- Special features — unique or rare features, like chronographs or special editions, can increase value.
Overall, it’s important to remember that condition and features are just one aspect of determining value – demand and rarity also play a role. But evaluating your watch’s condition and features can help give you a starting point for determining its worth.
Warning: Unfortunately, since some of these watches are very valuable, there have also been cases of counterfeits and fakes.
Let’s see how you can spot a fake.
Spotting a Fake Wittnauer Watch
Before you buy a vintage Wittnauer (especially online), make sure to watch out for the following red flags:
- Suspiciously low price – If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. You get what you pay for, and a genuine Wittnauer of a certain age and condition should not be drastically underpriced compared to others on the market.
- Incorrect branding – Check the dial for any misspellings or inconsistencies in the logo. Also, make sure the model number matches up with known Wittnauers from that time period.
- Poor quality craftsmanship – Authentic Wittnauer watches should have clean, precise lines and finishes. Any shoddy or rough construction could be a sign of a fake.
- No documentation or proof of authenticity – Reputable sellers will typically provide documents such as the original warranty or certificate of authenticity. If the seller cannot provide this, it’s best to steer clear.
There’s nothing wrong with buying replicas – what we are against is being deceived and tricked into paying a premium price for a fake.
Ultimately, it’s important to do your research and trust your instincts when purchasing a vintage Wittnauer. Not only can you avoid getting scammed, but you’ll have the satisfaction of owning a piece of history that will stand the test of time – just like the watch itself.
Let’s now get into the gritty details of actually buying a Wittnauer watch.
Buying a Wittnauer Watch: How Much Does it Worth?
There’s no shortage of places to purchase a Wittnauer watch, but, obviously, there are stark differences between each option.
If you’re looking for the best possible deal, your best bet is to buy a Wittnauer online. There are plenty of reputable dealers and resellers out there who can offer competitive prices on authentic, quality pieces. However, this approach has 2 flaws. One, you can’t inspect the watch in person, so you’ll have to rely on photos and descriptions to make sure everything looks good. Two, you run the risk of getting scammed – if a seller is using shady tactics like misspelling words on the dial or including incorrect paperwork, it’s likely their product isn’t 100% authentic.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more but still want a good deal, you might consider buying from an auction house or estate sale. While this can be a slightly costlier option than purchasing online, it also comes with the added benefit of being able to inspect the watch in person. You’ll have a greater sense of whether all of the features are intact and in good condition, and, in the event of any problems, you can negotiate with the seller. Plus, if you get lucky, the auction price will go below your budget and you’ll end up with an even better deal.
If authenticity and quality are your top priorities, buying from a high-end jewelry or watch retailer may be the way to go. This is the most expensive option, but you can be sure that the watch is 100% authentic and in immaculate condition. In addition, these retailers will offer warranties and other perks that online resellers may not provide – so if you’re willing to spend more for peace of mind, this is the way.
To make things easier for you, we separated these watches into 3 categories, based on budget. If you’re short on money, the lowest one is for you, and so on. Keep in mind that these prices are just a guideline – depending on the condition of the watch, it may be possible to find something at a lower price or pay more for exceptional quality.
Lower-end Wittnauer Watches
We consider lower-end to be anything below $500 (for comparison, top-end values can go well into the thousands).
Lower-end Wittnauer watches are perfect for those on a budget or looking to dabble in collecting vintage pieces. At the absolute lowest end of this tier, you will find watches that are in very poor conditions. Some may be completely broken, while others are working but will have a lot of cosmetic issues, like scratches, dents, and discoloration. But these watches can also offer a unique opportunity: you can buy them for cheap and restore them to their original glory with professional help. They may not be highly-valued pieces currently, but with some love and care they could become cherished heirlooms within your family.
Let’s see some of them:
- Here is a Vintage Wittnauer Moon Phase Wrist Watch that sells for just $45. The watch does not work, and as both the description and picture inform us, the face is heavily scratched and the band is also in rough condition. This would be a good buy if you were looking to restore this watch, but it’s definitely not something to wear as-is. It comes with the original box, which can help you if you are planning to sell it once restored.
- For a slightly higher price you can get yourself this Men’s Vintage 1960’s Wittnauer, 17 Jewels Watch. It’s in better condition compared to the previous one, with a bit more of its original beauty intact, especially in the leather band. It has been well cared for over the years and is still going strong. The biggest issue holding its value back is the wear on the case’s back.
- Here’s a Vintage WITTNAUER “2000” AUTOMATIC Orig. Bracelet Men’s Wristwatch. It features an elegant gold and black design, and it has a unique calendar window feature on both top and bottom of the face. The watch has a stainless-steel case and leather band, making it strong enough to last for decades. Unfortunately, the wear is way too noticeable on the bracelet, and the back of the face has several scratches. This watch would be perfect with some restoration work done on it.
- Going up in price a bit, we find this Vintage Wittnauer ref 4000 Dive Watch that sold for $309. The piece is particularly significant, as it is a dive watch, which means that it can withstand extreme pressure and other harsh conditions. It’s also a great example of how different watches from different periods will have unique designs, as this one has a modern look that would definitely appeal to the younger generation. Unfortunately, this model does not have a band, you will have to purchase that separately – but it’s not a problem because you can no doubt find the right one at any local jewelry shop, though some people might wince at the idea of buying a replacement band.
- To round up our list of lower-end watches, here’s a Vintage 1960s Wittnauer Diver Watch Starburst Dial that sold for $500. It is a beauty, and it has an orange bakelite bezel, which is unique and unusual for vintage watches. Beyond the aesthetic details, this watch is also very sturdy and can definitely stand the test of time – not only in your hands but in being passed down to future generations. It comes with the original metal bracelet that has some scratches, but overall, this is a very well-preserved and valuable vintage watch.
Now that we’ve seen some of the lower end Wittnauer watches, let’s take a look at some mid-range models.
Mid-Range Wittnauer Watches
With mid-range, we refer to Wittnauer watches that sold for more than $500, but less than $1,000. You will see that these are usually in pretty good condition – not perfect, but definitely a step above the low end ones.
Let’s see a few models:
- First in our list is this Vintage Longines Wittnauer Automatic Stainless Steel DIVER Mens Watch 17J 1970s that sold for $595. This one is definitely a step up compared to some of the other low end models, and it’s also an interesting piece as it’s a diver watch. The design is really unique and stylish, featuring bold colors that will make you stand out from the crowd. The only number on the face is the date, which can make it a bit difficult to read in low light. Other than that, this is an excellent mid-range choice for any collector of vintage watches.
- For a different type of purchase, you might want to consider this Vintage 17 Jewels Men’s 10ML1 Wittnauer Skeleton Watch Co INC 10k Gold for $624.99. As the name suggests, this is only a skeleton. You will have to find a jeweler to install the case, and you might also want to find a different band to really make this watch pop. However, the price is right for what you’re getting – it’s an interesting addition to any vintage jewelry collection, and it can definitely serve as a conversation starter.
- For a more traditional (sort of) watch, this Vintage Wittnauer Revue 76/2 34mm 14K Solid Gold 60’s Men’s Swiss Manual Watch that sold for $749 is a solid buy. Despite having a very traditional watch face, the design is anything but – it’s bold and futuristic at the same time. It also comes in a case that looks like it could be straight out of a science fiction movie. The watch is in excellent condition, you can feel the price spike with this one.
- Next, take a look at this Wittnauer Watch Men’s 14K Gold Doctors Retro 1950’s Cal.10ES that sold for $825. This is watch is the complete opposite of the previous one. It features a very retro design – the face and band look like they’re straight out of the ’50s, and it looks like it could be worn by Doc Brown from Back to the Future. The face is in desperate need of cleaning, and the leather band also looks like it needs a bit of love, but overall, this is an excellent mid-range action that can easily be passed down to future generations.
- To complete this list, here’s a Wittnauer Geneve – Professional Chronograph Men’s Watch priced at $950. Despite the very noticeable wear on the edges of the front case, this piece fetches a very high price due its rarity. That is thanks to the chronograph feature on the face, which is highly sought-after today, as watches with this feature are very difficult to find.
As you can see, Wittnauer watches are excellent options for collectors who are looking for some mid-range pieces that won’t break the bank. But what if you’re after the best of the best?
High-End Wittnauer Watches
Watches in this category typically sell for more than $1,000. They’re usually in near-perfect condition. And due to their age and rarity, their value tends to spike very high. Only the most serious collectors or investors will go for a watch in this category.
Here are some of the best high-end Wittnauer watches you can find:
- If you want to go big, then look at this Men’s Vintage 1968 Wittnauer Chronograph 242T Quartz Watch that sold for a staggering $6,480. This is a piece that truly belongs in a museum – the face and case are both in excellent condition, with only some minor scratches on the back of the band (basically invisible when wearing the watch). Plus, this watch comes with the original purchase papers that include a guarantee registration form, the waterproof guarantee, instructions, and a Wittnauer poster. Definitely a small treasure that would make a fantastic addition to any collection.
- Next on the list we have this Vintage Wittnauer Professional Chronograph Wristwatch Ref. 242T Valjoux 72 NR that was sold for $5,200. The watch comes with the original purchase documents, including a guarantee registration form and instructions. The back of the case is heavily scratched, but other than that, the watch is in near-perfect condition. And anyway, that’s not a part many people will see, whether you are wearing the watch or just showcasing it. There’s also this sale for a same-model watch for $4,030.
- Coming next is this Vintage Wittnauer Valjoux 72 Chronograph Collector Watch Longines 242t Nasa that went for $4,020. This watch is in great condition, with just a few minor scratches on the back of the band. The Nasa insignias a symbol of high quality and accuracy, which is relevant today as it was way back then.
- Continuing with the Valjoux 72 theme is this Wittnauer Chronograph Ref.800 Stainless Steel Valjoux 72 C.1950’s that sold for $4,020. This might be the most classic design on this entire list, with its gold face and stainless-steel case. The band is also in excellent shape, only showing a bit of wear on the back, but this was most likely caused by normal usage. The seller notifies us that this watch still has the original dial, which adds to the value of this piece.
- Last, but certainly not least, on our list is this Vintage Geneve Wittnauer Gmt Watch Valjoux 729 Movement that sold for $3,250. This is yet another Valjoux 72 watch, which is a sign that this movement was one of the best in the industry back then. The drop in value compared to previous watches is noticeable. The front is slightly scratched and there is some wear on the buckle band, but that’s hardly a dealbreaker in this case.
Buying a Wittnauer watch is a great way to get a taste of history and collector culture. Whether you’re looking for something mid-range or want the best of the best, Wittnauer has so much variety that every collector will find their perfect match.
However, as with everything on this planet, Wittnauer watches are prone to wear and tear, as well depreciation. If you want to make the most out of your investment, maintenance is crucial.
Caring for Your Wittnauer Watch
The key to maintaining your Wittnauer watch is understanding how it works and what kind of maintenance it requires.
The first step is regular cleaning. This keeps dirt, dust, and other particles from damaging the inner workings of your watch. You can clean your Wittnauer with a simple soft cloth or microfiber swab.
The second step is regular servicing. If you notice an issue with your watch, take it to a professional as soon as possible. A simple problem such as a loose crown or minor scratch can easily turn into something much worse if left unattended for too long.
Of course, all these maintenance tips are only relevant when you buy a working watch. If you buy one that is faulty, then you’ll most likely have to replace certain parts.
While Wittnauer watches are an investment worth making, they must be well cared for in order to reach their full potential.
FAQs about Wittnauer Watches
What is the difference between a Wittnauer and a Longines watch?
While both brands are owned by Longines-Wittnauer Watch Company, there is some variation in their respective designs. For example, Wittnauer watches tend to have smaller cases than Longines watches, and many Wittnauer models have a more classic, vintage aesthetic.
How can I care for my Wittnauer watch?
There are several steps you can take to maintain your Wittnauer watch. The first is to keep it clean and free from dirt, dust, or other particles that may damage the inner workings of the timepiece. You can also bring your watch in for regular servicing if you notice any issues with its performance. Finally, make sure to avoid dropping or banging your watch against hard surfaces, as this could cause damage to the casing or glass.
What is the oldest Wittnauer watch?
While the company was founded in 1874, the oldest Wittnauer watch in existence dates back to the 1930s. This is a pocket-sized timepiece with a manual wind movement and beautiful Art Deco styling.
Are Wittnauer watches still being made?
Yes, Wittnauer watches are still being produced today. However, some of their most popular models have been discontinued, so if you see a Wittnauer for sale that you are interested in, it’s best to act quickly.
Are there any famous Wittnauer watches?
Wittnauer watches have been worn by many famous figures over the years, including celebrities like James Bond and astronauts like Buzz Aldrin. Additionally, the company has produced several official timepieces for organizations such as NASA and the United States Air Force.
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If you’re looking for a vintage-inspired watch with a rich history and beautiful design, then a Wittnauer timepiece might be the perfect choice for you. Whether you want to buy one of their classic watches or invest in something more modern, there are plenty of options from which to choose. Just make sure to take good care of your watch so that you can enjoy it for many years to come.
When buying a Wittnauer watch, it’s important to keep in mind that they require regular cleaning and servicing in order to maintain their performance. If you notice any issues with your timepiece, be sure to bring it in to a professional right away. Additionally, remember that Wittnauer watches are often associated with famous figures throughout history, from astronauts like Buzz Aldrin to celebrities like James Bond.
Looking to invest in a Wittnauer watch? Whether you’re an avid collector or just starting out, this brand offers something for everyone. They have a long history of producing high-quality timepieces with vintage designs and modern touches.