Monday Morning Find: 1960s Wakmann Chronograph Offers Killer Value
You're probably never heard of Wakmann, and I don't blame you. The brand was killed by the emergence of cheap quartz watches in the 1970s. Its stylish watches, housing quality movements, were unable to compete without all the fanfare surrounding those made by higher-end brands. This watch, from circa 1960, has all the little traits collectors look for in the best mid-century chronographs, but instead of costing you the same as a collectable vintage Jaguar, it'll run you less than a business class ticket to Pebble Beach. Not bad.
The dial is its main selling point. It's black gilt, meaning the markings are the result of a galvanic treatment, not a traditional printing process (just like on this watch). There's a tachymeter scale around the outer edge, complete with a little fringed arrow between 12 o'clock and 1 o'clock. The printing is all crisp and easy to read, including the three lines down at 6 o'clock that read: "Antichoc/Antimagnetic/17 Rubis." This tell us that the case is meant to withstand shocks and corrosion (antichoc), the movement is protected from magnetism by an second inner caseback (antimagnetic), and there are 17 ruby bearings inside (17 rubis, naturally). All these indicate a watch that's meant to be durable, which is pretty important when it's more than 50 years old.
The case itself is 35mm across and made of stainless steel. It looks as if it's been polished before (note the lack of sharp edges on the lugs), though not so much as to look blobby and unattractive. There are simple pump pushers for the chronograph and a screw-down caseback to protect the movement inside. That movement is a Lemania 275, a respectable workhorse of the time used by a variety of brands under different names.
Its bracelet is also a big deal—bigger than you might think. Up through the 1970s, the best bracelets were made by either Gay Frères or J.B. Champion, though they were often co-branded by whatever company made the watch. On this watch, there's an original Champion bracelet with what are called "heavy rice" links because of their shape. You can tell it's original to the watch because the final links connecting to the watch curve perfectly along with the case. Usually these bracelets get separated from the heads and are sold off separately, so this is a huge upside.
This Wakmann chronograph is available from Wanna Buy A Watch for $2,450.