They say it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and that’s especially true in the world of watches. The mechanical innards of a watch—the “movement”—is the very heart of what makes a watch function. Think of them as the engine in a car.
Most high-end watch brands have teams of highly trained watchmakers who create their own movements in-house (called “in-house” or “manufacture”), but a variety of watch brands outsource their movements from dedicated makers like ETA and Miyota. One of the most famous and sought-after of these—the 5.7 V8 of the watch world—is the triple-dialed Valjoux 72 and its variants. While a Valjoux 72-powered chronograph by Rolex or Patek Philippe may set you back tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are many mechanically identical watches from lesser-known brands that can be had for a relative steal.
Here are seven of our favorite Valjoux 72-powered watches available on eBay right now.
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The Rolex Daytona may be the quintessential three-dial chronograph, and if you want a highly sought-after, vintage, manually wound version on your wrist, look no further than a Rolex-modified version of the Valjoux 72. This '70s era 6263 with a black dial and white subdials is just about as good as it gets.
LeCoultre, the American retail arm of the venerable Swiss brand Jaeger LeCoultre, imported some of the most interesting watches of the 1960s and '70s. And while internally identical, they often represent a great value to collectors over the fully branded JLC versions. With a diver’s depth rating, world timer dial, a seriously cool name, and original box and papers, this Deep Sea Shark has got it all.
Gallet may be less famous than some of its fellow Swiss brands, but undeservedly so. With a history in Geneva dating back to 1466, Gallet claims to be the oldest of all Swiss brands. And while Breitling is probably the watch brand best associated with aviation, there’s a good chance Gallet claimed more pilots' wrists. This model has an automotive tie-in as well, as it was a watch of this same style that legendary driver Jim Clark wore when winning the 1965 Indy 500.
Wait, that Abercrombie & Fitch? Yup. Well, sort of. Long before Abercrombie was “reborn” as the ubiquitous, cologne-scented, bare teen torso-exposing mall behemoth, it was an incredibly high-end specialty brand (and a Hemingway favorite!) selling curated luxury goods to wealthy safari enthusiasts. So well-respected was the brand that even though this watch was created by famed watchmaker Heuer, there was greater value in having the dial be labeled solely with the Abercrombie & Fitch Co. brand.
Not only are vintage diver chronographs a useful tool, providing easily visible, potentially life-saving timekeeping abilities while deep under water, they also tend to have awesome names. This very '70s Zodiac Seawolf Super Diver is no exception.
Any list of famous automotive associated watches has the Heuer Camaro on it. And for good reason. With a rare black-on-black triple register configuration and super appropriate perforated leather “racing” strap, this is one super cool version of a legendary watch.
Save from inheriting or stealing one, multi-function chronographs from less prestigious Swiss manufacturers are absolutely the most affordable way to get into the vintage complicated watch game. If this exact watch had a Patek Philippe logo on the dial, it wouldn’t function much differently at all. But it would cost you the price of a modest house. But because this one is an Eterna, a perfectly respectable but more modest watchmaker, it can be yours for less than two grand.