The vintage watch marketplace has continued to move “up and to the right” at a fever pitch since I was introduced to it in 2012, and it’s truly amazing how much can change in such a condensed time period. My general philosophy has always been to proactively find value, not chase trends, and with a fair amount of traditionally-sought after sports watches under my belt, it was time to shift my focus to something that was versatile in formal settings as well. My friend Justin Vrakas had been pushing Movado as a “value play” in 2016, and the longer that I studied the brand, I was convinced that he was absolutely justified.
For starters, a bit of context may be helpful. Modern-day Movado might as well be a completely different brand from the manufacture that created the M95 Sub-Sea. Through the 1960’s, Movado created some of the most elegant chronographs in the Swiss watch world, and positioned itself as a peer with many of the renowned brands in the industry. The Sub-Sea chronograph was powered by an in-house, column wheel chrono movement (the M95, pictured below), which was nicely finished and operated in a unique fashion (start / stop the chrono with the bottom, then reset with the top). The Sub-Sea reference also utilized cases from François Borgel, the casemaker who supplied cases for Patek Phillipe’s reference 1463, which had a production run of multiple decades and is one of the most sought-after vintage Pateks in the collecting world. Needless to say, the Borgel cases are beautifully-made and perfectly contoured to the wrist.
After handling Justin’s glossy “inverse panda” M95, I added the reference to my wish list and kept a close eye on examples that traded on the forums or at auction (which seemed to rarely happen). Then one day, a nearly perfect solid gold Movado Sub-Sea appeared on eBay. I’ve never seen myself as a gold watch person, but for some reason, this M95 captivated me. Part of it was likely the value proposition that I had already absorbed. But regardless of price or perceived value, I fell in love with this watch from the first time I saw it. The dial and case are classically beautiful, and when you add in the serpent hands on the sub-dials, applied gold markers, and blued steel chrono hand, it adds up to a ridiculously beautiful sports watch masquerading as a dress watch. I set a fixed bid, crossed my fingers, and amazingly came out the winner. After a few days, I had the watch in hand and my appreciation jumped up even higher. The first thing I noticed was the weight of the watch. Compared to the stainless steel M95 Sub-Seas, the gold case feels like a paper weight (a really, really, ridiculously good looking, perfectly contoured 35mm paper weight). And the second thing was simply the quality of the dial. The design, legibility, matte finish, and fine printing are all emblematic of a top-tier manufacture.
So the final thing to discuss is the actual price. Gold Patek 1463s range from the high five-figures to mid-six figures, depending on the particular execution. This M95 Sub-Sea’s cost in an eBay auction that ran the full length? $2,905. There are very few instances where the value curve is this skewed from reality, but I can’t help but feel like this is one such instance. Stainless steel M95 Sub-Seas tend to sell for between $4.5-7K (as of summer 2017), but perhaps the gold case (unfairly) held back this particular example. Either way, it has rapidly climbed it’s way into the top of my collection and is truly one of the highest-quality watches that I’m lucky enough to call my own. If you find another, snatch it up quickly!
The Nitty Gritty
This particular Sub-Sea is in fantastic shape. The original serpent hands, which are often replaced, “snake” their way along the sub-dials, and the dial is still a vibrant white rather than cream. The case has also developed a wonderful patina – a first for me, as stainless steel cases don’t show any similar aging patterns. Sub-Seas aren’t exactly plentiful, and I’ve only found a couple other examples of similar 14kt solid gold Sub-Seas with this dial configuration. Like I said above, if you find one on the market, don’t think…just BUY!
PS – Notice anything unusual about the minutes sub-counter?