Tudor Monte Carlo 7159/0

Writing about this watch in my collection is fairly surreal. The first “spark” that lit my interest in mechanical watches was an advertisement for the Tudor Heritage Chronograph in a National Geographic Traveler magazine. I knew nothing about watches at that point – seriously, didn’t know a quartz watch from a mechanical watch, and certainly didn’t know about Tudor’s fantastic history – but I felt an instant attraction to the chronograph’s design. The pop of colors, screw-down pushers and crown with nice texturing, and the Oyster-like bracelet…it all just worked for me. I spent hours that week reading about the Heritage Chrono and the history of the Tudor brand, and the connection to Rolex only strengthened my interest in one day getting a Tudor. As a result of all that reading, however, a funny thing happened…I never ended up getting the Heritage Chrono. The more I read about Tudor’s past, the more I became interested in getting a vintage watch over a new one – which is exactly what I did. The first watch I ever purchased was a Tudor Submariner 7016/0 from 1968, and once I saw the creamy lume plots in person, there was no going back. That said, my budget was much, much smaller when I first started out in the world of vintage watches, and Monte Carlos were 4-5x the price of an average Tudor Submariner. At least for a while, I was going to have to wait.

Despite initial budgetary restrictions, my attraction to the design of the Heritage Chrono (and by extension, the actual Monte Carlo chronos) never dimmed. Let’s call a spade a spade – the dial on the Monte Carlo is BOLD, and actually became a little more bold from the original “home plate” 7031/0 and 7032/0 references to the second executions (7149/0 and 7159/0).  On the 45 minute sub-register, what was previously an orange sliver became a beautiful amalgam of orange, white, grey, and black. Likewise, the seconds sub-register switched to a ying/yang approach with alternating hash colors every fifteen seconds. The effect is stunning in pictures, and even more so when on the wrist. There’s no mistaking a Monte Carlo, and Tudor was probably damn proud of that fact when it was brought into the fold in the late 60’s / early 70’s.

So how did this one end up in my collection? That’s mainly due to my friend Nick Federowicz, who you may know from Ad Patina. A local auction house, which typically specializes in artwork, was running a small watch auction and extended a special preview to Nick and a couple friends. The cover lots were a Rolex Daytona 6239 and the Monte Carlo 7159/0 pictured here, and despite my (now well cataloged) longing for a Monte Carlo, it was the first time I had ever been able to wear one. Not only was the Tudor in very good, honest shape, but the story was interesting for any vintage nut. Both the Daytona and the Monte Carlo were on consignment from the original owner, who had purchased them in Mexico City decades earlier and worn them faithfully in the ensuing years. I was smitten, but also slightly pessimistic about my chances of going home with it; I hate to pay “market” prices, and auctions rarely result in great deals – especially for lots that grace the cover of the catalog. I made plans to attend the auction, figuring it would be fun to be in the room and raise a paddle, even if it ultimately went nowhere.

As the auction’s start drew near, however, my job had other plans for me – namely, working until well past its duration. Having registered online as a contingency plan, I signed into Bidsquare from my desk and waited patiently for the preceding 87 lots to cycle through, keeping the auction window up in the background but focusing on my to-do list at work. Eventually, Lot 88 came up, and it was time to abandon my work. After a couple of low bids to open, I jumped in and hit “Bid.” Someone shot back quickly. I bid again, slightly above $5K this time. And then…it just stopped. The auction house’s estimate (which is always low to encourage bidding) was $6-8K and solid examples rarely traded for less than $13K privately, but here it was, languishing below the low-end of the range. As I waited in vain for the inevitable bidding frenzy to start, I began to wonder if I’d missed something. Did the people in the room know something I didn’t? After what felt like an interminable wait, the lot passed and the auctioneer moved on to the crown jewel of the auction – the 6239 Daytona.

I was left scratching my head – I had been the high bidder at $5,200 before it passed, and frankly, was ready to continue going to roughly $7K before premiums and taxes (which was still well below “market” in my opinion). What now? Well, because I love my loyal readers, I’ll share the secret that I learned that night: it’s not highly publicized, but in the event that a lot passes, most houses allow bidders to submit “post-sale binding bids” which are then forwarded to the consignor, who can decide to either accept or simply take the watch back. Houses aren’t supposed to tell bidders what the reserve is, but I was lucky enough to get some help from a wonderful woman at the auction house, and an hour after the auction had ended, my post-sale bid had been submitted at just a shade above the reserve price.

Two days later, I received a call from the auctioneer. The consignor had accepted my offer, and I was free to pick the watch up whenever convenient. An hour later, it was on my wrist for reasons that I still can’t fathom, and I’m forever indebted to all the other bidders in the room that held back that night. My journey into vintage watches had finally come full circle.

The Nitty Gritty

Thankfully, this piece remains in terrifically honest condition. It’s not a safe queen – the bezel is worn in certain spots and the case has a few dings, but the original facets of the case are still prominent and the patina is among the best that I’ve seen on a 7159/0. I can’t pinpoint why, but typically on 7159/0’s, one of two things happen – (i) the lume plots on the dial lose their rectangular shape (looking squiggly in spots), or (ii) the lume in the hands ends up with a dirty brown hue that is badly mismatched with the hour plots on the dial. The main reason I was attracted to this watch was the perfectly matched patina on the hands and dial, which is enough to overcome minor shortcomings in other areas.

The Monte Carlo is powered by the column wheel Valjoux 234 (not pictured here), as opposed to the first Monte Carlo (ref 7031/0), which featured a cam-driven Valjoux 7734 and a slightly larger case.

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