Eric Wind is the owner of Wind Vintage, a Florida-based business that buys and sells the finest vintage watches and helped enthusiasts to collate exceptional collections.
Previously vice president and senior specialist of watches at Christie’s auction house, he has also been a regular contributor to Hodinkee.
Regarded internationally as an authority on watch authenticity and brand analysis, Mr Wind is a regular expert voice in titles including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, Business of Fashion and Robb Report.
Here we challenged him to choose his personal Top 10 watches, a task that proved so hard that we allowed Mr Wind one honourable mention for each of his top picks.
“Picking my 10 favorite watches is not something easy – or even advisable given the inevitable collectors and companies that will be disappointed by what is left out,” says Mr Wind. “But it is better to be in the arena than to be a cold and timid soul watching from the sidelines.
“For this list, I am focused on models rather than specific reference numbers and I am not wanting to repeat any brand on the list. Here goes nothing!”
The Rolex Submariner was the first luxury watch I ever knew, after going to a Rolex retailer in Colorado with my dad who wanted to buy one when I was about 10, and it was also the first vintage watch I really wanted to save up and purchase as a young professional just out of college.
The first Submariner I purchased had a gilt glossy “Bart Simpson” dial, but it was also the watch that first taught me about case polishing as the lower right lug being over-polished compared to the other lugs drove me nuts and led me to sell it.
The Rolex Submariner reference 5512 with meters-first dial that I got from Paul Altieri of Bob’s Watches back in 2016 was the product of a multi-year search for an unpolished Submariner.
It would, money aside, be the one watch I would run back into the house during a fire and grab – even though I wear other vintage Rolex watches more frequently these days, specifically my GMT-Master reference 1675, Explorer II reference 1655, Explorer reference 1016, and Datejust reference 1603.
Honourable Mention: Tudor Black Bay 58
For current production models, I prefer the Tudor Black Bay 58 to the Rolex Submariner models as I find the modern Submariners to look a bit too beefed-up between the thick lugs and fat hands and hour markers, almost like they took too many steroids.
The Tudor Black Bay 58 is the modern watch I wear most, although mine happens to be a special model made for the friends and family of Rowing Blazers and I helped to design the dial.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
It was a lot of money for me to have tied up in a personal watch, so I decided to part with it and my only consolation is knowing it is now in the collection of Daniel Dae Kim, who is a proud caretaker of it.
That sleek integrated bracelet, the thin head, simply seeing the hour and minute hands, and that beautiful blue dial, it is just so elegant and enjoyable on the wrist.
The Nautilus was in some ways stealthier and cooler before it jumped the shark the last few years – with the peak Nautilus hype being reached with the Tiffany blue model – but I feel like the original 3700 models still remain undervalued and remain stealthier than the beefier modern versions. (Notice a theme on my opinion about modern watch cases?)
Honourable Mention: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
I often say there are two types of people in this world: Nautilus people and Royal Oak people.
I have a huge amount of love and respect for the Royal Oak, but I find the case and visible screws in the bezel to be a bit brutalist and prefer the more refined Nautilus case.
As I once heard from Ben Clymer, every great collector needs a Speedmaster in their collection at some point in time. I feel the same way: a great Speedmaster is one of the most rewarding watches to wear.
They have it all: great chronograph movements, an amazing case design, fantastic dial and hand aesthetics, and an unbelievable history, particularly the history of the Speedmaster with space exploration.
As someone looks at building a collection, I am always recommending they look at getting an excellent and appealing Speedmaster.
Honourable Mention: Rolex Daytona
I love Daytonas, but given the average price of a Daytona versus a Speedmaster, I would say that a collector with a more limited budget (say $50,000 or less) should look at getting a Speedmaster rather than putting most, if not all, their eggs in one basket by buying a Daytona.
As my colleague Charlie Dunne of Wind Vintage has said, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is the original fidget spinner. Originally designed for British polo players in India, the watch is one of the original tool or sports watches.
It was de rigueur for royalty and elites to wear these in the 1930s and 1940s and it remains one of the best and most iconic ‘form watches’ ever made.
My forever Reverso is my Grande Reverso Ultra Thin 1931 US Edition that was a gift from my best man, Jack Carlson, in 2012. I have many fond memories with that watch and look forward to passing it down to one of my children one day.
Honourable Mention: Cartier Tank and other Cartier form watches
I am sure I will irritate a lot of people by not having a Cartier on the list, but there are two types of people in this world: Tank people and Reverso people. Just kidding!
I am intensely interested in vintage Cartier watches, but just have never felt super comfortable wearing them myself – almost like I feel it should be on the wrist of a European super-collector like Auro Montanari a.k.a. John Goldberger rather than on my wrist.
The Navitimer was one of the earliest watches designed for pilots and set the trend for so many famous chronographs that followed.
The case is large, but somehow still svelte and hugs the wrist so well. I always feel like a person wearing a Navitimer is extremely smart and ready to do advanced calculations with the internal slide rule.
I remain excited each time I hold a great Navitimer reference 806 (or ‘Cosmonaute’ with reference 809 with 24-hour time) or vintage Breitling generally.
Honourable Mention: Rolex GMT-Master
When many people think of the pilot watch, they think of the Rolex GMT-Master with a ‘Pepsi’ red and blue rotating bezel. A GMT-Master reference 1675 is one of my favourite watches, but given that I already have the Submariner on the list as my Rolex pick, the GMT must be an honourable mention in this pilot category.
Vintage Heuer chronographs were my first true love as a vintage watch collector. The Carrera remains one of the purest chronographs designs with beautiful angled lugs and simple dials.
My first serious vintage watch was a Carrera 2447S with early eggshell white dial and it remains forever imprinted on me as one of the best and most elegant vintage watches ever made.
Honourable Mention: Heuer Monaco
Many people would flip this and say the Monaco is more iconic than the Carrera, but I don’t love the Monaco as much on the wrist as the Carrera due to the size of the case and lug placement. It remains very special, but I prefer the Carrera.
Zenith El Primero
The Zenith El Primero was one of the first automatic chronographs and remains the signature line for Zenith.
I personally love my Zenith ‘Covergirl’ El Primero reference A3818 and think it is one of the coolest vintage chronographs ever made.
The El Primero movement is so good Rolex decided to use that movement for its first automatic movements introduced in 1988.
Honourable Mention: Other Automatic Chronographs
1969 was a watershed year as it was the debut of automatic chronographs from the Project 99 consortium (Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton, and Dubois-Depraz) as well as Seiko. The Zenith El Primero was the most advanced movement of the group.
The Vulcain Cricket is one of my favourite watches and the only vintage watch where I collect multiple example rather than just honing in on one example of a given model.
I love it all: the aesthetics (simple and elegant watches with the addition of that fourth hand for an alarm), the history (almost a decade to develop that ingenious miniature alarm system loud enough to wake you up), and the legacy of being worn by Presidents of the United States.
Honourable Mention: Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox
The Memovox is one of the beautiful “if you know, you know” elegant tool watches like the Cricket and Reverso.
I love the look of the two crowns and find them to be some of my favourite watches to collect.
Philippe Dufour Simplicity
Philippe Dufour is the ultimate ‘independent’ for me and I have dreamed of owning his Simplicity since I first saw one over a decade ago.
It is the Platonic ideal of a dress watch and it is no surprise that prices have skyrocketed for them over the past decade and especially over the past two years.
Honourable Mention: Patek Philippe Calatrava
Of course, it is hard to argue with a great vintage Patek Philippe Calatrava.
The vintage Patek Philippe reference 570 and 565 examples with Breguet numerals are the top of the top in my view, but again, we could only have one Patek Philippe on this list.
ACCESSIBLE SPORTS WATCH
Seiko Dive Watch
The Seiko dive watch is such an iconic entry-level mechanical dive watch. Whether you were a grunt in the US military serving in Vietnam or a hipster today, you can’t go wrong with a Seiko dive watch on your wrist.
Designing the Rowing Blazers x Seiko watches has been an absolutely highlight and honour in my life and occasionally seeing them in the wild is extremely gratifying.
Honourable Mention: Casio G-Shock
For those that can’t afford the Seiko or want the additional features of a digital watch, such as an alarm and stopwatch, the G-Shock is a can’t miss and it has certainly been a gateway to more serious watches for so many collectors.