In 1904 Cartier created the first men's wristwatch for pilot Albert Santos-Dumont, who wanted a timepiece he could read without taking his hands off the yoke. A century later, men lust after vintage watches not as objects of practicality (we have cell phones for that), but as wearable history. Going vintage can seem daunting at first – all the jargon and the ever-present worry of being ripped off – but if you go in knowing just what to expect, you'll come out with the watch you've always wanted.
Know your movements.
A beautiful watch movement is engineered art – and like art, some examples are more prized than others. Among pre-1969 watches, the manually wound Valjoux 72 reigns. As the first modular movement – watchmakers could swap in their own parts to make it unique – it was used in such classics as the Heuer Carrera and the so-called Rolex Pre-Daytona. Other watch companies rolled their own movements: The Omega Caliber 321, Longines 13ZN, and Breguet Flyback all make vintage collectors' hearts flutter. In 1969 a group including Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton co-created the first automatic chronograph movement (dubbed "Chronomatic" by Hamilton and Breitling; "Caliber 11" by Heuer). That same year Zenith debuted its own auto-chrono, the El Primero. All of these movements are both precise and highly desirable.
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