Vintage Watches A 1960s Wittnauer 239T Professional Chronograph, A 1964 Omega Speedmaster, And A 1966 Tudor Oyster Prince
The Speedmaster has reached legendary status, but I wonder if the execs at Omega would have ever thought this when it came out in 1957. Initially the watch was made for auto enthusiasts and it was one of the first watches to feature a fixed bezel with tachymeter scale – before this, the tachymeter scale would have been directly on the dial. Having the tachy on the bezel was extremely useful because oftentimes the tachy on the dial could be hard to see and if you actually needed to use the function it could be distracting. After the inception of the first Speedmaster the reference, the 2915, Omega would continue to update the model until this very day. The second version reference of the Speedy, the 2998, changed the look dramatically. The biggest changes would be changing the steel bezel to painted black and the hands from ‘Broad Arrow’ style to ‘Alpha’ style hands. This brings us to the reference 1005.002 we are offering today. This reference came out at a point when Omega changed the way they made reference numbers, in 1962. They started using a six-digit system called “Mapics.” Omega developed a system where each of the numbers in the reference would correspond to a specific feature of the watch. If Omega never changed the way they made reference numbers this watch would have fallen into the 2998 category, which I think is pretty neat to think about. Omega produced this reference for only a short time, from 1962 to 1964, and this example was made in 1964 and originally delivered to Germany according to Omega.
The Best Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master ‘Pepsi’ In 2021
With international travel finally opening up again (well, at least for some people), you could be forgiven for being a bit rusty when it comes to travel prep. You’ll need to gather the essentials: a hardy set of luggage, some comfortable clothes, a good book for the flight, and don’t forget your passport… Another valuable tool in the globe-trotter’s arsenal is a GMT watch.
A much-misunderstood category of timepieces, leading jeweller and watch purveyor Bucherer provides this handy definition: “in simple terms, a GMT watch is a timepiece with a 24-hour format hand that indicates a second time zone in addition to the other hands, not just any multiple time zone watch with more than one 12 hour format dial.”
In essence, a GMT watch easily allows you to keep track of the local time in two different time zones – typically your home time zone and the local time in wherever you’re travelling… And the most famous GMT watch of all time is the Rolex GMT-Master: one of the first GMT watches ever made and the standard of the breed.
Designed in collaboration with Pan American Airways for use by their pilots and navigators, the iconic Rolex first hit the market in 1954 – its red and blue bezel, originally intended to be a reference to Pan Am livery, since garnering the nickname ‘Pepsi’ by the watch community. It’s easily one of the most iconic and desirable watches on the market.
And therein lies the dilemma. Because they’re so popular, they’re pretty hard to get one’s hands on: a new Pepsi officially retails for AU$13,300 (already a pretty hefty sum) but good luck getting one at retail. There’s a waiting list stretching out for years. On the aftermarket, expect to pay thousands on top of that – even as much as double retail.
But what if you want a GMT watch now – and you don’t want to blow all your savings on one, either? If that sounds like you you’re in luck; we’ve collated some of the hottest and best alternatives to the Rolex Pepsi that you can buy in boutiques or online right now in 2021 for less than the retail price of the famous ‘Rollie’. Let’s get cracking.
Bulgari Aluminium GMT
First up, we have the new Bulgari Aluminium GMT. The famous Italian luxury house has long been respected as a serious player in the world of fine watchmaking, in no small part thanks to its Octo Finissimo line of watches, which has been the subject of many world firsts in watchmaking, with highlights including the world’s thinnest minute repeater and the world’s thinnest mechanical chronograph.
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The Bulgari Aluminium, first launched in 1998, is a rather unconventional watch: rubber and aluminium for a high-end timepiece? At the time, that was a rather shocking prospect, but actually, it makes a lot of sense: it means the watch is exceptionally light and comfortable. They’re also the two main materials used in the construction of aeroplanes – so it’s highly appropriate that in 2021, Bulgari decided to add a GMT variant to the Aluminium line.
Featuring a slick blue and red colour scheme (just like the Rolex Pepsi), the Aluminium GMT is a rather sporty take on the GMT watch. With a 42-hour power reserve thanks to its in-house movement, water resistance to 100m and a case constructed from an aluminium/titanium alloy that’s light yet scratch-resistant, it’s a rather tough little cookie – and for AU$5,200, it’s also a bit of a steal.
Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT
Another great alternative to the Rolex Pepsi is a watch from a manufacturer that’s all about aviation: France’s Bell & Ross. Their iconic square case design is meant to mimic aircraft cockpit instrumentation – so it’s no big surprise that they make a GMT watch or two.
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The Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT takes the tried and tested Bell & Ross formula – that signature square case with a crisp, clear, ultra-legible dial – and adds GMT functionality, with a bi-directional 24 hour-marker bezel and fourth hand. A minimalist date window peeks out at 4 o’clock and an internal bezel provides minutes/seconds markers for additional functionality.
Available with either a chunky calfskin leather strap or a mil-spec black synthetic fabric strap, the BR 03-93 GMT is a super modern take on the GMT watch that really makes you feel like you’re a fighter pilot just by strapping it on. For AU$5,500, you get a lot of watch for your money.
Tudor Black Bay GMT
Of course, we couldn’t have a serious conversation about an alternative to a Pepsi without mentioning Rolex’s sister brand, Tudor – ‘the people’s Rolex’. If you’re looking for the next best thing to a Rolex, Tudor is an obvious choice: the collector-favourite brand has similar designs and a similarly impeccable level of build quality as their Rolex siblings at a much more accessible price point (and more realistic availability).
The Tudor Black Bay GMT pours some Pepsi on the brand’s perennially popular dive watch, boasting that classic combination of a black dial with a red and blue bezel. It’s almost like a hybrid between the GMT-Master and the Submariner, but with a more retro aesthetic thanks to its domed sapphire crystal, lack of cyclops lens and more utilitarian form factor.
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Crucially, it costs less than half of the retail price of its Rolex counterpart at AU$5,510 (for a stainless steel bracelet; a leather or fabric strap lowers the price further to AU$5,090) while featuring double the water resistance at 200m. You’d be mad not to grab one, frankly.
Timex Q Reissue
This last one’s a bit of an outlier, but definitely worthy of inclusion. Is the Timex Q Reissue a true GMT watch? No. Does it come from a high-end manufacturer or house a Swiss movement? Hell no. Is it even an automatic watch? Not on your life.
But what it is, is highly affordable. The Q Reissue is the cheapest and best way to get a watch that looks like a Rolex Pepsi without having to spend thousands of dollars. Indeed, this bad boy will only set you back a measly AU$330 in comparison.
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For that, it’s not a bad buy. Unlike a Rolex Pepsi, this Timex has a date as well as a day window. Unlike the BR 03-93 GMT, it comes with an integrated steel bracelet. It’s thinner than the Tudor Black Bay GMT and more conventional-looking than the Bulgari Aluminium GMT. Crucially for a traveller, you won’t have to worry about it getting nicked when you’re on holiday (and even if it does, it’s cheap to replace).
On that note – here’s to safe travels and successful horological purchases.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue review: nine months on the wrist
As sure as day follows night, it was no surprise when Tudor announced a navy blue version of its hugely popular Black Bay Fifty-Eight in 2020. The new colourway soon became one of the most desirable watches of the year, with waiting lists forming quickly for what is a well-priced Swiss diving watch with a smart but classical design and family ties to Rolex.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight range gets its name from the year 1958, which was when Tudor introduced its first diver’s watch, the Big Crown. As such, the Fifty-Eight has vintage design elements and a classically simple dial, along with 200 metres of water resistance and an automatic movement.
As for the Rolex link, Tudor was created in 1926 by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, and for many years acted as a sister brand to the world’s most famous watchmaker. Today, Tudor remains a part of the Geneva-based Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, but operates as its own brand at a lower price point than Rolex, but with design and build quality to match.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue review: Specs
M79030B Case size: 39mm
- 39mm Thickness : 11.7mm
11.7mm Lug width: 20mm
20mm Lug-to-lug: 47.5mm
47.5mm Water resistance: 200m
200m Movement: Automatic Calibre MT5402
Automatic Calibre MT5402 Crystal: Sapphire
(Image credit: T3)
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue review: Hardware and design
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight is a simple diver’s watch, with a 39mm case, navy dial with matching unidirectional rotating bezel, illuminated markers and an automatic movement. There is no date complication or stopwatch functionality, and so the case side features only a screw-down crown for adjusting the time and winding the movement should it run out of power.
There are currently 10 different models of Black Bay Fifty-Eight, including three navy options. These feature the same case but are offered with a blue fabric strap, steel bracelet, or blue ‘soft-touch’ strap. All are attached to the case using industry-standard 20mm lug bars.
The case measures 11.7mm thick and has a raised sapphire crystal with a slight dome, adding a smart design detail without making the watch too cumbersome. A lug-to-lug measurement of 47.5mm means the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is relatively compact and wears well on wrists of most sizes. This is further aided by a lot of adjustability in the strap, plus three options of fine adjustment on the clasp.
Some criticism has been aimed at the watch for the fake rivets on the edges of the bracelet links. Whether you like these or not is a case of personal preference, but when worn they can hardly be seen. The removable links are secured with screw pins.
The anodised aluminium bezel clicks satisfyingly through sixty positions as it is rotated anticlockwise, while Super-LumiNova on the bezel, dial and all three hands ensures great nighttime (or underwater) visibility. Design details include a vintage snowflake-style hour hand.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue review: Movement
(Image credit: T3)
Inside (and unfortunately not visible through the steel case back) is an automatic MT5402 movement with 27 jewels and 70 hours of power reserve.
This is an in-house Tudor movement introduced in 2018 and replacing the ETA 2824-2. Like Rolex, this is not a movement finished to be a thing of beauty, and not only is it covered by the case back, but when exposed it is more industrial engineering than glittering centerpiece.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue review: Verdict
(Image credit: T3)
After the success of the original Black Bay Fifty-Eight with its black dial and bronze details, it was no surprise to see Tudor roll out a navy version. You could call it a predictable and perhaps even cynical move, but it has resulted in a truly wonderful timepiece. The size of the Fifty-Eight makes it accessible to almost everyone, while the movement has proven to be extremely accurate during the year we have owned ours.
Seventy hours of power reserve means you can swap the Tudor for another watch for an entire weekend without it losing time, while the case design lends itself to a wide range of straps, from fabric and leather to stainless steel. Lastly, it ticks all the boxes for what a dive watch should be, from the luminous markers to the unidirectional bezel and 200 metres of water resistance.
Spending between £2,520 and £2,760 on a watch is a big deal for many, but the navy Fifty-Eight 58 lives up to that investment, and then some. Arguably more interesting (and less predictable) than a Rolex, while sharing DNA and build quality, Tudor is at the top of its game with the Black Bay Fifty-Eight and we can’t wait to see where it goes next.