The following article is an opinion piece and solely the personal opinion of the author. It should be read strictly as opinion and not as a blanket statement of fact.
This is a story about Nina Rindt, or more precisely the vintage watch that was named after her: a smallish, panda-dialed Universal Geneve 3-register “Compax” chronograph from the 1960s. And it’s about what this collectible chrono’s meteoric ascent tells us about how markets for vintage watches are made these days. The Valjoux 72-powered “Nina” was so dubbed by collectors because of pictures showing the wife of legendary Formula 1 driver Jochen Rindt wearing her UG chronograph at various racing events in the 1960s through the fateful year of 1970, when Jochen was killed at Monza and went on to become the first and only posthumous Formula 1 champion. Jochen Rindt also has a watch named in his honor because of his personal association with it, the Heuer Autavia 2446 with screw back. As with so many great vintage pieces, “branding” vintage watches with a celebrity’s name is nothing new. It certainly worked magic with the Paul Newman Daytona and its market value. So ever since, savvy dealers have been looking for links to the famous when selling their watches, often with mixed results (see the “Steve McQueen” Rolex 1655 Explorer II, a watch McQueen never actually wore).
The earliest reference I can find to the “Nina Rindt” nickname for the panda UG Compax is from back in 2012 in a Chronotrader ad. But it’s probably safe to say the term had been kicking around at least since shortly after this 2006 post on the main On The Dash Heuer Forum. OK, so we have a catchy nickname and established celebrity provenance. And we also have a genuinely uncommon watch, one that you are simply not going to see in most second hand watch stores or even find on eBay too often. Now what? Well, after a few years of steady increase, the “Nina” gradually rose to around an $8000 dollar watch as of the end of 2013. Which is not too shabby and probably a quadrupling of value in about 4 years give or take. I think this is well within the level of standard appreciation in the timeline of a desirable model getting more well known, talked about, shown on the internet and eventually having “Grail” status bestowed upon it by collectors of that specific brand or type of watch.
And then things got really nutty. In early 2014, watch enthusiast site extraordinaire Hodinkee published one of their ubiquitous “Found” articles on a very nice “Nina” with a lot of backstory on the watch and the entertaining account of the owner’s acquisition of it. Now blessed with Hodinkee’s unparalleled reach as the arbiter of what is hot and sexy in the vintage watch world, the “Nina” really took off. The other enthusiast/industry fluffing sites caught on and so, of course, did the collector forums, who are no dopes either. By the time Hodinkee made another mention of a nice “Nina” for sale in October of that year on their dealer booster feature, “Bring a Loupe”, the “Nina” had blown up to around $15k during the course of that red hot summer and early fall. But we still hadn’t seen anything yet.
Here’s how things went from October 2014 on from the horse’s mouth, a then-Hodinkee contributor:
“…recent transactions that we have record of for the Nina Rindts:
Last October , one reportedly sold for $23,000 in a silent auction by analog/shift that I wrote about on HODINKEE.
Then Yorktime in Canada reportedly sold one for $19,000 within the weekend after I wrote about it on HODINKEE [January 2015]:
Then Matt Bain reportedly sold one for $22,000 within a couple days after I featured it on HODINKEE [March 2015]:
Let’s unpack this a little bit, shall we? So we have the Analog/Shift “Nina” — presumably the same example highlighted in that earlier “Found” installment — being sold at silent auction for a reported $23k. Continue reading