Tag Archives: 1950s

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — December selection

Didn’t get what you wanted for the Holidays? Stiffed by Santa? I may be able to fix that for you. Because I’m just now making this stunning classic Jumbo Seamaster available. This beautiful Omega features an ultra-desirable oversized 36mm steel case and handsome original sub-seconds dial highlighted by gold Arabic numerals at “12,” “3,” “6” and “9.” You might even say I saved one of my best for the last of the year.

Powered by Omega’s great in-house caliber 342 Bumper Automatic movement this big beauty also bears a cool double reference — 2494-4/2657 — and dates from circa 1950. Which is only fitting since the dial is pure mid-century elegance and style. But what’s extra nice abut this particular vintage Seamaster is that its relatively larger size still registers as perfectly “modern.”

It definitely makes a bold statement on the wrist, with its a mega-charming classic 50s layout made all the more striking by the large face, not to mention those long lugs. So after you’ve gone and bought for everyone else this Holiday Season why not treat yourself to a little something special? Such as this classic and uncommon Omega Seamaster dress watch that you’ll absolutely love wearing but that won’t break the bank after a season of giving. Best of all, you’ll be 100% certain you’re getting exactly the gift you want for once!

Check out the full listing with many more pictures and complete condition report over at the redoubtable Omega Forums’ Private Sales section.  ON HOLD

Classic Movie Watch — On Dangerous Ground (1952)

It’s far too facile to call Nicholas Ray’s stark 1952 classic, On Dangerous Ground, a film noir. It certainly starts out that way with hardened cop Jim Wilson, played by the incomparable Robert Ryan, violently working his way through tarts and hoodlums in his obsessive pursuit of two cop killers. But quickly we see that Wilson is no hero. His partners are finding it difficult to work with him and his superior has had to give him increasing warnings about police brutality. From the opening shots of the film we see that Wilson is utterly alone and has only the job to live for, while one of his two partners has a devoted young wife and the other more senior one already has a large family. Worse still for Wilson, he is beginning to hate his job and himself by proxy. As Wilson sneers at one point “everyone hates a cop” on both sides of the law and “garbage is all we handle.” It’s readily apparent that violent self-loathing is beginning to consume Ryan’s masterfully curdled Jim Wilson.

But although On Dangerous Ground begins in the grimy urban shadow world typical of film noir it doesn’t stay there. Having cuffed around one too many suspects Wilson is given an assignment out of town and far upstate until things cool down for the wayward detective. A young girl has been murdered in a small country town and Wilson is sent up to help the local sheriff. Suddenly the movie drives out of a crime infested, artificially lit city and up into the stark and pristine mountains, eventually arriving at a sparsely populated wintry outpost that has been the scene of a horrible crime.

There Wilson meets Walter Brent and his family, whose young daughter has been slain. Brent, played by the square-jawed and tough Ward Bond, familiar from so many John Ford Westerns alongside John Wayne, is consumed by the need for revenge and vigilante justice. He is resentful and dismissive of the big city detective when all he wants to do is find his daughter’s killer and blow him away. Nonetheless, Wilson and Brent join together to pursue the suspected killer after he steals a car in town, following him even further into the mountainous wilds until they crash their car in the icy conditions. Their quarry has also crashed his car and they follow his tracks as best they can to a remote house in a barren, frozen landscape. There they meet a blind woman seemingly living alone, Mary Malden, played by the always excellent Ida Lupino. And now the source of tension changes yet again, as the detective and the bereaved father wonder if the blind woman is hiding or helping the assailant and Wilson begins to wonder if he can open his heart to this stubbornly independent yet tender and kind woman.

Once the action has left the city and moved to the rocky terrain the tenor of the film also changes. Upon repeated viewings there is a distinctive existential aspect to the manhunt and its implications, becoming almost an allegory. All of a sudden Wilson is the one upholding the law and trying to keep Brent from pursuing extra judicial action. It’s almost as if Brent is the ultimate extension of Wilson’s increasingly judge and jury approach to law enforcement in the city. In seeing it in another man he experiences a similar revulsion to that of his partners at his own over-the-line actions. And can the blindness of Mary Malden simply be a plot device or is there something more profound being implied there? After all, the famous statue of Justice is blindfolded and once Wilson comes into contact with this isolated blind woman his own angry defenses begin to soften and he begins to want to trust in the process of the law again over simple retribution.

It all makes for an extremely strange and intriguing police drama. Ray’s sense of story is inventive and never bound by the conventions of genre. The black and white cinematography is dark to the point of cinema verite with the vast outdoor spaces seemingly even more claustrophobic than the inky, densely packed city streets of the first third of the film. The tense mood is consistently heightened by the pulsing score of the great Bernard Herrmann, Hicthcock’s favorite composer. And the two stars are top notch. Ida Lupino, with her lovely eyes and husky voice, was always such a fascinating combination of tough and tender, a perfect foil for hard men, and never more so than in this brave and accomplished role. She was also a Hollywood groundbreaker as a female director at a time when that was almost unheard of and got her start in that pursuit by directing a few scenes in On Dangerous Ground when Ray was too ill to work.

But the movie’s center of gravity is Ryan’s hair-trigger Jim Wilson, a man drowning in his own exposure to the darkest aspects of human behavior, in others and those within himself. Made some 20 years before Dirty Harry, the cop in On Dangerous Ground is a direct progenitor of the kind of avenging urban policeman that Clint Eastwood portrayed so well. But whereas in Eastwood’s conception of Dirty Harry his vigilante violence is cathartic and necessary as a response to impotent bureaucracy in an increasingly chaotic and frightening world, for Ryan’s Jim Wilson the chaos is within and so the resort to violence is self-wounding and destructive of his humanity. His exposure to someone even more out of control, even more hungry for blood in Brent the avenging father brings him back to the belief in the power of and the need for the due process of the law. Of all the classic Hollywood leading men of the 1940s and 50s Ryan was the probably the least suited to that title. He was more like an anti-matinee idol, often specializing in heavies and unreliable neurotics. But there is not really another actor like him and his ability to channel an inner darkness was rarely matched. There’s just something about those jet black eyes of his that radiates menace even when he is a supposedly sympathetic character. That his Jim Wilson requires the help of a blind woman to save him from himself and that Ryan only grudgingly allows this redemption to happen makes this one of his most satisfying “heroic” roles in a career mainly distinguished by masterful portrayals of violent racists and psychopaths.

A final word on director Nick Ray, at least for now: Ray was undoubtedly one of the most interesting American directors to emerge from the post-WWII era. While trained to be a typical handler of studio projects, Ray constantly found ways of making routine material something more transcendent. Thus a movie like They Live By Night (1949) becomes a doomed romance rather than a simple crime spree movie. In A Lonely Place (1950) allows Humphrey Bogart to take his uncompromising tough guy persona to an unsavory extreme. Bigger Than Life (1956) is a seemingly typical 1950s domestic melodrama upended by James Mason’s frightening steroid-induced psychosis. The brilliantly stylized Rebel Without A Cause (1955) became the signature youth rebellion film of all time due to an intuitive grasp of a coming generational revolution and the absolutely perfect casting of James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo as the teenagers. And 55 Days At Peking (1963), Ray’s last major film after being dismissed late in the production, is a period war epic that allows the often monolithic Charlton Heston moments of wounded humanity that he only rarely revealed in his other films. And there are several other great films to his credit aside from these like The Lusty Men, Bitter Victory and Johnny Guitar, all well worth seeking out.

Ray had an obvious gift with actors, getting them to delve deep and really expose themselves and also a rare understanding of interior and exterior spaces as emotional contributors and activators (not coincidentally he studied architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s). All of his best talents of mining hidden depths in conventional material and making the most of limited resources are on display in On Dangerous Ground, possibly the most unusual film noir in the canon. It’s truly a movie of deceptive complexity and beautiful playing that rewards multiple viewings and reveals new levels of understanding each time. It’s hard to think of a better compliment to Ray’s unique cinematic talents than that and it’s an ideal jumping off point for further exploration of one of the more idiosyncratic of the major “Golden Age” Hollywood directors.

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — September selection

As we leave summer behind and head into fall it’s a great time to break out vintage dress watches that can compliment the more sophisticated styles that autumn entails. And it doesn’t get much classier than this beautiful early 1950’s Omega Seamaster in classic “Beefy Lug” case. This lovely reference 2576 features a handsome original waffle dial with Breguet numerals at “12,” “3” and “9” that has aged to a very attractive ivory hue. Check out the wonderful patina on the original radium lume.

Also special, this Seamster’s all-steel water resistant 3-piece case doesn’t appear to have ever been polished. It’s rather special to see those handsomely chamfered fat lugs as the manufacturer intended them to be. Under the hood you’ll find Omega’s robust in-house bumper automatic caliber 344 movement, which hammers pleasantly when you move your wrist.

It all adds up to the complete vintage package: nicely proportioned, a super stylish layout and original, untampered-with condition. On the wrist this mega-charming classic mid-century Seamaster has unmistakable and timeless appeal. Whether you’re diving into a leaf pile or layering up with sweater and jacket for a night on the town this classy Omega will have you looking and feeling good.

Check out the complete ad over at the always hopping Omega Forums’ Private Sales section for many more pictures and complete condition report.  SOLD

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — August selection, Pt. III

My lucky run of quality vintage watches for August just keeps on coming up aces with this gorgeous circa 1950s Movado “Sport.” This watch was part of a jeweler’s deadstock that he inherited when he purchased the business and it is in near pristine condition. It features a stunning original eggshell silver dial with elegant partial Arabic numerals and closed minute track.

MovadoSport-bk copy

The beautifully designed 3-piece snap back all-steel case shows no signs of polish and the brushed and polished surfaces are pristine with razor sharp lugs. The outer caseback is marked for Stainless Steel and even has the original retailer’s price sticker on the back! This Sport is rather pleasingly over-engineered with an anti-magnetic dust cover protecting the movement. Can you imagine what a watch of this obvious build quality would go for if it said Patek on the dial instead of Movado?

MovadoSport-move copy

Powering this vintage Sport is Movado’s high grade in-house Caliber 125 manual wind movement with 15 jewels and a nice oversized balance for greater accuracy. This is just an exceptionally well preserved watch with classic mid-20th century looks from one of the great houses of Switzerland. It all adds up to an uncommon opportunity to buy a time capsule sort of piece from 50+ years ago that you just can’t find every day. But if you act quickly you can make it yours and wear it everyday!

MovadoSport-wrst copy

Check out the complete ad for this great Movado with many more pictures and complete condition report over at Omega Forums’ hopping Private Sales section.  ON HOLD

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — June selection

We are surely ending the month of June with a bang because have I got something special for you haute horology buffs. Up for sale on consignment is this absolutely stunning Patek Philippe reference 2552, aka the true “Disco Volante”. A marvel of mid-century engineering inside and out, the Disco Volante gets its name from its large, round 36mm diameter and tall, double-stepped bezel, making it look a bit like a flying saucer. Though that said, it’s definitely more suited to black tie than Area 51.

PP2552-crwn copy

Of course this heavy yellow gold classic 1950s men’s dress watch is beautiful on the outside, as you’d obviously expect, with a stunning original eggshell dial that has acquired a gorgeous ivory patina through the years. But it might get even better under the hood where you’ll find Patek’s first-ever automatic movement, the legendary caliber 12-600 AT, ticking away. Far ahead of its time when it was introduced, the 12-600 AT features 30 jewels, the Geneva seal reserved only for exceptional calibers, a solid 18k rotor with stunning engine turned engraving that winds in both directions for maximum efficiency, 5 positional adjustments, as well as further adjustments for heat, cold and isochromism, and Patek’s patented Gyromax balance and a top flight Breguet hairspring all beating at a rapid 19,800 bph. And did I mention it is drop dead gorgeous to behold?

PP2552-move copy

This fantastic machine has just been fully serviced for years’ more faithful service to its new owner and this wonderful Disco Volante also comes with a genuine Patek croc strap. Better yet, it has its period correct 18k Patek buckle, too, a valuable accessory in its own right. Continue reading

The Gilt-Gloss 5512 Submariner– a Review by Beaumont Miller II

Introduction

The 1950s to the mid 1960s was a golden era for Rolex. Watches produced by the company during this time have captivated the hearts and minds of Rolex collectors for many years. The passion that drives many watch collectors is the desire to find not just older watches, but to search for vintage watches whose dials have been well preserved and protected from the elements and at the same time, have aged in a way that each has taken on a unique patina. Thanks to the introduction by Rolex of it’s patented Oyster case with its improved screw down case back and winding crown, many of these dials have survived today giving collectors much to be happy about.

The dials produced for the Rolex Submariner and GMT during this time are known by collectors as gilt-gloss or gilt/gloss dials.  The term gilt, as applied to these early Rolex dials, refers to both the gold tone of the text as well as other features of the dial.  While many collectors may not feel that the term gilt is appropriate when used in this context, it has stood the test of time, and as any collector with a passion for Rolex dials can tell you, it is a far better description than the names given to identify some other dials. The term gloss describes the mirror like black glossy surface of these dials, which is in contrast to the matte finish which was introduced by dial manufacturers for Rolex watches in the mid 1960s.

5512-61,4line-2  5512-61,4line-3

The manner in which these gilt-gloss dials were produced is very interesting. While some dial manufacturers might paint the text on the colored surface of the dial, those making the dials for the Rolex Submariner and the GMT did so in a way that the gold colored text and features are in relief or below the surface instead of on top. These gold aspects of the dial are actually the brass dial plate and lie underneath a coat of black glossy paint. On top of the black layer of paint, a clear coat of lacquer was then applied . In the case of the very early gilt-gloss dials, it was not uncommon to have lines of silver colored text in addition to the gold colored text. The silver colored text was applied on top of the final clear lacquer coat. Finally, the luminous material that allowed the watch to be read in the dark was applied. The more radioactive radium used for the dial and hands in the 1950s to make them glow was swapped for the less radioactive tritium in the early 1960s.

The way these dials have aged is at the heart of why these watches are so favored by vintage Rolex collectors. Just as no two fingerprints are the same, the same can be said of these early Rolex dials. It is not uncommon for the dials produced in the 1950s to have a darker more orange color to the text on the dial, while many others that were produced later tend to have acquired more lighter shades of gold tone. The difference between the two is likely due to the radium versus tritium used for the luminous material and how the brass dial plate reacted with the chemicals used to prevent corrosion during the manufacturing process. Another beautiful feature of these rare watches is the appearance of the glossy dial in different lighting conditions. The richness of the black high gloss finish of many dials can be readily seen in the sunlight, while other dials exhibit different shades of brown.

photo  photo

Another reason these early Rolex models are sought after by enthusiasts is because of the attractive styling of the watch case. As hobbies evolve and collectors become more knowledgeable, it’s common for the emphasis placed on certain aspects of the objects collected to change over time. Vintage watch collecting is no exception. Within the last five or six years, collectors have moved away from the mantra, “It’s all about the dial” and adopted a more progressive maxim, “A great watch starts with a great dial, but doesn’t end there”. Both the Rolex Submariner reference 5512 and its predecessor, the Submariner 6538, share the large chamfers or beveled edge on the lugs of the watch case that are prized by collectors. In recent years collectors have realized that unmolested examples with their sharp cases nearly intact are rare treasures.

photo   IMG_0109                                                                         

The Rolex Submariner reference 5512 was introduced in 1959 and was likely produced until 1980. Early examples were fitted with the calibre 1530 movement, and the improved chronometer rated 1560 movement was introduced a year or so later. The 5512 shared some of the styling features of the earlier Submariners like the outer rotating black bezel that helps to keep track of elapsed time. However, unlike the earlier Submariners, the watch case produced for the 5512 featured crown guards on either side of the winding crown, a feature that remains on the Submariner to this day. The many different gilt-gloss dials combined with the different shaped crown guards are some of the unique features of the 5512 that make this sporty and elegant reference a favorite of vintage Rolex collectors. Understanding the chronology and significance of these early dials is a passion of mine. From a collector’s perspective it is important to be able to evaluate a vintage watch based on its originality and period correctness. Unfortunately, not many collectors have the ability to locate vintage watches from original owners, and because the provenance of other watches is not always clear, understanding the significant changes in the evolution of this Submariner is critical in making sure that the watch has the correct movement and dial.

The following is a brief overview of the 5512 discussing some of the more common and rare gilt-gloss dials and their characteristics as well as a short summary of the different types of crown guards and movements from 1959 to 1966. There are few hard and concrete rules with Rolex during this period, and as such, this overview should NOT be seen as a conclusive authority to check the correctness of your vintage Rolex, but rather a guide to help collectors appreciate the many subtle nuances of the 5512 from the early to mid 60’s.

A warm thank you to Andrew Shear for allowing the pictures from his dial archive for this 5512 review.  Click on each pic for a higher resolution photo in a new window.  

 

1959-1960

photo-17  photo-18

The earliest dials for the 5512 are often called MK1 dials and can be easily recognized by the shape of the coronet, typically with the last spike on the right extending a bit further down than the other four. The phrase “Old Font” dial, a term often used by Marcello Pisani, was an appropriate description based on the observation that the Mk1 coronet was reminiscent of some of the previous coronets seen on the “Big Crown” Submariners from the 1950s.

During this period there are two different types of dial configurations for the 5512. There is the 2 line version with only the depth rating and “SUBMARINER” printed below it and the 4 line version with

“SUPERLATIVE CHRONOMETER
“OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED”

aka SCOC text , printed below the depth rating and “SUBMARINER”.

The early 5512 Submariner dials have different combinations of silver and gold text ranging from one line of silver and one line gold to three lines of silver and one line gold. Continue reading