Vintage chronographs are a recurring theme of this column, and this week we rounded up some pretty unusual examples from some of the most celebrated manufactures. We start with Universal Genve and a rose gold Compax issued to the Brazilian air force, before moving on to a rare Zenith Port Royal in titanium with an El Primero caliber. There is also a limited edition IWC Mark XII with a titanium case and a Doxa Sfygmos listed on Ebay to finish things off.
Universal Genve Compax Ref. 124107, Issued To The Brazilian Air Force
The Universal Genve Compax reference 124107 is a great vintage chronograph to begin with. It has a large 37mm case, a rare dimension for the 1940s, rendered in precious metals. In this case, it gets even better thanks to three simple letters engraved on the caseback “FAB” which is short for “Fora Area Brasileira” or “Brazilian Air Force.” Much like its neighbor Argentina, Brazil trusted Universal Genve to supply chronographs to its pilots during the first half of the 20th century.
This watch is something of a celebrity, as it was published in the third volume of the excellent book I Cronografi da Polso by Paul White. It remains in great condition, with a well preserved rose gold case and a very legible silver dial. Unsurprisingly, the dial features a telemeter scale around its center; this graduation allows the wearer to calculate how far away artillery is from the difference between the sound of a departing projectile and its impact. Obviously, this is something quite important in a military setting. The engravings on the caseback are deep, confirming the military provenance with a personalized message atop too.
Casowatches has this military Universal Genve Compaxlisted for 6,500 (approximately $7,745).
Zenith Port Royal Reference 95.0100.418, With El Primero Caliber 3019PHF
The caliber 3019PHF is a coveted movement given its impressive features. Not only does it bring the hi-beat automatic chronograph configuration of any El Primero movement, but it also adds a triple calendar and a moonphase complication. You might remember a stunning El Primero prototypewith this movement in the case of a “regular” reference A386, but ironically enough the caliber El Primero 3019PHF has been mostly used in the Espada and Port Royal product lines, not in the El Primero itself.
This explains the layout of the present Port Royal reference 95.0100.418, a watch only produced in 270 examples between 1984 and 1986. It was part of a three-model titanium line, with grey, black and white dials, while a two-tone titanium-gold configuration was also available. The grey dial is probably my favorite configuration: the white Roman numerals printed on it and the three black date discs underneath ensure optimal legibility. Bonus point: The example here is sold with its original box and papers, and it is said to come directly from the first owner, who purchased it new in January 1986 (in a German-speaking country, judging from the date discs).
Iconeek offers this uncommon Zenith Port Royal for 6,300 CHF (approximately $6,565).
IWC Mark XII Reference 3242, A Rare Titanium Limited Edition
At first glance, the IWC reference 3242-002 almost looks like a regular IWC Mark XII, if it were not for the GL letters on the dial. Those indicate that it was a 100-piece limited edition made for Italian IWC distributor Giorgio Latuadain the late 1990s. It wasone of the three Mark XII versions with a titanium case, each powered by an ETA movement instead of the JLC caliber 889 of the regular version. Many more limited editions of the Mark XII were released, in addition to the yellow gold and platinum cases available for the standard configuration.
Besides the titanium case, the GL edition is also notable for its dark blue dial, while the comparable EF edition (for Emilio Fontana, another Italian distributor) got rid of the date window. The watch here is offered in full set, and its strap also looks to be original, while the watch was originally sold in 2002.
This titanium IWC Mark XII is priced at 3,490 (approximately $4,160).
Doxa Sfygmos, With Pulsations Scale And Original Strap And Buckle
Launched in 1958, the Doxa Sfygmos was true to its name (sphygmomeaning the pulse in Greek). The watch could help a physician measure a patient’s heartbeat thanks to the oversized pulsation scale on the periphery of the dial. Otherwise it had no chronograph registers. It was therefore exclusively aimed at doctors who could use the single pusher to start, stop, and reset this single hand as needed. The movement inside is a Valjoux 23, which can power two sub-registers, they’re just absent here.
The present watch is gold plated, while the Sfygmos was also offered in steel and, more rarely, in solid gold. Its condition is described as mint, and indeed there is not much aging obvious on the dial or the 35mm case. Similarly, the caseback shows deep engravings that confirm the unpolished state. Even better, the watch comes with the original strap and buckle, both signed. Lastly, the seller mentions that the movement works properly, with a clean operating of the chronograph.
You can find this Doxa Sfygmos on Ebay, with bidding currently at $500.