The Most Collectible Vintage Quartz Watches

Among serious watch collectors, the word ‘quartz’ has been seen as something of a vulgarity for some time – but it seems all that is changing. Vintage Quartz watches are rising.
The die-hard and the traditionalists seem to be allergic to the subject – which is a pity, since there are a number of quartz watches that are certainly worthy of being called collectible.
The split between “mechanical” and “electronic” came in the early 1970’s. The advancing Quartz technology, coming primarily from Seiko in Japan, was incredibly cheap to produce, and remarkably accurate, compared to mechanical watches of the past.
Suddenly mass produced electronic watches were available everywhere, and the mechanical watches were almost forgotten, except by the select few who prized craftsmanship over price.
In a panic, the Swiss manufacturers created the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) in Neuchâtel to develop a true Swiss-made quartz – and the Beta 21 quartz watch was invented.
When watch collecting became hugely popular, around the 1990’s, suddenly things changed again. Watch collectors wanted only the finest mechanical movements, and would hear nothing of the ‘cheap and nasty’ quartz watches.
Even so, hidden here and there in the collector’s stashes were one or two exceptions to the rule.

Rolex Quartz

One year after the Beta 21 was completed – Rolex’s first quartz powerhouse, the Rolex ref. 5100 was first released in 1970. Today these watches are becoming extremely popular, reaching between $15,000 and $125,000 at auctions. 

Soon afterwards, Rolex debuted the OysterQuartz, one of the finest quartz movements of its era, which today remains one of the more affordable vintage Rolexes you can find, with prices starting somewhere around $3,000.

Patek Philippe Quartz

The premier Swiss watchmakers are perhaps best known for their super-complicated mechanical watches – and for maintaining their high investment values over the years.

It’s possibly a little harder to find a quartz Patek Philippe vintage – but when you do, it’s well worth it. The Nautilus ref. 3900 was made back in the 1980’s, using the same Beta 21 technology that Rolex employed.







Omega Quartz

At the Basel fair in 1970, Omega proudly displayed their 2.4 Mhz high frequency quartz watch, the Megaquartz Marine Chronometer, and it hit the retail shelves in 1974.Omega was the first to take up the quartz challenge for the Swiss watchmakers.

It was by far the most accurate wristwatch of its time, losing barely 1 second per month. It was around 10 times more accurate than the quartz watches of the day.

After a few years, however, its popularity started to decline, and eventually Omega felt there was little practical need for a watch with such high accuracy.

The line was discontinued in the late 1970s. Since it is such an important milestone in watchmaking, its value as a collectible vintage watch is steadily rising.

The whims of the vintage watch market are always interesting to follow. While there will always be a demand for the craftsmanship and elitism of mechanical watches, there is a place for these fine quartz watches too. The great thing about it, for new collectors in particular, is that it usually offers a cheaper way to start your watch collection, yet still get the benefit of the prestige of the name – Rolex, Omega, and Patek Phillippe.


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published