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The Most Prized Watch Brands You’ve Never Heard Of

Cameron Barr, founder and chief executive of Craft & Tailored, a vintage watch dealer in Los Angeles, said the “bump in interest” in some long-forgotten makers was a reflection of their timeless designs as well as their accessibility, both in terms of pricing and availability.

As an example, he referred to the Swiss brand Nivada Grenchen: “They possess that classic late ’60s-’70s sport watch design that’s evergreen,” Mr. Barr said. “Most of these watches sit between $3,500 and $6,500, depending on movement. They’re not cheap, but they’re also not $25,000. You can have fun with it, not be so serious.”

Now, partly owing to their popularity on Instagram, some vintage models from obscure brands have the potential to “catch fire and spike in value, like a lesser stock on Nasdaq,” said Eric Wind, a vintage watch dealer based in Palm Beach, Fla.

“With Universal Genève, there were watches that were trading for $3,800, but three years later were trading for $40,000,” he added.

Even Z.R.C., the little-known brand that Mr. Heileson began to collect, has seen its vintage watches rise in value: For example, a Z.R.C. Securicode model from the early 1960s that likely retailed for less than $100 sold for a total of 35,750 euros ($40,575), including fees, at an online auction in November 2020.

A common misconception among would-be buyers of older brands is that the timepieces are difficult to service. “But in fact, many of these watches use the exact same chronograph movements as in the Rolex Daytona, the Valjoux 72, so it’s just as easy to service,” Mr. Wind said.

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