For many connoisseurs, collecting vintage chronographs never grows boring, simply due to the vast number of quality, now-collectible watches produced between the 1940s and 1970s. The designs of mainstream watches back then were arguably more enticing and backed by utilitarian, yet noteworthy mechanics that can still make the most seasoned admirers of horological works swoon. Due to the seemingly endless selection of captivating curiosities, there is really no end to collecting vintage chronographs. This explains why many collectors go through “phases,” or periods of time where they choose to focus on specific categories and styles of vintage chronographs.
Camaro vs. Super Sub Sea
One of the most celebrated eras of vintage chronograph production (specifically sport chronographs) is the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s. This is the time when timepieces that now have legendary status were first debuting on the market as “just another watch.” We now know many had quite a big future ahead of them. Other chronographs have just started to gather interest over the past few years: watches like the Heuer Camaro and the Super Sub Sea from Zenith and Movado. In many ways these two watches are noticeably similar, though each has their own distinct, characteristic differences.
A parallel between the Camaro and Super Sub Sea can almost be seen immediately: their cases. Both watches feature cushion-style cases, joined to the strap by a set of minimalistic, short, and straight lugs. This look works for a number of reasons, but mainly because it makes the watch appear larger on the wrist without having too much surface area that is purely made up of the case, which is something that I view as a shortcoming of many chronographs of the late 1970s.
It is worth noting that the Camaro’s case is slightly more complex and finished to a higher degree. It features a brushed surface that surrounds the dial and crystal, which creates a nice contrast to the rest of the polished case. Some might argue that this makes the Camaro look a touch larger.
When comparing the two dials, a good deal can be understood about the two brands. Heuer’s involvement and dedication to racing and motorsport is evident in the way the Camaro’s dial resembles that of the Carrera – legible, streamlined, and well executed. As a side note, the Camaro was thought up by Jack Heuer as an attempt to attract American car enthusiasts to the brand. This was done through its obvious connection to one of the ultimate muscle cars: the Chevrolet Camaro.
On the other hand, the Movado has a much bolder aesthetic, largely because of the orange tachymeter scale and inner rotating bezel present on some models. Pair that with the brazen applied Movado logo, the playful nature of the oversized hands, and the lollipop chronograph hand, and you’ve got a truly intriguing watch full of unexpected details. This reflects Movado’s lack of attachment to a certain design language and free exploration of a wide range of new looks.
Lastly, we must discuss what’s beating on the inside of the Super Sub Sea and Camaro. This is an area in which many would give the Movado an edge. Seeing as the Movado was the more affordable counterpart of an almost identical Zenith Super Sub Sea, it is powered by the Zenith Cal. 146HP movement. Although it might be just as reliable and well built as the Heuer’s Valjoux movements (72, 92, and 773X), a 146HP is far less common and is therefore met with more excitement today.
So, between the Camaro and Super Sub Sea, two stand-out examples of sports-focused watchmaking in the 20th century, is there a “better watch” so to speak? Not exactly, but this is one of the great things about vintage chronograph collecting: There really is something for everyone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different models to be discovered, each with their own defining appearance, personality, and key traits. It’s all about exploring the archives, sifting through the market, and seeing what does it for you – much like the Camaro and Super Sub Sea do it for me.