Vintage Nation

Correct me if I am wrong, but only four countries in the world today produce watch movements in great volume:  Switzerland, China, Japan, and Russia.  Many companies modify Swiss or Japanese movements to make them "in-house".  So, no matter where the watch company started or is headquartered, there is the DNA of the international watch manufacturer in the piece.

When you are buying a vintage piece from after WWI to the Quartz Crisis you can still buy watches that are mostly aligned with one country (with the caveat that Swiss movements still dominated the space after WWII).  What are the best vintage watch brands associated with each major manufacturing country?  It doesn't matter what they produce today or where they produce it.  Some countries like India and the former Czechoslovakia only had one brand, so it is very easy.  Something to argue about when you should be working or spending time with your family:

  1.  Russia:  Raketa.  They are over-jeweled and rugged.  Other Russian brands opted for novelty or were overly militarized.  Honorable mention:  Vostok.
  2. Germany:  Junghans.  Influenced several generations of watch designers.  Many great other companies, many understandable problems in the post-war era.  Honorable mention:  Laco.
  3. UK:  Accurist.  I am struggling here.  No country has left such a huge mark in the history of clocks and horology without having a dominant watch brand.  Their best became Swiss brands.
  4. France:  Cartier.  Sure, they have been making versions of the same design since they gave one to Pershing.  No matter, you can't improve on perfection.  Honorable mention:  Selhor.  (I could just as easily put Mortima here.  Bell and Ross come too late.)
  5.  China:  Shanghai.  Maybe only one person on this forum has the knowledge to speak to this and it ain't me.  Almost every other watch you can buy is post Quartz Crisis and that includes Seagull.  My artificial parameters exclude much of their early exports.
  6.  United States:  Bulova.  They had mostly Swiss movements, but were thoroughly American (until they weren't).  They had a range of styles that other companies could not match.  Gruen and Elgin models from this period have a certain sameness.  Honorable mention:  Hamilton.
  7. Japan:  Seiko.  Love 'em or hate 'em:  you can buy a forty year old Seiko that has never been serviced and it will run fairly accurately (just don't buy one from India). Vintage Seiko's have been worn to death because they are great watches.  Honorable mention:  Citizen (world's largest manufacturer gets no love).
  8.  Switzerland:  Rolex.  Had to be, right?  Honorable mention: Universal Geneve.  They were more daring then Omega, and I like Omega. 

Now, argue among yourselves:

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France: Vintage Yema 🙌💯🤙👍!

They used French ébauche calibers by Jeanbrum for a certain time period in some of their dress watches. Though their most famous Watches are dive pieces or chronographs with Swiss movements.

Here are a few examples of their Golden Era. There were also different brands that distributed Yema watches in other countries like Spain, Italy and the US.

This Tanyer chronograph is such an example of a re-branded Yema Yatingraf.

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Yema Superman:

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Yema Sous Marine "Tomahawk":

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Yema Flygraf:

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All superb examples of a BEAST Vintage Watch brand 👹⌚😂💪.