Let's Talk About Wakmann!

Wakmann - Icko Wakmann, a Russian emigre of Jewish background, began his watch business in Portugal in 1943 during WWII selling high-end European watch brands. When the US imposed the Swiss Watch Import Act, Wakmann moved his business to New York City to take advantage of the loopholes in the import act. The import act is why you see the US imported versions of Swiss and other European watch brands from this time with only 17 jewels instead of the more common 24 or 25 jewels for the same watch references sold in Europe, as the rubies were taxed as part of the import duties. Wakmann began operations in 1946 in New York City where he was appointed official producer and deliverer for the US Military during WWII. As a  result of this success The Wakmann Watch Company became a publicly listed company and was able to negotiate a joint venture with Breitling in 1947 - the Breitling Watch Corporation of America. Since the Act applied to complete watches imported, Wakmann imported the unassembled parts manufactured by Breitling in Switzerland, and then assembled them in the US using the Wakmann brand name on the dial and avoided customs duties. These watches are essentially Breitling watches in all but the name on the dial - important point as you can usually acquire them for a nice discount off the price of a similar Breitling branded reference. Wakmann assembled a variety of high quality watches with all Swiss made parts. Some of its most famous references included the Triple Calendar Chronograph and its Regatta Yachting Chronograph. Wakmann also sold co-branded chronographs with Charles Gigandet, an well-established Swiss brand, these can be found with the Gigandet brand name on the dial. Unfortunately, like its partner Breitling, Wakmann was a casualty of the 1970s quartz crisis. Both the Breitling and Wakmann brand names have been resurrected from their deaths at the end of the 1970s, however, it is the modern Breitling name that is the more familiar and desirable. Wakmann are still producing Swiss-made watches, but these are not regularly seen in the US.
 

Here are some vintage examples from my collection:

Wakmann Regatta Yachting Chronograph (late 1960s) ref. 9804 Movement: Automatic Lemania Caliber 1341 Case size: 42mm Condition: Like New - all original except replacement strap

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Wakmann Chronograph (1960s) ref. 1376 Movement: Manual Valjoux 7733 Case size: 36mm Condition: NOS never worn - all original except replacement strap. Note the similarity to the Breitling Top Time reference.

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Wakmann Diver Chronograph (1960s) ref. 314 11 Movement: Manual Landeron 248 Case size: 39mm Note the similarity to the Le Jour and Yema references from this period. These references were imported from France and produced by Yema.

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Wakmann Triple Calendar Chronograph (1960s) ref. 71.1311.21 Movement: Manual Valjoux 723R Case size: 37.7mm Note these were produced with Charles Gigandet for Wakmann - you can see the famous Gigandet ship on the caseback

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Wakmann Chronograph (1969) ref. 188 Movement: Manual Lemania caliber 3872 (Omega 930) Case size: 37mm 

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Wakmann Triple Calendar Chronograph (1970s) "Jumbo" ref. 1315.30.74 Movement: Manual Valjoux 730 Case size: 39mm Condition: Lightly used all original except replacement strap. Note these were produced with Charles Gigandet for Wakmann - you can see the famous Gigandet ship on the caseback and brand name on the inside of the caseback

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Wakmann Chronograph (1970s) ref. 188 Movement: Manual Venus 188 Case size: 37mm 

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I really enjoyed reading your post 👍.

You have a very unique niche collection. The more knowledge is put out there about a specific vintage brand, the better👌. 

Thanks!

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Shame they used base meatal a lot. A deal breaker for me.

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Agreed - the earlier models didn't use the base metal but the later references produced by Gigandet did.

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ChronoGuy

Agreed - the earlier models didn't use the base metal but the later references produced by Gigandet did.

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Love me some wakmann! Pardon my ignorance but can you elaborate on the base metal issue?

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Max
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Love me some wakmann! Pardon my ignorance but can you elaborate on the base metal issue?

Hello Max - love your videos and I remember the one you did on Wakmann. 

What I think Jason was referring to was when you look at the images I posted, when Wakmann was distributing the Gigandet references, the casebacks were made from base metal as you can see stamped into the caseback. Often this also was the situation with the case itself which could be chromed base metal or some type of finishing over base metal to reduce the cost of producing the case and the caseback. Obviously base metal is inferior to stainless steel so many would avoid purchasing watches that were made from base metal. 

The earlier Wakmann watches assembled from Breitling components did not use base metal. For example you can see this Regatta reference used stainless steel:

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Here you can see that the bezel was made from base metal and the case back was made from stainless steel

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Hope this is helpful in answering your question

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I have my grandfather's Wakmann.  I rarely wear it because of a cracked crystal and it needs a service. 

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That's an awesome collection of Wakmanns.

I had picked up this Wakmann chrono from a member of our local watch enthusiast group a couple of years ago, primarily because I really liked the color of the dial. It was the first vintage watch I ever purchased. I keep it in my collection mostly as a reminder of the pitfalls in buying vintage without proper research. The seller was a respected member of our local watch enthusiast group, whose collection focused on vintage watches, so I had confidence going into the deal. When I tried to get further information on the specific reference after purchasing, it was pointed out to me on another forum that it was a redial, and a bad one at that.   I still love the look of the dial (and the overall look of the watch itself), and am happy to have it in my collection, however I would not have paid as much as I did if I had been aware that it was a redial. I always try to find the silver lining in every situation, and I look at this particular purchase as a lesson learned.

I have no idea of the specifics of this watch, and would love to be able to find out more.

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tempus

That's an awesome collection of Wakmanns.

I had picked up this Wakmann chrono from a member of our local watch enthusiast group a couple of years ago, primarily because I really liked the color of the dial. It was the first vintage watch I ever purchased. I keep it in my collection mostly as a reminder of the pitfalls in buying vintage without proper research. The seller was a respected member of our local watch enthusiast group, whose collection focused on vintage watches, so I had confidence going into the deal. When I tried to get further information on the specific reference after purchasing, it was pointed out to me on another forum that it was a redial, and a bad one at that.   I still love the look of the dial (and the overall look of the watch itself), and am happy to have it in my collection, however I would not have paid as much as I did if I had been aware that it was a redial. I always try to find the silver lining in every situation, and I look at this particular purchase as a lesson learned.

I have no idea of the specifics of this watch, and would love to be able to find out more.

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Yes - sadly most definitely a redial. Bad form for the seller not to tell you that. My test is if it appears to be too clean on anything 50 years or more old, be highly skeptical. Sometimes a restoration is not a bad thing. I have a number of WWI Trench watches that have been restored and they include all the original parts but have been cleaned up and straps have been replaced with vintage-style reproductions from the period. They look and work fantastic and I have no problem with the fact they have been restored.

I would be happy to look this watch up for you in my information database if you could send me the caseback details and if you have a picture of the movement. The caseback sometimes has the reference number on it and sometimes it is on the inside of the caseback. There may also be an indicator of whether it is a French model or a Swiss model based on who produced the watch for Wakmann.

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Thanks so much - that is greatly appreciated.  The caseback is marked as  "WAKMANN WATCH Co" and "FRANCE" on the inside. The only wording that I could see on the movement itself was "FRANCE" (on the regulator),  "WAKMANN WATCH CO.", "SEVENTEEN 17 JEWELS UNADJUSTED". FWIW, here are the admittedly bad photos:

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From the look of the movement, I would venture that this is a Venus 188 cam-switching movement that Wakmann used on their chronographs from the 1960s made in France. Venus was absorbed into Valjoux in 1966 and the Venus 188 was used as the basis for the Valjoux 7733/7734 and later the Valjoux 7750. The chronographs from Wakmann in the 1970s used the Valjoux 7733 (no date) / 7734 (with date) movements also cam-switching movements. So I would say your Wakmann was produced in France in the mid-1960s. As far as the manufacturer,  my guess was that these watches were assembled by Yema in France for export to the US. That is why they have 17 jewels. There was a import tax on watches based on the number of jewels, so the Swiss and other European watchmakers reduced the number of jewels to 17 to reduce the import duty. That is why you will see the same watch design with 20 or more jewels made for the European marketplace. A good way to tell what market the watch was intended to be sold into.

Here is a link to a similar Wakmann from the 1960s running the Venus 188 and produced in France:

https://www.laurentfinewatches.com/watch-expo/expo-vintage/Wakmann-Chrono-Vu-0707-2017.html

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tempus

Thanks so much - that is greatly appreciated.  The caseback is marked as  "WAKMANN WATCH Co" and "FRANCE" on the inside. The only wording that I could see on the movement itself was "FRANCE" (on the regulator),  "WAKMANN WATCH CO.", "SEVENTEEN 17 JEWELS UNADJUSTED". FWIW, here are the admittedly bad photos:

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Sorry forgot to hit reply - see my comment I added about your watch

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BTW - the reason I believe it to be Yema is that Yema also assembled the watches for the brand Le Jour. I have identical watches produced in France under the Le Jour brand name and the Wakmann brand name with the same caseback markings and markings on the movement.

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ChronoGuy

From the look of the movement, I would venture that this is a Venus 188 cam-switching movement that Wakmann used on their chronographs from the 1960s made in France. Venus was absorbed into Valjoux in 1966 and the Venus 188 was used as the basis for the Valjoux 7733/7734 and later the Valjoux 7750. The chronographs from Wakmann in the 1970s used the Valjoux 7733 (no date) / 7734 (with date) movements also cam-switching movements. So I would say your Wakmann was produced in France in the mid-1960s. As far as the manufacturer,  my guess was that these watches were assembled by Yema in France for export to the US. That is why they have 17 jewels. There was a import tax on watches based on the number of jewels, so the Swiss and other European watchmakers reduced the number of jewels to 17 to reduce the import duty. That is why you will see the same watch design with 20 or more jewels made for the European marketplace. A good way to tell what market the watch was intended to be sold into.

Here is a link to a similar Wakmann from the 1960s running the Venus 188 and produced in France:

https://www.laurentfinewatches.com/watch-expo/expo-vintage/Wakmann-Chrono-Vu-0707-2017.html

Thank you so much for this insight into my watch - it is GREATLY appreciated.

Would you happen to have any ballpark idea of what the value of this particular watch would be?  I had paid $900 CDN (approx $700 USD) when I bought it, and I'd be interested in knowing how that compares to the actual value.

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tempus

Thank you so much for this insight into my watch - it is GREATLY appreciated.

Would you happen to have any ballpark idea of what the value of this particular watch would be?  I had paid $900 CDN (approx $700 USD) when I bought it, and I'd be interested in knowing how that compares to the actual value.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news on this - I just purchased one recently at a Heritage auction very similar to yours but in very fine original condition - and it cost me US$500. I have purchased other models from the early 1970s for around US$700 that have been in almost NOS condition. The more valuable references are the early Wakmanns that are basically Breitlings in all but name on the dial. The later references that were assembled by Yema really depend. The Triple Calendars which were produced with Gigandet are worth a fair bit more.

Your watch is attractive on its own merits and looks to have been restored nicely. If it is working well then you haven't overpaid too much. The problem will be resale with a restored dial. You will need to find someone who is not a purist collector and willing to overlook that because the watch is attractive and working well.

The reality is that if you were to find one of these watches and needed to have it repaired by a master watchmaker you are talking minimum US$300 for the service. 

Hope that helps. Others may have better information and hopefully they will chime in.

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Thanks so much again for your help with this. The seller claimed that he had the watch serviced locally, as the chrono function had apparently not been working when he purchased it in 2019. Everything appeared to be working fine with the watch when I bought it in 2020, including the chrono functionality, and it had been keeping really good time. Unfortunately, I just tried setting the watch, and the crown & stem came out, so it is now in need of repair. 

I'm trying to decide what I want to do with this. My moral compass prevents me from trying to sell it without full disclosure, and it sounds like a fair price would be well below $500 US, even if the crown was repaired. Based on that, I'd just as soon keep it in my collection, as I do find it to be an attractive watch. Hopefully the cost for fixing the crown will be low enough that it makes sense for me to do so.

Once again, I really appreciate your insights.