Who’s looking to start a vintage-oriented collection could not ignore the Longines “3 tacche“, one of today’s hottest vintage high-quality timepieces, without the need to turn to brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin.
Designed and manufactured in the 30s by St. Imier’s maison, features two winning characteristics: stainless steel waterproof case and a simple dial, easy to read in every situation.
These two small elements were dictated by the will to create a watch for active people, and were also useful in a military climate, WWII being around the corner.
The name comes from the presence of three notches (“tacche”, in Italian) on the case back, allowing for watch opening by using a special tool.
Thanks to this feature and a domed crown, the watch was guaranteed to be waterproof, not an obvious feature for the time, that made it very competitive in vintage horology history.
Longines produced, between the 30s and the 40s, two type of case backs.
Even though both featured three notches, one had longer notches (“tacche lunghe”, in Italian”) and the other shorter ones (“tacche corte”).
The first version, with 30 mm case
The easiest to find on the market, but this doesn’t make it less appealing, the first version came in a 30 mm steel case, 15 mm between the lugs.
A little small for today standards, it still is a gem, especially in rare configurations, like the one in the above picture.
For these “boy size” timepieces, prices usually are over 1.000€ if well preserved and rare.
There was a rarer 32mm version, too
This one was in production for a very short amount of time around 1940, equipped with the rare 23m caliber.
Can be found from 1.000€ to 2.000€.
(The big price variability, as always, is determined by overall conditions and dial configuration).
The second version, 35mm case
It is equipped with the famous 12.68 Z or N caliber and is the rarest version that collectors can buy for a price range from 4.000€ up to 7.000€.
In the picture below you can see the 25mm and 35mm versions compared.
Besides previous models, during the mid 40s another version was available, called “Lady Officer” and intended for a female wrist, with a dimension of about 25mm.
Probably the rarest among the time only versions even though it is less coveted and collected, this watch still represents the period and maintain a high-quality craftsmanship, as its bigger relatives.
Furthermore, this case was featured in some chronographs, powered by the legendary caliber 13ZN, that should deserve a whole article for itself.
Is this version, frequently seen at auctions, that is the most sought-after by collectors, because of its rarity and the relevance of the caliber fitted.
Prices are sky high, well over 30.000€.
In pictures below, you can see three chronographs sold at auction by Phillips, going from 32.500CHF to 93.000CHF (around 29.000€ and 83.000€).
Market and auctions
In the last years, the Tre Tacche is one of the watches that saw its value increase the most, especially looking at chronographs.
Five years ago, time-only models were considered to be perfect watches to take a first step in high-end horology. Today, Longines reputation as a whole and these examples in particular, got a remarkable increase, bringing the Tre Tacche to exorbitant prices, on the market but mainly at auctions.
These are the main responsible for the boom in collecting of this piece and Longines as a whole, as prices prove.
For example, except for chronographs, the watch in the second picture of the article, sold for around 7.000€.
For whoever is looking into vintage watch collecting, our biggest advice is to check for the originality
We recommend the best attention to every component that you’ll examine, in particular the dial and the case, mandatory when looking at coveted watches like the Tre Tacche. There are many fakes, reassemblies or touch-ups out there, frequently sold without mentioning it.
The prices we decided to show are referred to market prices and not to auction sales.
Thanks to these pieces, built almost 80 years ago, today we can understand the quality, the design and the ruggedness that a special maison like Longines embodies.
They are some of the most fascinating and reliable watches, that was safeguards for pioneers like Charles Lindbergh and Philip Van Horn Weems (famous characters in aviation).
Translated by Lorenzo Spolaor (@itsdoc_oclock)