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Vintage Watch Spotlight: Gruen Precision 510

Oft forgotten, Gruen Watch Co. was formerly one of the largest watch manufacturers in the United States. Founded in 1894 by German-born watchmaker Dietrich Gruen, the company was known for their thin and elegant, yet highly accurate timepieces. Their success propelled them through multiple mergers and acquisitions with several sites of manufacture across the globe. In 1922, a consolidation of D. Gruen, Sons & Co, Cincinnati, The Gruen Watch Manufacturing Co, Biel (Switzerland), and the Gruen National Watch Case Co, resulted in “The Gruen Watch Company”. By 1923 the company had moved into a new facility, in Biel. Of particular note is that J. Aegler, a supplier of movement parts for Gruen, also supplied Rolex, which later bought the company. Many vintage Gruen have nearly identical movements to Rolexes of the same period. While the American division closed its doors in 1958, Gruen Switzerland continued operating until about 1977.

With the passing of Sir Sean Connery last week, I thought it appropriate to pull out one of my favorite vintage watches: the Gruen Precision 510. As a die-hard 007 and Sean Connery fan, the watch holds special significance as the first watch worn by James Bond on the big screen in ‘Dr. No’. With keen observation, one can spot the Gruen under Bond’s shirt cuff in the casino scene where Sir Connery utters for the very first time that iconic phrase, “Bond, James Bond.” Additionally, you can see it as Bond arrives at the airport in Jamaica. Later scenes feature Bond wearing a Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538. Both the Gruen and Rolex are said to have come from Sir Connery’s private collection. 

The Gruen Precision 510 is powered by a 17-jewel, manual movement, and set in a 34mm gold-filled case. While small by today’s standard, it was a mid-sized watch in its time. It features a narrow crosshatch textured bezel surrounding an elegant white dial with a very subtle sunburst texture. The dial has gold applied Arabic numerals at the 12, 3, and 9 o’clock with the 6 partially covered by a large sub-seconds dial. The other hours are applied indices.

The epitome of gentlemanly class, the Gruen was and is considered a “tuxedo watch”. Not only does its slim profile enable it to slip neatly beneath French cuffs, but the time-only, uncluttered dial lends itself well to the more refined situations for which a tuxedo is required. While standards have changed, no gentleman of the 60s would’ve been caught dead wearing a diver’s watch with a tuxedo. 

As so happens, I had an occasion to dress to the nines and decided wearing the Gruen was a good way to celebrate the life and legacy of Sir Connery and get in a little vintage watch wrist time. While I can’t quite part with this one, there are many other incredible and storied vintage pieces available here in our store. 

Return next week for another installment of Vintage Watch Spotlight!

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