The best vintage watches are the ones that come with great stories. If not to inspire technically, a great backstory can make an otherwise normal watch into a fantastic collector’s piece. The limited editions, or the special releases that can start a conversation or conjure up a sense of adventure on the wrist are the ones I really seek out. As always, the best ones are worth waiting for, and so when this all original Kon-Tiki popped up I almost had no choice but to take it.
Originally introduced in 1952, the Kon-Tiki line was made to commemorate Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 101-day journey in a balsa wood raft to empirically show the possibility of contact between South America and Polynesia as early as 500 AD. While the merits of his journey and his discovery remain somewhat controversial, it does not change the fact that a guy with a bad historical record with water (he almost drowned twice as a child), made a crude ship and sailed 4,948 miles in it from Peru to French Polynesia. He had the courage to risk his own life to prove his hypothesis. That he did all this wearing an Eterna watch was the genesis for the Kon-Tiki line. To this day it remains the most iconic Eterna series ever made.
This particular line, like some older Omega constellations and Longines pieces comes with a raised design in the case back that goes a long way to tell about the historical condition of the watch. One careless polishing job and the design is irreparably damaged. Constant wear also takes its toll. As a result it is very rare to find these watches with a perfect raised raft with the five Eterna dots on it. More than that there are tiny little wave lines that also flatten with wear. Also, like vintage omegas, the crystals are marked in the center. I had the good fortune to find this entirely original Kon-Tiki. The downside was that it was not working. That was changed, and after a thorough service it is running perfectly. The movement itself is impeccable. There is absolutely no rotor wear and no scratches. While this piece does have the scratches, nicks, and dings that most vintage pieces have, it fully maintains its all-original character and shows its age gracefully. All the hallmarks of a well-kept watch are there. It has a near perfect dial, the original crystal, and a near perfect ship on the case back. Running again it is a wonderfully preserved vintage piece commemorating an incredible journey.
Eterna has a very long and turbulent history. They are an innovative company that has a very rough past. Currently in the hands of the Chinese group that also own Corum, Eterna continues to produce surprisingly innovative and interesting pieces that pay homage to their history but also showcase some technical sophistication that has always been a part of the Eterna DNA.