Corum isn’t a brand frequently in conversation when discussing modern, historically inspired watches. Yet since the brand’s 1955 founding by René Bannwart it has long been producing fashion-forward pieces, many series of which are still in production today. In the modern era, the brand is possibly best known for its Bubble and Golden Bridge collections, the latter of which has been in production since 1980. The brand’s lesser known series, like the Admiral and Romulus, both have been in production since the 1960s, with plenty of vintage-styled traits still evident within the designs of each.
Of all Corum’s models, none have remained as true to their classic historical form as much as today’s Heritage Coin Watch. The original was released in 1964, and from its onset has held an interesting place in watch history, often being used as a blank canvas to commemorate elections and other milestones in the lives of several world leaders — from the United States, Israel, Cuba, Peru, Monaco, France, Austria, Venezuela, and likely many others. Reportedly, seven American presidents have owned the Coin Watch, though very little evidence exists of them ever actually wearing one (an exception: Jyndon B. Johnson’s commemorative 1960s Coin Watch, pictured below via Antiquorum). This fact comes in comparison to possibly the most famous presidential watch, the Vulcain Cricket, which has been owned and worn by most U.S. presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, and the Rolex Day-Date, whose popularity among American leaders has bestowed both the watch and its accompanying bracelet with the nickname “President.”
Today’s Coin Watch series includes diamond-studded dials, a black varnished dial option as well as a silver dial option, and most recently the Heritage Artisan “Hobo Coin” Watch, inspired by an early 20th Century American coin-engraving artform known as hobo nickels, although we’ll direct our focus on the classic American Double Eagle dials, at the 43-mm and 36-mm sizing. Both pieces use a coin-edged yellow-gold case, with an 18k gold diamond-embedded crown, straight lugs, and a 22k gold-coin caseback. Within the similarly coin-edged bezel is the signature 22k American Double Eagle gold coin dial of the watch, with the only major differences between the two size variations being an extra, textured minute ring on the larger option, and differing placements of the Corum logo.
Above the polished coin at the center of the attention, the watch has two contrasting black baton hands for the hour and minute to indicate the time. Both versions are powered by the automatic CO082 caliber, equipped with a 42-hour reserve and based on the Soprod A10. Currently the 36-mm option can be found for around $15,600, while the larger 43-mm version can be found for $17,250, though prices will vary based on the dealer.
Comparing the modern and vintage versions of the Coin Watch, you’ll find the two are fairly similar in design and purpose. With the coin at its heart, the contemporary version keeps the simple elements of the original — the straight lugs, coined edges, simple movement, and baton hands, all accenting while avoiding interference with the centerpiece. The contemporary version has also kept using the “split coin” method for the production of the watches, in which the coin is divided down its middle, with the front used for the dial and the back used for the caseback, with the movement locked between the sides. The final major similarity is the use of the black varnished baton hands, significant because while blue-colored hands were frequently used on vintage models, it was the versions with black hands, which matched the black alligator strap, that proved to be the more popular style.
Looking at the differences, foremost among them is the sizing of the modern variants, with the smaller being 36 mm and the larger 43 mm, whereas the vintage models were frequently sized between 30-mm and 35-mm. Besides this, the modern crown is enlarged and uses a full-cut diamond while the vintage models more often used a small sapphire for adornment, similar to the style seen on Cartier watches today. Overall, the modern watch as a whole is more refined in its finishing, most effectively seen in the quality of the polishing, but also in the edges of the case and bezel, which have a generally cleaner appearance. Less significantly, vintage models of the watch occasionally used integrated gold mesh bracelets in lieu of the straight lugs and black bracelet, although Corum hasn’t included this option in its modern collection.
All told, this very distinctive timepiece launched 1964 continues to attract collectors for its unique look and contribution to the history of horology. It has remained faithful to the original styling, and has been worn as a commemorative and interesting dress watch unlike any other. Few watches find themselves in the collections of American presidents, and fewer find themselves in the collection of famed artists like Andy Warhol alongside the Cartier Tank (Warhol’s Coin Watch pictured below by Jim Tobler, via Montecristo Magazine), but the Corum Coin Watch has managed both.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman” to its historical predecessor, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.