Affordable Vintage: O&W Caribbean 1000

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As you well know, there are tons and tons of vintage divers out there, something for everyone’s taste. With that said, there are some that stand out from the crowd a bit, and the Ollech and Wajs Caribbean 1000 is one of them. Ollech and Wajs (O&W) made a plethora of great divers and chronographs in their heyday in the sixties and seventies, but by far the most desirable is the Caribbean 1000. O&W teamed up with the Jenny Watch company and used their reference 702 case for this model. Jenny made several cases that were branded with a variety of different makes just like the EPSA Super Compressor and Squale case makers. The O&W Caribbean was only made for a few short years during the mid to late 1960’s. The Jenny reference 702 case housed many other brands like Jaquet Droz, Haste deLuxe, Philip and Jenny themselves to name a few.

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The Jenny 702 is a monobloc (one piece, front loading) steel case measuring 40mm wide by 45mm long with a thickness of 16mm and 20mm lugs. 40mm sits right smack in the sweet spot for a vintage diver for me, and this watch wears so beautifully on the wrist. The lugs are unique in that they are angled inwards, the space between them narrowing as they progress towards the case, giving them a distinctive fang-like look.

Being a monobloc case, the dial and movement are accessed through the crystal. After the bezel is removed, there is a threaded ring that holds the crystal in place. Not having a removable caseback leaves one less seal to fail during diving, although it does make for a pain to service! The bezel is a real beauty, steel with an inlaid acrylic insert with numbers and triangle makers under the acrylic. There were both 12 hour and 60 minute versions available on the Caribbean 1000. The earlier versions of the bezel had flat triangles, while the later variations had 3D triangles.

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The glass is a highly domed and thick (5mm!) acrylic crystal that sits atop a big rubber gasket and is held down by the threaded ring mentioned above. O&W offered their customers an optional tool and spare crystals for purchase so that the owner could swap out a scratched or cracked crystal on their own without having to take the watch in to be seen by a professional. Pretty cool if you ask me! Sadly, I’ve been unable to find one of these tools to add to my collection, and in fact I’ve never even seen a picture of one. The large, unsigned crown measures 6.5mm and screws down with a triple seal gasket.

The dial is a gorgeous black lacquer with a mirror finish and applied steel markers with lume stripes at 12, 6 and 9, and an applied steel date window at 3. The other hours markers are simple lume stripes. Signed with the cool O&W logo and “Precision, 17 Jewels, Automatic” below the 12, and “Caribbean 1000, 1000 Meters, (3300fts)” above the six. I love the fact that it’s “feets” and not “feet”, just a funny idiosyncrasy that makes me smile.

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The hands are a robust steel dauphine style with a large lume field in the middle, and the second hand has a nice lume filled arrow tip. Overall the watch has a striking look, with the pointy lugs, beautiful acrylic bezel and deep shiny black dial under that classic high domed acrylic crystal. Just a beauty to behold. The Caribbean 1000 is powered by a 17 jewel ETA 2452 automatic movement with a semi-quickset date. Can’t go wrong with the ubiquitous and robust ETA automatic workhorse movement.

These were originally offered with either a Tropic brand rubber strap, or a beads of rice bracelet without any logo on the buckle to my knowledge. While the Tropic is a great strap, the beads of rice bracelet really makes the watch if you ask me. These were fitted with specifically shaped endpieces that angle in to match the unique lugs, for a nice clean fit. While the 702 cased divers may not be considered rare, the tapered beads of rice endpieces certainly are. I was fortunate enough to be able to procure a pair of endpieces directly from Mr. Wajs himself. The bracelet pictured here is not original to the watch, but the endpieces are definitely OEM O&W. I’m a big fan of correct and/or vintage bracelets on vintage watches, and I have to say that the beads of rice bracelets (whether it be Seiko, Omega, IWC or other) are extremely comfortable and timelessly styled.

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O&W was pretty forward thinking in their marketing, and they offered these watches directly to consumers through ads in various military, sporting and dive magazines. Thus cutting out the middle man and allowing them to sell a high quality dive watch for less than the competition. I’ve seen a 1960’s ad with this model on bracelet offered for $75…can’t beat that! My understanding was that these were offered with a variety of dial colors, and several different bezel configurations. I know that the 702 cased divers have come with the 60 minute and 12 hour variations, as well as a decompression bezel in many different colors. That said, I’ve never seen an O&W branded one with the decompression bezel.

One of the first true deep divers rated to 1000 meters, the O&W was a watch that was definitely used for its intended purpose. It was tested and used by sport and commercial divers, and was also a favorite among soldiers in Viet Nam, I’ve read. As popular as the Seiko 6105 was during that war, apparently the O&W was just as popular and well respected for its robustness. In 2012, Jenny Watch released a heritage version of the ref 702 model, in a plethora of dial and bezel colors (reviewed on this site not long ago). While not really a re-issue of the O&W per se, it is a well done homage to the ref 702 and fairly priced.

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The Spanish micro-brand Crepas also put out an homage to the Caribbean 1000 in the form of the Crepas Cayman 3000, limited to an edition of 299 pieces. An enormous version of the O&W original which is fairly accurate albeit considerably larger at 44.5mm wide and nearly 20mm thick. As huge as it is, it’s an extremely well made modern homage to the original. As for the O&W Caribbean 1000, the price on these is hard to gauge as they don’t show up for sale all that often. I’d say that a nice example on the beads of rice bracelet would easily fetch in the $2000-2500 range. Not all that “affordable” to be fair, but not a bad price for a vintage diver as well engineered and built as it is.

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Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
vintagediver
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6 responses to “Affordable Vintage: O&W Caribbean 1000”

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    Very informative! I never really knew too much about these brands, and I hope you’ll be discussing additional vintage divers. The only one I have in this category is a Sheffield Henex compressor that I received brand new in around 1963. Guess that makes me sort of vintage myself.

  2. joel says:

    Westcoast Time has O & W watches, some cool ones as well as others priced right.

    • James Smith says:

      Plus the Westcoast Time site has a picture/diagram of the case opener tool.

  3. Boogur T. Wang says:

    Nice review Mr. McNeil. I like your take on vintage divers.
    The O&W was indeed popular during the VN conflict. Even to the point of knock-offs(fakes) being offered to the unknowing.
    Thankfully originals were available and priced well.
    Great vintage watch that, I think, would sell well today.

  4. Anthony Kleeman says:

    Christoph, can you tell who makes the ‘Beads of Rice’ that you fitted to you Caribbean please.

  5. Mark Holland says:

    Beautiful design, and love the monoblock case and easily swapped crystal.

    However at 2k I’d rather go for the almost identical looking squale at half the price, knowing it was fine to get a good dunking.

    Great review and pics though, and it’s great to see the history of watches like this to see where a lot of the ‘inspiration’ for some of the modern-retro inspired watches came from.