Tales from a Vintage Collector: The Case of the Mido Powerwind “Rainbow” Diver 1000

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Most of you likely know of Dan Henry from his eponymous, vintage-inspired line of value-driven timepieces. But Dan Henry is also a seasoned watch collector and the owner of what may very well be the most expansive personal collection in existence, a fraction of which you can see at Timeline.Watch. Today, we’re kicking off a fun series that will recount some of Dan’s most memorable experiences as a collector. In this first installment, Dan tells us about a rare Mido Powerwind “Rainbow” Diver and his quest to find a replacement bezel.


For me, collecting watches isn’t just a hobby. It’s a full-on obsession that, at times, gets close to the kind of single-minded mania that gets people locked up in rooms with soft walls. Even if I walk past a drug store, I’ll peer in the window to see if there’s anything that ticks.

Sometimes, the story behind a watch can be as interesting as the watch itself. In fact, I often say that I collect as many stories as I do watches. Some of these tales can be stranger than fiction, but real life is often far, far stranger than any story you’ll ever read. Here’s one such story about a Mido Powerwind “Rainbow” Diver.

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Some Background

Most people think of Mido watches as being rather middle-of-the-road—as sort of a Toyota Camry of the Watchworld. But last year I tracked down and bought a Mido Powerwind “Rainbow” Diver, also known as a Mido Powerwind Diver 1000—the most rare and valued watch Mido has ever produced.

While most Midos knock around the $300 mark, the Mido Powerwind Rainbow comes in at nearly $10,000—almost unthinkable territory for a Mido. A typical collector seeing a Rainbow in a random box of watches would hardly look twice. It’s the type of rare and little-known watch that only a seriously obsessed collector would know for its importance and value.


Mido’s Role in the History of Submersible Watches

Mido introduced the Multifort Auto in 1935—one of the first completely “waterproof” watches, as well as being anti-magnetic, shockproof and self-winding. In ‘35, most people still had keep-fit hand-crankers. Mido’s waterproofing claim was extensively tested and found absolutely accurate; the specially treated cork seals around the stem (a traditional weak point in the case) meant that water was kept out.


Manufactured in the ’60s, the Rainbow is a full-on, certified dive watch rated to 300m, or 1,000ft. The exotic dial isn’t just for looks; it’s also for utility. The multi-colored concentric scales on the dial mark out diving decompression times at various depths (130, 110, 90 and 70 feet).

The Discovery

It was a Sunday and I was having lunch at a restaurant close to home when a photo came through WhatsApp from a friend of mine who’s an antique dealer: it showed a Mido Rainbow circa 1959. At the time I had already acquired one for my collection, but I couldn’t help but want a second one to make the pair. I put down my wineglass, left the food on the table, hopped on my scooter, and within five minutes I was sitting opposite the dealer with the watch in hand.

As I examined this rare specimen, I noted something curious: the numbers on the bezel were missing. A Rainbow is rare enough, but finding a replacement bezel ranks with being offered a place on the next moon landing. I offered the dealer $200, he accepted, and the deal was done.

I began my search for an original bezel immediately. I came up empty on eBay and at my local markets, so I finally decided to put a post up on Instagram asking for help.

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Instagram Comes Through

A little while after my Instagram post went up, I received a message from Subsea57, a prolific collector who knows his fair share about watches. He in turn suggested I get in touch with Lucchese.watches,  a French collector whose expertise is vintage dive watches.

We messaged back and forth, finally settling on cannibalizing a cheaper Mido for its bezel—all for a good cause. We agreed on €1,200 for the part—not a small sum, but worth it to make my watch whole. But on the day I was to transfer the funds, Lucchese emailed me. He wrote that he suspected that the bezel on my watch might simply be fitted upside down with the numbers facing in towards the case.

In seconds, I had my watch on the bench. I carefully slid the knife between the bezel and case and turned it slowly. The bezel popped right off onto the workbench.

Bingo!

The bezel had indeed been mounted upside down; the numbers were on the side facing the case! I turned it over and re-fitted the bezel. Then I went online to celebrate with my friends who had just saved me €1,200!

Social Media Changing the Game

Instagram is an incredible tool. I no longer need to search for days to authenticate a watch or part.  I can just throw a photo up on Instagram and wait for the comments. If, after 24 hours, the watch or part hasn’t been massacred with criticism, you can almost be sure it’s all original.

It’s also a great tool for learning more about watches. I know I learn something new every day. In this case, I learned to always check which way the bezel is fitted!

Words and photography by Dan Henry.

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From time to time, Worn & Wound publishes guest posts from other collectors, experts, and enthusiasts from this account.