Retro fashion never dies. And vintage Gruen watches in Art Deco and Art Nouveau style worn with anything from casual to the little black cocktail dress add understated class to any woman's repertoire. A 1940s man's Gruen on an woman's wrist brings a counterintuitive sense of style that mashes up the look of Katharine Hepburn in trousers with Kate Winslet wearing Yves Saint Laurent. It's a watch that gives a nod to old-school glamour that complements a killer gown. Contemporary Gruens are utility watches. Vintage Gruens make a statement that an accessory is also art. It says you're more than a fashion horse.
Examine the dial of the Gruen. Contemporary and vintage pieces have "Gruen" embossed on the dial below 12 o'clock. Inspect the dial below 6 o'clock. Gruens manufactured by post-1958 watchmakers using the Gruen name through the early 1970s bear a "Swiss" or "Swiss Made" mark under the "6." Don't get excited with the Swiss identification. It only means Gruen had the movement manufactured in Switzerland and then shipped to the U.S. for assembly. It doesn't add to the value or make the watch special. You can do better with older models
Flip the contemporary version over and examine the caseback. It's likely made of base metal and stamped with the "Gruen" name. The caseback on some vintage pieces may not have the Gruen name on the back, although some models may have "Gruen" at the top. Use a jeweler's loupe or magnifying glass to locate the name. Examine the caseback for the grade of gold in the case. Vintage Gruens with gold-filled cases may have "14K" or "18K" stamped at the bottom of the caseback. You have a real collector's item with value if the case bears this mark.
Pop open the caseback of a vintage Gruen with a fingernail file. Fit the file under the lip at 12 o'clock and push down to open the case. Examine the mechanical movement, which is a tiny mechanism that runs and regulates the watch. On the bridge, or flat piece of metal, of the movement is the Gruen name. If "Gruen" is absent, it means a non-Gruen movement is running the watch and it's junk. A contemporary Gruen with a quartz movement, which is a battery-powered electronic device that runs the watch, is fine to own. But it's still a $20 watch
Inspect the dial for the words "Veri-Thin" or "Curvex." A 1930s through 1940s Curvex has a curved case to fit around the wrist. The watch is highly desirable by collectors and commands a high price. If you find one, you're stylin'. The majority of Gruens during this period are in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles with two-tone colors and bold sweeping lines. These watches still maintain a contemporary look today and draw a lot of attention for their uniqueness..
Gruen managers in 1958 thoughtlessly destroyed most of their records when the company dissolved and its assets were sold off. There is no way to determine the specific year of manufacture of a Gruen.
Don't buy vintage Gruens with a movement that has no identification. It's likely as phony as a $3 bill. Avoid purchasing vintage Gruens with repainted dials. Refurbished dials greatly reduce the value of the watch.