Eterna KonTiki 10, c1968

Last Updated on May 18, 2024 by Jason

The Kontiki models of the 1950’s and 60’s are arguably some of Eterna’s most iconic models. Solidly constructed, inside and out in every respect, they were favoured by Divers and Military personnel at the time.  This particular vintage watch is an Eterna KonTiki 10 dating from 1958. It is in stunning condition for its age. The Eterna-matic 1489K movement is keeping time reliably well for a vintage watch.

The KonTiki 10 model was introduced by Eterna in early 1968 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first Eterna KonTiki in 1958. The company had been a major sponsor of the original expedition in 1947 and supplied the crew with water-tight watches. The quality of KonTiki 10 is extraordinary and certainly, Eterna used this model as something of a showcase item to advertise its manufacturing capabilities.

Eterna KonTiki 10, 1968.
The Eterna KonTiki 10, 1968.


Eterna, a Swiss luxury watch company, has a history dating back to 1856 when the company was established by Dr. Josef Girard and Urs Schild in Grenchen, Canton Solothurn,. Originally named “Dr. Girard & Schild,” the company began as an ébauche factory, producing watch movements. In the early 1900s, Eterna adapted ladies’ wristwatches from small pocket watches. Additionally, in 1908, they patented the world’s first alarm wristwatch.

However, Eterna’s most famous innovation came in 1948 with the development of the Eterna-matic automatic movement. This groundbreaking technology featured 5 strategically placed ball bearings, significantly reducing friction and wear on internal parts. The Eterna-matic watch became immensely popular, and the company adopted the iconic image of the five balls as its official logo.

In the 1950s, Eterna introduced the Golden Heart for Ladies model, powered by the Eterna-matic movement, which gained international acclaim. Actresses Gina Lollobrigida and Brigitte Bardot promoted this elegant timepiece. Additionally, Eterna commemorated the KonTiki expedition with a waterproof watch. In 1962, they set a new record for the slimmest wristwatch with automatic winding and date display. The watch featured a movement just 3.6 mm thick. Like many, the company suffered during the quartz crisis of the 1970s, but still survives today.

KonTiki expedition

The KonTiki range was introduced in the late 1950s as a tribute to the trans-Pacific voyage taken by the Norwegian writer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. In 1937, Heyerdahl had been honeymooning on the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. He developed a theory that people from South America could have reached Polynesia during pre-Columbian times.

Years later, Heyerdahl and a small team travelled to Peru. Here they constructed a balsa wood raft based on old drawings made by the Spanish Conquistadors. He named the raft ‘KonTiki’ after the pre-Inca sun god.

On April 28th 1947, Heyerdahl and a crew of five set sail aboard KonTiki attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean. After a treacherous journey of 101 days of over 4,300 miles, the raft crashed into a reef on August 7th, off the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia. The crew all survived and the adventure was declared a success.

According to the Eterna website and other sources, Heyerdahl and the KonTiki team all wore water-tight (waterproof) Eterna wristwatches during the journey. These watches formed the basis of the KonTiki range, which is still part of the Eterna collection today. The first KonTiki watch was launched in 1958. It had an Etern-matic 1414UD movement, with 17 jewels and a power reserve of 48 hours. The KonTiki 10 was produced to mark the 10th anniversary of the official launch of the KonTiki brand.

1489K Eterna-matic movement

Inside this Kontiki 10 is an Eterna calibre 1489K movement which features the Eterna-matic self-winding system with the trademark five ball-bearing rotor system. The Eterna-matic was launched in 1948 and was used in the majority of Eterna’s watches from then on. The ball-bearing rotor system was an improvement over the existing automatic systems of the time as it significantly reduced the friction on the self-winding system. Because the mechanism was so well received across the industry, Eterna adopted the five ball bearings as the logo for their brand.

The Eterna-matic 1489K was launched in 1963. It has an automatic movement with a date complication and centre sweep hands. The movement has 17 jewels and measures 13 ‴ lignes (29.4 mm) in diameter. In addition, it uses a KIF shock protection system and has an impressive power reserve of 49 hours. It is a good quality movement, however, the service history is unknown

KonTiki 10 dial

This vintage watch features a well-defined silver sunburst dial with black and silver batons and matching hands. The dial is in great condition with only minor patina around the batons, which some collectors might consider to be the beginnings of a Tropical dial. The dial is signed with “Eterna-matic, Kontiki 10, T Swiss T”. The final piece, the T Swiss T, indicates that the watch is Swiss made and uses tritium as the lume on the hands and the batons. Although, still radioactive, this type of lume is much safer than the earlier version based on radium.

Close up, Kontiki 10 watch dial.
Close up, Kontiki 10 watch dial.

KonTiki 10 case

The polished watch case has been crafted out of 316L grade stainless steel, an expensive stainless alloy that provides increased resistance to corrosive substances, such as seawater, and is commonly used in marine applications. The case is in very good condition and still has its original crown with the iconic “Five balls” Eterna logo clearly visible. Often, vintage 1960s watches in stainless steel become slightly dulled and pitted. However, the large case on this watch (diameter of 39 mm and a height of 12 mm) is in superb condition, with only a handful of very light scratches that have occurred during normal careful use.

KonTiki 10 with the Eterna "5 balls" crown.
KonTiki 10 with the Eterna “5 balls” crown.

The outer case back, as expected for the KonTiki 10, is entirely smooth. Earlier models had a gold insert, upon which was depicted the KonTiki raft. However, this insert was never used for the 10th-anniversary version. Internally, the steel case back is fully signed as “Eterna Watch Co, Swiss, Acier Inoxydable” and bears the model number 129 T. This is correct for the Eterna Kontiki 10. Acier Inoxydable is the French term for stainless steel.

Smooth KonTiki 10 case back.
Smooth KonTiki 10 case back.


This particular Eterna KonTiki 10 watch is in stunning condition. This particular model is one of the all-time classic explorers’ sports watches from the 1950s. They are rare and difficult to source now. It is not unusual to find examples where the famous KonTiki dial had been retrofitted to a standard Eterna timepiece. In addition, it is not unusual to have vintage watch dials refinished, but in this instance the dial is untouched. However, this timepiece is guaranteed to be entirely authentic and correct in every aspect, making it a valuable talking point in any collection of vintage sports watches.

Related content

Kon-Tiki expedition at Wikipedia.

Eterna at Wikipedia.

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