When it comes to buying a vintage watch the prizes are as great as the pitfalls (which we’ve learned the hard way). Here, to help you take the plunge, whatever your budget, we give you a high level guide on what to look out for and what to avoid.
Firstly: What is a vintage watch?
Most people in the industry would consider a watch of 25/30+ years as vintage, but the increased popularity of vintage watches means that the term is being used with much more modern items nowadays although the definition of vintage is very much a personal thing – one man’s treasure and all that.
What are the best Vintage Watch Brands to collect?
This is a difficult question to answer! Ultimately the choice of brand is dictated by budget, style, the use of the watch, etc, as it is when choosing a modern or new watch. The staple brands are of course always going to hold their value and some can be picked up for a great price compared to their modern counterparts:
- Tag Heuer (Chrongraph models are exceptional)
- Audemars Piguet
- Patek Philippe
What are the characteristics that define a vintage watch?
Watches did tend to be smaller in the past, but this is not always necessarily true – AP for example. As technology has moved on, the functionality of mechanical watches has become more complex and things like diving watches are becoming more robust and able to cope with even more extreme depths. What’s currently happening in the watch world is that a lot of vintage styles are being revived so that customers can buy a new watch with the look of the vintage one. This has also generated interest in vintage items as customers seek out the originals as well as the re-editions such as a Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph.
What are the key signifiers of quality in a vintage watch?
Apart from a watch that may have historical importance, condition is still defintely one of the most important factors that drive value. Vintage watches that have been carefully looked after and are complete with their original box and certificate are indisputable. That said, collectors are now also paying huge sums for uniquely discoloured or ‘tropical’ dial models that 20 years ago would have been impossible to sell – Rolex Submariners especially get good prices with this appearance of age.
What are they key signifiers of a poor-quality vintage watch?
One of the main issues with older watches is poor maintenance in its life. The lower price point of a vintage watch opens them up to a market of people who may be able to justify the outlay to buy the watch but when it comes to getting it serviced they might not be willing to spend to get it done by the right people. With that in mind, keep an eye out for botched repairs or worn-out parts (such as bezels or crystals) that’ll make the watch unusable on a day-to-day basis. Bracelet watches (as opposed to those with a leather strap) can show their age if they contain precious (soft) metal. Make sure the bracelet hasn’t got too much stretch in it and that the clasp does up and stays secure.