A classic timepiece is the ultimate style accessory and vintage is a word that epitomises class and cool. But what counts as vintage these days? To experts and enthusiasts, anything over 25 years old counts as vintage. The most popular vintage watches usually originate from between the 1930s to the ‘60s, but there’s more to buying vintage than simply looking for a date. From the visual condition to knowing what to expect when it comes to finally making a purchase, and learning how to maintain it properly once you’ve got it, there’s a lot to think about. Here are some of the key things to take note of before beginning your search.
Research the market
Knowing a good price when you see one is key to buying vintage watches – you need to have a good knowledge of the current market to avoid overpaying. Vintage watch prices can vary enormously, from a few hundred pounds to well into the thousands. Before you part with any money, narrow your search down to the brand or model that you’re looking for and then research price points so you have an idea what to expect.
Know what you’re looking out for
There are many factors to consider when shopping for a watch that will impact the value. Firstly, it makes sense that you should be looking at the overall condition of the watch – is it free from rust? Are the parts original? Has it been well maintained and serviced recently? Is it gold and, if so, what carat is it? Are there any dents or chips, or even engravings?
The mechanics of a quality watch should also be considered, as the older the piece, the more likely it will be that some of the parts have been replaced or will need replacing. There are subtle details that will indicate whether the watch is worth the investment so the more you can learn about the watch, the better informed you’ll be about its value and collectability.
Keep to what you like (and look after it)
Your new watch still needs to fit in with your personal style and preferences, so don’t overlook what you like when finding a new wrist accessory. Look for a watch that’s the right size for your wrist – going too small or too large will make the watch look awkward and out of place. And once you’ve found it, maintain it. Vintage watches, because they’re already older, need a bit of care to stay looking their best.
If your watch was recently serviced then you’re off the hook for a while, but if not then make an appointment to have it cleaned, oiled and adjusted at a repair shop. The strap on a watch can age well if it’s cared for but if it’s not to your taste or not in good condition, find one that fits your style. And if the watch face is scratched or chipped then this can be a quick and relatively cheap repair that will make the world of difference to the overall look of your watch.
Know where to shop
Shopping for vintage watches is a minefield of potential fakes or pieces that have been restored with mismatched parts, so knowing where to shop for reputable timepieces is vital to getting the best for your money.
There are a few places to consider when looking for your next purchase, starting with pawn shops and second-hand shops – these can be a great resource for finding watches at a cheaper price but finding a diamond in the rough can be reliant on a touch of luck and a lot of searching. If you know exactly what to look for, eBay can be a good choice but be aware of the risk that what shows up in the post might not be exactly what you were promised.
If you’re willing to pay a little more, checking out a local watch dealer who specialises in vintage watches or visiting an auction house can sometimes yield excellent results. Just be aware that these great finds usually come with a larger price tag than you might find elsewhere.
There’s so much to learn when it comes to vintage watches that what will start as a one-off purchase will no doubt become a lifelong hobby. The continual search and building your knowledge is as big a part of the enjoyment as wearing the watch itself, and you can revel in the fact that you’re wearing an original piece of history on your wrist each day.