Watch culture has exploded in popularity in recent times. In spite of the onslaught of technology, there is an increasing appreciation for classic horology. Nonetheless, beginner watch collectors may find the various brands, kinds of movements as well as even bezel details intimidating and end up with an unsuitable timepiece.
There is a massive market for pre-owned and vintage watches, however you need to be careful regarding what you’re buying as well as who you’re buying it from. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the pre-owned as well as the vintage watch buying landscape.
Learning about vintage watches
Have you ever heard of the phrase frankenwatch? These are watches that have been repaired or have parts replaced by fake parts. These frankenwatches are rampant in the vintage watch community.
If you would like to buy a vintage watch, choose a specific watch and then learn everything about the watch. Join groups, forums, and Reddit boards. In addition, ask other collectors about the watch. There are tonnes of resources online, do your homework before buying a vintage watch.
Iconic vintage watch collections
It’s a rookie mistake to select a high-priced timepiece when buying your first watch. A watch’s quality is not defined by its price. Instead, go for an iconic transitional piece while remembering the balance, movement, finishing, dial design as well as complications that you’re looking for.
Iconic collections tend to undergo a brand refresh every now and then. The differences could include a tweak in case size or movement. These transitional iconic pieces then become well sought after and worthy collectors’ items.
These highly recognisable watches offer generally good value for money, giving you the option to upgrade at much less depreciation. Some of the iconic collections to consider are the Omega Speedmaster, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Cartier Santos, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso or Patek Philippe Nautilus.
Check original parts
If you found your desired vintage watch, you should check the condition. When you buy a vintage watch, the original condition is critical. Check if parts match the original components:
- Do the hands and numbers match the dial?
- Do the colours match?
You could gain more value in a vintage watch with complete original parts compared to a frankenwatch.
Matching your style with the watch style
Before buying your watch, it is important to learn about one’s likes and dislikes. Personalisation may be popular in today’s trends; however we would discourage engraving the back of the watch or altering it in any significant way. That’s because doing so could adversely affect the resale value and whether the manufacturer would service it.
Instead, have a theme for your watch collection. Be it a diving or weekend watch, pick a style that speaks to you and your lifestyle. After all, your watch says tonnes about who you are:
- For day to night socialising, look for versatile dress watches that are understated yet iconic, for example the IWC Portofino.
- For business meetings, consider watches with a long heritage and are of great value including the Omega Seamaster or Rolex Datejust, to reflect a polished, professional outlook.
Some practical issues with buying vintage watches
Not every seller of vintage watches is trustworthy. So, if you are not coping with a reliable retailer who has a reputation for good service which you are able to check, then you should exercise some caution in your buying:
- If you find a vintage watch which you like - that is sold by a private individual - be sure to ask for actual photos of the watch which you are going to buy. Request photos of the watch, the crown, the back case, the movement as well as the inner part of the back case.
- Also, as a safety measure, ask the seller to set the hands of the watch in order to sign an exact time that you indicate (which should be an uncommon time, like 15:25 or 17:40). This would ensure that the seller actually has the watch and not merely some passable photos of it.
- If the value of the watch is substantial, consider the prospect of meeting with the seller at an impartial location — that is, at a reliable watch watchmaker or, alternatively, watch store, where your chosen professional could open it as well as check if everything is in order and legitimate. Be careful that there is always the chance that the watch you are handling could be of a shady nature: be sure to keep the details of the seller (ID, phone number - the usual stuff).
- When paying for the vintage watch, the best bet is to do it via secure systems — such as PayPal. It involves a cost; however it also gives you insurance of successfully getting your money back if what you are buying is somewhat faulty (and remember that PayPal usually favours buyers over sellers).
If you find that the vintage watch is nice and legitimate, then the best bet would be to give it a full service. Your trusted professional watchmaker that you find at RPAIR would:
- Take it apart and clean it,
- Polish the case,
- Fine tune its movement in order to be more accurate, and eventually,
- Replace the glass and the wristband so it would look like as if you had just bought it.
You actually have no idea on how marked the difference is between a good-looking - however worn - watch to one which instead has just been cleaned as well as serviced. Just to give you an impression, think about your car and when you get it back from a scheduled maintenance as well as service check-up from your car dealer.
What you need to know about servicing your vintage watch
When you acquire a mechanical or automatic watch, you should always keep in mind that it is a miniaturised machine of great complication. It has hundreds of tiny parts that work together in unison to deliver a result. And just like your car, this machine needs a schedule of services.
The average service period for a vintage watch is five years. This would mean that your watch repairer will:
- Take apart the watch,
- Check its parts,
- Wash them getting rid of old oil and dust particles,
- Polish the case in order to remove small marks as well as scuffs, and
- Clean the glass.
After all of this, he would put the watch back together again, gently oiling the movement as well as fine tuning to get the best performance in timekeeping. The more complications that a watch has, the more costly — and exclusive — this process will be.
Some individuals tend to use the official labs in order to take care of their watches while others prefer independent watch repair professionals such as those found on RPAIR. The discriminating aspect is — of course — the skill that is required in order to perform the task as well as the grade of trust you have in either of them.
Find a watch repairer to service your vintage watch on RPAIR
If you would like to find a watch repairer to service your vintage watch, then you need to check our RPAIR. For more information, please follow this link.
For further information and interviews please contact:
Tel: +44 075 3953 7868