Collecting vintage watches is a passion for some, based on both the love of older timepieces and the pursuit of the watch itself. There is a real sense of historical connection to a bygone era, to a time before planned obsolescence, when quality and workmanship mattered.
At Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers, we are experts at the buying and selling of valuable vintage timepieces. Our watch buyers also love sharing their expertise with clients. So, in this short article, we’ll offer a few tips on how to begin building your vintage watch collection.
The Allure of Vintage Watches
Some collectors look for watches they admired in their youth, while others pursue vintage watches to complete a collection. Collectors often seek a watch with a connection to a particular event, like the Omega Speedmaster “Moon Watch” from 1969, or maybe simply a “birth year” watch. Because the motivation to pursue a particular vintage watch is so personal, the ultimate goal will be different for everyone. The pursuit is where the real fun is, and the satisfaction of finding a prized vintage watch can become addictive.
Be realistic with expectations though. Vintage watches are used. They will have scratches. If you obsess about perfection, perhaps vintage watch collecting isn’t for you. In fact, original condition is the most important feature to vintage watch collectors. A watch that hasn’t been re-polished, with original hands and the original bracelet is a truly coveted piece.
Vintage Watch Collecting: Get an Education
As you contemplate the very notion of vintage watch collecting, the first step is to educate yourself. Thanks to the proliferation of websites about vintage watches, valuable information is readily available. Whether you’re interested in a particular military watch or a “James Bond” Rolex Submariner, you can probably find a web site or forum dedicated to your particular interest. Ask questions, keep looking, and learn everything you can.
Beware of Fake Vintage Watches & the “Frankenwatch”
Unfortunately, the same information that assists the collector also assists criminals in making incredibly accurate fakes. There are many ways to ‘fake’ a vintage watch, from simply claiming a watch is something it isn’t to staining dials to prematurely ‘age’ them.
Military issued watches are much more valuable than their civilian counterparts, and the engraved number on the case can be faked. Often the only way to verify the authenticity of a military number is to consult an expert.
Without careful research and due diligence, a collector can easily wind up with the dreaded “Frankenwatch,” a piece made from parts of different watches of dubious authenticity. Most important is the watch face: the original dial can hold up to 70 percent of the watch’s value.
The Age and Significance of Vintage Watches
While there is no strict definition of a “vintage watch,” the term generally applies to watches from 30 to 100 years old. Every era has collectible pieces, but watches from the 1950s and ‘60s are highly sought after by vintage watch collectors. Mechanical watch making was at its peak. Watches were durable, and the styling, including domed crystals, gilt dials, and bombe lugs, is still wearable today. While some vintage watches are considered too small by contemporary standards, many from this era approached the 36-40mm size that most now prefer.
Another thing to consider is the watch’s place in history. Some watches are highly valued because a previous owner was a celebrity or historical figure, while others are sought for their importance in the history of watches. The Omega Seamaster 300 is highly prized as it was the companies first dive watch, and a design icon. Research the particular watch you’re interested in, and document what you find.
Vintage Watches As an Investment
Unless you’re planning on spending $5,000-$10,000, you shouldn’t count on your vintage watch as an investment. There are, however, quite a few classics that have not just held value, but continued to appreciate. Certain vintage Rolexes are highly valued, and almost any Patek Philippe is a worthy candidate, as are watches from Audemars Piguet and A. Lange & Sohne. Again, if investment is one of your goals in collecting vintage watches, homework is the key. One added feature of having a vintage watch as an investment is that it looks a lot better on your wrist than a stock portfolio.
What About Collecting Vintage Watches via eBay?
With the rise of eBay, vintage watch collecting has changed dramatically. Collectors no longer have to search for estate sales and travel to watch seller’s conventions in hopes of finding a particular watch. But the blessing can be a curse, and the warning is simple: buyer beware. If you’re going to find a great deal, it will probably be on eBay, but if you’re going to get stuck with a “frankenwatch,” it will probably also be on eBay.
Watches should be “triple signed,” meaning that the brand name appears on the case, the mechanism, and the face. To verify this, you may need to have the watch appraised professionally. Reputable dealers should agree to an inspection, and they should back up the watch you’ve fallen in love with.
How to Sell a Vintage Watch?
While building your vintage watch collection, there may be times that you wish to sell one of your timepieces to free up some cash to purchase a new watch. When that time comes, simply contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers for a free watch appraisal and immediate cash offer. We are one of the best places in the country to sell vintage watches securely and for a very fair price.
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Are you thinking about selling some antique jewelry? Check out our article on: Identifying Estate Jewelry Hallmarks.