27 March 2024

Owning Vintage Watches

Following on from our guest blog a fortnight ago on acquiring a vintage watch, I wanted to follow on by writing a short blog on owning a vintage watch. How to watch out for the pitfalls and make sure you get the best out of your experience. 

Not all that glitters is gold…

Not all vintage watches are created equal. As with modern watches, there is a broad range of quality and price points. And the two do not always match up. There are many relatively low-quality but very expensive vintage watches on the market; conversely, there are many fantastic quality low price vintage watches for sale. Don’t expect an expensive vintage watch to keep better time, or be more robust than a cheaper one. Scarcity and renown is the driver of price in vintage watches. 

One of my favourite things about vintage watches is that they’ve had a life before I own them. They have been worn and had adventures with someone else. I am happy to buy vintage watches with a bit of wear and tear. However, You might choose to pay more for a vintage watch that is in new old stock condition (NOS); bear it mind that if you are going to wear it, it’s quickly going to stop looking new. 

Vacheron Constantin Pulsations
A Vacheron Constantin Pulsations - a very expensive chronograph
Breitling Top-Time Chronograph - much more affordable

Caring for your vintage watch

Piaget Lapis Lazuli in near perfect condition. The owner is very careful where and when he wears it
Piaget Lapis Lazuli in near perfect condition. The owner is very careful where and when he wears it

Unlike many modern watches, vintage watches need a bit more careful ownership and wear. 

For a start, they are often more delicate than their modern cousins. As mechanical objects, their moving parts will wear out over time. Some of those parts will be easily replaceable, others might not. When you are winding the watch, or setting any complication it might have (chronograph, calendar functions etc), it’s really important to take it slow, and follow any manufacturer guidance you can find. 

Parts will also wear down over time, including the aspects that make a watch waterproof. Sure, there are little rubber gaskets that can be replaced, but the case is the most important part of the waterproofing mechanism. During a watch’s lifetime, the case will degrade and reduce the ability of gaskets to seal the water against the ingress of both water and dust. So it’s also necessary to choose when you wear your vintage watch(es) carefully. For example, I tend not to wear my complicated vintage dress watches if I think they might get wet, through either rain or beer spillages. 

Servicing your vintage watch

There aren’t any hard and fast rules about when you should service your vintage watch. Some people would say a regular service is best, others would recommend just getting it done when you need to. For example if it starts to run fast or slow, or stops working. This is when I tend to get mine serviced. 

Sending a vintage watch back to the manufactuer is one option; however, they have a tendency to replace original parts with modern equivalents, or polish the case. This can have a major detriment to the value of the watch, and could remove some of the features that you love about it. So please be aware of that. Some manufacturers will try to keep as much of the original watch as possible, so it’s worth asking what they’ll do before submitting your watch for a service. 

There are still plenty of excellent watch makers that work on vintage watches. They have the tools and ability to make their own parts where they cannot find replacements, and they tend to provide their services at a lower cost than the manufacturers. However, they are not affiliated to any brands, and that is sometimes important to watch owners. 

My favourite vintage watches

I started my collecting journey with vintage watches. The smaller case size, accessible price points, and quality of design, attracted, and still attracts me, to them. Every event I attend one of my friends invariably turns up with something unique, interesting, and at a fraction of the cost of the modern equivalent. 

Below you’ll find some pictures of my favourite vintage watches in my collection at the moment. 

Whatever floats your boat, we are here to explore the world of watches with you. Come along to one of our events, explore your curiosity. You never know what you might find. 

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