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The Best Entry-Level Vintage Watches

May 07 2019

You don't have to spend a small fortune to get into the game

There are many different ways to get into watch collecting. Some people start with something like a Seiko 5, others save up and jump right into the deep end, while others still buy and sell rapidly to experience as much first hand as they can. One question we get all the time though is, "What should I buy as my first vintage watch?" That's a complicated question, but the good thing is that there is a wealth of outstanding answers. The best answers however fit a number of key criteria. A first vintage watch should be affordable, it should be something with enough watch-nerd cred that you'll be excited to tell everyone about it, and it should be something that you'll be proud to wear as your collection expands and evolves. Here are a few examples the Vintage Watch Outlet came up with when picking your ideal first vintage watch. 

Rolex Datejust
Rolex Datejust

Not surprisingly, we have picked a vintage Rolex Datejust for our first vintage watch. Why, you ask? Because there is nothing more wearable, universal, and long-lasting that a vintage Rolex Datejust. You can find fantastic examples from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s all with different dial colors and index configurations. Our advice to you is a 1601 with Oyster bracelet – that way you get the added bonus of a white gold fluted bezel and indexes. This watch is also gender neutral and is our number one pick for the ladies because of the 36mm case size and design. It's definitely on the pricier side (show us a vintage watch that's not), but we say go on, treat yourself. 

Approximately $2,000-3,000, depending on quality and dial color.


IWC Caliber 89
 IWC Caliber 89

Named for the IWC Caliber 89 inside – one of the great democratic handwound movements of the 20th century – this model  was an accessible, mass-produced wristwatch when it came out. Today it can be had for just over $1,000 in steel and less than $3,000 in 18-karat rose gold. While not a chronometer, these are simple watches with simple movements that can be tuned to keep time within fairly tight tolerances. Look for versions with a bit of extra flair thanks to the use of fancy lugs. 

Approximately $3,000 in gold (less in stainless steel).


Omega With 30mm Family Movement In Steel

These are some of the finest hand-wound, time-only movements ever made. I've been told, from watchmaker's, they're a dream to work on, and with regular care will last basically indefinitely. The only caveat is, it takes some hunting to find one in good, original condition (the cases were not especially moisture resistant and there are a lot of redials and over-polished cases out there) but your reward if you hunt a bit, will be one of the great, and still affordable, classics of modern watchmaking.

Approximately $1,000-2,000, depending on quality