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What is a Vintage Watch

August 23 2017

Technically, a vintage watch is any watch that is 20 years or older. It does not matter if the watch is new in box, new old stock, pre-owned or used. However, often the term vintage is really just a nice way of saying “used” or “pre-owned”. The term was originally coined as a more elegant way of stating the latter. Instead of saying you bought a used watch at a pawn shop, you could say I acquired a vintage timepiece at an antique shop. Today, we are going to focus on affordable vintage watches, which are generally pre-owned. With that said there are two basic types of “vintage” watches.

Estate or Important Timepieces

Important timepieces are the horologists holy grail. While we throw that term around a lot, and often loosely, an important time piece is valued or determined based on its lineage. The watch may be deemed important due to it being a limited edition, having an unusual complication for that model, or even due to the calibre. Another aspect that can make a watch important is the history behind the owner. Obviously the pocket watch carried by Abraham Lincoln is far more important and valuable than the one my great grandfather owned. Typically these watches are not found for a great deal and the value can often far exceed that of a new model. In fact, many assume that to purchase a vintage watch would save money, but when it comes to estate watches, nine out of ten times you’re spending almost as much as you would new, or even more. Of course, you can also buy vintage timepieces that are expensive even though they were not owned by any celebrities.

How to Buy Online

The first thing you need to determine is a list of your wants vs. needs.

Do you need gold or just want gold? Does it have to have an alligator strap or will cordovan suffice? Must it be manual or is quartz acceptable?

It’s these questions that will keep you rooted in your search. It’s important that you take the time to devise a game plan, because that’s what vintage watch buying is – a game in which you search for the best possible watch for your needs and budget.

First thing’s first. The first rule of vintage watch buying is never buy on impulse. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What you want to do is carefully discern exactly what kind of watch you’re looking at, what quality it’s in and how much you feel it’s worth. Unlike other purchases you may make online, this is not the time to simply hit Buy Now on a whim. This is the time to research the product, and if the seller is pushy, push back or walk away.

Often the best deals are found on eBay since many sellers really have no idea what the values are, or they’re motivated for one reason or another.

 Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. Is there any oxidization, rust, damage?
  2. Are there scratches and if so how many and how bad? Does it appear to be worn? Is it gold? If so, what karat? Is it plated, solid or filled? Look for the markings to give you proof. Are there dents, chips, engravings?
  3. Does it match the period the seller claims it does?
  4. Has the watch been serviced? Do the parts appear to be originals or replacements?