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In the Market for a Vintage Watch?

Here are a few things to consider in what to look for in a vintage watch.

There is something about old-school watches that just… satisfies. Many watches made today have kinetic winders or solar power or can tell you the exact time in 20 different time zones.

Buying Vintage Watches

We’re talking about vintage watches that you actually have to wind yourself and probably only do two things: tell time and look absolutely cool on your wrist.

The good news is that there is a much smaller market for making replicas of vintage watches so the chances of buying a lousy knock off are slightly lower. The bad news is that there are still replicas out there for just about any really cool old watch.

But if you’re serious, Benjamin Clymer of Park and Bond gives you a few tips on what to look for in a vintage watch:

  1. A fifty-year-old watch should look old. If it looks like it just came from the factory, something’s off.
  2. Replacement parts sink a watch’s value. Take Rolex and Patek, the two most collectible brands: The original dial (the face) holds 60 to 70 percent of the watch’s worth.
  3. Some collectors ask for the original box and papers, but they don’t matter. Few people kept them. I don’t even do it now.
  4. If a watch hasn’t been serviced in five to ten years, plan to have it done yourself. It costs $300 or more.
  5. Always ask about the return policy.

Beyond this great advice, it’s important to keep your filters on high. If it just seems like a deal too good to be true, then you are probably about to get scammed. If you are checking out your luxury watch in person, make sure you look at the entire watch and look for defects. You want to note if there are any imperfections in the metal (real watch makers would never let an imperfect watch out the door).

Check to see how solid the watch is. Even though some very old watches might be a little fragile by this point, you still don’t want even an authentic watch that’s on it’s last legs. But in general, authentic vintage watches are built like tanks. Don’t bother with anything loosey-goosey.

Make a careful inspection of the watch strap. What kind of shape is it in? As stated above, replacement parts will tank your investment in vintage watches, but here’s a great tip: change out the old strap for something new. This allows you to wear your watch with pride, but if you ever have to sell it, you’ll have the original strap in the condition you found it in without putting any extra wear and tear on it.

When in doubt, go to a real jeweler. There are a ton of reputable places online and they will help you more in finding an obscure vintage watch than the locals can, but if you are getting timepieces on eBay, ask for a TON of closeup, hi-res pictures. If they are serious about selling their watch and are not embarrassed about the provenance of their watch, they will be happy to send these out.

The most important thing to look for in a vintage watch is knowing it well. Do your research and get as much information on you desired watch as you can. That way you will never get surprised to find out you bought a fake watch.

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