Getting your first vintage watch
About a week back I helped a guy choose his first vintage watch.
He walked into my regular haunt and started picking out a few pieces. The conversation I had with him inspired this post.
I never told him about this site, but if you ever chance upon this at a later stage in your vintage collecting adventure, here’s a shout-out to Paul. Congratulations on your first. It will most certainly not be your last.
For would-be first time owners of a vintage watch, I have a few bits of advice.
A vintage as a first watch might not be a good idea
Mechanical watches are amazing; there is a simple logic behind the complexity, and there is sophistication behind that chaos. Vintage adds a new element to that equation - history. With all things history, you get a little dirt, grime and uncertainty. Not something that a new member to the mechanical watch club might be ready for.
I'll be first to admit that vintage is probably for someone who's already familiar with mechanical watches - their use and care. With that knowledge you're more equipped to take on the relatively high level of uncertainty that might present a vintage watch.
Keep it simple
Instagram and popular websites perpetuate the romance with the vintage watch, more accurately the vintage chronograph. While presenting an excellent value preposition when compared to its modern counterparts, vintage complications like the column wheel chronograph or a complete calendar can be a handful for the novice collector.
An equally significant but safer choice would be a good three-hand. The movement is considerably simpler and therefore less prone to abuse and the need for an expensive service.
NOS are for instagram and rich people
Part of the allure of collecting vintage for me is the look of the watch. Used watches have scratches, dinks, bumps - each a part of its past. I think appreciators of a good honest vintage should know what I’m talking about.
Demanding a vintage watch without its signs of use is beyond my comprehension. For casual collectors and people who are looking to buy their first vintage piece I think that you’re better off buying the new vintage-inspired releases of modern brands.
Honesty, condition, rarity
In that order. As someone who has too many watches for his own good, I can personally vouch for this piece of advice. So many times before I’ve snapped at a piece just based on its rarity, neglecting the condition or whether it contains inconsistent parts.
The rule of thumb is - there’s always going to be another piece somewhere else. It might not be the same watch, but if you hold out long enough you’ll end up with a pretty decent collection.
As a first time owner of a vintage watch, I would advocate finding an honest piece first and foremost. Read up on telltale signs of faux vintage like aftermarket and refurbished dials, and be sure to rethink anything that isn’t honest.
Sometimes the seller will declare it outright (good on him), but there are plenty others who will pass off something refurbished as authentic. For buyers hunting NOS this is a true concern.
And when you have sight on the honest piece, check that it’s in proper working condition - condition is an indicator of previous use, and you’d want something that’ll keep you away from the repairman for awhile.
A rare watch that doesn’t work is only going to be spare parts.
Don't have a target
There's a whole blog article on this, so I'll keep this one short coz you can get more details from there.
My friends know that I typically do not like to look at watches that I can't own. There are enough watches in this world, and I don't really need to give my attention to some watch that I can't get on my wrist.
In the same style, while shopping for your first vintage please do not fall into the trap of setting your sights on a particular watch (an Omega Constellation Pie Pan for example). What's going to happen is that you're going to overpay and might drop your money at something that might be a dud.
With that I hope you're off to a good start. Do have a look at my selection of watches for sale, and please feel free to ask and engage me on them.