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Making the choice between old vintage or new vintage

If there’s one thing that can frustrate the vintage watch collector, it’s landing that awesome piece and then having to send it for service because of unforeseen problems.

Much so if this happens in succession. You can’t call yourself a true collector of old vintage watches until you have a couple of these horror stories to tell.

And fortunately for those loving the look of vintage but not looking forward to facing the repairer or a load of hairline scratches on your watch case (that’s not caused by you), there’s now the option of vintage-inspired timepieces.

Jumping on the vintage bandwagon has never been more riddled with choice - social influencers and big Swiss manufacturers taking turns to swarm your horology-craving attention span with all sorts of wristpieces.

Choice, in this instance, is a minor inconvenience. One needs only to sort out the perks and bane of each before making the jump to a new (or old) watch.

Luckily for one, I’ve started a list.

The size of the case

For some size does matter when it comes to the watches on their wrists.

Generally, vintage watches typically come in smaller sizes that range from 32-36mm - a Rolex Oyster Precision clocks in at 34mm with a 19mm lug width while the more popular DateJust measures in at 36mm with a more practical 20mm lug width.

Modern tastes gravitate towards a much larger case size, and it’s not uncommon to hear people new to vintage watches ask for “a DateJust or Piepan at 38mm”.

Somewhere in Bangkok there’s a stall with that watch you’re looking for.

I’m kidding, don’t support piracy.

For those wanting modern-sized vintages there’s now a whole smorgasbord of vintage-inspired pieces that can fit your wrist requirements. These bring the timeless elegance of a vintage design onto a larger, more commercially popular case size.

Which leads me to the next factor to consider.

The case condition

Two very true scenarios - guy examines a vintage watch and whines about scratches, while another looks at vintage-inspired and lemants the lack of “marks of history”.

There really is no pleasing people is there?

I have an analogy to share.

If you’re thinking of dating a 60yr-old who looks 30, you must accept that that person has got work done inside and out.

And if you see a 30yr-old looking all beat up with “marks of history”, you might not want to know what happened.

So people, please! Vintage will have scratches. New should be as shiny as you can get it.

The timetelling and upkeep

This is turning out to be a griping session for me. The next point that you might want to consider is how well (and for how much longer) the watches will tell good time for.

You can expect vintage watches to tell vintage time, accurate to a few minutes a day while some might remain stubbornly accurate due to previous service records or generally good care by the previous owners.

Being made of older materials and with outdated methods, you should also expect vintage to konk up on you faster than a new piece will.

Last but not least, never submerge your vintage watch in water unless you’ve had a professional serviceman perform the necessary checks and replacements.

If you’re the sort to use a timegrapher on vintage watches religiously, please go apply your fanaticism toward an area of national security.

You might save the world, don’t waste it timing an old watch’s accuracy.

The value

I have a formula that I apply to watches I buy, and vintage watches tend to come out the winner.

Value = price it’s worth to resell / price you pay for the watch.

Modern watches are expensive to own, with their prices inflated by marketing, mass production and distribution costs.

Vintage, due to the fact that they’re already kind of past that stage, do not suffer from the baggage of hidden costs and will present a better value when you do decide to offload them.

I hope the pointers will help you make the choice between true vintage or modern vintage-inspired.

To close I urge you to buy a watch that you would like to wear - something that you will wake up to the next day, and feel that same elation and pride as you slap it on your wrist, ready to face the day.

©.2023. Reproduce with permission. Further enquiries at

Best viewed on desktop, because you should really take your time with vintage.

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