Common watch marketing terms and what they really mean
Oh boy how the collector’s world has changed. I was talking to a few seasoned veterans over the weekend and they were reminiscing about how collecting used to be no frills and all for the love of watches.
But with the rising popularity of vintage watches (#HodinkeeEffect) causing an explosion of new collectors to hit the market, dealers are working harder than ever to stock rare, exotic and popular watches for a piece of that lucrative vintage baked watch pie.
A flurry of vintage watches flooding the market also calls for a little creative titling in order to set your watches apart from the rest. This heralded the marketing age where key words are popularized in order to pick the best from the best. These were meant to pick out the rare finds from the rare finds of rare finds.
In this article I'm going to attempt to list out the many terms that I have heard or read, and give my interpretation of them. Do keep in mind that this is in part a parody article as well as an educational piece to new collectors.
Each vintage is unique in its own way, but the enterprising vendor would have you pay a significant premium for that little variation of a variation of a certain brand of watches.
The terms generally fall into the following broad areas. Hit me up via email if you have more and I'll add to the list. Also, I edited this on the desktop so it may look a bit weird on mobile...
1. The aesthetic properties of the watch and its parts
From distinct features to interesting quirks, these are the marketing terms that target the eyes - the collectors sees, the collector likes.
Custard / Cream / Grey / Pumpkin Lume
Lume starts off green or pale yellow or white, and ends up in a dirtier shade. Some, like me, like the lume to be of a consistent shade throughout.
Particular watches' lume plots age similarly, so if you see one that's out of the ordinary...
Age spots on the dial form as they age, much like how our skin ages when exposed to the sun and air.
Collectors like how unevenly distributed they are, making each example unique.
Ghost Bezel / Dial
A black dial or bezel can fade to many shades - brown, blue, grey... And when it turns a light shade of grey, we call it a ghost because it gives off that translucent vibe.
A lacquered black layer forms the base of the dial, reflecting light off it's shiny surface. Paint applied onto a gilt dial separates itself beautifully.
I used to think this was just a black dial with gold printing. Glad I don't anymore.
For vintage, this means I took a polishing cloth and some water to give the watch a good rub-down. I'd rather take it to the shower, but we all know what that'll do to a vintage watch.
For new, it means you're going to have to pay a lot more for the watch.
Patina is the result of how different parts of a watch interact with chemical elements in the air. It ranges from a chance in hue to freckles to distortion of markers to... well, basically anything that makes a new watch look old can be attributed to the word.
HEAVY patina is an upgraded aging, usually used when it's very much a different watch than what it was. My favorite type of heavy patina is the drowned dial.
Honest / Unaltered Dial
No touch up. No new paint. No cleaning. No nothing. An honest dial is like an old lady's face, aged from grace and not blotched by cosmetic surgery.
You see a grandma looking like a teen movie star, someone's got work done.
The craze nowadays is that Seiko mini panda... This is the smaller variant of a popular watch, riding on the hype of its kin to borrow fame and make it instantly recognizable.
Doesn't mean it's not nice though, just that they would use more creative naming.
New Old Stock
The mother load of marketing BS. New as in untouched, not worn, not sold, not used. Old as in out of production, vintage, of history. Stock as in from a famous watch brand.
I think this term is too widely used to describe watches that are hardly used instead of what they should be - untouched, unmolested, new watches from history.
Panda / Reverse Panda Dials
These are dials, mostly chronographs, with a white colorway matched with black sub dials. The reverse is true.
Why not racoon? Because they aren't (just unlisted) endangered and beloved enough to earn money for you.
Here's another one that's used in the same tone as New Old Stock.
To determine whether a case is unpolished, you're going to need to know what it looks like from the catalogue - how the edges look, the thickness of the lugs (sure fire way IMO), the amount of bevels and chamfers, and the type and direction of finishing. I personally prefer the term not heavily polished.
2. The type or make of the watch
Some like it hot, some like it sweet; just like there are different kinds of taste buds, there is a watch for each personality and desire.
If I had a dollar each time I see a Minerva watch being sold at crazy prices just because Montblanc throws it out as their haute horologie showpiece... By the association, Suwa and Daini Seikosha watches should be worth way more. More examples are Universal and Gallet.
These extinct brands are prized for their in-house movements, typically not something you can get at budget prices with new watches.
This used to mean so much to me - the use or issue of an actual watch during an actual period of time in history where the survival spirit of men were at their highest. Now relegated to a black dial with Arabic numerals.
You're going to need actual provenance for this one - that arrow, the issue engravings, the stories from your great grandpa...
Neo-Vintage / Vintage-Inspired
Go where the tides go, and in the case of watches, the fad is with vintage.
Marques are throwing out vintage-inspired designs and sizes left-right and centre now, leaving brands who refuse to move that direction (Frank Muller, Panerai, Maurice Lacroix) in the dust.
All vintage watches are rare. True samples are rarer. Head over to Instagram and tell me how rare those things are when a collector can hoard cupboards of them.
Sadly in this age, rare just means you don't have enough money to get one.
3. The completeness of the purchase
Some collectors enjoy owning the watch, along with everything else that came with it. We call it its provenance, and it allows you to trace its history and paint your own picture of how the watch moved through time and landed up in your hands.
Box and Papers
All the documentation that a purchase came with. Having these made you feel like the rightful owner, like how killing off the older brother must have felt for a king-in-waiting.
The full set usually consists of the watch, box, strap or bracelet, the warranty papers or card, instruction manual, marketing booklet, receipt from the store.
Keeping Vintage Time
That means you should service the watch if it bothers you. And if you're one of those who put an old vintage watch through a timegrapher... why?!
All of Hublot's watches. Watches that are produced in a limited run to increase desirability for them and make collectors choose them over the others.
Ironically you might be faced with a situation where you're standing in a store and have more limited editions over standard watches to choose from.
If you've not met the guy and didn't see him buy the watch, I'd be wary if paying too much premium for the piece. A one-owner watch basically means you'll be the only other person to own it, reducing the chances of being screwed by false claims of all original parts and servicing history,
That's it! Remember if you have any that I missed out, do let me know and I'll have it added!