First Timers' Guide to Luxury Watches: Buying a Vintage Watch
Wine is evidently not the only thing that gets better with age - vintage watches not only allow you to own a piece of history on your wrist, with enough education and research it could be a good investment in years to come as well. However, it can be tough to navigate the already confusing world of horology, let alone understanding and discerning niche vintage watch models.
Fret not - here are 4 tips to get you through the first steps of considering and buying your first vintage watch to hopefully make this process less intimidating.
Knowing the difference between vintage and second hand pieces
While vintage is technically a subset of what we consider second hand, the value of a vintage timepiece and what we term as a second-hand piece varies significantly. In terms of distinguishing between the two, there are a few ways:
Can manufacturers service your watch?
It is not likely that manufacturers are able and willing to service watches that are decades old - and this is a good sign that you have a vintage watch on your hands - this is true for, for instance, Rolex watches manufactured more than 50 years ago. Pre-owned and late-model watches on the other hand, are still able to be serviced through factory channels.
When was the watch produced?
The date of production is also a tell-tale sign if your watch is considered a vintage model or not. If it was produced before the Quartz Crisis in the 70s, one would consider it vintage as it was birthed during an era when watches were solely marked as luxury items from ‘true mechanical watch making’, as compared to those who were unfortunate enough to be produced after. As quartz-made watches took over the norm, the significance of intricate watch-making became all the more evident.
What is its condition like?
This is an important point especially for those who might be looking for an investment opportunity. While both vintage and second hand pieces could be what we consider as in poor condition, this means different things to both. Vintage watches showing signs of wear and tear (a faded dial, for example) are lauded, while late-model watches with the same condition would be seen as damaged and worth much less.
Invest some time in understanding the art of vintage timepieces
It is tempting to consider a vintage timepiece solely for its investment potential, but buying any luxury timepiece should always be motivated as well by a genuine interest. Understanding the brand’s history and structural significance can prove to be time well spent, and helps you appreciate your timepiece more as a part of history than just for its investment.
Assessing each watch component
5512 Ghost Bezel
The condition of the bezel is what makes up the biggest part to what makes a vintage timepiece valuable. ‘Perfect imperfections’ like a bezel that has faded to ‘Light Ghost ’ is highly sought after.
Rolex GMT 6542
A component not as ostentatious as the dial but equally important to take note of is the bracelet.You know you have a vintage watch worth holding on to when you take a look at the reference number on the first link - depending on the number, it can provide insight on and cross-check when the watch was produced and what model it is.
While things bright and shiny are typically desired, this is not the case when it comes to vintage timepieces. In fact, polishing old cases to make them shine a little brighter, causes them to lose their value significantly. A polished vintage watch removes the aged, authentic look that seasoned collectors yearn for.
All that glitters (or shines) is not gold
White Gold with Wood Dial
When it comes to examining a vintage timepiece to understand if it is well-worth the money parted, remember that all that glitters (or in our case, shines) is not gold. If your timepiece is too shiny or smooth, red flags should come up - your watch should look and feel old with well-worn scratches, that is the beauty of it! If you notice that the lume on your dial and hands are different, you might have your hands on a ‘frankenwatch’ - check if the movement number matches to be sure.
The process of considering and purchasing a vintage timepiece might be worlds apart from purchasing one new from the shelf, but both are equally thrilling - treasure the process and enjoy searching for ‘the vintage one’! As with any investment, it is important to educate yourself and take the necessary precautions before committing to your timepiece.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the view of Kee Hing Hung Pte Ltd.
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