Looking to purchase first vintage watch
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  1. #1
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    Looking to purchase first vintage watch

    I've recently been browsing the affordable watch forum and have always wondered about vintage watches. How do you know the watch you're buying is going to work? I have heard to factor in about 100 dollars for a service, so I guess it doesnt really matter if it doesnt work right? Also there is a lot of mention on the other forum of seiko, orient etc, are there similar affordable and reliable vintage brands? I have read bulova is a good starter brand. Last question, how long will a vintage watch last? Forever?

  2. #2
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    Re: Looking to purchase first vintage watch

    I've recently been browsing the affordable watch forum and have always wondered about vintage watches.
    Welcome to the wonderful world of vintage!

    How do you know the watch you're buying is going to work? I have heard to factor in about 100 dollars for a service, so I guess it doesnt really matter if it doesnt work right?
    Actually, it DOES matter. A LOT! The difference between working and not working can be as simple as a cleaning ($100), or as complex and expensive as a nearly complete replacement of every part. If it's not running, you don't have any idea where on that spectrum it lies, and for some watches, certain often-broken parts are no longer obtainable. Elgin, for example, made two very interesting, technologically advanced automatic movements in the early 1960s which are really, really cool. BUT, there are 3 or 4 Achilles' Heels, parts that were underengineered and which are likely to break. All the old stocks of these parts are depleted, so keeping them running now involves considerable cannibalization. I wrote a blog post on these.

    OTOH, if it's running and keeping time, it's MUCH, MUCH more likely to just need a cleaning, especially if it winds and sets properly.

    Also there is a lot of mention on the other forum of seiko, orient etc, are there similar affordable and reliable vintage brands? I have read bulova is a good starter brand.
    Bulova, or Elgin, or Hamilton are good brands to start with, if you're in America. Lots of them, lots of parts, lots of knowledge. Hamiltons are the most collected of the three, which means there's more knowledge out there, but they'll be more expensive.

    Bulovas are probably second in terms of knowledge. There's an excellent site for vintage Bulovas, mybulova.com There are a number of knowledgeable Bulova collectors there.

    Elgins were more prevalent back in the day. Elgin made more watches than any other maker of jewelled watches at the time, well over 56,000,000 over a century of production, and there are lots of parts available. BUT, they seem to be the least well researched brand of the three I mentioned. Obviously, though, they made good watches, or they would not have been as popular for as long. I'm a big Elgin fan, myself, so of course I don't think you could go wrong with an Elgin. I have a blog on my experiences collecting Elgins, which you might find interesting.

    My advice would be to watch Elgins and Bulovas on Ebay for a while, till you get a feeling for the model you want, and the prices they're likely to fetch.

    Last question, how long will a vintage watch last? Forever?
    Assuming that it's been serviced regularly, a vintage watch should run for decades. Parts that wear out can be replaced. The case will wear out before the movement, most likely, especially if it's gold filled. Many, possibly most vintage gold filled watches have brassing (wearthrough of the gold layer) at several points, of varying severity. Stainless steel cases are much more durable, but more limited in the available shapes.

    One last point - vintage watches of the brands I've mentioned tend to be much smaller than modern watches. Some guys can't get used to that. You may want to see some watches in person before plunking down serious coin. Myself, I actually prefer the smaller size of most vintage watches. It feels more elegant, and less clunky. But that's me!
    Last edited by GeneJockey; July 9th, 2013 at 21:55.
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    My Elgin Blog...

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    Re: Looking to purchase first vintage watch

    Thanks GeneJockey that really cleared things up! When I first started looking at watches I saw some old ones on ebay and thought who would ever buy those old things? Now, I'm one of the people that wants to buy those! Your post really cleared up a lot of things, namely brands and also why you need a functioning watch. Now I know that it's not just a crap shoot and I can get something old that I can admire for time to come with my money.

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    Re: Looking to purchase first vintage watch

    Quote Originally Posted by stratg5 View Post
    How do you know the watch you're buying is going to work?
    Never, but a return privilege is a good premise.

    Quote Originally Posted by stratg5 View Post
    I have heard to factor in about 100 dollars for a service, so I guess it doesnt really matter if it doesnt work right?
    It matters well. $100 is no bargain, but still acceptable for a regular service. But there is a big difference between service for a well maintained watch, and reanimating a completely worn sample. So even if a bought watch runs acceptably, you should still visit a watchmaker to check it for wear, before you decide to keep it.

    Quote Originally Posted by stratg5 View Post
    Also there is a lot of mention on the other forum of seiko, orient etc, are there similar affordable and reliable vintage brands? I have read bulova is a good starter brand. Last question, how long will a vintage watch last? Forever?
    After my oppinion old Japanese watches belong to those with the worst price-performance ratio.

    Quote Originally Posted by stratg5 View Post
    Last question, how long will a vintage watch last? Forever?
    Yes, at least in comparison to your life time, and if reasonably maintained.

    Regards, Roland Ranfft

    BTW: If you are not yet tired, read some hints about old watches here:
    Ranfft Watches, Second Timepiece
    Last edited by Roland Ranfft; July 9th, 2013 at 21:53.
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  6. #5
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    Re: Looking to purchase first vintage watch

    Roland
    OUTSTANDING reply (bow)
    A
    NEVER ARGUE WITH AN IDIOT. FIRST THEY WILL DRAG YOU DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL. THEN, THEY WILL BEAT YOU WITH EXPERIENCE.

    "Failure is not an option" - Gene Kranz
    "Owning a vintage watch is great, understanding where it sits in Horology is magnificent"
    and
    "By Teaching Others, We Teach Ourselves"
    Adam

  7. #6
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    Re: Looking to purchase first vintage watch

    Great advice so far. You should - of course - only buy something you like - we all have different tastes and preferences. Apart from the American brands already mentioned, there are many really nice Swiss watches. Have a look through our WRUW threads and see the huge variety of possibilities from different eras and with different styles.

    And don't be afraid to ask our opinion about something you're considering.
    Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

    Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)


    Please don't PM me to ask for a valuation - I won't attempt one.

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