Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

Thread: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

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  1. #1
    Member John3020's Avatar
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    Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    Hello. Although I am not new to the world of watches, I am thinking about expanding my collection in to the area of vintage wrists. I have been a long time reader of this forum and I can see there is a wealth of knowledge amongst the members. I am hoping to tap into this and begin my education.

    I'll keep my questions very simple since answers will depend on an infinite number of things.
    -On what criteria do you evaluate a vintage piece?
    -How often do vintage pieces require servicing?
    -Are there any common pitfalls to avoid when purchasing something old?
    -Any good resources for estimating value?

    Just looking for general answers based on your own experiences.

    Thanks!

    John

  2. #2
    Member Sparcster's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    Quote Originally Posted by John3020 View Post
    I'll keep my questions very simple since answers will depend on an infinite number of things.
    1. On what criteria do you evaluate a vintage piece?
    2. How often do vintage pieces require servicing?
    3. Are there any common pitfalls to avoid when purchasing something old?
    4. Any good resources for estimating value?
    Hi there and welcome,

    Think this (these) are a pretty open questions that are opened to personal opinion! But I will give it a shot!

    1. Criteria... Condition, Condition, Condition! Other than that, I buy pieces I like and would be happy to wear on my wrist!
    2. Servicing... all depends on the watch/movement and its use... I have some watches that I think have never been serviced in 30 years and are running perfect. However, other movements (pin-lever for example) will require more regular servicing to keep them running well/keeping good time!
    3. Pitfalls... If its too good to be true, it normally is! Going back to '1', condition... certain watches are more likely to get frankenized (might have made that word up!!).. I have bought some Tissots, Omegas, Seikos, etc, that have been put together from different parts/watches.
    4. Value... I normally check auction sites to get an idea of value... again, I have spent more on a watch than its 'worth'... as I liked it!

    Collect what you like and makes you happy... you cant go wrong!

    Im sure others will have a different opinions to me...
    Last edited by Sparcster; May 8th, 2011 at 18:18.
    A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away...

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  3. #3
    Member Tick Talk's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    Quote Originally Posted by John3020 View Post
    Hello. Although I am not new to the world of watches, I am thinking about expanding my collection in to the area of vintage wrists. John
    Oh boy, those are dangerous thoughts!! I'm not in a position to give anyone advice but I can share some of my own guidelines which you may wish to consider. I found that an interest in vintage wrist watches quickly led to pocket watches also!

    1. nothing older than 1870,
    2. nothing newer than 1970,
    3. specialize in a few brands,
    4. learn about the history of those brands through forums, online articles, auction catalogs and published books,
    5. examine all aspects of the brand's products, including movement architecture, case designs and markings, dial variations. Handle the real thing when possible and develop a "feel" for the real deal,
    6. research each individual piece thoroughly to confirm authenticity AND originality,
    7. impulse buying leads to desperation selling
    Tick Talk says, "A watch in the hand is worth two on the wrist"

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  5. #4
    Member LouS's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    1. Condition & originality. Both are equally important IMO.
    2. about like new pieces, with the exception that they usually require service on acquisition.
    3. frankenwatches (substituted parts), repainted dials, out-and-out forgeries, movement damage which can be an expensive problem if it is not a common movement. Agree with Tick Talk, no substitute for knowing your material thoroughly. For that, most of us have to focus on one manufacture, period, watch type, etc.
    4. closed auctions on Internet and brick & mortar auction sites

  6. #5
    Member vintageguy's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    as many have said, buy the seller not the watch.

  7. #6
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    For most of your questions, the answers will vary depending on what you're collecting, why you're collecting it, and how much money you're willing to spend.

    In a perfect world, you would only want to buy NOS complete watches in their original presentation box. In the real world, you'll be lucky to find even one like that, especially for the more common, recognized brands.

    Vintage pieces require roughly the same amount of service as a non-vintage piece; the main difference being how good the case is. Older dress watch cases were frequently just snapped together, and had no real dust-proofing. Watches like this should be serviced more frequently because they're prone to inhaling more dust and dirt. But if you have a "collection", that implies that a given watch probably isn't being worn all that often, which means that (provided they're initially serviced with good quality, synthetic oils) they won't need to be serviced more then once a decade or so.

    The caveat with that is that underservicing a watch can cause irreversible damage. So those watches that you truly treasure should be serviced more frequently.

    The main pitfalls I can think of with regards to old watches is that you may be purchasing someone elses problem. It is pretty much impossible to know the full history of a watch, so you never know what might have been done, replaced, hacked, or modified in the watch between the time that it was first made and now. Sometimes they didn't even leave the factory in quite the right condition, or may have been changed by the original seller at the behest of their client. Back in the day, watches were like cars, and there's always those people who want something just a little bit different from everyone else. On the other side of the coin, not everyone was able or willing to pay the price for regular service and original manufacturers parts. And most after-market parts are hard to distinguish from the originals.

    For estimating value, eBay is a good start, but limited if you're dealing with the more obscure brands/styles. Shuggart's "Complete Price Guide" comes out yearly, and probably every serious collector has at least one copy. Different people have different opinions of the accuracy of the values listed. It bases its prices largely on information from dealers and NAWCC marts, which means that the more obscure watches are subject to statistical hiccups. For a great many watches, the main variables are precious metal content and brand name.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

  8. #7
    Member JohnnyMonkey's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    Agree with all of the above

    If you look thru this forum, you will find guys into high end vintages, those that seek certain movements, those that like a cheap bargain to fix themselves, some that like certain brands etc etc

    Go with what you like the look of and feel comfortable paying. It can be risky if you go in at the deep end with an expensive Omega or something similar, as it's very easy to get it wrong and not spot the expensive dud!!

    If you can find a watch fair or something similar in your area, you can go look at literally hundreds of different watches and get a feel for what's what!!

    And don't be worried about asking questions on here, however dumb you think it may be......someone will try to help!!

    Good luck with it

  9. #8
    Member trim's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    A lot of people get carried away by buying 'the brand' rather than recognizing the inherent value of the watch as a piece of technology or design. As people have said, buying top end can be a dangerous activity, also it wasn't beyond the 'better' brands to use cheaper movements at various times. Of course, nothing is immune from being faked or frankenised. Even very cheap plastic disposable vietnam era military watches worth around $20 get faked. You need to develop a feeling for a watch that is 'correct' - if in doubt ask on the forums.


    Anyway, what is my point?

    Buy watches you like, will wear and enjoy.

  10. #9
    Member John3020's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    Thank you to everyone that has responded thus far. I am definitely not the kind of person that buys on impulse, however I have to admit when I'm looking at all of different manufacturers, models, styles....etc I get a little bit of a "kid in a candy store" feeling. I don't have a particular brand or model I am looking for, its more of finding different styles to round out my current pieces.

    Sounds like the common threads are:
    -Wear/Buy what you like
    -Condition is key
    -Try to examine the piece in person if possible
    -Become an "expert" on the manufacturer/model (I can tell I'm spreading myself a little thin in my search)
    -Don't be afraid to ask dumb questions

    Has anyone made a purchase from Finer Times? I am nowhere near ready to plunk down any cash, just wondering if your experience was a positive one. They have a wide range of models in various price ranges and they provide a lot of information and pictures for prospective buyers.

    Keep the advice coming! I appreciate it.

    John

  11. #10
    Member TheJohnP's Avatar
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    Re: Tips/Advice for Vintage Wrist Watches

    One thing to always keep in mind, make sure you see the movement before making a purchase. Too many horror stories out there (and personally) from not seeing "what's under the hood" when you buy vintage.

    Can't say you won't luck out. But it's better to be sure than hope for the best.
    I've got more Converse sneakers than watches, but it is a close race.

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