What do I ook for in a vintage watch?
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  1. #1
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    What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    Hi, I'm new to these forums as well as the whole watch universe. I am considering purchasing a vintage timepiece. More than likely it will be an Auto/mechanical, and I was wondering what are things to look for, either good or bad, that would make the difference between a good purchase and a regretful one? Thank you in advance for any and all replies.

  2. #2
    Moderator Public Forum GlennO's Avatar
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    I think the first thing to look for has more to do with the seller than the watch, ie. a good reputation/feedback, and someone with good communication willing to answer all of your questions.

    Re the watch, I don't pretend to have a great deal of experience in this area, but the main things I look for initially are original components, unpolished or at least no excess case polishing and no corrosion on case or movement. It definitely helps if there is a verifiable service history or recent service receipt to help determine the state of the movement. I feel more at ease buying from a reputable vintage watch dealer than from auction sites, even if it means paying a bit more. Some non-original parts are not deal breakers to me, eg. replacement crown and crystals or even re-finished dial if done exceptionally well, but others may have different views on this.

    Welcome to WUS. A visit to the vintage forum might be helpful.

  3. #3
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    What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    For a beginner, look for vintage watches at repair shops that sell them ready-to-wear. Then buy something you like and can afford. Stick with good brands that sell for cheap, which usually means brands whose current models are not hot on the market.

    It takes some experience and willingness to really dig into the research to buy a watch from a stranger with minimal risk.

    Rick "knowing a good watchmaker is important" Denney
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    Member estrickland's Avatar
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    Agree with GlennO - research the model you're interested in to be able to spot an all original watch.

    If the watch you're after isn't very rare, monitor sales to determine a quality-vs-price curve.

    Unless you're a hobbyist on the watchbuilding side, wait for one in a condition you'll be happy with for the duration.

    Note that many listings will say 'recently serviced', but without service records these claims should carry no weight.
    Absent recent service records, expect to service the watch after purchase, to clean it outside and in, relubricate and re-adjust the movement.
    This cost should be factored in considering the purchase vs. a new watch. Note that vintage chronographs can be expensive to service.
    Ideally you would find and price your service before buying.

    Try to work with sellers that will refund your money ( minus shipping costs ) if you are unhappy with the watch as delivered.
    Always request items shipped with tracking and full insurance, to avoid negotiating directly with the seller in the case of problems.

    Hopefully I haven't scared you off - I love my vintage Seikos.

    Good luck!

  6. #5
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    As noted, research the few you are most interested in. Get to be able to detect whether the dial has been re-done or if it is made of parts from different watches. You can find purely vintage sellers on ebay and the i-net with a search, and check reviews of all credible ones. Always ask to see a picture of the movement and the inside of the caseback. Check for signs of corrosion and the general condition of the movement. There's a fairly active Vintage sub-forum here where you may want to spend some time and pose the same question. Many folks post pictures of what they're considering to request others' opinions. You can do that on the brand-specific sub-forums too.

  7. #6
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    Condition, condition, condition. Don't buy anything that isn't running well. Buy the seller as much as the watch. Assume you'll have to send your new purchase for service after you get it. Vintage chronographs are going to cost more to service.
    Buy something you can get parts for. Bulova is an excellent watch to fix and service. Beware of popular watches like Omega from exotic destinations as you might get a Frankenwatch.
    You will find that the majority of vintage watches are smaller than watches sold today. A lot of the big ones you see on eBay are converted pocket watches and not really designed to be worn on the wrist. Assume any vintage watch has zero water protection even if it's a diver.
    I really agree with Rick's advice to buy from an actual used watch dealer you can trust.

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  8. #7
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    Quote Originally Posted by estrickland View Post
    Agree with GlennO - research the model you're interested in to be able to spot an all original watch.

    If the watch you're after isn't very rare, monitor sales to determine a quality-vs-price curve.

    Unless you're a hobbyist on the watchbuilding side, wait for one in a condition you'll be happy with for the duration.

    Note that many listings will say 'recently serviced', but without service records these claims should carry no weight.
    Absent recent service records, expect to service the watch after purchase, to clean it outside and in, relubricate and re-adjust the movement.
    This cost should be factored in considering the purchase vs. a new watch. Note that vintage chronographs can be expensive to service.
    Ideally you would find and price your service before buying.

    Try to work with sellers that will refund your money ( minus shipping costs ) if you are unhappy with the watch as delivered.
    Always request items shipped with tracking and full insurance, to avoid negotiating directly with the seller in the case of problems.

    Hopefully I haven't scared you off - I love my vintage Seikos.

    Good luck!
    Haven't scared me off yet. Thank You and with that I'll check the vintage forum for more insight. Thanks again all.

  9. #8
    Member Medphred's Avatar
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    Quote Originally Posted by estrickland View Post
    Note that many listings will say 'recently serviced', but without service records these claims should carry no weight.
    Absent recent service records, expect to service the watch after purchase, to clean it outside and in, relubricate and re-adjust the movement.
    This cost should be factored in considering the purchase vs. a new watch. Note that vintage chronographs can be expensive to service.
    Ideally you would find and price your service before buying.
    Absolutely ... assume it will need service absent paperwork proving the recently serviced claim.

    Here's a couple of good reads ...

    https://forums.watchuseek.com/f295/ti...ch-122415.html

    How to Buy A Vintage Watch: Wear It Now: GQ
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    Rolex 114270 Explorer

    Seiko 7548


  10. #9
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    I'm at about 25 vintage watches, and I'd suggest that the first thing you want to do is find a good watchmaker who works in your area. Having a good watchmaker at your disposal will make collecting and owning vintage watches a much, much better experience. Vintage watches are going to need servicing, and if you don't have a good watchmaker you're going to end up with some unwearable watches. The first thing I do with any vintage (or used modern) watch I buy is to take it to my watchmaker for evaluation, and if he says a cleaning or overhaul is needed, then that's what they get. Put that together with careful buying and life is good for a vintage watch collector.
    Last edited by TristanZ; March 19th, 2013 at 15:13.
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  11. #10
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    Re: What do I ook for in a vintage watch?

    Quote Originally Posted by TristanZ View Post
    I'm at about 25 vintage watches, and I'd suggest that the first thing you want to do is find a good watchmaker who works in your area. Having a good watchmaker at your disposal will make collecting and owning vintage watches a much, much better experience. Vintage watches are going to need servicing, and if you don't have a good watchmaker you're going to end up with some unwearable watches. The first thing I do with any vintage (or used modern) watch I buy is to take it to my watchmaker for evaluation, and he says a cleaning or overhaul is needed, then that's what they get. Put that together with careful buying and life is good for a vintage watch collector.
    +1000 to this. I've spent more on watch service for my vintage pieces than for the watches themselves! If you get involved with vintage, you will need to find someone who can source parts and give your watches the proper TLC.

    As far as buying vintage, bear in mind that crystals can be replaced, movements can be serviced/repaired, and cases can be polished to get rid of (or lessen) minor scratches. But case wear or damage... no, forget about it. The cost to repair a damaged case, or re-plate a brassed one, is often not worth it. Look carefully along case edges and on the lugs - avoid anything with brassing (base metal showing through gold plating) or gouges.

    I'd look for a big name watch first, mostly because they're easier to research. But be forewarned, vintage can be addictive. I'm not entirely sure how many I have right now... about 20 vintage Hamiltons, give or take a couple?

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