Vintage mechanical watches are certainly hot right now but...
I do have to say, I've been hesitant to write about watches. I want to, because I'm very passionate about them, and I find it fascinating how many different interests and varieties people like because it's so individualized. But, I've been reluctant because the world of watches, especially vintage watches, is vast and I'm by no means an expert. However, it's truly humbling and fun (to me) that there is always so much out there to learn. There are some that are experts on certain brands, or certain eras, but the sea is just too vast to know it all. Guides and tips on buying vintage watches are plentiful, but at the end of the day, it needs to be specific to that particular reference (the model number of the watch), and the best rule is to, buy what you know. Meaning it's always best to know exactly what to look for: are the hands correct, is the case over polished, is the dial original, is the movement correct, are there any other attributes the watch originally had that should be present. The more you learn about vintage watches in general, the more you'll know what to look for and what the tell tale signs of originality or lack there of, are. And in the case of vintage watches, originality or correctness is key.
Beginning in July, there will start to be some watch content sprinkled in the site. My goal is not to present myself or the site as an expert, but rather, to potentially open up some possibilities and expose some new watches to some that are interested in but won't necessarily make the deep dives down the rabbit holes. My hope is that maybe you'll learn about a new brand, a unique movement that makes a piece special, or how I go about selecting and vetting certain pieces in all different price ranges. Buying, wearing, and collecting vintage watches can be daunting, but it can be very fun and rewarding, with a little patience. I should also include that it's not for everyone, and that's perfectly okay - that's part of what is so fascinating to me about the watch world; there are just so many watches of so many different types and styles from so many different eras, and each will appeal to someone in a different way. Although, I am personally more enamored with vintage, I will include some of the modern pieces that are really doing it right these days as well. To preface any of these posts, I do want to start with some general points that I bring up with anyone in first discussion regarding purchasing a watch.
- Find what turns you on. Find something that draws you in, something that gives you a little reprieve of happiness each time you glance down at it. Because at the end of the day, you should buy a watch for you, and it should be something that you love. Your watch will generally go completely unnoticed. With the exception of the watch geek, people will subconsciously see you're wearing a watch, but that's where their attention stops. So, if you're looking for a status symbol, I'm probably not going to be writing the right kind of posts for you, and that's okay. But if you're looking for something that when you look at it, it draws you in, in such ways that make it difficult to even explain why (to someone that doesn't get it), but you just know you love it, then I'd love to hear what that is for you.
- Patience, realistic expectations, and recognition of yourself is key. I say this because maybe the idea of a vintage watch is appealing, but you want something super accurate that you can shower with and also has good luminescence at night. Well, in that case you should buy new. A vintage watch may not keep as good of time as something brand new, might require a service because, just like the engine in your car all of the parts need to keep moving, might not glow at night, and you probably shouldn't shower or swim with it. Patience is also key, if you know you want something now, don't want to wait to get it serviced to keep it running on time and well, and don't want to think about any issues and would rather the piece of mind of a warranty, then new is also your ticket there. The good news is that many brands are starting to cash in on just this. Releasing re-editions, tributes, or modern interpretations of iconic classics. These watches can be great because you get a lot of the vintage look and charm of the original watches with a warranty, waterproof-ing, lume that glows, and piece of mind.
- Condition and correctness are key - for most. If you're doing any sort of collecting, plan to keep forever, or like to geek out on the details, the condition of the watch (the case, the dial, hands, movement, etc.) and the correctness of the parts are paramount. If, you're just looking for a watch that looks good to your eye and appeals to you, these characteristics might not be as important and in that case you should make sure you're discounting the price as a result. Condition being key does not mean that the watch has to be new old stock, or flawless. In fact, I would prefer a watch that wasn't mint so I wasn't afraid to wear it! Part of the appeal with the vintage watches is the patina and character that they take on over time. Honest wear for a 40, 50, or 60 year old watch should be present, but be sure to be discerning about what is honest and what is abuse or damage. This is where the more watches you look at and the more time you spend learning, the easier this will be to identify.
- Do your homework. This is kind of continuation of the previous point, but when I come across a watch that I'm not familiar with the first thing I do is start scouring the google machine. Lookup the reference number if possible, sometimes these older watches will have a model name or nickname that also searchable. Search results from forums will usually be the most helpful and informative, but there are some great resources where people or groups have posted guides for certain models. The Springbar is currently killing it with these guides, but there are usually a few resources for just about every semi-major brand out there - the internet can be a great place. I'll also do a lot of google image searches for references on what the watch should look like, or variations in handsets or logos, etc. Instagram hashtags have become particularly useful as well. So much so that Instagram has gone as far as sponsoring events within the watch community because watch collectors have really embraced the platform for sharing and finding new watches. But at the end of the day, if condition and correctness are important to you, you have to know what to look for.
I apologize if this post was a bit rambling; it was hard to dive into such an in-depth and vastly consuming topic while still keeping it at surface level. Beginning in July, I hope to have a few posts with examples of some fun but not crazy expensive watches to look at, both new and vintage. I won't pretend that these will be on the same level of the great articles Mr. Eric Wind used to write for Hodinkee, like this monster guide: The HODINKEE Guide to Buying Watches on eBay, but hopefully I can bring some of the excitement, exposure, and honest passion for learning and discovering fun and cool pieces at all price points.
If you have a particular question, an area or topic you'd like to know more about, or a story to share of your own, please reach out. Happy Hunting