A loose op-ed on my takeaways and contemplation of the seemingly polarizing interest of vintage watches
With the prevalence of hashtags and subforums it’s easier than ever to get caught up in your own little world and lose sight of broader trends. Attending a few new watch meetups or get togethers lately has made this more apparent to me than ever.
My interest is largely in vintage watches. I stay abreast of industry news by seeing other stories that come up in the usual places, but my activity on forums and Instagram is primarily in the vintage circles. So, when you’re only seeing and interacting with other vintage watch enthusiasts, it’s easy to think most watch enthusiasts are on the same page, or that there are a ton of people out there into vintage, since on Instagram, for example, there is a relatively large amount… that you follow or come up for you. And when put into perspective, that group may only represent a fraction of the greater community that is positing, search for, or otherwise passionate about watches.
I’ve been to three local watch meetups since March of this year, and especially at the last two, I always walk away surprised that collectors and enthusiasts are either into vintage or they’re not, with most falling into the not camp. And for those that are not, I’m always left wondering if they’re simply not into it, or if they just don’t get it. I realize that “they don’t get it” could potentially sound condescending, but I don’t mean it in that way at all, I mean it in sense that they’re simply not interested or simply do not find smaller and older looking watches appealing or attractive.
Or it could be that there are just too many barriers to entry in the vintage world. Speaking from a small and not very connected “community” in Arizona, it’s often difficult to see a specific vintage watch in person, and you (typically) cannot just go to a store a buy it (that is if you can even locate a store that has what you want). Those that live in larger cities have a much better chance of doing so, but even then you have to worry about authenticity, performance, and price. And if you go the online route you have to worry about vetting the watch without seeing it in person, and have to know what questions to ask, what to look for, and how to not get scammed. As well as how to navigate private forums sales, and all that comes with those transactions (references, wire transfers, shipping, etc.).
Researching all there is to know and look for on watches that I’m interested in or find interesting is half the fun for me. But because I enjoy doing that, I’m less intimidated (or more naive) when vetting vintages watches, because I feel more confident in what to look for. But if you’re not the type that likes to geek out on this level, and just want to buy what speaks to you, I could see how this could be a major barrier to the vintage world when you could just go to your local AD and peruse all that’s new and shiny and buy with the peace of mind that comes with a warranty and authenticity.
Or perhaps it’s just that vintage watches are too small in a world where 40-42mm is the norm. There are a few of us at these meetups that lean vintage, and the first comment we hear when others pick them up, is that they couldn’t wear them because they’re just too small. And I hear this comment regardless of wrist size. And in this world, new Rolex remains king, and not just the latest steel sport models. So then I ponder if now that they’ve got their first “real” watch, their first Rolex, will they then veer down other paths?
So just what is it that makes someone be in or out, on the bus or off? One aspect of watch collecting I appreciate the most and find very interesting is just how varied everyone’s tastes and preferences are. And with the huge variety from old to new, from dress to diver, everyone can find watches that speak to them, represent them, look right to them. And maybe it’s just that simple, vintage watches don’t speak to them. But maybe, they just haven’t picked up the tongue those watches are speaking…
Thanks for reading my ramblings. I hope you weren't hoping for a point or conclusion. I get the itch to riff on from time to time in posts categorized "opinion". If you're on one side of the camp or the other, it would be great to hear your thoughts on just why that is, please comment below!