Okay, you want a vintage watch. Great! What should you look for? Have you considered the following? Here is our buying guide.
Why buy a vintage watch?
Very few new watches look as classy as vintage watches. Yes, that is subjective but on the whole the statement is right. Vintage watches are far rarer too, so the chances of meeting someone else with the same watch is slight – try saying that about most high street brands. Watches can also be a canny investment, with prices rising. Just Google “wrist watch prices rising” to read all the various reports! And on the issue of money, you can get a very nice vintage Omega for under £1,000, whereas a new retailer will laugh you out of the shop.
What is the right movement for me?
The movement is the engine of the watch, and these are the four main choices;
HANDWINDING or MANUAL WIND – the power is given to the watch by the owner winding the crown daily. This stores energy in a spring that is released over time to power the watch. If you forget to wind the watch it will stop.
AUTOMATIC – essentially the same wheels and gears as a manual watch, but inside the case is an oscillating weight that winds the watch for you when you move.
QUARTZ – battery (or Cell to be more accurate) powered and distinctive by the second hand jumping around the dial once a second, sixty times a minute. These are the most accurate types of movement, but can be the hardest to repair. If the cell leaks the watch is often ruined, so always use high quality cells. The cell needs to be replaced every two years. Not all quartz movements are the same, the quality ones are highly engineered.
ELECTRONIC – These movements offer the smooth sweeping second hand of manual or auto watches (smoother in fact), but with better accuracy and a distinct high pitch tone – held close to your ear you can hear the watch hum! Far more expensive to produce than quartz watches, they died out in the mid seventies but still have a loyal following.
The highest quality watch movements are called Chronometers, and in order to be able to call your watch a chronometer it has to pass the COSC test and be accurate to within 5 seconds a day. However, the cheapest quartz watch will probably be accurate to within 15 seconds a month! It is ironic that the highest quality watches are not as accurate as the cheapest, but it comparing wheels and gears against a computer. When you add age to the wheels and gears, timekeeping slips even further. If a vintage watch is keeping time to within +/- 2 minutes a day it should be classed as keeping good time. If when you are asked the time you say “Eleven forty eight and sixteen seconds”, buy a new digital watch! If when asked the time you say “Ten to twelve”, you will be fine with a vintage watch. UPDATE. We have invested in a timegrapher, which listens to a watch and tells you exactly how the watch performs. It enables us to tune watches within tighter timeframes, most often within +/- 30 seconds a day. Each watch will be tested and if needed tuned before being sent.
The watch will not be new, so please do not expect it to appear like a new watch. Each watch has had a life, and will have marks on it. We take high resolution photographs of the actual watch for sale so anyone can see what they are buying, and we do not use any sort of computer software to alter the images.
Some say that size is not important, but we disagree! Most older watches are far smaller than new watches, and it is an important consideration. We list the width and thickness of each watch we sell on this site, and if you need any other measurement we are happy to supply this. It is worth noting that square or rectangular cases wear bigger than round ones, so a 36mm round watch can not be compared with a 36mm square watch. If you would like to see what the watch looks like on a wrist then please ask and we will try and email you a photo.
Bracelet or Strap?
Wherever possible we will try and supply the original bracelet to the watch. However, we will also list the maximum wrist size that this bracelet will fit, as finding spare links is very difficult. Measure your wrist in the afternoon, as they tend to swell a little during the day, to make sure the bracelet will fit. With leather straps we generally replace them with new, quality items unless the existing strap is in very good condition. All our bracelets have a thorough clean in our ultrasonic bath to ensure they are as clean as possible without using any chemicals (other than washing up liquid!).
Absolutely Not! Disregard anything written on the dial – that claim might have been made and valid forty years ago, but not now. Never risk getting a vintage watch wet, and any water damage is not covered by the guarantee.
Watch case material
This is a personal choice. The only factor to consider is the quality of gold plating. The ‘standard’ thickness of gold plate is 10 Microns, higher quality watches have 20 Microns, and the highest quality gold plate is 40 or even 80 Microns. The thicker the plate, the less likely it will show areas of rubbing (where the plate is worn thin/out). The next standard above gold plate is rolled gold, which is a thin sheet of gold is fused with a base metal. This is much thicker than gold plate, and it is rare to see rolled gold worn through to the base metal. Gold filled is the next highest quality, followed by solid gold. If you want a 18k gold watch, do bear in mind it is a weaker alloy than 9k gold and will show dents and dings easier.
Servicing and Maintenance
A classic watch is not dissimilar to a classic car. Both need regular maintenance to keep them running sweetly. With a watch this is due anytime between 2-5 years, depending on how much the watch is used. Spare parts can be an issue, but we have a network of specialists that are able to help. The more complex the watch, the more expensive the service would be.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us