The Vintage Feel
This week I want to kick it old school and talk vintage. The vintage watch market is huge and there are just as many people collecting older pieces as there are modern ones, maybe even more. While my collection is mostly more modern, I have come across some stunning watches on the wrists of collectors and enthusiasts that are so timeless. It’s hard to imagine that some are almost double my age yet still encourage more curiosity and conversation than any modern piece I own.
Vintage watches can give us a glimpse into the past, take us to a time where watch making lacked the technology we have today, but still produced some epic timepieces which not only still work, but also look and feel fantastic. Additionally, watch makers of today are still taking inspiration from those of the previous century, which goes to show that people still have a love for smaller dials, easy to read faces and less ‘fluff’ and flamboyance. The Montblanc Heritage line springs immediately to mind. In fact, the Monopusher Chronograph takes inspiration from the Minerva wristwatches of the 1940’s and 50’s. And while it does have a much bigger dial at 42mm, there is certainly a nod to those vintage pieces.
And while I do like walking into a modern boutique surrounded by glass and great lighting, there is something a bit more special about a vintage piece that can send your imagination wild. They give us a glimpse into the past through their small scratches, marks and imperfections. Making us wonder what the watch has been through, what it has experienced and where it has been.
Sadly, it’s unlikely that’ll we will ever truly know the history of an old watch, but that’s the beauty of it. I get the same feeling and curiosity when I write with my Montblanc 146 fountain pen. It’s almost 30 years old but still writes like a dream (yep… still using it). I often catch myself looking at it wondering where it came from and all the things it may have written before I took ownership. The same is true of older wristwatches.
Yet, while such pieces can encourage our imaginations to run wild and spark our nostalgic side, collecting vintage watches can come with much more pitfalls and risks. It can be a daunting field to navigate, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. The best advice I could give you is to build your knowledge.
You should do a lot of research before buying your first piece… or any piece for that matter. Forums are a great place to start and you should try and talk to other collectors. Learn about the materials used and which references you may want in your collection. Always ask sellers lots of questions, if they’re genuine then they should be happy to answer and provide you with as much information and photos as possible. Additionally, when it comes to sellers, find people you can trust or have a good reputation. Ask other collectors who they have dealt with before and what their experience was like. You can get some great finds on eBay and Chrono24 if you find a trusted seller and do your homework.
Vintage pieces require you to proceed with a little more caution. Due to their age, wear and lack of documentation you could end up with what people refer to as a “Frankenstein”, which is basically a watch that has aftermarket parts which may not be from the original manufacturer. This can affect the inner workings, value and lifespan of the watch, which is why asking questions is so important.
One more thing to think about when collecting vintage timepieces is servicing. If you want the watch to last, you’re going to have to look after it. As you are dealing with much older pieces, parts may not be easy to come by and so servicing costs can be higher. You may also need a service at more regular intervals than a newer watch (around every 2-4 years). You should factor this in when pricing up vintage watches. While you might find a gorgeous Vintage Patek Philippe within your price range, a service from Patek could run in the hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, dollars or euros every few years. Something to think about.
All that being said, vintage watches can offer you so much more than a modern timepiece and you can build quite a head-turning collection. When starting out, you’ll likely find yourself browsing vintage Seamsters (the go-to vintage piece) but with some research and patience you can find some absolutely stunning alternatives. The Hamilton Gordon being one of them (see below). It features the Calibre 770 which is an absolute workhorse and, at a glance, the watch has a very “Cartier” feel.
Additionally, there’s Oris Pointer Date with the calibre 453 (see below). This is my personal favourite and exactly where I’d start if I was collecting vintage. I think it’s a stunning piece and I love everything about it. The crown is large and solid and the dial is something that manufacturers of today should be envious of. At the time of writing they are selling online for around £300 which, if you can get a well looked after one, it’s a steel in my opinion.
The main thing when it comes to collecting vintage is to build your knowledge and do your homework. Like a lot of things, the more you know the less likely you are to get hurt. Collecting vintage is more about patience too, but if you’re someone who enjoys the thrill of the hunt and searching for those harder to find pieces, then this could be a hobby that you really enjoy.
One more thing I would add, and I actually find quite romantic, is the idea that vintage watches make you a custodian rather than an owner. It’s likely that that the watches you’re aiming to collect will be older than you and, if looked after, will probably be around well after you’ve gone. And so, the idea of being a custodian of such pieces is quite humbling. That during your ‘term’, it’ll also be your responsibility to find new custodians that will care for them, just as those before you. I find that pretty cool!
Thanks for your time! See you in the next one!
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