Philosophy of Vintage Watches
What makes a watch ‘vintage’?
The basic criterion is the age. Normally, any watch more than 35 years old can certainly be called ‘vintage’. When we say ‘vintage watch’, we expect it to meet the following requirements:
- It is a wristwatch
- It is not less than 30 years old and not more than 100 years old
- It is fine, valuable and collectible
Five reasons to buy a vintage watch
As part of our mission to develop the culture of collecting vintage watches, we like to explain the value and significant advantages of vintage watches.
- Many vintage watches have a story behind them. Besides the obvious fact that travelling down the years, a watch absorbs the energy of time and history, it often has a significant story to tell, based on the purpose it was originally made for. Some watches, like the Omega Speedmaster, first introduced in 1957, remain tremendously popular. The Speedmaster is still produced even today, due to its outstanding performance and its incredible story, with one Speedmaster earning the famous ‘Moonwatch’ nickname. Many watches were made for military service, for divers, doctors, pilots and racing drivers, so when you own a vintage watch, you own a part of history, you feel the thoughts, emotions and aspirations embedded in the watch by its many owners over decades, you feel the spirit of time.
- Vintage watches benefit from unbeatable aesthetics. Despite changing tastes and fashions, some things remain beautiful forever. Arguably, many manufacturers are more focused today on profit, than purely on aesthetics and handcrafting something beautiful. Suffice it to say that the most expensive Rolex ever sold was the Daytona Albino made in 1971 (1.4 million USD) and the most expensive steel watch ever sold was the Patek Philippe made in 1927 (4.9 million USD). It is hard to believe, but some vintage watches after 40 or even 50 years still look modern and fashionable.
- Vintage watches in good condition are rare and they give you a very special feeling when you own and wear one, not to mention how much a vintage watch can impress the people around you.
- Vintage watches have an excellent record of constantly increasing in value. The demand is high and the number of high-quality vintage watches is not increasing. Many vintage watches can be considered as a very good investment, which you can also wear on your wrist and enjoy. Don’t underestimate the investment potential! The prices of vintage watches grow more consistently than the prices of noble metals or shares. In fact, you can hardly find a vintage watch which is getting cheaper over the years.
- Collecting is a perfect (if expensive : ) hobby and passion. It can open up for you a whole new world full of amazing stories, impressive facts and, of course, you meet a lot of interesting people. Friendship is priceless and watch collecting is a perfect key to finding new friends!
Facts you should know before you buy a vintage watch
- Due to the constantly growing number of watch enthusiasts and the shortage of quality vintage watches, demand is steadily increasing which leads to growing value and increasing prices. Consequently, it is often better to buy now than in five years’ time.
- Most vintage watches are smaller than modern versions. For example, the average size of a dress watch from the 1940s is 33-34mm. A watch from the 1950s which measures up to 38mm without a crown is normally considered to be oversized. Please consider the size carefully when you choose your vintage watch. Check our ‘Size Guidelines’ to understand how watches are measured and how they look on the wrist.
- Water is an enemy. Most vintage watches are not waterproof at all (though some were climate-proof), due to their technical characteristics and engineering. Even top-quality vintage watches which were supposed to be waterproof (like the Submariner) decades ago are not recommended to have contact with water today.
Measuring a watch
It is always crucial to understand the size of the watch, especially when it comes to vintage watches which are generally considered as too small in comparison with what watch industry offers today. For example, the original Patek Philippe Calatrava introduced in the 1930s was only 31 mm in diameter, while today's classic Calatrava is 39 mm. When you think about 8 mm, it doesn't seem to be a big difference, but believe it is.
In our condition reports we normally disclose three most important parameters as follows: diameter without crown / lug-to-lug length / lug width.
Diameter without crown
It is, so far, the most important measurement to understand the size of a regular round-shaped watch.It helps you to understand proportions and overall look of the watch. It is important to consider width of the bezel and color of the dial, because certain combinations may make the watch look bigger, while some other smaller. It is all very individual, however there is common understanding:
- 31-33 mm - small size (Rolex Oyster "Bubbleback", Patek Philippe Ref.96)
- 34 mm - small to average size (Rolex Oysterdate Precision, Universal Geneve Polerouter)
- 35 mm - average size (Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date)
- 36 mm - classic size (Rolex Datejust/Day-Date, Patek Philippe Ref.570)
- 37 mm - oversize (Tudor Day-Date, certain chronographs)
- 38 mm - oversize / jumbo
- 39-40 mm - big / jumbo (Rolex Submariner, Eberhard Extra-fort)
- 42 mm - big / moder (Omega Speedmaster Professional)
This parameter will help you to understand whether the watch is comfortable for wearing. You should compare lug-to-lug width with the width of your wrist, and if lug-to-lug width is smaller or equal, then this watch shall be comfortable.
This measurement is defining what size of strap you need for the particular watch. Depending on era and manufacturer you can find watches with lug width between 14 mm and 24 mm. Most common sizes are 18 mm and 20 mm.