How to Invest in a Vintage Timepiece

In the digital age, where the time is plastered across all your daily interactions, why even wear a watch? Besides being a constant physical reminder of my frequent tardiness, watches hold an element of style and status symbolism. And with the likes of Patek Philippe and Rolex, they’re also an investment into something sentimental and eternal. So, what better homage to the value of time then to pull a page from our past and invest in a vintage timepiece.

But what does vintage even entail? The first thing that comes to mind is age. Some collectors follow the rule that watches are either new, more than seven years old, or a vintage, while others lean more towards the belief that if a watch is over 20 years old, then it’s considered vintage. Depending on who you ask, other factors may come into play as well, such as the release of a new reference within the model or the introduction of new materials. With all the ambiguity related to age (which unfortunately doesn’t also apply to people), there are definitely some other factors to consider in your investment too.

Determine the Watch’s Worth

One of the first steps to investing in a vintage timepiece is to determine its worth. While some references can go for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, the majority of vintage watches on the secondary market are actually relatively affordable. Vintage watch prices are determined based on several factors, including model and production year, the use of precious materials, if the watch has had any of its original parts swapped out during servicing, and that the case hasn’t been overly polished.  Rare or discontinued features can also up the price as can past celebrity owners. For example, the particular Longines timepiece worn by Albert Einstein sold for a significantly larger amount than other watches of the same model and production year.

Choose a Reputable Source

You’d think that there was only one Albert Einstein, but with the number of Longines that appear on the market with their claim to fame, validity is often called into question. Counterfeit luxury watches are becoming more and more convincing, making it difficult to distinguish them from authentic watches.  In fact, most experts in the field have been fooled into believing that a fake watch was genuine at some point in their careers. The best way to avoid purchasing a fake watch is to only buy from a dealer with good standing in the watch community.  This means steering clear of individual sellers on platforms such as eBay or Craigslist where it’s difficult to determine a watch’s authenticity.

Auctions

While eBay may not have made the cut for reputable purchases, real auction houses might. No matter what your budget maybe, you can find a vintage watch that is well within your reach here.  Some collectors dismiss this option immediately under the belief that auction houses cater mostly to more expensive items. But most auction houses actually rely on sales from the more affordable pieces in their catalog for revenue.  Auctions also allow you to see the watch in person and often have experts on hand ready to answer any questions you might have prior to bidding on a particular vintage timepiece.

Bob’s Watches

If the fast-paced environment of an auction house is less your speed, consider buying a vintage watch through a trusted online dealer, such as Bob’s Watches.  Hundreds of pre-owned Rolex from Bob’s Watches are bought and sold each month at including vintage and newer models.  Experts examine each watch that comes through their doors, ensuring that they are not only authentic but also priced appropriately.

Confirm that the Watch is Genuine

So, now that you’ve found the vintage watch of your dreams, confirm that it is authentic. While reputable dealers will catch most obvious signs of a fake vintage watch, such as a Datejust without a Cyclops over the date or a stuttering Quartz movement in place of Rolex’s smooth perpetual movement, some minor details may slip through the cracks.  For example, the dial may have the wrong font or wording.  Each watch will differ, which makes educating yourself on the fine details of your particular vintage watch of the utmost importance.

Words by Jonathan Cavaliere

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