Should You Buy a Vintage Watch?

People have a tendency to fall into habits, both good ones and bad ones.  If you like buying one kind of vintage item, you might start buying vintage examples of other things, too.

For some people who regularly buy antique or vintage jewelry, the thought might occur to them that they should also consider buying a vintage wristwatch.  While that may appeal to some buyers, others will likely prefer a more modern watch, and there are pros and cons to each approach.

A lot of this depends on the sort of watch you’re looking to buy.  If you’re interested in an older Timex, for example, you can probably find them here and there for a relatively modest amount of money.  If something goes wrong, you won’t have spent a lot of cash for something that turned out to be an unwise purchase.

For other brands, particularly those in the luxury or designer watch niche, there are some things that you may wish to consider before you spend a lot of money on a vintage watch.

Older watches may have mechanical problems.  Watches, except for newer, quartz models, are mechanical devices with moving parts.  These timepieces require regular maintenance, as moving parts and friction are not a good combination and over time, parts wear out.  If you have a name brand vintage watch, you may still be able to get it serviced and parts may still be available.  If it’s a more obscure brand or model and it needs parts for repair, you may be out of luck.

Older watches may not be original.  There is a tremendous amount of collector interest in older watches from Rolex, Jaeger LeCoultre, and Patek Philippe, for instance.  These are companies that have been making watches for a long time and they have developed a large fan base.  Because of this, market demand for used watches is high, and particularly for certain models that may have had a certain dial or other features that were specific to that watch.  These days, with prices being fairly high, it is not uncommon for unscrupulous individuals to replace watch faces, hands, or even entire movements to give the impression that a certain watch is something more desirable than what it really is.

Unless you are an expert, or know someone who is, you may find yourself paying a lot of money for something that is offered as an original but is in fact, a doctored version of something else.

A 1955 Rolex

A 1955 Rolex

Older watches are less reliable.  There is that major point – over the years, the art of watchmaking has continually improved, and mechanical watches today are much more reliable and more accurate than they were 10, 20, or 50 years ago.  They keep better time, they provide fewer problems, and they run longer without winding than older models.

On the plus side, there is an upside to buying vintage watches.   Some brands are always in demand, and it’s possible that you may buy a vintage watch today that will increase in value over the years.  There was a time, for example, when vintage Rolex watches were relatively cheap, but those days are long gone and the prices have steadily crept up over the past 20 years.  A used Rolex that you buy today may very well increase in value with time.

Whether you want to buy a new watch or find a classic older one is a matter of personal taste and your individual budget.  Just keep in mind that older watches do present some issues that newer models do not.