If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the watch enthusiast on your holiday list, you may have thought about gifting a vintage watch. Even though everyone carries a technologically advanced watch in their pocket and strapped to their wrist, more and more people are appreciating classic horology (the art of making clocks and watches). From the beginning watch collector to the discerning horology expert, a vintage watch makes the perfect gift.
At Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry of Littleton, CO, we see vintage watches come into our shop all the time for watch repair and refurbishment – even cleaning and tweaking to keep the timepiece running smoothly and accurately.
Beware the Frankenwatch – And Do Your Homework
The phrase “frankenwatch” refers to a watch that has been updated or repaired using fake parts during the watch repair – that is, non-original to the watchmaker brand or the style of a watch. While sometimes replacing something like a spring or cog with a substitute part is unavoidable during repairs, especially for an old, rare watch, the watchmaker should disclose this prior to the sale.
Look for an Iconic Transitional Piece to Start
We’ll let you in on a little secret: the quality of a watch isn’t determined by its price. Rather, some brands of watches are so expensive because they are high-quality and designed to last, well, longer than your lifetime. Look for balance, movement, finishing, and a dial design you like for your first investment or collectible watch.
Many brands undergo an aesthetic refresh periodically, such as a difference in the case size or movement. The transitional pieces between the old style and the new style can be highly sought-after and a worthy item to start your collection.
Verify Original Parts
Always check the condition of a vintage watch before purchasing. A watch repair dealer on the up-and-up will let you check the watch. Original condition is critical when buying; to verify it, you can check the components:
- Do the numbers and hands match the dial?
- Do the colors of the components match? Are they faded to the same degree?
Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Vintage Watch
If you haven’t purchased a vintage or rare item yet, it can be difficult to know what to ask and how to ask it. These seven questions can help you determine if the seller is legitimate and the watch is authentic:
- Is the watch keeping good time? If you can’t have the watch appraised, consider downloading the app Timegrapher – you can record the watch ticking, and the app will tell you if it’s keeping good time
- What is its provenance? Basically, you’re asking where it came from and its ownership history
- Has the case been polished? Overpolishing the case can actually wear it down and devalue the watch
- Should I have it serviced? Yes – but only by a reputable watch repair establishment like Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry of Littleton, CO
- Are all of the parts original?
- How stretchy is the bracelet? A little give is ok, but one that’s too loose could be trouble and cause you to lose your precious watch
- Can you trust the seller? Often, you’re buying the seller- not the watch
Practical Considerations When Buying Vintage Watches
Not every vintage watch seller is ethical; some may try to pass a frankenwatch off as real, while others may try to pull a bait-and-switch. This is more common if you’re buying online. If you’re buying a watch from a private individual, ask for current photos of the watch you wish to buy, including the crown, back case, movement, and the inner part of the back case. To ensure that the seller is taking a picture of the actual watch, ask them to set the hands to a certain time you stipulate, something uncommon like 7:47 or 2:18.
If the value is substantial and the seller is somewhat close, consider asking to meet at a reliable watchmaker’s or watch repair shop, where a professional could conduct an appraisal and authentication before you complete the purchase. And finally, always keep as much information as possible about the seller, just in case they came by the watch through less legitimate means. Pay by a traceable secure payment method that offers insurance against the purchase, like PayPal. If there is a problem with the watch or its provenance, you may have a better chance of getting your money back than if you paid by a cashier’s check, for example.
Professionally Servicing Your New Vintage Watch
Once you’ve purchased the watch, it’s time to have a trusted watch repair specialist, like those at Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry, give it full watch repair service. This includes:
- Taking it apart and cleaning each piece
- Polishing the case inside and out
- Fine-tuning the movement for greater accuracy
- Replacing the glass and the wristband so it’s easier to see and more secure
If you’ve never had a wristwatch cleaned and serviced, you’ll be amazed at how much better it looks and operates after the watch repair. Just like your car, a watch needs regular professional cleaning and maintenance to extend its lifetime and keep operating optimally.
Servicing Your Vintage Watch
No matter what kind of vintage watch you purchase, remember that it’s a highly specialized and complicated miniaturized machine. Hundreds of tiny parts work perfectly in sync, so make sure you take your watch to someone who knows what they’re doing. When you bring your vintage watch to Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry in Littleton, CO for servicing, we carefully take it apart to clean old oil and dust that accumulates, then check all the parts to ensure they’re in good condition, relubricating the watch after we’re finished. We also removed small scuffs from the case and cleaned the glass.
Do You Need a Vintage Watch Repair or Appraisal?
If you recently acquired a vintage watch or are seeking a specific kind of watch, we can help. Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry is a respected fine watch purveyor. We provide professional, experienced vintage watch service, cleaning, and appraisal and can help collectors find that special piece for their collection. Contact us today, or stop by to view our latest items.