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It’s true there are some benefits to buying a brand new watch. You get all the watch’s documentation, it typically comes with at least some type of a warranty, and you don’t have to be concerned with watch repair right away.
However, many people actually prefer vintage watches to new ones. No matter what your personal style is, there’s something almost romantic and certainly nostalgic about buying a vintage watch. Immediately, images of impossibly cool icons the likes of James Bond, John F. Kennedy, and Steve McQueen come to mind, never without their signature timepieces.
If you fall into the latter camp and are interested in something other than a brand new watch, there are some important things to know. As you shop around Englewood, CO — or anywhere else, for that matter — you’ll want to know what to avoid, what to look for, and how to go about getting watch repair or maintenance for antique or specialty pieces.
Here, we’ve rounded up our top tips for buying a vintage watch.
1. Do Your Homework
As you’re shopping in watch repair or antique shops for your new-to-you watch, you may come across what appears to be the deal of a lifetime and be tempted to purchase it on the spot. Don’t.
Before even beginning to actively shop, have a decent idea of what you’re looking for (or not looking for, for that matter), whether that’s a specific brand, a certain style, or a watch from a particular time period.
Once you’ve decided that, become an expert on that brand or style of watch. Know their distinguishing features, limited or rare editions to be on the lookout for, approximate fair market values, and any known issues you should be aware of. You should also spend some time familiarizing yourself with how to spot fakes, as the market is unfortunately filled with them and it can be difficult to tell them apart from the real deal.
The idea is to know exactly what you’re looking for and at so that when you find it in a watch repair shop, you can make a decision quickly. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, you have access to all the information you could possibly want online. Joining watch collector and watch repair forums is a great starting point for your research.
2. Use Your Available Resources
In addition to the internet resources at your fingertips, there are several other things that will help you shop for a vintage watch.
All authentic watches have serial numbers that can give you a great deal of information. The serial number can reveal a watch’s age, how many of that particular style or edition were produced, and whether or not any of its parts have been replaced, which is especially helpful when you’re shopping in a watch repair or antique shop.
“Frankenwatches” refer to watches that have had certain components replaced, meaning they are not all original and have essentially been pieced together. The case and movement will have individual serial numbers, so one of the first things you want to check is that they match up. This is where the education you did in step one can be of tremendous benefit. Many watch manufacturers keep detailed archives of their vintage watch productions, and some even have specific points of contact designated to answer questions.
3. Get to Know a Watchmaker
Knowing a reputable watchmaker or having a go-to watch repair shop will only benefit you as a vintage watch owner. If you’re looking for something specific, they can keep their eyes open for you and contact you if they come across it.
Later on, you will certainly need to have your watch serviced or have a part repaired or replaced. Having a good relationship with a repair shop will help you should you need to track down a hard-to-find part.
Many of them specialize in specific brands or styles, so ask for references, search online forums, and find watchmakers in your area.
4. Know the Policies
A vintage watch can be a significant investment, so it’s important to have all your questions answered. Find out what, if any, the return policy is, what sorts of guarantees the watch comes with, and what types of documentation you’ll receive. Don’t be afraid to ask more than once for clarification or to ask for something to be put in writing.
5. Take Extra Precautions When Buying Online
In today’s Information Age, perhaps this goes without saying, but you truly can never be too careful.
If you’re not purchasing a watch from a watch repair shop and are going about it sight unseen — online or otherwise — do some homework on the seller. Ask for recent or longtime customer references and do some searching on your favorite search engine. Get a “proof photo” to prove the watch is in-hand, such as being shown with the local daily newspaper, or use video chat and have the seller show you the watch and demonstrate some of its features.
Whether it’s the nostalgia that attracts you or having a bespoke style all your own, there are many reasons to buy a vintage watch. If you’re still on the fence, you can think of it this way: Most modern watches today are designed based off of the watch brand’s vintage or original designs. Why buy a copy when you can have the authentic original?
No matter where you are in the process, Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry in Englewood, CO, can be of help. If you simply need some advice, want to shop our selection, or are in need of watch repair services for your new old watch, contact us today.