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The terms “vintage” and “antique” are interchangeably used to describe watches of any age. However, it’s technically correct to only call a watch an antique if it is over 100 years old. Truly vintage (AKA “retro”) watches are between 20 and 100 years old. Watches less than 20 years old are just “old”.
The value of antique, vintage or slightly old watches does not solely depend on their age. For example, a vintage watch manufactured in 1991 may be worth more than an antique watch made in 1920 depending on demand for the watch, price at the time it was bought and how many were made by the watchmaker. When searching for antique or vintage watch repair make sure your watch repairer is certified by the American Watchmakers Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) and the Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance (SAWTA).
How to Determine the Age of a Watch
Watches with serial numbers can be aged easily. Open the watch and look for a serial number on the movement. Serial numbers designate the year a watch was manufactured. Once you find the serial number, search for the watchmaker’s database online and cross reference the number. Be aware that numbers stamped on the exterior of a watch is primarily used to identify, not date, the watch.
Vintage or antique watches that don’t have a serial number will need to be examined by a watch repair company like Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry that specializes in determining authenticity and age of old watches. We’ll also be able to tell you if an antique watch needs replacement parts or repairs that can potentially increase its value.
Repairing Vintage or Antique Watches
Watch collectors will readily pay more for vintage or antique watches that retain as many original parts as possible. However, some repairs and replacements are necessary to keep the watch in good shape. Damaged crystals should be replaced because they protect dial hands and other movement pieces. When possible, replace a damaged crystal with a crystal similar to the original crystal. In some cases, you might be able to obtain an original crystal from the manufacturer. Aftermarket crystals may not fit well enough to prevent dirt and moisture from damaging interior movement components.
Watch Dials and Hands
Original or the closest thing to original hands and dials greatly increase the value of vintage or antique watches. Whenever possible, maintenance involving original hands and/or dials should only be done by an experienced watch repair company like Matheu’s Fine Watches and Jewelry. Also, avoid replacing one component without replacing the other component. It doesn’t look attractive and could significantly decrease the watch’s value
All new and vintage watches contain a variety of rubber gaskets to protect the watch from moisture, dust, oils and residue damage. Some antique watches may contain a crystal, back, crown or bezel gasket depending on its age and manufacturer. Replacing worn-out gaskets with new ones will not reduce the value of antique or vintage watches. Local residents have their repairs done at Matheu’s Fine Watches and Jewelry should have gaskets inspected and replaced if necessary.
5 Tips for Maintaining a Vintage or Antique Mechanical Watch in Optimal Condition
- Always Store Watches in a Dry Environment
When you don’t plan on wearing an older watch for an extended time, wrap the watch in paper towels, place the wrapped watch in a Ziploc baggie and store it in a metal box. Make sure the box (preferably a safe deposit box) is sitting several feet above the ground to avoid condensation. While you can store mechanical watches for months or even years without causing them to deteriorate, never store battery-operated watches without first removing the battery. Watch repair on watches damaged by battery acid may not be successful.
- Bring Mechanical Watches to our Denver, CO Watch Repair Business for Regular Servicing
Watches contain special oils to keep components running smoothly and efficiently. Over time, these oils become contaminated, coagulate and could cause permanent damage to a watch mechanism. Gaskets and mainsprings should be replaced every three years to ensure your mechanical watch continues functioning normally.
- Accidentally Dropping Vintage or Antique Watches
Digital watches are built to withstand water, heat, cold and forceful impacts. If your mechanical watch is banged or dropped against a hard surface, consider bringing it in for repairs. Our watch specialists will examine your watch carefully, inspect internal mechanisms and make sure it did not suffer damage.
- Keep Mechanical Watches Away from Moisture
Humidity, steam and other types of moisture can quickly degrade vintage or antique watches that are not protected by gaskets. Never try to dry out a mechanical watch using DIY methods. Putting a wet vintage watch in a bag of rice will do more damage to the watch. Instead, call Matheu’s Fine Watches and Jewelry to make an appointment for repair or servicing.
- Magnetism Damage to Mechanical Watches
Antique watches made before 1950 were unaffected by magnetic forces simply because none existed. Today, wearing a mechanical watch around laptops, big-screen TVs, tablets and airport x-ray scanners may cause it to malfunction. Signs of possible magnetic damage to an antique watch include the watch gaining or losing time or sudden hand stoppage. If you suspect your mechanical watch is suffering from magnetism, we can eliminate magnetism by professionally demagnetizing internal watch components.
Call Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry for Expert Watch Repair
We are a factory authorized, watch repair and service center for Cartier, Hamilton and many other fine and luxury watch brands. As the leading watch repair provider in Denver, CO, our reputation for providing superior servicing on antique, vintage and new watches remains unsurpassed throughout the state. When your watch isn’t working right or needs maintenance, call us at Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry!