The vintage watch market is huge and it is only getting bigger for each year.
The vintage industry as a whole is nothing new. It exists for most types of items and industries, whether that is cars, furniture, jewelry, and much more. Humans have been fascinated by vintage and antique items for a long time. And it is often the most die-hard enthusiasts that are drawn to vintage as their hobby and passion evolves. Many people often start with non-vintage items and then discovers the huge world of vintage, in this case, watches, and what it has to offer.
With that said, there ought to be many good reasons for buying a vintage watch. And there are.
Because the vintage watch world is so broad, it may seem never-ending. Think about it, every single watch that is manufactured today will eventually become vintage, and so with this in mind, there is undeniably a lot to choose from.
What defines a vintage watch?
A vintage object is generally defined as something that is at least 50 years old.
Three terms you often hear being used in the vintage items world is retro, vintage, and antique. These three words have different meanings but are sometimes used interchangeably. Antique items are generally no less than 100-years-old. Retro items are not as old as vintage items and can be seen more so as outdated items in many cases, items that have not yet become vintage, but have an older style of design. Some people find retro items appealing, others see them solely as outdated.
Vintage items are therefore not young enough to be called retro, but also not old enough to be called antique. The most common older watches fall under the category vintage. There are antique watches, but when we are talking about the most popular watch brands and watches for collectors, they are generally not more than 100 years old due to the fact that wristwatches made 100 years ago were really only tiny watches with designs that do not appeal to the general public today. Wristwatches at this time were not as established and not ”standard”, and pocket watches were actually the main way of telling the time. This may of course change in the future, but for now, vintage is all the rage when it comes to watches.
What is common, however, is that in the watch world, watches that are not 50 years or older are often referred to as vintage. Many people, for example, call the Submariner 16610 vintage, despite the fact that it was originally released in 1987. And whilst it is not technically correct, people who understand the real definition of vintage therefore tend to use the term ”semi-vintage” or ”neo-vintage”. But really, it’s not the end of the world if you use the term vintage for a watch that is 45 years old or 41 years old either.
Reasons to buy a vintage watch
In this article, we are looking closer at the top reasons to buy a vintage watch and some of the many factors that make them so immensely popular.
You buy a piece of history
One of the greatest charm of vintage watches compared to new watches is that you literally buy a piece of history. Vintage watches carry a lot of history and therefore tend to have much more personality than new watches. For example, the watch you opt for may be a military watch that has been used in war, or it may carry an engraving that describes to whom it used to belong.
The history behind an object is something that all vintage collectors, regardless of the industry, find very appealing. There may be a long and interesting backstory to why a model came about, or it may just work as a representation of what a particular brand stood for during specific time throughout its history and the design language that they used. Even more so, vintage watches give you the opportunity to research the history and background of the watch to understand more about it. Because it is when you understand the in-depth history of an object that you tend to appreciate it to the fullest. Brands like Longines, Omega, Patek Philippe, amongst others, also offer the service of ordering an ”extract from the archives” which is a paper that includes key information about your timepiece such as when it was manufactured, to which country it was delivered, and other interesting details about it. Because of this, the journey of finding more information about your vintage watch and learning more about it is also part of the journey that makes it much more exciting.
You get access to models that are no longer in production
Another reason to buy vintage watches is that you get access to a whole world of watches that you do not get access to when buying them new. When you are buying new watches, you only have access to the models that are currently in production, but with vintage watches, you get access to watches that have been in production over the last 50-90 years or so. With that said, there are literally an endless amount of watches made throughout all different eras. Perhaps you prefer the design language of the 1970s or 1950s. Or maybe you prefer the smaller size ideals that existed in the 1930s.
Regardless of your preference, the vintage watch world gives you huge opportunities to select watches from the era that you find most interesting. The era you choose may also be reflected in the watch you opt for, for example, military watches issued during world war 2, or racing watches made by manufacturers when racing started to become an established sport. All vintage watches tell a story, and the era from which you choose a watch can tell us something about our history and what signified that time.
You can buy watches with patina and beautiful signs of aging
Patina and natural signs of aging are generally greatly appreciated by collectors. Vintage watch collectors in general don’t want a watch that looks brand new, because if they would, they could just buy a brand new watch. But vintage watches naturally age and may change their appearance as a result, and this is something that is greatly appreciated on the vintage watch market.
Tropical dials are an example of this, where dials turn brown over time due to aging. Many ”tropical” dial watches can command a huge premium on the vintage watch market due to the appeal they have to collectors. The same goes for things like luminous mass, which tends to turn into a beautiful brown or cream color over time, assuming tritium or radium was used, which were standard back in the days. Things like these can result in great premiums, in particular on brands like Rolex, where things like this can affect the price by tens of thousands of dollars.
But regardless if you want a vintage watch for a hundred dollars or ten thousand dollars, signs of aging add to the appeal of vintage watches and are a testimony to the long life that the watch has had. All watches also age differently depending on which materials it was made from, and how it has been used and stored. And this also makes it part of the journey to find the vintage watch with the perfect patina that suits your taste. But more on this in our last point.
There is a vintage watch for everyone
As mentioned, because every single watch manufactured today will eventually become vintage, there are, as you can imagine, tons and tons of different watches to choose from. In fact, there are more vintage watches to choose from than new watches for obvious reasons, and so there really is a vintage watch for everyone. Vintage watches are available in all price ranges, from just a few dollars to millions of dollars. From Timex to Rolex and Patek Philippe.
This is one of the key reasons why the vintage watch market is so huge because literally, anyone can take part in it, regardless of their budget and preference of watch type. If you enjoy affordable vintage watches, you can quickly build a collection of tens of watches for a very reasonable amount, or you can choose to carefully select watches from the most prestigious brands.
The hunt is part of the journey
Finding a new watch is generally considered easier than finding a vintage watch in some cases when we are talking about rare and hard-to-find pieces. For die-hard vintage watch collectors, the hunt is a big part of the thrill and passion. And for the greatest vintage watch collectors, it’s not just about finding a watch. The watches also often need to meet their strict criteria when it comes to things like condition, patina, original parts, and so on.
This is true for any vintage industry, and the pickiest collectors look for vintage items in perfect condition with all original parts, original accessories, boxes, and so on. The stricter the criteria, the harder it will be to find, as time naturally has an effect on vintage items. But this makes finding the perfect example so much more thrilling. With this in mind, sometimes the hunt can be more exciting than actually owning the item itself due to the fact that it can sometimes take years to find the perfect example.