Tips to choose a vintage watch

Advices the 12 March 2012 by Traz "the doc"

Seeking Vintage Watches is a serious and thrilling business.  Whether you’re keen on 70’s futuristic watches or classic analog three-handed watch, almost everyone can find great deals, even on a tight budget.  All you need is a cunning eye and a minimum of watchmaking knowledge. We tried today to gear you up as best as possible against scams and bait-and-switch offers by providing insightful and helpful tips. Let us know your opinion if you think we missed something in our check list, we’ll be glad to answer you!

vintage watches

The check List :

First of all, take a look at the overall aspect of the watch then examine :

  • The presence of the basic watch components (hands, winding crown,  back…) . In most cases, replacing a component by another one turns out to be expensive and exhaustive.
  • The overall state of the case (damages, shock traces), watch glass (scratches, broken plexi) and the back. Vintage watches often bear wearing effects of time unless they are NOS ( New Old Stock).  Beside the natural ageing process of the watch, don’t hesitate to renegociate the price if you notice any obvious damages!
  • The body composition (gold, silver, steel ,chromium)

vintage butex watch

Make sure the hands work properly :

  • Wind up the crown  and observe the movement. Sometimes a slight movement with your wrist may be necessary.
  • Time it to your actual watch and compare the regularity of the movements .  A few seconds of delay (max) is acceptable.
  • If it’s a chronograpah watch, push the knobs (push-pieces) and check out the working progress. Go easy with the pushing : – start – stop – reset. ( It’s not a cheap quartz so you’d better hold a few seconds when you push on the knobs, they run tiny levers and gears).  Resetting your watch can be a little harder than the usual depending on the model you have.
  • Also leave the timer winding for a couple of minutes to check the counting.
  • When resetting , make sure the hand of seconds is well aligned with 12

Ask the seller if it’s possible to open the watch for you, if yes :

  • Examine the general state of the movement  and spots where rust can be found. If the movement is clean it means the watch received a good care.

When you set up the index keep an eye on the regularity of the watch :

  • If your watch works with an index set on “maximum move” , it’s OK. You can fix it by resetting it again.
  • Still, if your watch moves backwards (when the index is still set on maximum move), it means your watch is literally worn out or even damaged inside.
  • An indicator is used to set up  the index correctly: It points at “+” (A or F) when the watch is set on “move” (to speed it up), or at “-“ (R or S) when the watch is set on Delay (to slow it down)
  • Make sure there are no broken or missing components like screws.
  • Examine the finishing: blue screws, angular bridges, decoration  (côtes de Geneve, perlage) are definitely a plus when purchasing a watch

vintage watch movement

-          Look out for done up components

  • Repainted dial,  gross lettering, too new-looking for an old watch
  • Unsigned crown of a luxury watch
  • Odd-looking or unsuited hands (compared to the watch style).

You shall reconsider the offer and negotiate the final price if you notice any of these elements on the watch. Keep in mind that a fake watch cannot compete with the original one. It’s worth nothing on the market. All these tips are relatively easy to check. They will help you make your mind and limit the risk when you buy a vintage watch.  Still, we’re just attempting here to provide you with a global approach of what to do and what to know. You may have to dig by yourself a little more if you’re looking for a particular luxury watch.  I will come back to it later.

vintage cord watch

In case you just purchased an old watch, I recommend you to :

-           revise it, especially if it’s a valuable watch. It’s the guarantee that your watch will work correctly and will gain value with time (Oil and dust inside the mechanics turn out to be scratchy)

-          change the bars. They may have gone through humidity, and twisting.You wouldn’t want them to break because of a used spring.

-          check if the bars are fixed or detachable. If one bar is missing in a fixed bar, there are chances you can’t replace it.

Last, there’s this ancient saying that goes “If you’re not sure, don’t buy!”.  No regrets.

by Traz "the doc"

Retrouvez les conseils de Traz "the doc" on French Truckers

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