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10 Things You Need to Know about Vintage Watches

Posted by George Bejan on

Thinking about buying a vintage watch, but don't know where to start? Let us share with you some of the most important things you need to know about vintage watches. After reading this article, you'll know if a vintage watch is the perfect fit for you or not. And most importantly, you'll know how to take care of a vintage timepiece. So, let's get into it!

10 Things You Need to Know about Vintage Watches

Vintage & pre-owned watches

On our website, we have a large selection of vintage and pre-owned watches, from the 1950s until recent years. We've been collecting affordable luxury watches for years, and we've learned how to restore them, how to clean them, how to change watch parts, and how to wear them, in order not to damage these unique accessories. 

But not everyone knows what to expect from a vintage watch. That's why we wanted to put together this little guide that contains the most important 10 things you need to know about vintage watches.

Whether you already own a vintage watch, or you're thinking of investing in one, this guide is surely worth reading!

10 Things You Need to Know about Vintage Watches

1. They have different types of movements: quartz, mechanical, automatic, solar powered

Unless you have a keen interest in watches, you may not know that these accessories are powered by different types of mechanisms. The most affordable and widely used watches are powered by a quartz movement, which runs with a battery inside, and is usually very precise. With these watches, the process is pretty simple. You get a watch battery installed by a watchmaker, you set the time, and there you have it. A reliable time-keeper on the wrist.

But we also have mechanical watches. These watches are generally more expensive, given the work that goes into their intricate movements, and they don't need a battery to function.

And here we have two sub-categories. Hand-winding watches and self-winding (or automatic) watches

Hand-winding watches need to be winded everyday in order to keep time correctly. You do this my rotating the crown of the watch upwards. Whereas self-winding watches get recharged on the wrist, as you wear them and move your arm. If you haven't worn your self-winding watch for a while, you may need to wind it manually to get it up and running again.

Finally, there are some vintage watches that run on a solar-powered movement, like the Citizen Eco-drive watch models for example. These watches have a different kind of battery inside, and they need regular exposure to light in order to function properly. 

Passionate vintage watch collectors prefer hand-winding or automatic watches, due to the impressive craftsmanship and hard work that goes behind creating such a movement. The Swiss watch industry is particularly famous for their watchmaking expertise when it comes to mechanical watches.

2. They may not be water-resistant / waterproof

This is one of the most important issues we need to address when it comes to vintage watches. If you buy a vintage watch, don't test its resistance to water. Don't shower with it, don't swim with it. First, ask the vendor if the watch is waterproof/ water-resistant, and if it was recently tested to see if this still applies.

Many vintage watches lose their resistance to water after many years, because their case is not as compact. Water damage is one of the worst things you can do to a watch. Getting it restored requires a lot of hard work, and no guarantee that it will ever look or function the same.

Also don't be fooled by the 3 bar / 30 meter water-resistance. This means that the watch has a very low resistance to water, able to withstand rain, sweat and accidental splashes of water when washing your hands. That's all. No shower, no swimming, nothing of this kind.

3. They may present signs of age

When a vendor indicates that a vintage watch is in mint condition, that means that it should not have any signs of age. Otherwise, most vintage watches presents some signs of age, even if it's just a few tiny scratches on the case back. Always look at the photos carefully, and expect your watch to have tiny imperfections. After all, it's not new. But that's what makes it unique.

4. Some are made to last for decades, some not so much

As opposed to many watches that are mass-produced today, vintage watches tend to be more long-lasting. Many watches used to be produced with high quality materials, and many are gold-filled or gold-plated. There was a lot of work that went into the mechanical movements of these watches as well.

So, most vintage watches are made to last for a long time. The fact that many of them keep time with precision even after a century is a testament to that. 

However, not all vintage timepieces you will find are of such high quality. Like any vintage find, a vintage watch is a gamble. You might not get what you expected. 

Generally, it's good to stick to well-known brands to have a guarantee of their quality. 

5. Their time-keeping accuracy is specific to the time when they were produced

The first watches ever produced had a very low time-keeping accuracy. The first models would indicate only the hour, they didn't even have a minute or a second hand. And they lost at least 2-3 hours per day. But this was way back, centuries ago.

The majority of vintage watches you'll find online are from the 1950s until recent years. And these tend to be quite reliable. However, watches from the 1950s, 1940s, and before that are not as precise as the ones produced today. They will generally lose a few minutes everyday. When you hand-wind them, you should also check the time and set the watch once again. 

So if you're looking for a very old vintage watch, don't expect it to be a flawless time-keeper. Especially if we're talking about a mechanical watch.

6. They need to be handled with care

Please keep in mind that vintage watches can be fragile. The older they are, the more careful you should be when you wear them. Don't pull the crown very hard, don't knock them on hard surfaces, and don't expose them to water or extreme temperatures. 

Of course, some watches are more resistant than others. But that's for you to see. So be mindful about their age and condition.

7. Vintage watches used to have smaller cases

If today's trend is heading towards larger and larger case sizes, vintage watches used to feature smaller cases. It's common to see watches with case diameters between 20 and 30 mm for ladies, and between 30 and 36 mm for gents. 

So make sure to pay attention to the measurements before ordering a vintage watch.

8. Discontinued watch brands tend to become more expensive

Some watch brands died with the passage of time. However, the timepieces they left behind are quite iconic. So, given the fact that there is a limited number of watches by a particular brand out there, and no new releases are planned in the future, these vintage watches might become highly collectible pieces. Their scarcity is what will make them more and more expensive over the years.

Something to think about when investing in a vintage watch.

9. Many vintage watches used to be gold-filled or gold-plated

Gold is a metal that was preferred when it came to watches and their mechanisms, and it used to be more frequently used in watchmaking than it is today. So you will often find gold-filled or gold-plated vintage watches out there.

If you're looking to sell a vintage watch, you should also find out if it has gold pieces, it it's gold-plated, or full gold. This will help you get a more accurate price estimation for the watch.

10. The older they are, the more valuable some watches may become

Very old watch models are harder and harder to collect. So that makes them more desirable, and more valuable in the watch market. Of course, this logic does not apply to all vintage watches. Only to those rare, high-quality timepieces that are durable, long-lasting, and collectible. 

We hope these tips were useful to you, and that you have a better understanding of what vintage watches are, how to wear them, and how to take care of them. If you have any other tips for vintage watch owners, don't hesitate to share them below, in the comments!

Make sure to check out our collection of vintage & pre-owned watches for ladies, if you're looking to acquire an affordable vintage piece for women.

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