The clothes don’t make the man, but an exclusive watch sure does. Especially an antique or a vintage watch. That’s the mark of a true gentleman. Nobody needs a watch these days, we all got phones to tell the time, but this hasn’t made watches any less popular. Vintage watches are a very hot item – some want to wear them, others just like to collect them, and it is a great investment.
How do you define antique and vintage when it comes to watches?
For an item to qualify as an antique, it has to be at least 100 years old. Think the 1920s! As for vintage, anything that is over 25 years old is good enough.
Serious collectors often set their own rules. For instance, some say only Heuer is vintage, while Tag Heuer, which came out in 1984 doesn’t count as such. Well, that’s bound to change in another few years because time only adds value to vintage and antique pieces.
If you’re looking for really antique watches from the 17th or 18th century, there’s no chance for you to find something so old on the market.
If you’re really lucky we just might discover a rare gem from the 19th century, maybe a pocket watch with enameled dials or a novelty for that era, the heart-shaped watch. The most precious of that time are those that came with a chronograph mechanism (today’s stopwatch), or moon phases and calendars.
Pocket watches endured until the early years of the 20th century when wire or leather straps appeared. Did you know that the first wristwatch was made for aviator Alberto Santos Durmont in 1904 by Parisian firm Cartier? The watch became known as the ‘Santos’ and is still produced today.
The watch-making industry evolved rapidly after 1920 when the wristwatch became a fashionable item and definitely more accessible. Designs became bolder – some of the antiques from that era are oval, octagonal, square, and even rectangular. The most sought after watches from that time come from makers such as Rolex, Patek Phillippe, Cartier, Jaeger le Coultre, Audemars, Piguet, and Vacheron & Constantin.
These makers dominated the market even after 1950 and pieces from that time are highly collectible. One of the most valuable items from the latter half of the 20th century is the Rolex Submariner, considered a classic among wristwatches.
First launched in 1954, Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner is a line of sports watches, resistant to water and corrosion. The first Royal Submariner watches came with a distinctive oversized crown for winding, which was later replaced by smaller crowns. The later models came with or without a chronometer mechanism and special “shoulders” to protect the winding crown. In the 1960s gilt dials were removed and Rolex switched to white printing, while also adding the date function.
True collectors know all about different makers, models, the year a special function was introduced, how the design of a certain line evolved over the years.
If you’re looking to buy an antique or a vintage watch you will need to study, so that the moment you see a remarkable piece in a store or online you will immediately know its true value.
And if you do find a highly collectible watch, be ready to spring into action, the watch is ticking!