Vintage mechanical wrist-watches have seen enormous growth of interest in the last 5-10 years, as collectors and many others have focussed on this area, either for enjopyment or perhaps possible future investment or birthday, wedding or anniversary presents.
Collectable brands include, Patek, Vacheron, Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Longines, Cartier, Tiffany, Hermes, Asprey and Zenith and many others. As with everything you really get what you pay for in the area of vintage wrist-watches. The short list below gives some useful pointers for the 1st time buyer.
1. Check the return policy of the seller especially if there isn't one,
2. Whilst many of us love a bargain, and you can find them on Ebay every day, one does need to take care.
3. Check that the watch you are wanting to bid on has been recently serviced and over-hauled. Otherwise you may get a nasty surprise, after purchase. High-grade Swiss wrist-watches can often be very expensive to service and overhaul, if you have to take them back to official agents, this can easily cost hundreds of pounds. Make sure this is in writing, so there will be no discussion or problems afterwards.
4. With vintage wrist-watches it is normal to find them with restored dials. Do check that this has been done professionally, if so, this will ensure the watch retains its value. However, do avoid those watches with incorrectly restored dials using dreadful colors or changed to increase the value /smartness of the watch. Watches with incorrectly restored dials or updated to modern tastes are poor investments and frankly destroy good quality items for future enjoyment.
Ask to see where possible, an image of the dial before restoration, or if the dealer has similar watches in stock not restored, one of those dials. Good dial restorers are few and far between, and the typical cost of a good restored dial is between 50-70 pounds, yes you read correctly, it is not cheap. Do avoid the Indian and Far East dial re-do's on good watches, close to, they look awful and have to be redone every time! I have purchased several in the past, which from picturs looked fine, but close up, appeared to have been redone with Letro-Set by a child.
5. Check that the movement is also in good condition and there is a clear picture of this on the listing. Many vintage wrist-watches have suffered in the past, with earlier repairers using ammonical cleaning solvents which has often stripped the finish off movement plates.
Also check to see the screws and plates are not mauled or scratched or ruined or at worst rusty. If the pictures are not clear, there is no doubt a good reason why, so avoid, unless you can obtain better pictures of the watch!
6. Final point - working vs non-working - unless you are a capable restorer avoid watches which need work or cleaning. There are always gremlins and further problems the seller may not have seen or even known about. Unless very rare, there will always be another watch in better condition. Generally, when you factor up a cost of a damaged watch, plus all the costs of restoration and lots of time spent trying to find rare and hard to find parts, it will cost you more than the immaculate watch you decided was too expensive.
7. Don't forget to factor in a competent watch repairers bill and of coure the wait in his already long queue before he even looks at the watch. This can be many months or at worse a year, I know, and have been in this situation many times before. Where possible work with the restorer searching for parts on the net or through the many watch parts dealers world-wide, this can speed things up dramatically.
I hope this gives you a feel for buying vintage watches and I look forward to your comments and suggestions how this short guide can be improved.
If this guide proved to be helpful or useful, your positive tick or grade would be appreciated on eBay.
Best of luck and enjoy your vintage watch!