How to Buy a Vintage Wristwatch

Views 8 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful
How to Buy a Vintage Wristwatch

There are times when people use the word "vintage" in regard to watches and refer to really old examples that are almost certainly rusty and sometimes mouldy. Vintage does not mean old, it merely means the technical design and look of a watch is universal and iconic. Though vintage does refer to mechanical watches, more often than not, they are not automatic but those that need to be wound by hand.

The discerning buyer can find vintage watches at auction houses, car boot sales, vintage item shops, and many other places if he or she puts in the footwork. Searching online is also a good idea and a little less tiring because the fingers do the walking. The eBay site is sure to have a good selection of vintage wristwatches, as it does for nearly any other consumer product. Buying a vintage watch can be more complicated than buying new, and a buyer needs to know what to look for in terms of features, condition, and style.

What to Look For

The term "vintage" may cover anything from watches with interesting designs to a Patek Philippe watch that is worth thousands of pounds. The general consensus, though, is that vintage has to have some history, therefore, old or classic. A few things to look for when searching for old mechanicals are listed here.


The scratches and dings on an old watch add character, but that does not mean that a buyer should put money down on a wristwatch that is in horribly poor condition just because it is old and vintage. It may be acceptable to a collector who is into refurbishing old watches, but a buyer who wants a wearable watch should look elsewhere. On the other hand, there are watches that have been cared for and maintained, so they look like new even if they are decades old. Evaluating the condition of a watch can be complicated, especially for a buyer with little or no experience. What little things can help evaluate a vintage wristwatch?




Never buy anything with rust, as it eats more of the metal over time


Ticking is clear and crisp

Should not have sounds like dragging, knocking, or grinding, especially when moved

Scratched or worn

Scratches and wear can be buffed off

May add an interesting dimension unless there is too much and it is beyond repair


If the exterior is crusted, then it is safe to assume the inside is similar

May have clogged the mechanisms

As with rusty watches, avoid purchasing


May indicate one of several problems, with varying seriousness

Expect repairs to cost about a hundred pounds sterling on average

Mismatched designs and colours

May imply tampering or a watch put together with parts of others

Avoid purchasing

Cracked or chipped crystal or dented case

Indicates serious impact

Avoid purchasing, possibility of hidden internal damage

A watch that is running may indicate that major mechanisms have survived relatively undamaged. A buyer should not purchase a watch that does not run unless he or she is relatively sure the repairs needed are simple and easy, or else a lot of cash may be wasted on a watch that cannot be repaired.


Doing a little research into the many wristwatches that are labelled "vintage" can give the buyer an edge when searching for good bargains. There are books and websites that list vintage wristwatch models and price ranges for each. If a buyer does not know what the watch is, how can he or she make an accurate assessment as to its market value, much less offer a good bid? A fully informed buyer knows the model name, age, quality, the manufacturer, how many were made, and the unique features of the wristwatch in question, just to start. This information is especially important if the buyer is a collector.

Those looking for everyday wearable vintage watches have more leeway, but it is a good idea to know some of this information as well, especially when planning to buy the more costly wristwatches. Remember that vintage also refers to watches of classic design and good workmanship but are mass produced and are only of value to collectors. These watches may be inexpensive, but some are considered to be timeless works of art just the same.

Clasps, Straps, and Buckles

A wristwatch is not much if it cannot stay on a person's wrist. Always check the clasps and straps and buckles to make sure that it stays firmly on the wearer's wrist. Many watches have clasps and straps that are easy to replace. When replacing, unless the person has some experience working with watches, the repairs are best done by professionals. Vintage watches have certain value after all, and an untoward movement or slip of a tool may cause damage that is not easy to remove and could lower the value of a watch.

Original Parts

There are vintage watches that do not have all of their original parts due to replacements and repairs by former owners. If a buyer is a collector, this may be a major concern, but if not, then as long as the watch is running properly there is little problem.

Some buyers are concerned about the maker's marks on top-end wristwatches. These marks guarantee the authenticity of various models, so note that there are top-quality vintage watches without maker's marks on the crown or the clasps and buckles because of repairs done over the years. Their lack does not really affect functionality, in fact, it implies that the previous owners took good care of the item. Collectors probably do not see it that way, though.

Why Buy Vintage Wristwatches?

Vintage watches have metal bodies. Early watch manufacturers rarely used anything else. There are watches made of precious metal, steel, inlaid with precious stone, and so on. That is, for a watch to have been in circulation for so long, it must have been of really admirable workmanship. There are people who want to take advantage of that. It does not mean that modern watches are of low quality, just that new watches with the same level of craftsmanship can cost thousands of pounds. There are vintage watches that are less expensive but have similar excellence when it comes to accuracy when keeping time.

There are people who wear vintage because they like how it looks, or how it feels. Vintage watches on the high-end scale can be purchased to impress, or because a buyer feels they are in keeping with his or her personal style. On high-end vintage watches, there are only two at the top, that is, Patek Philippe and Rolex. Any buyer looking for top-quality ought to consider them first. Note that most high-end vintage watches come with documentation, which increases the value of the vintage wristwatch exponentially.

Buying a Vintage Wristwatch on eBay

For those who want to search for their vintage watches on the Internet, the eBay site is particularly suited for the endeavour, since the website functions more as an online bazaar than conventional online shops. There are many sellers from different parts of the world who sell antique and vintage items on eBay, increasing the probability that you get the watch that you want.

It is easy to find the things you want on eBay. Simply go to the site homepage and type "vintage wristwatch" into the search bar. There are thousands and thousands of vintage wristwatches on eBay located in the UK alone. You can narrow down this selection to show the pieces that you want by using the tools provided on the site. If you want to limit your selection to one brand, like Rolex, Omega, or Breitling, simply tick the box and you can see all that eBay has to offer on the brand. You can always incorporate your preferences into your key phrases for a faster search, for instance "men's mechanical vintage wristwatch" or "ladies' leather vintage gold watch". A more specific keyword or phrase gives you a more relevant results list right off the bat.

When you have found what you want, always evaluate the seller as thoroughly as you evaluate the product. A reputable seller is more likely to cause you fewer hassles during the transaction and more likely to be a reliable vendor.


There are people who believe the craftsmanship and aesthetic sensibilities of past ages to be superior to those in the modern. These are the people who both collect and make use of vintage items. Of course, there are those only more interested in the monetary value of vintage and antique stock. Vintage wristwatches are some of the more popular vintage items, and there is a significant demand for them. Fortunately, there are a number of sources for vintage watches both online and offline. The eBay site is one of the most popular online sites for vintage items because of the easy access, wide coverage, and the huge number of people over the world that utilise its services on a daily basis.

Like any vintage machinery, vintage watches should be assessed and appraised with care. The hundreds of tiny pieces of delicate machinery that make up a vintage watch can take damage and wear over the years, which means any vintage item is doubly valuable for its durability. Any discerning buyer should do a little research to determine exactly for which type of watch they are looking. The extra knowledge expedites the buyer's search and purchase decisions for the better.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides