How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains

How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains

How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains Watch Stores

The trend of buying vintage watches has exploded in recent years with record prices realized for many vintage watches. Yet buying and collecting vintage watches can be intimidating to novices. Rolex especially, has performed very well, and really it's quite easy to hazard a guess as to why this has been the case.

As more people start to appreciate the mechanical watch (again), every avenue to indulge in horological passions are explored for profit and pleasure. The vintage watch easily makes a case for itself as a worthwhile pursuit all on its own, given the history that is involved, and how so many vintage watches are the ancestors of modern watches we know and love today. Not to mention (and perhaps even less and less and interest grows) that vintage watches are for the most part much less expensive that new ones.

How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains Watch Stores

Compared to buying brand new, there is also the advantage of many times getting a good deal on an equivalent piece that is older. Not taking into account of course, specialty or rare pieces that can be valued at ludicrous prices.

I first got to know about Watches of Knightsbridge at the 2012 Salon QP in London where they were showing some of the vintage watches on offer for the coming auction. While London is an important global city, compared to many places in Asia, there are comparatively fewer outlets to see and buy luxury watches in the UK. This is why I was surprised to find this new auction house offering quite a diverse range of vintage watches that encompass all price ranges from low to high, and all types of pieces that in the words of director and founder Tobey Sutton, "have at least some horological significance." We've actually seen a surge of newer watch auction houses in the UK such as Knightsbridge of London and Fellows, that in addition to higher-end pieces, also aim to service a more entry-level vintage watch buyer.

This explains why you can find things like a £60 Seiko within the catalogue which as Tobey admitted was not something you'd normally find in an auction catalogue. As he explains. "Seiko is a respected brand for mechanical watches and that means we include Seikos in the auction, also we don't want to limit our offerings to purely high-priced items, we want our catalogue to reflect what a watch-lover would like, whether expensive or not."

How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains Watch Stores
Tobey Sutton

Leaving the City as a financial trader after five years, Tobey wanted to indulge in his passion for watches in a way that he understood. His father had a background as an antiques dealer in the famous Portobello road in London, and had a wide range of contacts from which he could source his stock.

As he told me, "The trend in more recent times for antiques dealing is for specialist versus generalist retailers. It is easier for customers to trust that the auction house knows what they're doing if they only do one thing."

Taking his father's knowledge in antiques dealing and together with his love for mechanical watches, Tobey started the auction house in 2010 with the aim of providing an avenue for collectors to buy and sell their vintage watches. Located quite aptly as the company name implies, in Knightsbridge, this is a place to check out if you happen to be in London during the regularly scheduled auctions every three months or so. Even if you cannot make it there physically, it is possible to check out the auction lots on the website and bid via the internet or by phone.

How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains Watch Stores
Cover of the Auction Cataloge for 18th May 2013

Having already run seven auctions as of the date of my interview with Tobey, many interesting pieces have passed through his hands. Some of the highlights of past auctions are:

1. October 2011 auction – 1967 “pre-moon” Omega Speedmaster Professional with “chocolate” dial – discoloured over the years to form a unique brown colour (re-editioned by Omega recently as a tribute to their mistake!!) – sold for £7,080

2. November 2012 auction – c.1970 British Royal Navy Submarine Lemania chronograph – white dial and lacks luminous markers due to use in the submarines - £2,800

3. March 2012 auction – c.1954 rarest of rare (holy grail) Rolex Submariner one of the first ever references (6200) it lacks crown guards (called non-shoulder), has a larger crown than later models, and the 9,3,6 explorer type dial – sold for £51,000

4. November 2012 auction – c.1940 rare British military HS-8 Rolex wristwatch – sold for £3,250

5. March 2013 auction – WW2 Luftwaffe German military A.Lange & Sohne pilots watch with government issue papers – sold for £4,400


How To Buy Vintage Watches: Knightsbridge In London Explains Watch Stores

Aside from these pieces, watch the video interview I had with Tobey to see more vintage watches that were sold recently as well as tips for how to buy and sell watches with Watches of Knightsbridge.

I personally think that this is an auction house that you should keep tabs on for interesting pieces in the future. Given their more watch-lover/collector centric model of curation, I believe that it will be very easy to find something to satisfy you at any budget.

Check out their website for more information about buying or selling, or to view their upcoming auction catalogues.

  • Lesthepom

    Not in to vintage I like my watches new not old I own watches I don’t collect them I cannot see the attraction of a watch that has a discoloured face and broken lum on the hands I may be too ignorant about old watches to invest in them or collect them and I am sure the tropical weather is not good for old watches if I ever want to sell one of my watches I may be glad there is some people out there that do want to collect them

    • Panagiotis

      Lesthepom  I’m with you there… I like the vintage look but I prefer to wear something long enough to where it tells MY story and not someone else’s…Plus there’s such a laundry list of disclaimers when you buy vintage–don’t approach water, don’t sneeze near watch, don’t move your arm too fast, the watch is delicate etc.– that it feels like more troube than it’s worth…
      I took a vintage Omega, that i’ve had for 25 years, to the Swatch service center and they couldn’t repair it. They quoted me $1900 to replace the movement. This is from a watch that I never wore so it was NOS except for the movement that had not been serviced…

  • Ryan B

    Vintage watches really do show their age, which makes me wonder if the more modern watches I own will have the same thing happen to them?   i.e. tarnished hands, faded brownish lume, dirty dial.
    I would like to think the materials and engineering techniques used now vs back then are better and will resist the elements a little more from things such as moisture and dirt. If anyone cares to weigh in on this you will have my full attention.

    • Panagiotis

      Ryan B I too want to think that watches built today should last longer…though I appreciate the rich patina of age, I still don’t see the appeal of half the minute hand missing from that Rolex in that last photo, and the higher price tag over a newer model….If you’re only collecting and not wearing the watch, it still doesn’t make sense to me. Would a rare stamp from 1880 be worth more in pristine condition or if it was half chewed off by a rabid dog? Why do toy/comics collectors never open/touch their rare pieces in order to shield them from the elements, but a rolex rises in value the more it is exposed to harsh conditions?

  • Kris C

    There are a very scant few examples of vintage watches that I would like to own, and aside from that they don’t interest me. I’m used to paying for a service on a watch I’ve owned for 5+ years, not one I’ve yet to wear once, and as already mentioned, that’s assume that you CAN get it properly serviced: having a vintage movement replaced with a modern one in the original case completely defeats the purpose. And aside from some extreme anomalies, they make for terrible investments, so it has to be based on passion, and modern watches have that for me, not the geezers.
    That said, I’ve been in the market for an excellent example of a tuning-fork Omega ‘lobster’ Speedsonic on original bracelet for a long time.

  • CG

    I get the vintage thing, it was a fad with yuppies for awhile then it all crashed & burned. Now it’s not quite dead yet but still circling the drain. There is a niche for it but not for me… i like the moderm era of the late 60’s to present. Older than that you can’t get anyone to work on them and you wait years for original parts. Vintage means melt them down for the gold!

  • rwag1

    I do not have the cash to collect anything but the most accessible pieces.  Also I get it that some people might want perfect lume, crystal or have the hard-knocks be their own.
    Where I think pieces like this are cool is the role and context of history.  Today we live in a relatively pampered time, many of us probably have routines more similar than not.  To own a watch that was used as a critical functioning device in battle, whatever side, is pretty amazing to me.  Situations that we cannot recreate, cannot be bought, but perhaps a taste of them can be.  I think that is what something like a watch auction can provide, bravo to Knightsbridge & its kin.

  • Nice article Ariel.  I think the vintage Rolex market has seen explosive growth these past ten years and there is more to come.  Despite the slowdown in the European economy ( Italians and French are big collectors ) , there is still plenty of strong worldwide demand for vintage timepieces.

    • Paul Altieri Thank you Paul. Adi who wrote this will appreciate it. Keep in touch.

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