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Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It?

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

Welcome to Point/Counterpoint, a new aBlogtoWatch column where two of our resident horological aficionados duke it out over a point of contention. Today, we’ve got Ariel Adams and James Stacey who will spar over the value of buying a vintage watch. Ariel says forget it when it comes to vintage, while James sees merit in the adage “old is gold.”

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

The vintage-inspired Omega Speedmaster ’57 next to its “ancestor.”

James Stacey: While, perhaps daunting to someone new to the mechanical watch hobby, the vintage watch market remains some of the strongest value available to today’s collectors. Thanks to the trend towards “vintage-inspired” new watches combined with the relatively slow pace of the Swiss watch industry, vintage pieces can look as modern (or as dated) as you prefer. Much like the styling, most of the underlying technology is not only similar and just as effective as today’s movements, but can often be found for a fraction of the cost.

No, you won’t get a carbon-cased tribute to advanced materials and lab-like production, but if steel or gold is good enough for your wrist, the vintage market is hard to overlook.

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

With homework, you can get a good deal on a watch like the Rolex Datejust if you buy vintage.

If you’re new to watch collecting, do some research and always buy the seller. Your patience is an investment in developing your taste, identifying “too good to be true” scenarios, and refining the available candidates at a given budget. This entire hobby is based on marketing and the charm of a well-made watch, minimize the former and you have more resources for the latter.

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

The Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue has a retro look but all the convenience and reliability of a new watch.

Ariel Adams: In my personal opinion, watch buyers today are, for the most part, better off buying new watches if they plan on wearing them regularly. The best analogy for me are cars. Sure, there is a nostalgic charm in buying an old American muscle car, but what are they like to drive? How reliable are they? In addition to lacking a lot of modern conveniences, it can be impossible to determine their mechanical condition. Watches are the same way: there can be a lot of emotional connection to a vintage watch, but how practical are they for daily wear and as reliable tools?

If you just see a timepiece as a fashion accessory, then get a vintage timepiece and don’t bother winding it. If you are in it for the utilitarian aspect or if you want maximum durability, a modern timepiece will serve you much better. Sure, you can pay less for a vintage timepiece but what is the actual wearing experience going to be over a five year period? I bet that most watch lovers still have a few modern timepieces laying around as well that they inevitably continue to wear.

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

Richard Paige explored the popular vintage car/vintage watch analogy using Cadillacs and Rolex as subjects.

James: While I would agree that the allure of a vintage car may be similar to that of a vintage watch, the difference in experience between a vintage car versus a new car is not equal to the difference between a vintage watch and a new watch.

Cars are vastly complicated objects, and while I would applaud anyone who attempts to daily drive a vintage car, daily wear of a vintage watch is not an especially tough task. Any watch will require service at some point, and most watches will not cost a fortune to service, especially when it’s a cost you’ll likely only incur every five to ten years. Any competent watchmaker will be able to service the wide majority of simple vintage movements, and if you’ve invested in something a bit more special, specialized care is to be expected (and that should be a known quality if you did your research before buying).

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

Chances are vintage Omega Speedmasters have made it through more than what you can throw at them. Like going to the moon.

Yes, the watch may lack some modern conveniences, like a quick set date or sapphire crystal, but the very idea of tool watches was solidified in the ’60s with watches like the Rolex Submariner and Omega Speedmaster. While I don’t doubt that modern technologies can produce a tougher watch, how tough does your watch really need to be? If it was good enough for SEALAB and NASA, it’s not going to break a sweat with the demands of my day-to-day.

If you do your research and rely on a professional for service, the vintage experience is similar to that of buying new, but you get the added charm and nostalgia of a vintage piece as well as the thrill of the hunt.

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

Pre-owned Cartier Tank watches maintain the same appeal that has made this watch a legend since the early 1900s.

Ariel: Wouldn’t you agree, however, that the appeal of vintage for many people is in the presumption that they cost a lot less? Dedicated collectors might be willing to put up with some of the complexities of buying and restoring/repairing old watches, but I think too many lay consumers are attracted by the romance of vintage only to be disappointed with the actual experience when it comes to cost versus reward. In my opinion, most consumers who don’t want to buy brand new would be just as well served with a pre-owned modern watch where they get a better price along with a newer product.

Point/Counterpoint: Are Vintage Watches Worth It? Featured Articles

The enthusiast community will often take the most difficult approach in order to get something rare and special, but isn’t it wise to inform novices that a lot of skill and patience is required when it comes to buying vintage watches? I just think that the term “vintage” is sexy right now, and when it comes down to it, most people want a modern watch that is less than 10 years old. At least the original brands will be willing to service them and the movements should still be good. Do you think most consumers are even aware that brands often have policies where they utterly refuse to service watches which are 25-30 years old?

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  • Antjay

    You are both right !

    • No, that’s no fun. I want to see the video of James and Ariel in a steel cage match (or mud wrestling – your choice).

      • AKDISQUS

        Ariel would win since he is a heavy weight while the scrawney guy would be defeated by gentle caress of a smooth breeze.

  • Antjay

    I would give my left nut ( preferably , but not necessarily , under anesthetic ) for a ’68 Speed master , but each to there own .

    • IanE

      I doubt if there’ll be any takers!

      • DanW94

        LOL…

    • Jerricho

      What’s your liver like? I need a new one of them……….

  • Chaz

    Yes, vintage is fun and interesting IF you know enough about the watch and market. Even then it can be a perilous minefield: Frankenwatches, over polished, outright fakes, etc.

    This was a great little debate! Loved it and no one side really won or lost. Bottom line is caveat emptor and I don’t even fully go for that tired “buy the seller” because sometimes the seller may be pure in intention but was also duped at one point!

    P.S. What really EXACTLY constitutes “vintage”? Twenty years? Thirty?

    Cheers, fellas!

    • Vintage? Anything in my watchbox that I have not worn for at least a year, ha ha. Aloha.

  • Rob

    The thing that puts me off vintage watches the most is old lume. The way it looks all rough and crumbly makes even a Rolex look cheap to me.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      That is a valid concern. Much of the appeal of vintage models is the aesthetics, or ‘the look” of the piece.

    • Commodore76

      The shrunken brown crumbly lume is always what puts me off of vintage watches also. It’s maddening that you can find a 150 year old pocket watch that looks brand-spanking new, but any wristie over 50 y/o is decomposing right before your eyes because they’re marked with lume.
      For this reason I’m also not completely opposed to minor, skillful restoration and even a competent and conservative re-lume. I know the ‘true vintage collector’ will guffaw at the suggestion of restoration but frankly, often because of lume, most vintage looks to me like garbage. And the little that has managed to age gracefully is usually priced to the sky.
      I have accumulated a few nice antiques over the years, but with the vast uncertainties (rolex rolex and rolex) and volatile pricing I generally try to steer clear of the genre.

      • Gerard Cardinal

        I agree. My Waltham, right there in my avatar pic, looks just as it did when it came from the factory forty miles from my house. In 1889. Thank goodness it wasn’t covered in radium!

  • AKDISQUS

    If you like not having a warranty, snot color lume stickers, unreliable less featured movements and smelling your own farts then vintage is for you. The only reason people buy vintage is either because it’s cheaper, so they can afford the overpriced watch they want or because they want to have something exclusive or limited to feel special.

    • Berndt Norten

      Or, Skeletor, they might like the look of a watch no longer produced. Like an old GP art deco dial…

      • AKDISQUS

        Or insulate my walls with vintage asbestos.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          You don’t half talk a lot of nonsense.

          • AKDISQUS

            Sorry if I am poopoo’ing your artificial business. Fake people enjoy fake experiences.

          • Raymond Wilkie

            Am the fake with a pic on my profile ??

          • AKDISQUS

            Oh yes, profile photo, the epitome of self identification authentication. Why didn’t counterterrorism intelligence think of that!

  • Gerard Cardinal

    I like vintage watches, but where I’m really at is antiques. I carry a Waltham Crescent Street model from 1889, in a silver hunter case. I can’t afford most of what the big names like Rolex and Patek make, but from a purely watchmaking standpoint the Waltham reflects the finest movement made at the time, and is still a fine example of what to seek in a new watch if mechanical things are your hobby.
    I am new to the collecting of watches myself, and I did start with a new watch, one with an ETA 2824-2 movement, but what made me want it was the view back. Almost all pocket watches are openable to view at least the balance, like my Crescent Street, and others are even more exhibitionistic. But that’s just how I look at the hobby, I’m all about the machinery, and age can have a very soft touch on a well maintained watch. Of course I had to do some research, and learn what I was looking at, but I wouldn’t buy anything without doing that, and I feel it safe to assume neither of the authors would either.

    • I prize my Rpaige Duo-Face for exactly those reasons – the decoration of the 99 year old Elgin movement in mine remains a visual treat plus it will be a true antique in 2016.

  • SuperStrapper

    I own and would again buy a vintage watch, but I don’t hunt them down and do prefer modern tech.

  • Astronuts

    It’s the same problem with guitars, cars, drums, porn, motorcycles, guns, clothes, jewlery…how deep are your pockets?

    • Mark Baran

      You forgot custom knives. 🙂

    • Gerard Cardinal

      Guitars, ah, my other vintage nightmare hobby! I’m now down to only one, a 59 Gibson Melody Maker in short scale. It’s my favorite. But for a long while the search and acquisition kept me one busy young man. And a bit light in the pockets to boot, because unlike watches guitars need amps!

  • Mark Baran

    I’ve dabbled a bit in antique Rolex watches over the years. Mostly Subs and the harder to find calibers. I enjoy this aspect of the hobby mostly due to the nostalgia of how the manufacturing date relates to some aspect of my own personal history. I also enjoy the knowledge I gain from being able to view the materials, manufacturing techniques, and design changes from “then until now” first hand.
    This is not an inexpensive side of the watch collecting affliction. It is also fraught with some degree of financial peril. If you choose to descend into this rat hole, as I have, there are a few bits of advice I would offer.
    1. Find yourself a “consultant” who knows more about the internal parts of the watch than you do. No matter how much you think you know, there are always things you don’t (or have forgotten). Depending on what you are looking for, you may need multiple “consultants.”
    2. Know the seller and pay close attention to the provenance you are presented. There are a lot of “shark” vintage dealers out there who can assemble all manner of rare watches from parts.
    3. Be prepared to make some mistakes. Some of them may be costly. So don’t get into this aspect of the hobby to save or make money. Chances are good you will not.
    4. Be prepared to meet some very smart, interesting, and like minded individuals who share the same chronic affliction you do. In the end, it is what makes the hobby worthwhile.

    • Shinytoys

      Yes indeed !!

  • Ulysses31

    Vintage watches might be cheaper than their modern counterparts but you’re still parting with a lot of cash to have something “old”, with scuffs and scratches and who knows what else. That might be your only choice if a watch is out of production but personally, if i’m going to put down a lot of cash, the thing needs to be pristine or NOS. There’s a certain pleasure associated with something brand new and factory-fresh. It’s similar to the appeal of the “new car smell”. Fortunately nowadays there are plenty of re-issues of vintage designs, and a lot of micro-brands are replicating the look of vintage watches too. As for the whole historical perspective, it doesn’t have much sway with me. I don’t care if a celebrity or mustachioed Victorian wore a similar piece. What matters to me more is the performance and reliability and value for money.

    • Shinytoys

      you didn’t leave! Very cool, glad you stayed!

      • Ulysses31

        My last comment wasn’t a declaration of leaving ABTW, but rather to convey that I didn’t want to continue getting email updates where half the comments are spam or circular arguments. I just don’t have enough time in the day to read through the crap on every single thread, and it pisses me off because I find myself accidentally skipping sensible comments from the old regulars. I used to enjoy ABTW for several years and I don’t anymore.

        • Shinytoys

          I understand perfectly. In the last 2 months or so there have been way to many flamings and sword fights. Perhaps that will all burn itself out.

          • It will only burn itself out if:
            1) the troll(s) call it a day
            2) people stop replying to the trolls – anyone who feeds the troll only contributes to the problem (no matter how on-topic and informative their reply actually is) because it only elicits another comment from the troll.

          • iamcalledryan

            I did far too much of number 2, and give you guys permission to pull me aside should he return.

        • SN0WKRASH

          Banned him. Breathe free!

          • Ulysses31

            My hero! *swoons*

    • wallydog2

      “new car smell” – Bingo!

  • Jerricho

    An often heard discussion in the vintage watch world:

    “Hey, who wants to buy my vintage 1968 Rolmega Nightautomaster? Everything is original, never polished”

    Self professed vintage (may or may not be true) expert chimes in “Actually, the 1967 Nightautomaster with the Mk II dial assembled by Otto, the one-armed, half-blind watchmaker who was raised by wolves in the Black Forrest, is a much rarer and better buy.”

    Suddenly, everybody trips over themselves to try find the 1967……….

  • TrevorXM

    I owned a vintage Zenith from the 1950’s. 133.8 Auto. Serviced, minty. Kept excellent time. But I’d never buy a vintage watch again because of two reasons. They are too small at 35mm being “big” (yes there are odd exceptions) but mostly because of that acrylic crystal. It was constantly being scuffed and scratched and then I’d have to polish it out — but would wait until they accumulated so I’d always have some scuff on my crystal, it seemed. Really annoying.

    I really don’t see the point of buying a watch to get a vintage look as there are so many fantastic re-issues going on right now and you don’t have to spend a fortune, either. The Zodiac Seawolf or the Oris Divers Sixty-Five or the Squale come to mind immediately if you’re looking for a vintage dive watch. And if you’ve got a lot to spend, why in the world would you buy some old Speedmaster when you can buy new? It’s not like you’re buying one that went into space — just a bunch of chumps owned it. The same with vintage Rolex which is the dumbest collector market in the world. Who are these idiots and where do they get so much money to throw at these mass produced watches? I like Rolex and would like to have a Submariner, but I’d buy one either new, or a second hand modern one freshly serviced from Rolex. They haven’t changed except for the tiniest details and the modern ones are better in every way.

  • BNABOD

    I go back and forth with vintage. I own one a Seiko Yachtman from 1974. I liked the look of it, paid next to nothing for it, then paid some dude to refurbish it like new. It is funny I bought a vintage to get it rebuilt to look new. There you have it to I like vintage,at least in appeal but then I don’t like damaged things, must be my OCD at play here. So do I want to spend 20K on a vintage Rolex with crumbly lume and a dial that has seen his fair share of solar flares …..hum no. I like new in box, with tag, warranty card and my own memories attached to it would be my way to go.

  • dennis

    The bottom line here is what are you looking and most important how much are you
    looking to spend. Knowledge is key, but if your one who buys vintage all the time, then
    you become a collector, you enjoy the hunt, the long search. If your the one every
    2-3 years buys a new watch, your not a collector. These are two different animals, new
    or vintage will determine where you stand on this argument.

  • johngage1

    As someone who enjoys both vintage and modern watches I have to say that emotionally a vintage watch gives me far more pleasure. The enjoyment is in the hunt, in trying to find a mint example after spending months or even years patiently waiting for one to turn up. With modern watches I find it quite boring as all it involves it saving up then going to the nearest boutique. I also derive a lot of enjoyment from the research especially studying the technical details of vintage chronographs, I have a special passion for vintage Longines and Universal Geneve chronographs. Having said this I’m the first to admit its not for everyone and the wonderful thing about our hobby is that its a big tent with plenty of room for all tastes.

  • wallydog2

    A “vintage” watch is still a second-hand watch. It has someone else’s story absorbed into it. For me, a watch is personal and private. Any patina it acquires has to have a story – my story, or at least my family’s story – inside it. For instance, I have a Howard pocket watch my late father-in-law was given upon graduating from Medical School in about 1940. In other words, I have a connection of sorts with it, however distant; and that gives it “value”.
    The table my computer sits on was, ahem, “liberated” from the basement of a school where I used to teach. It has knicks and gouges from a century ago, and I often wonder, “What ever happened to “W.J.K.” who carved his initials on it back in 19__?”

  • Shinytoys

    I’m all about vintage time pieces, be it the kind you wear or the kind that hangs on the wall. Know what you are purchasing, take some time to learn about the unit, and find someone who knows a lot about the subject. Then it’s simple, buy what you love and can afford.

    • Mark Baran

      Ditto!

  • Lurch

    I like the look of the vintage watches but there is too much uncertainty with the service history and parts. I wish there was a “carfax” report for vintage watches. I bought a vintage Laco but backed out of the deal because I couldn’t determine if it had all is original parts (hands, dial, crystal, etc). I determined I didn’t know enough about vintage watches and didn’t have enough reference information to determine if I knew the issues with the watch or not. I tried to search watch books for the watch to determine the original parts but never could find it. I made the determination that from now on, I would stick to new, current manufacture watches and not gamble with vintage.

  • DanW94

    Being a relatively new watch enthusiast, I’m still finding my way around the new watch market and haven’t explored the vintage market too much. I’m in it for the long haul so perhaps I’ll fall down that rabbit hole sometime in the future. (I’ve already developed a liking to some affordable Universal Geneve watches I’ve seen) If you think with your heart and not your head on these vintage buys (dear old granddad had one of these so I want one regardless of condition) it seems you could incur significant costs in service and repair. And I agree with Trevor below, the watches are much smaller rendering a good portion of them almost unwearable.

  • Larry Holmack

    Well…I enjoy both new and vintage watches. Besides my fathers vintage watches…including the one he wore while serving our country during the Korean War….I really enjoy finding watches with an “Art Deco” flare. I found finding a jeweler that enjoys working on vintage watches is sometimes difficult, but well worth it if you find the right person. Oh…I still have my very first watch, the one my Grandfather gave me just a month before he passed away when I was 8 years old, a mid 1950’s Gruen automatic, that still keeps excellent time.

    • Have I got a watch for you (well in January that is) – art deco, would fit your large wrist, vintage movement, etc.

    • Gerard Cardinal

      My grandfather gave me his watch acquired while he served in Korea as well. It’s unfortunate though, as it’s absolutely tiny. I haven’t measured it specifically but it’s slightly larger than a quarter. It’s a sub second Wittnauer from (I think) before Longines bought them, and a beautiful Art Deco style, with fancy lugs. It’s also the only watch I have in 14k as well as my only incabloc. It’s really too bad I will never wear it, but that way it won’t ever get hurt! Oh, and there’s a couple of local independent watchmakers up here in New England, so I’ve got a few options if something does go wrong. Service, even on my old Waltham, hasn’t been an issue thus far, but I’m sure that will change when I finally find the right Patek, or Breguet a Paris, or… I look forward to the challenge of servicing something built by an early 18th century master. It’s just the cost that scares me.

  • ZBT71

    I like the look and feel of vintage watches and the ones that can be serviced, by factory or private watchmakers, are a joy to own. However that is something one must find out before purchase. My 1971 Seiko, a wedding present from my wife, will no longer be serviced by Seiko because parts are no longer available. To me that is ridiculous since some Swiss brands will service any watch they’ve made no matter how old.

    • spiceballs

      Maybe, but NOT Tissot.

  • mikeymusic

    I would love to dip into the used market and I am prepared to educate myself sufficiently not to feel like a “babe in the woods”. What is actually stopping me is the lack of trustworthy service centres to entrust my new (old) purchase to! Where I live, Vancouver, Canada is a wasteland, every watch I own has to be shipped elsewhere for servicing. Some clerk writes a service order, puts it in an envelope and it’s gone for 4 to 6 weeks. No interaction with the technicians, no assessment of repairs required or cost. Sometimes I wish I lived in New York.

    • Jerricho

      Mikey, have you tried Francis Jewelers over in downtown Victoria? I highly recommend their services (and they normally have some awesome pre-loved timepieces for sale as well…….my wife hates the place.)

      • mikeymusic

        Thanks for the heads up but it’s about $100+ round trip from Vancouver to Victoria on the ferry. I need something I can drive to.

      • Boogur T. Wang

        “my wife hates the place.” – I consider that a very good recommendation !

  • Concerned1

    I’m into new and pre-owned. Someday they will all be vintage.

  • Argyn Kuketayev

    My dad gave me his 20 years old Russian made mechanical wristwatch. It works just fine, as good as any other mechanical. I was surprised. It’s not a fashion accessory for me at all, though it looks unusual. So, it really depends on the piece.

  • Rockymet

    Great new column, sure to incite a few bar-fights.

    I have been around long enough to own a few pieces that I bought or was given new that are now considered vintage. A Sub and Datejust from 1974, a Seiko diver from 1982. The only piece that I bought as vintage is a pre-revolution Cuervo y Sobrinos that I picked up cheap after the brand name was resurrected. It works well and I get compliments when I wear it.

    The last watch I bought new is a two year old Sub no-date, It is a far better piece then my 1974 Sub though the older piece is my sentimental favorite. I look at vintage watch collecting as a rabbit hole, there may be a Wonderland down there but there are also Jabberwockies. I fear that if I start down that road I should never return. It is entertaining to follow vintage collectors argue passionately over whether this dial and those hands belong together. We all know that the watch makers of those times would often stick the wrong hands on the wrong dial.

    When I am ask advice from a novice on buying, I tell them to pick a pre-owned watch from an established brand that speaks to them. Of course I don’t even follow my own advice, why should they.

    Some of the most beautiful objects ever created are watches built many decades ago. I prefer to see them not in a museum, not on my wrist but on the wrist of a gentleman sitting next to me at a scotch tasting.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      Great, and very relevant, comment.
      I like the look and security of a “new” piece; but I still look at my personal “vintage” watches with remembrance of where I was and what was occurring when I got them.
      I am very wary of buying someone else’s “vintage” watch. I would rather buy what moves me personally and let it “age” naturally.

      A bit fickle I guess. I like them both.
      My only personal “vintage”(well now it would be considered as such) story, is giving away a two-toned daydate that a client gifted me with back in the day.
      It just attracted too much attention (not all of it the good kind) for my liking. Rolexes are known to do that. I blame Don Johnson and Miami Vice TV show for that…:)

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Unless i had inherited a timepiece from dear old grandpa i dont have much interest in wearing one,.other than the interest in the progressive style of a certain style thro the ages, i want a nice shiney new one.

  • Josh Graves

    I’m still a fan of so many sub $1k pieces on the new and gray market. Maybe after I get my fix on the new stuff I could see getting a vintage watch…some are appealing, but I would be hard pressed to spend more than $1K on one.

  • iamcalledryan

    James I disagree that vintage-inspired models are influencing the vintage market, it’s the other way around, but other than that I am with you! And Ariel! I need new and shiny alongside my dusty and characterful. With vintage, unless you are really prepared to invest and never touch it, you are best going cheap, getting it up and running, and wearing it to death without a further thought for resale.

  • SN0WKRASH

    AKDISQUS banned. All comments removed of the last 30 days. We give everyone the freedom to say what they want here, but when someone becomes so disruptive that they impede, rather than contribute to the discussions, after several warnings, it’s time to go.

  • Richard Baptist

    I agree that a new watch is made of better materials and should provide worry free service, I still like vintage watches. Here is my advice.
    1. Whatever you expect to spend on a vintage watch add on the funds for a service.
    2. Ask to see the movement and make sure you know what the markings should be on said movement.
    3. If watch size is an issue always ask for the diameter of the watch excluding the crown. I like to stick in the 37mm and up watches.

    I know I should stick to the new watches but I’m still drawn to the triple calendars. Things like the Heur Chonodato and the Wakmanns.

    In the end go with what you like, but I like both vintage and new.

  • radikaz

    Of recent, i acquired a pre-owned Breguet Type XX (made around year 1999-2000), i wasn’t an expert. But somehow i kept stumbled on Breguet Type XX or Transatlantic at some local pre-own dealers to the point it’s got me interested over the Speedmaster (Pre-or post moon) since i wanted an Lemania 51xx based movement. By some luck, i found a local collector selling it at an okay price & pictures showing pristine conditions. Being mischievous, i texted him for details and met up, after a long chat understanding how’s the watch arrived to him and numbers of servicing (came w/servicing papers & i’m 3rd owner). I decided to acquired the Breguet Type XX at a mutual agreed price with a Lemania 1350 based movement instead of lemania 5100 based. The asking price for an pre-own Omega vintage Speedymaster in Singapore has creep closer to SG$5,500 range, an considering the pedigree of Breguet, i took my chance.

    So breaking it down, it’s an element of luck, careful research & social engineering to understand how the watch is being used, how’s frequent it’s being serviced. IMO, a lots more work than acquiring new pieces, constant flipping back and forth over the decision & value justification (Speedy vs Breguet vs saving $ for another desired new piece). I would said,
    it’s just fate the watch found me, a happy owner.

  • commentator bob

    I have trouble with the notion that there is better value in the vintage market. A new automatic, mechanical Orient dive watch on a solid stainless bracelet with solid end links and a sapphire crystal can be had for $225. If one insists on “Swiss Made”, for under $500 one can get a new automatic mechanical Hamilton Scuba dive watch with the Orient’s features plus hacking and hand wind. One can also get a new Tissot Carson automatic mechanical chronograph for under $500, based on the legendary Lemania 5100 movement. Also with a sapphire crystal. I do not want to name drop sites, but all of these prices can be found on a Google shopping search.

    Show me that kind of value in the vintage market.

    I also want to make an important point with regard to the classic car analogy. For regulatory reasons certain vintage car features, e.g. very light weight sports cars, very large, long cars, air-cooled engines, can simply not be replicated. Any watch made through history, with the exception of radium or unenclosed tritium, can be made new exactly the way it was originally made.

    • $299 in the vintage market. I don’t know anyone (save for one certain banned commenter here) who would take a new Orient anything over a vintage Omega Seamaster.

      • commentator bob

        To each his own, but 34 mm is a small size, which is what I would argue is driving the low prices for the Cosmics. And while I can’t speak for A Blog to Watch readers I do know that at least one astronaut preferred his Japanese watch to his government issued Omega.
        But for now let’s restrict this to “Swiss Made” watches. From the same Swatch group a new Tissot or Hamilton automatic mechanical watch can be had for about the same $300 price. In fact I am seeing a new Tissot PR100 automatic: 38 mm, brown leather strap, sapphire crystal for $299 now. A 37 mm Swatch automatic mechanical watch (YAS112G) with a stainless case and bracelet (but a scratch prone crystal like the Seastar you reference) can be had for about $125 new.
        Even restricting the selection to “Swiss Made” I am not seeing any better value in vintage. Sure a new Omega may be better made than a new Tissot or Hamilton (and much higher priced due to the Veblen effect), but a new Tissot or Hamilton is definitely much better made than a 50 year old Omega, both because of improved production technology and because Omega was not the prestige brand then that it is now. The inflation adjusted MSRP of most non-precious metal Omegas from the 1960s is $1,000 or less.

        • iamcalledryan

          I think that once you have a few modern watches with stock movements, there is a lot to be said for a vintage watch with a little more character. Sure, character basically means faults, but we are crazy to like watches in the first instance!

          This has nothing to do with Japan/Swiss. A vintage Seiko is just as viable an alternative to the Omega image above.

          • commentator bob

            “If I understand correct, you are countering the argument in the article about value being a driver, not necessarily saying that is the key issue?”

            Exactly. People that have been into watches for a long time aren’t going to be swayed by this article. But if someone new to watches looking for their first mechanical watch is reading this article I definitely recommend a new watch.

            A new watch from Hamilton, Tissot, Certina and, depending on the
            model, Seiko or Orient, is going to give the a sapphire crystal that won’t scratch or fade, an open caseback so that they can appreciate the automatic movement, and years of service-free use.

            All for under $500, sometimes well under $500, depending on the model.

        • You’re absolutely right – to each his own. But if I was clutching $200-$300 in my fist, looking to buy a Swiss watch, “Swatch” or “Tissot” wold never come up. Why? They’re low-midlevel brands with absolutely zero appeal to me with pretty much no turnover value. I’ve also never shopped for any watch with a checklist of features that give it “value”. Do collectors pass up Speedmasters with their Hesalite crystals To buy a Tissot with a sapphire? I should say not.

          Chances are, if you’re specifically looking for a “vintage” watch, you’re looking beyond the individual features for brand history, or styling, or an interesting backstory. A $125 automatic Swatch isn’t going to deliver that.

          • commentator bob

            “Chances are, if you’re specifically looking for a ‘vintage’ watch, you’re looking beyond the individual features for brand history, or styling, or an interesting backstory.”

            Tissot was founded in 1853, Certina in 1882, Hamilton in 1892 and Omega in 1903. So I am not sure that Omega has particularly strong advantage with regard to history. Swatch of course much later but also the reason that the other four still exist.

            But to be clear, I am not trying to dissuade anyone that is specifically looking for a vintage watch. But people should be buying vintage watches because they want vintage watches, not for value.

            Because despite the significant price increases from the top-line brands like Rolex and Omega (both of which in the 60’s were available in the inflation adjusted $1,000 or less range) there are still very good values in new automatic mechanical Swiss and Japanese watches.

            A very nice new Swiss automatic mechanical chronograph can be had for under $750 (from Hamilton, Tissot or Certina, with some Tissot examples under $500).

            A very nice new Swiss automatic watch can be had for under $500 from Tissot, Certina or Hamilton, with a Tissot as low as $300 (and of course the Swatch Irony and Sistem51 watches even lower, but without sapphire crystals).

            A very nice new Japanese automatic watch can be had for under $250 from Seiko, Citizen or Orient.

          • I speaking more about the history that a particular brand or reference might have attached to it. A collector might be interested in an Omega Speedmaster because it was the “watch that went to the moon”. Not many collectors would consider “being on sale at Overstock” a compelling enough anecdote to justify purchasing a new Tissot.

          • commentator bob

            If a good condition vintage Speedmaster Professional “moon watch”, with its modern case size and impeccable history, could be had for $300 I would recommend that over the Tissot (actually listed on jomashop).
            However, that is not the case. A new Tissot automatic mechanical chronograph can be had for under $500. A mechanical Speedmaster Professional, new or vintage, not so much.

          • Again, someone that is buying a Tissot chronograph because “it’s a good watch” is very different than a collector interested in a vintage Speedmaster, or even a new one. My vintage Speedmaster cost $1200. A new 3570 costs just north of $3300. All things being equal, I got the better value. What exactly would I do with a $500 Tissot? Just because it’s a “good deal” doesn’t make it desirable to me.

          • commentator bob

            Right now a good condition pre-owned “moon watch” Speedmaster seems to be starting at $2,400+. So congratulations, you bought well. But $1,200 is no longer the price of entry. And the “new” premium seems to be only about $900.
            I stick to my recommendation that someone new to watches get a new <$500 Hamilton, Tissot or Certina rather than risk $2,400+ on a pre-owned watch.

          • radikaz

            Was looking for a post-moon Speedy w/calibre 861, but the pre-own price in Singapore for a mint condition are hard to find and expensive. That’s one of the reason i looked away and jump on a Breguet Type XX at almost the same price tag but higher brand’s pedigree. Not a brand’s snob, but do the math, Breguet has better acquisition’s value.

      • Shinytoys

        comparing apples and pears, two completely different mind sets in purchasing a watch.

      • egznyc

        Cool. What color is the dial? Looks pea green.

  • Mark Miller

    Actually I agree with both Ariel and James on some points. If you are looking at obtaining a watch that otherwise you could not afford, then vintage is a way to go. But, I would strongly recommend learning all you can about the watch you are interested in purchasing first. You will save yourself a lot of disappointment. Railroad watches and my grandfather working for Southern Pacific got me started. I learned so much (read that a year and a half of research) before I bought my first Hamilton 992B. I don’t regret it at all. After collecting most of the Hamilton’s I want, I’ve turned to wrist watches. But just like the Hamilton’s, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the brands, how that are made, and how well they are made. To me, watches are a very personal thing. I listen to and read blogs like this to learn and get solid information. But any watch they makes it to my collection is there because it means something to me personally. Funny, I’ve heard the same thing said about tattoos. Anyway, that’s my two cents, thank you for reading 🙂

  • egznyc

    Fantastic article (discussion) – I love these in-depth and rather big-picture articles! Let’s see more like this. As for the discussion, I’d say you both make good points. I agree that vintage watch buying requires far more knowledge and effort to avoid buyers remorse. I haven’t yet gone this route but I fully expect to take this path in the future, once I have more experience and knowledge. And you know what? It’s a labor of love. It doesn’t seem like work. But right now I don’t kid myself: I just don’t know enough to take the plunge, when there are plenty of good values in new watches out there, if one doesn’t look for prestige brands.

  • Watch is really very personal thing and your preference reflects your personal style or emulates the kind of ensemble you think would acquire a look of approval from your peers. Whatever the in depth of the article is appreciable

  • Adam J. Dubilo

    I think it comes down to just personal choice and the emotions, if any, a watch does to you. It is an art form not a utility. Smart phones are utilities; this is not the 1990’s anymore. James is right that the movements of yesteryear are just as reliable when serviced correctly. In fact, I’m wearing a 1960s Vacheron 1003 right now that spits out no more that -/+1 in five positions and I wear it quite often. I have a new JLC Chrono; although fantastic; doesn’t keep time as well straight out of the box. So there you go. The appeal for me, is that I have a strong connection to history. Intellectually, the idea of having something as common as a Hamilton Tank from the 50s with a caliber 982 in it; is a wonderful experience. It teaches lessons in economics, a reminder of what happened to the manufacturing industry of the USA and how there was strong competition for the Swiss, first time in modern history. They will never be produced again so there is a finite number. According to natural law of supply and demand they can only appreciate. Same goes for Swiss watches; especially the manufacturers that survived the quartz crisis. Zenith for example, the story behind how that brand stayed alive is nothing but a watch enthusiasts dream come true and miracle. It think it’s cool to have one before the story began.
    -Adam, AdamVintage

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