Smartwatches are pretty cool, but not as distinctive or stylish as a vintage watch
Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about smartwatches. Many of these come with accelerometers, heart rate monitors, GPS, and some even have the capacity to make phone calls.
Pretty cool, yes, but not as distinctive and stylish as a vintage watch, in my opinion.
Some collectors fascinated with horology will pay top dollar for vintage timepieces, pocket watches, and wristwatches.
Whether it’s the sophistication and pedigree that comes with a vintage dress watch or the cool factor of a dive watch from the 1960s or ’70s, vintage watches, in general, are doing well at auction.
The most famous of recent auction history was the Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch that fetched $24 million in 2014 at a Sotheby’s auction in Switzerland. Dating back to the early 1930s, the watch took several years to build and featured 24 “complications” or functions.
Patek Philippe and rare Rolex watches do well at auction. Last January, during our annual New Year’s Day auction, we sold a custom Rolex 18-karat Presidential Men’s Diamond Watch for $22,000. Dating back to the mid-1980s, it was a true show stopper, featuring diamonds, rubies, a fire opal face and a diamond-encrusted band and bezel.
This custom Rolex 18-karat Presidential Men’s diamond
This custom Rolex 18-karat Presidential Men’s diamond watch sold for $22,000 during J. Levine’s New Year’s Day auction last year. The diamond and ruby Rolex featured a fire opal face, diamond encrusted band and bezel. A true show stopper, this vintage watch dates back to the mid-1980s. (Photo: J. Levine Auction & Appraisal)
Other classic brands that I see doing well at auction include Breitling, Movado, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Heuer Autavia, Omega, Racine, Tudor, Mido, IWC (International Watch Company) and others.
What to look for
What to look for if you’re bidding on a vintage watch? Like anything, do your research about the brand and understand the mechanics of the watch. Examine the condition in person if you can, or have a friend do it for you. If the watch is missing parts, research how easy it is to find replacement parts. The last thing you want to do is spend more money repairing the watch than you paid for it.
Ask to see provenance and try to find out if the previous owners specialized in collecting the brand you want to purchase. Some collectors like to own a variety of different watches, while others will spend a lifetime collecting one or two brands. These collectors really know their stuff and have made discerning purchases.
Watch for fakes
Finally, be wary of fake luxury watches. Check type faces and engravings to make sure they are authentic. Listen to the watch – if the ticking is really loud, that’s a red flag. Weigh it — often fake watches are lighter since they are made with less expensive materials. If you’re unsure, have a professional assess it.
Like anything vintage, you will likely come across watches that have dials and other parts that have been replaced or refinished. These watches will be less desirable to serious collectors who are always on the hunt for original dials and unpolished original cases.
Again, nothing against smartwatches, but besides style, another thing a vintage watch has going for it — it can’t get hacked.
Josh Levine owns J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @jlevines1 on Twitter.